The Developer's Notebook TM series is a new approach to helping readers rapidly come up to speed with useful new technologies. This book is not intended to be a comprehensive reference manual for Hibernate. Instead, it reflects my own exploration of the system, from initial download and configuration through a series of projects that demonstrate how to accomplish a variety of practical goals.
By reading and following along with these examples, you'll be able to get your own Hibernate environment set up quickly and start using it for realistic tasks right away. It's as if you can 'walk with me' through terrain I've mapped out, while I point out useful landmarks and tricky pitfalls along the way.
Although I certainly include some background materials and explanations of how Hibernate works and why, this is always in the service of a focused task. Sometimes I'll refer you to the reference documentation or other online resources if you'd like more depth about one of the underlying concepts or details about a related but different way to use Hibernate.
Once you're past the first few chapters, you don't need to read the rest in order; you can jump to topics that are particularly interesting or relevant to you. The examples do build on each other, but you can download the finished source code from the book's web site (you may want to start with the previous chapter's files and follow along making changes yourself to implement the examples you're reading). You can always jump back to the earlier examples if they turn out to be interesting because of how they relate to what you've just learned.