For those who want to go from zero knowledge to substantial breadth quickly, I recommend A. K. Dewdney's The New Turing Omnibus. Once that book is finished, tackling some of the more sophisticated books like Knuth, Aho-Hopcroft-Ullman, and the like seems more reasonable. Further, the classic books will teach CS theory that is, well, classic, and will leave the reader ill-prepared (in my opinion) for the theoretical and technological developments of this millenium. The New Turing Omnibus will prepare the reader for classic CS theory, but will not impede those who wish to learn more recent theory.
The book has influenced my writing style. One project I am working on involves "moving a mountain one pebble at a time", and is inspired by the mountain of a book Dewdney has created.
Gerhard ""Ask Me About System Design" Paseman, 2011.01.05