I have used a Mr. Beer kit two times now with acceptable success. I want to move to the next level. Can someone tell me the best kit to buy and a good book for starting?
John Palmer's How to Brew or Charlie Papazian's New Complete Joy of Homebrewing are good beginner books.
In terms of equipment, I suggest using the inventory from the lowest-tier kit sold by Midwest Supplies (currently $70) as a minimal shopping list, plus a 5-gallon kettle, plus a no-rinse sanitizer such as Star-San or Iodophor, and plus a percarbonate-based, non-perfumed, no-dye cleaner such as PBW or OxyClean Free.
I'm going to add my vote for Charlie Papazian's New Complete Joy of Homebrewing. I started with it, and have gotten 5 of my friends into the hobby with just that book.
I personally started by getting the book, and then reading the first third of it. This covers starting out, extract brewing, and how to do an extract or kit brew from brew day to bottling.
It also has a helpful shopping list if you want to know the various items that may come in handy. if shopping piece by piece isn't your style I would recommend a good starter kit off of any of the major internet home brewing stores. My preferred shop is Northern Brewer because we're a 1 day UPS run from Minneapolis.
They have an Essentials kit that comes with plastic buckets for roughly $80. I like bottling from my plastic bottling bucket, but I opted to get glass carboys for fermenting. Northern Brewer has a pretty decent deal on their deluxe starter kit, that comes with two glass carboys.