I second spuds too. I started gardening last year but as a complete novice I decided to grow them in compost bags and just kept covering them over with earth when the shoots appeared. Result. We got some lovely potatoes and my children (and me) got loads of enjoyment rootling around in the bag to find them.
I also grew spring onions and lettuces which are easy peasy but I grew them in pots. I tried carrots but the bloody slugs ate the seedlings.
Potatoes Not much will kill them. Dig a trench, put in seed potatoes, cover with soil and water. As the green shoots stick through the soil cover with more soil. Keep doing this for about 2 months and then dig up carefully with a fork a few inches away from where you put the seed potatoes. You can grow spuds in old recycling bins too. Peas are easy to grow too- I grow them from seed in 4 inch pots. I suggest one of these gardening books by John Harrison : http://www.allotment.org.uk/toolshed/our-books
Basically: if you put a plant where it wants to live then it will do well. eg. lavendar likes sunshine and dry soil, so will romp away at the foot of a south facing wall but will be miserable in a bog garden...etc etc
Houseplants are buggers as those that flower have been treated to get them in full flow when you buy them, and so often die afterwards, and those that are kept more for foliage are generally from jungle-y rainforests - unless you've a damp problem they're not going to like your living room mush.
If you really are an out and out beginner then how about Allan Titchmarsh "how to be a gardener"? It was in 2 volumes but now I think you can buy it as one book. First was how plants grow, soil types, etc etc, second was more about garden design. Straightforward, very broad, but irritating style.
I really want to start gardening, I have an averaged sized garden which is all lawn surrounded by hedgerow and lalandai (sp?) it's quite shady and triangular. The house is a lovely cottage and I'd love to give it a kitchen/cottage garden.
But I've never gardened, and I kill houseplants.
Can someone recommend where to start? A book? I have time, I don't work and don't have children.