I've been reading a really great SEO book called 'The Art of SEO: Mastering Search Engine Optimisation' published by O Reilly which I would thoroughly recommend.
One of the things I always look for in any SEO/SEM book is that its current, given that the disciplines are moving and developing so quickly, this was printed in Oct 2009 so it ticked this box.
It is quite heavy, over 500 pages but covers lots of different SEO related topics. There is a great section on the operation of search engines, It then goes through in detail with lots of examples and what process an SEO expert moves through to indentify deficiencies and develop SEO projects. Of particular value are all the resources which an SEO professional would use. Of course all the standard website focused activities are described in detail together with the technical considerations. I found the sections on vertical search (text, image, video, product, local) and link building really interesting which could be applied directly to the thesis projects.
My only criticism is that the book is US focused so some of the resources are only applicable to the US but of course a bit of searching will easily provide UK and European equivalents.
If you want to really understand SEO and many of the most up to date concepts and approaches then this is a very useful resource - you'll certainly be able to impress the client after reading this.