There are apparently a few books that are particularly good to have on hand as a brewer. One is The Complete Joy of Home Brewing. (I haven’t compared it to others, but it’s often a recommended first read when one is interested in brewing.) I read the “Especially for the Beginner” and “Betterbrew—Intermediate Brewing” sections of this book before buying any equipment. (I’ll save the “Advanced Homebrewing” part for later — I figure I’ll be up to that level in a week or so.) For me, before reading this book, I had a rough idea of the brewing process and ingredients and a fairly decent handle on what the different beer styles are, but reading this book really tied everything together pretty cohesively and filled in a lot of gaps in my knowledge.
Might I remind you that I’m in no position to advise, but I strongly believe that anybody interested in brewing should read this book (or a comparable one – ask a homebrewing friend). Even if you think you can brew off of a step-by-step guidesheet or with the help of a friend, why not try to really know and understand what you’re doing before you jump in?