Definitely a tough one and I’m going to have to tackle the questions separately. My five recommendations for a beginner:
- ‘The Ancient Gods Speak’ / ‘The Oxford Essential Guide to Egyptian Mythology’ (same book, different titles), Redford, D. B. (Ed.)
This is a handy encyclopedia-style book which covers a wide number of topics.
- ’100 Hieroglyphs: Think Like an Egyptian’, Kemp, B.
Surprisingly awesome little book that gives detailed explanations of 100 hieroglyphs and their underlying concepts.
- ‘Exploring Religion in Ancient Egypt’, Quirke, S.
Benefits from being a recent publication and so more up to date on many aspects of the religion. Also benefits from being written by a well respected Egyptologist and not specifically for a kemetic/esoteric audience, in my opinion.
- ‘Magic in Ancient Egypt’, Pinch, G.
Essentially a more beginner friendly version of Ritner’s Mechanics, from which the contents are heavily derived.
- ‘The Egyptian Philosophers: Ancient African Voices from Imhotep to Akhenaten’, Asante, M. K.
I’ve not even gotten around yet read this one myself, but it comes recommended by and used as a text book by someone whose opinion I respect.
Bonus recommendation: If you have an iPad or iPhone, the “hieroglyphic dictionary aaou” / “aaou hieroglyph dictionary” app is absolutely brilliant. Just make sure you buy the correct version of the app for your device (iPad version and iPhone version are separate apps.)