While studying for the bar exam these last few weeks, I came to the conclusion that if I had these books as a law student, I would have crushed every exam. Why? Because reading a case in your casebook is like digging through a pile of crap to find a nugget of gold hidden inside. Don't get me wrong, you need to learn how to read cases and pick out what is important, but if you want to really _know_ the law, and learn what you will need to ace an exam, an outline is going to help you 100x more than studying cases.
For instance, when you take a torts exam, there will be some sort of fact pattern dealing with negligence. ALL you need to know, are the elements of negligence. You need them memorized, and you need to understand how to apply each element to the fact pattern. You can learn that in about 1 hour reading an outline, maybe less. In your actual Torts class, you'll spend weeks on negligence reading all sorts of justices pontificating on all sorts of crap, but that doesn't help you answer a question your client will bring to you in the real world. You'll have tons and tons of policy discussion in class. You'll learn the how and why of everything. You'll hear your class gunners ask all sorts of insightful questions. BUT, if you want to just skip the BS and learn the law, or just get a huge head start that will clarify things and allow you to put all the minutia in perspective, here's are the books I'd get if I was starting law school all over again:
1) Barbri class note book, filled in. This is the book that you take to class with notes from the lecturers, and for some dumb reason they left blanks in them so that you actually have to attend the classes to fill them in. They are generally very good condensed explanations of every 1st year subject and many 2nd-3rd year subjects with examples and simple language.
2) Barbri Mini-conviser outline. Has an outline of every subject on the bar, most 1st year subjects are around 30-40 pages. In those 30-40 pages you will learn basically everything you would need to do well on an exam except the policy crap.
3) MBE Strategies and Tactics. This book has sample questions from the MBE (multi-state bar exam) on all of your 1L subjects plus a few 2L subjects. Around 50 questions per subject, plus a full MBE at the back so that's around another 30 per subject. It also has a 5-10 page section before each subject with helpful strategies for common questions asked in each subject and common areas of confusion cleared up.
You can buy all of these used, a 2007 or 2008 copy would be totally fine, for less than $200. Use however you like, but I'd recommend skimming through an entire subject once just to get an idea of how everything fits together. Then I'd use them as reference books throughout the year, and then finally as exam prep. If you simply add some policy explanations and cites to cases in the conviser outline, you're set.