I was excited to see the title of this quora answer: What would be your advice to a software engineer who wants to learn machine learning? However, I was a bit intimidated by the length of the answer.
What I would love to see is Machine Learning in One Weekend. I cannot write that book; I want to rread it! If you are a machine learning person, please write it! If not, send this post to your machine learning friends.
For machine learning people: my Ray Tracing in One Weekend has done well and people seem to have liked it. It basically finds the sweet spot between a "toy" ray tracer and a "real" ray tracer, and after a weekend people "get" what a ray tracer is, and whether they like it enough to continue in the area. Just keep the real stuff that is easy, and skip the worst parts, and use a real language that is used in the discipline. Make the results satisfying in a way that is similar to really working in the field. Please feel free to contact me about details of my experience.