There is no single textbook which is best for everybody, we all have different preferences and learn in different ways. To learn a Chinese efficiently, you must know your learning style. The three learning styles are audiotory, visual, and kinesthetic. I’ll now give outlines and examples of each.
Auditory (by hearing)
Some people learn aurally… you speak a new word to them, and they can remember it and start using it in sentences. These are the people who can just go for coffee with a native speaker, and “pick up” new words and sentences just from conversation. I believe this is where the expression “pick up a language” comes from. Such people have an excellent auditory memory. If you are easily able to remember things that you hear, it means you have a good auditory memory.
Visual (by seeing)
This is me. I don’t have a good auditory memory, in fact, I can’t even pick up words in my own language (English) by just listening (I’d need to write a word down and review it later to remember!). So at first, I was discouraged… not being able to just “pick up” 10 new words each time I chat with a Chinese person like some friends could, but later I realised I could learn Chinese just as well as they could, but that I just needed to take a different approach. I managed to acquire vocabulary much better from reading (I’m more of a visual learner) than by listening. So if I wanted to learn new words, I’d read (reading is actually a kind of visual learning, because you’re using your eyes). Perhaps it’s not as fun as learning by meeting people, but hey, after I read a book I would then discuss it with people and put into practice the new words I learned. Sometimes I’d even read a funny story and repeat it to Chinese friends. It’s important to remember that after learning a word through reading, you do need to use it orally (in coversation) later on for it to really becomes part of your working vocabulary.
Kinesthetic (by feeling or action)
A kinesthetic learner leans best by movement. Sometimes I used kinestic methods when learning the tones, I would do hand movements to signal the tone I needed to use for a particular word. For example, if I was learning a word which used a rising tone, I would do a rising action with my hand. It’s easier to remember how to say “make a cup of coffee” when you’re in the process of doing it. In fact, you can learn learn how to describe all of your daily actions.
Early on in my learning, I focused much more heavily on character learning so that I could read, simple because reading was absolutely critical to my learning style. My listening lagged a little because of this, but it was no problem – after having already learned particularly vocabulary through reading, it was much easier to develop the listening skill a little later. For other people, listening might be their main learning tool, and reading as a skill which follows. It completely depends on your learning style.
So find out whether you’re a visual, audiotory or kinesthetic learner and find learning material which suites your style. This way, you’ll be able to learn a lot more efficiently.