The New Artist's Manual  - $29.95 : Chronicle Books
I'm going to own up to the fact that I'm not a visual artist: I know what I like, but my artist-friend teases me with a comment I made on her self-portrait. Which was, "It looks Greek." But when I do decide to invest in some oil paints and wake up that half of my brain, this book will be a great beginning. Goes into everything, but not in a scary way. The important bits about choosing a palette and a brush, and etceteras, are right near the top, and there's all kinds of suggestions on how to break the rules thereafter. As well as projects to learn on, if the thought of blowing your materials budget on a total screw-up scares the...paint out of you.