If you have a MAC, iPhoto is excellent program for beginners and comes installed on your machine. If you have an iPhone or iPad, it is also very easy to use pictures you've taken from these mobile devices. It provides integrated, simple photo editing and lots of choices for book themes and cards.
Once you become more sophisticated and have a very large library of photos, you should probably invest $80 in Aperture, Apple's professional strength option. (Note 3/2015: Apple is planning to discontinue Aperture and iPhoto and replace them with Photos)
Each version of iPhoto has a somewhat different look and feel, but the basic editing and book interface is pretty similar. Apple has also released an IOS version for use on the iPad which has some pretty amazing features as well.
iPhoto '09 Essential Training, iPhoto '11
This is an excellent video training session done by the folks at Lynda.com, a fabulous training site. I have used their training videos for a whole range of topics. There is a monthly fee to access all of their training, but they provide you with a free week or two to try it out - certainly enough to learn everything you want.
iPhoto '09 Book Themes
Liz Castro has a great visual site that maps out what all the layout options are for the various themes in iPhoto '09 and '08. I find that the Picture Book theme is the one I use the most.