cloud9, I hope you've gathered from the advice you've been given that there is no best SLR for a beginner and that there are many good ones. FWIW, I started with a Nikkormat FTN. Could have done as well starting with a similar Canon, Minolta, Pentax, ... I'm still shooting 35 mm with Nikons, my current main camera is a Nikon FM2n. Updated improved Nikkormat, lighter too. The only thing I don't like about it is that it won't do auto-TTL flash, which I want to try out. May buy a used N8008S for that feature.
Look at what's on offer at www.keh.com. They're more reliable than most eBay sellers, also fairly competitive on price.
How to learn on your own? My little Nikkormat came with a tiny pamphlet that explained what the controls (most of all shutter speed, aperture, focus) did and a set of homework exercises to drive the points home. Being easily led, I did the exercises and am glad I did. I still have it, it is still a good introduction. But IMO A. A. Blaker's book Field Photography is a much better introduction. Out of print, easily found used through, in alphabetical order, www.abebooks.com, www.addall.com, www.amazon.com, and sometimes even on eBay. I used to keep a couple of copies of Field Photography on hand, gave 'em to friends starting out in photography, replenished the stack when it got low.