I don't know how far along your Chinese is, but after getting a basic foundation in the language I found it most useful to ditch the textbooks and use a couple of different resources to learn the language.
Personal information: I've been studying Chinese since 2007 in academic and nonacademic environments. I've completed Harvard's modern Chinese courses and studied for two years, unstructured, on my own as well. I've helped others develop study programs, tutored Chinese, and I'm currently doing comparative historical research in Taiwan and China about genealogical work.
Below are resources; following the resources are my recommendations for combining them into your own textbookless study program.
- Ngram frequency lists, very useful for learning common characters, two-character words, and chengyu/4-character phraseshttp://lingua.mtsu.edu/chinese-computing/
- Weibo. Great to get words and grammar patterns in context, but in short and manageable chunks. Follow people who write about things you're interested, or search for terms to find examples of how they are used.
- News articles. Always be working through a news article. Especially early on, it'll give you a great source of accomplish once you've conquered one, one sentence at a time.
- Weibo and news articles. Be on the lookout for patters.
- Chinesepod.com: Great short lessons that highlight new vocabulary and grammar in a fun, short podcast.
- Grammar textbook. No recommendations, but a comprehensive grammar textbook is great to slog through very, very slowly. Learn one new pattern on a regular schedule and you'll have them all down before too long. If you hit one that you don't understand, write it on a notecard and skip it until you can ask someone.
- Characters: Skritter.com
- Sentences/words in context: Anki (use cloze deletions)
How do you integrate these sources? If I had my way, I'd spend ~1 hour/day and focus on what was most interesting or useful to me at the time.
First I'd do all of my Skritter and Anki reviews to get them out of the way, then go on to new vocabulary, going down the frequency lists. I'd put characters I didn't know into Skritter, and use Weibo and Baidu news search to find the word in context. I'd select a good sentence and put it into Anki, using cloze deletion to make the headline/twitter post into a flashcard.
After I got sick of that (wouldn't take too long, maybe do 10 words/day), then I'd move onto a Chinesepod lesson at my skill level. Instead of just listening to the lesson, I'd pause it after every sentence (or word, depending on my skill level) and try to say it with the proper accent and inflection. I'd put new vocabulary from the lesson into Skritter and Anki (using Skritter for the characters and word definition and Anki for context usage, as above).
Once I've done that I'd use any remaining time to go through Skritter and Anki again to review everything I just put in, then the hour would be up! I'd listen to the Chinesepod lesson again once during the day during my commute or some other generally 'wasted' time, speaking along with them and paying attention to accent and inflection.
Beyond that, I'd talk with as many native speakers as possible about as many topics as possible - new vocabulary, news articles, and podcasts each day will give you plenty of material. That's another great thing to do on a bus ride, just talk to somebody random. If you're not in an area with a lot of Chinese speakers, there are online language exchanges that could serve the same purpose. I've never used them.
Once I'm more comfortable, you can use the same routine (extracting vocabulary and sentence patterns, repeating for accent and inflection) with sitcoms and movies. Movies are fun because, well, they're movies! And there's closed captioning so you can learn the characters or pause and catch anything that you miss. Writing(/typing) is also very, very useful and very, very humbling. Start out short and post frequently to Weibo. It's a great place to try out your new vocab and grammar in short chunks. When you're up to it, write a short essay and ask a Chinese friend to edit again. Very useful. Very humbling.
Anyway, not much about textbooks, but based on my experience once you're past the very basics this kind of diligent studying is better than a textbook any day.
Another nice thing about this program: What if you don't have an hour a day? You can easily pare it down to 30 minutes/day or even less by cutting the amount of vocabulary and doing podcasts during commutes. Skritter and Anki both work on mobile phones. It's a great way to reclaim 'lost' time like when you're standing in lines.
Hope this is helpful,