Improving your skills in film making and visual effects, like so many other disciplines, is mostly about practice, practice and more practice. However, understanding the theory behind certain techniques and approaches can often unlock a pool of possibilities that you didn't even know existed.
I don't usually read any book on film making or visual effects back to back, but I like to leaf through a few of them from time to time to pick up new tips & tricks, understand why some things work and others don't and get a fresh perspective on some of the things that I might be doing in a less than optimal way.
Grammar of the Edit was actually one of the first film making books I ever picked up. I had just started out creating films and this book really opened my eyes. Grammar of the Edit is an easy read and will cover all the basic building blocks you need to know how create a great edit.
It explains why certain clips work better in a sequence than others to convey your message and keep the flow going. The book contains a ton of examples and illustrations and I would recommend this book to anyone who is just starting out creating their own films.
Grammar of the Shot is a companion to Grammar of the Edit and together these two books have really taught me most of what I know about editing, which, admittedly is still far from being a professional. Grammar of the shot explains, again using a lot of examples and illustrations, the different types of shots and their importance in creating an emotionally captivating scene.
The book shows you how to make shots look lonely, threatening, welcoming and how to use different types of shots deliberately rather than by accident.
For all of you who keep asking me 'How do I create effect X?', the The Visual Effects Arsenal: VFX Solutions for the Independent Filmmaker is a book I can highly recommend. The first half covers the basic concepts of visual effects and the second half of the book contains a large number of step by step tutorials that show you how to create all sorts of different visual effects for action, horror, sci-fi or animated movies.
The book is a basically reference guide for specific visual effects and while that in itself is pretty awesome, it demonstrates a large number of solutions to common problems and personally, inspired me to come up with my own visual effects.
The VES Handbook of Visual Effects is a much more solid book than the VFX Arsenal. It contains a lot of valuable theoretical knowledge for anyone working - or wanting to work - in the film and visual effects industry and covers everything from pitching for work to the last steps of post production.
It isn't as light to read as the other books, but gives a great holistic view of the industry and covers different approaches and techniques to common visual effects problems. Definitely worth a read!