Thank you for looking for a book. I have the Photo Workshop book. I was under the impression that stopping down to f/16 would keep everything sharp and in focus. The look Michael routinely gets in his images is out of this world.
I've taken about 60 test shots with my 17-55, and the results are consistently like the ones I posted above. I've only been able to bring back so much accutance with Aperture. I'm sending the lens back, and I'm going to poke around with a 50mm 1.4 for a while.
The size of the individual pixel on a sensor has a direct impact on the optimum aperture you can use for maximum sharpness.
F16 is softening your images and wasting what good qualities your lens offers you. A great lens is reduced to OK by defraction which is a function of the little hole created by the iris in the lens.
F5.6 or F8 is almost always where a lens peaks. Now Depth Of Field (DOF) is a function of aperture, so everything can be a little fuzzy but defined (F16/22), or what you focus on can be sharp with a little fuzzy in foreground and background (F5.6). This is a generalization, BTW.
Autofocus reduces thinking, for example where do i focus to get my subject in focus. If its a mountain, then it will focus at infinity at the exclusion of things closer. Manually pulling in the focus closer where the mountains are still sharp enough, but more of the foreground is sharp will possibly create a better picture.
Many will help here, do not be afraid to ask questions. The only absolute (except for occasional luck) is the camera will do an "excellent" job of giving you "mediocre" pictures, only you can capture truely excellent ones by understanding how to adjust.
You need to learn when and when not to trust the camera, and how to analyze your results to make adjustment to your technique.
Aperture is an excellent program, while I use CS3, quality results can be had from the Apple product.
I would not send your lens back just yet, it's likely just fine. I'm seeing more, exposure issues and possibly camera shake than any lack of lens quality.
I will look for a book.