If you really want to learn, get a nice manual camera. Your don't need all the frills like autoexposure or autofocus. They only make you lazy and not think. The Pentax K1000 is a good choice. I can also recommend a Fujica ST801 (if you can find one cheap enough). Other options are a Nikon FM, Canon FTb, Pentax Spotmatic, Minolta SRT series (the X series is nice also, but don't use the auto features when learning). Out of all those mentioned the Nikon is the nicest, but also the most expensive. With most older cameras you may have to replace the light seals (cheap and easy to do) and some are difficult to find batteries for.

I book I recommend for beginners is the National Geographic Field Guide. Well written and well illustrated.

Steve