Rob Galanakis wrote "Practical Maya Programming" which covers a lot of great topics in Maya.
Chapter 7 includes how to navigate and understand the API docs (which is the hard part. Once you can understand the structure of the docs, you can begin to teach yourself.) It includes "Learning the Maya Python API by example". This chapter includes how to construct a mesh and set normals.
I thought it had an API example where you randomly jitter vertices too. But that might be from "Maya Python for Film and Games."