When I first started play with web pages I was so hopplessly lost it really wasn't funny. Even sites as simple as HTMLgoodies.com baffaled me (no, I'm not kidding).
I picked up a copy of "Mastering HTML 4.0" which is a massive book, with over 1000 pages it's still the biggest book in my entire library, and I still use it every now and then as a reference -- be assured it defiantly doesn't cut any corners.
It covers everything from how web pages are served, what ftp programs are and how to use them, the differences between ftp and http and of course lots about HTML, CSS, Image formats, little bit of scripting and general web design concepts and strategies.
IMHO, it's the be all and end all ofHTML for the beginner. There's no question it doesn't have an answer for, and it explains everything in simply and clearly without making you feel like you're back in kindergarten -- like one of those "dummies giued to" books I once bought.
There's an Updated Version , whilst it's still a little out of date by today’s standards if you're just starting out then I'd still highly recommend it as you'll likely get a lot out of it.
A decent XHTML book might not be a bad idea either, but as of yet most of the beginner XHTML books I've flipped through in the book store have been pretty shocking so I can't offer any solid recommendations in that area.