Wouldn't it be nice if there was an archive of detailed best practices guidelines for each aspect of building a network? And, dare we dream, even free? Fortunately, Cisco has such a hidden little stockpile of knowledge: documents detailing all the various aspects of network design. They call them Solution Reference Network Design guides, or SRNDs.
The acronym is a bit of a kludge, but the content is pretty impressive. Cisco publishes SRNDs on many diverse topics related to network planning and implementation. Subjects range from enterprise routing to wireless to quality of service to the data center. The documents, most of which are available in PDF format, vary in size from fifteen-minute reviews to short books. Each reads like a cross between a study guide and a whitepaper, maintaining an appropriate level of technical depth while avoiding too much dry wording.
I've found the SRNDs also make great supplementary study material, and provide very real examples of technologies being deployed to meet business needs. From what I've read, the authors also stay appreciably distant from market speak or sales pitching.