Technical books always face a certain dilemma: whether to cater to top-down or bottom-up learners. A top-down learner prefers to read or skim documentation, getting a large overview of how the system works; only then does she actually start using the software. A bottom-learner is a “learn by doing” person, someone who just wants to dive into the software and figure it out as she goes, referring to book sections when necessary. Most books tend to be written for one type of person or the other, and this book is undoubtedly biased towards top-down learners. (And if you're actually reading this section, you're probably already a top-down learner yourself!) However, if you're a bottom-up person, don't despair. While the book may be laid out as a broad survey of Subversion topics, the contents of each section tends to be heavy with specific examples that you can try-by-doing. For the impatient folks who just want to get going, you can jump right to Appendix A, Subversion Quick-Start Guide.
Regardless of your learning style, this book aims to be useful to people of widely different backgrounds—from people with no previous experience in version control to experienced system administrators. Depending on your own background, certain chapters may be more or less important to you. The following can be considered a “recommended reading list” for various types of readers:
The assumption here is that you've probably used version control before before, and are dying to get a Subversion server up and running ASAP. Chapter 5, Repository Administration and Chapter 6, Server Configuration will show you how to create your first repository and make it available over the network. After that's done, Chapter 2, Basic Usage and Appendix B, Subversion for CVS Users are the fastest routes to learning the Subversion client.
Your administrator has probably set up Subversion already, and you need to learn how to use the client. If you've never used a version control system, then Chapter 1, Fundamental Concepts is a vital introduction to the ideas behind version control. Chapter 2, Basic Usage is a guided tour of the Subversion client.
Whether you're a user or administrator, eventually your project will grow larger. You're going to want to learn how to do more advanced things with Subversion, such as how to use branches and perform merges (Chapter 4, Branching and Merging), how to use Subversion's property support (Chapter 3, Advanced Topics), how to configure runtime options (Chapter 7, Customizing Your Subversion Experience), and other things. These chapters aren't critical at first, but be sure to read them once you're comfortable with the basics.
Presumably, you're already familiar with Subversion, and now want to either extend it or build new software on top of its many APIs. Chapter 8, Embedding Subversion is just for you.
The book ends with reference material—Chapter 9, Subversion Complete Reference is a reference guide for all Subversion commands, and the appendices cover a number of useful topics. These are the chapters you're mostly likely to come back to after you've finished the book.