I'd suggest starting out with Python (e.g. Mark Summerfield wrote an excellent book on Python 3) and getting a year or two of experience in personal projects or existing Python code. Vala, while being an excellent practical language, just doesn't have a comparable course coverage, so it's a terrible language for starters. Also, most aspects of procedural and OOP programming are pretty universal across such languages.
I would also suggest Peter Goodliffe's "Code Craft", for generic programming stuff. Finally, a book on data structures and algorithms would come in handy, but I'm not aware of any good AND up-to-date ones. If you find one, let me know. -- Sergey "Shnatsel" Davidoff
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