So I'm new to this, but one thing that you figure out quickly, for every hour of flying there is probably 5 in studying theory or doing lessons with your instructor.
My flying school sells their own book which has a lot of what you need to get from your first lesson to PPL, a guide of sorts with the lessons the instructor takes you through before each flight. Its pretty good, but really only helps with the flying component. The theory requirements are most certainly required. In fact, if you were to do the theory lessons relating to the flying lesson of the day, the pre-flight briefing is simple.
So which book to study to nail the exams? Well there is something to do first and foremost, download the student VFR syllabus for aeronautical theory from the CASA website. You can get it here:
Day VFR standards and syllabus
The reason for getting this info first is that it tells you exactly what you need to learn. It covers the requirements for your 1st Solo, 1st area solo and the GFPT, PPL and CPL. The tip came from the CPL student who helped me out at the Pilot Shop at Jandakot today. He said that after a few friends failed tests, they soon learnt to use this source as well. By reading the guidelines, the knowledge sources you will need are broader that what is in the BAK books. You'll also need the aircraft Pilot Operating Handbook and know where to find certain info, be able to quote all units of measure and what they mean, radio rules for your aerodrome, local emergency procedures and also how to do certain unit conversions mentally.
Ok with that covered, back to the book comparison, Bob Tait vs. Trevor Thom (Aviation Theory Center). I started out with the ATC book. It was pretty good with details, the theoretical definitions of everything you need to know and the general flow. It has certainly given me a good foundation having finished reading it from cover to cover. However when I tried to recall knowledge based on criteria in the CASA syllabus, I struggling I quite a few areas. So based on some opinions in the downwind forums, I thought I'd give the Bob Tait book a go, rather than read the ATC book a second time. Now having read half of the Bob Tait book, I can see a difference clearly. I'll try to describe it.
The Bob Tait book takes a somewhat different approach. Rather than the out and out theory and science, it alternatively descriptively demonstrates the theory. As a result, when I try to recall something, I am able to recall the practical demonstration of the theory with the examples provided. This works for my head. Ok, maybe the foundation provided by the ATC book and the recent read of the Bob Tait sways my view. My counter to that, I'm finding the Bob Tait book alot easier to read and far less mind numbing.
The synopsis, if you only want to have to read the BAK once, use Bob Tait. If you have a bigger than average brain and want the detailed theory to try and relate to situations yourself for easier recall, get ATC. Also get the ATC if you have insomnia and need a hand to get to sleep...