Many years ago I saw there was an ASP.NET user group meeting here in the Triangle. That night their guest was Stephen Walther, who just impressed me beyond anything I had experienced up to that point in my development career. I think it was the first time something or someone had given me a broader vision as to what I could really do with this programming knowledge I had been building.
That night he covered creating Custom User and Web controls in ASP.NET. I honestly do not remember what the exact demonstrations were that night. I just remember coming home and staying up all night long wanting to see how far could I really push this stuff.
I have not had a chance to cross paths with Stephen since then, but wow how much has my career changed in that time frame. It was a true testimony not only to Stephen skills but also the power User Groups can have to improve your understanding of a technology.
Amazon.com: ASP.NET 2.0 Unleashed: Books: Stephen Walther
When ASP.NET 2.0 was released Stephen updated his Unleashed book. I have used it as one of my main two references over the past year for seeing how features work. One that that always strikes me is Stephen's ability to be very creative with examples. He also says things like they are, which I appreciate. For example he tells us that even though we can create themes in ASP.NET 2.0 they are very slow and bloated and we should use style sheets instead. These types of insights are extremely refreshing, not only because they are correct, but they point out some of the cool marketing features we can use that are honestly just bad.
If you are just learning ASP.NET 2.0 or need a good reference I highly recommend ASP.NET 2.0 Unleashed by Sams and Stephen Walther.