When I first got started with emacs I picked up a copy of Learning GNU Emacs, by Cameron, Rosenblatt & Raymond (it’s published by O’reilly press which most techies have heard of). It’s pretty well laid out. It won’t teach you anything you couldn’t find in the electronic documentation, but it is useful nonetheless.
The first 5 chapters, or 150 pages, are dedicated to the basics of using Emacs. After that it’s got a number of specialized sections meant for different people. In fact, in the preface the author provides a guide for what people in different occupations may find useful. Topics include:
* Basic Editing * Advanced Editing * Email and Usenet * Telnet, Ange-ftp, and W3 (How to access the ‘net from inside Emacs) * Basic Macros and LISP – More Advanced Topics * Using Emacs as an IDE (Integrated Development Environment) * Customizing Emacs
Personally, I liked the book. It has a lot of screenshots and diagrams so even if you’re not on your box you can see what they’re talking about. And it’s written for non-techies. My only real complaint was that the author assumed the Meta key on your box was ESC. You probably won’t read it completely through, as with most computer books there will be some sections that just won’t apply to you. But it is an invaluable reference – if of course you like paper editions.
If you’re interested in buying a copy go to your favorite bookshops to see if it might be useful. There are also lots of used book shops online. You can get it for as little as $7 including shipping. Good luck!
 Emacs does many things through key bindings. M-x means hit the Meta key on your box along with the character x. Likewise, C-x and A-x means hit Control-x and Alt-x respectively. Emacs decides which key should be Meta when compiled. Sometimes it decides that your meta key should be the Alt key (the preferred method), the ESC key, or the Windows key, or something else entirely. It is possible to change the Meta key to Alt and you should do that at your earliest possible convenience if you have to hit ESC as your meta.