Radio Shack used to have some beginning books. They weren’t that great IMHO but they were ok. You can probably find some similar books at your local library. You can also google “electronics tutorial”. As with all things on the net, some are better than others, but there are definately quite a few out there.
Once you get a little more advanced, you’ll want to get a copy of “The Art of Electronics” by Horowitz and Hill. This is by far the best single book I’ve seen on electronics, but it’s a bit over the head of a complete beginner.
It doesn’t take very long before you can follow someone else’s schematic and build something. You could probably be building something by the end of the week as long as you follow someone else’s schematic. If you want to design your own things this of course takes a lot longer.
The main trick to soldering is that you heat the part, not the solder. Heat the connection up and let the solder flow onto it, otherwise you can end up with a “cold solder joint” which isn’t a very good connection and will likely fail. One way to get some practice is buy a cheap piece of electronics at a yard sale and rip it apart. Un-solder parts and solder them back in, until you get to the point where you feel comfortable. If you paid $2 for the thing you won’t feel bad if it doesn’t work when you are done.
If you get stuck or don’t understand something or just want some advice, drop me an e-mail. Or, just post on here. There are a lot of us EE’s on the dope.