I feel bad for not answering messages, but attempting to do that on my phone is incredibly difficult, but I will respond within the week! Promise! DC is still fantastic.
Well it depends on what you already know and what you want to learn. I think the best route is to make use of the knowledge of people you have access to: identify a specific thing you want to know about, and ask someone about it. A lot of the stuff I know I picked up eclectically through conversations before I ever read the books the info originally came from.
That said, for a basic intro to Marxist thought, I like to recommend a relatively short pamphlet by Engels called Socialism: Utopian and Scientific. It’s in three parts: the first covers the intellectual context and early development of socialist theory, the second provides a crucial introduction to Marxist dialectics, and the third explains historical materialism (the method by which Marxists analyze the historical development of societies). A lot of key Marxist ideas that I had heard referenced but didn’t totally understand really clicked for me when I read it. It’s great. I love this pamphlet.
Obviously one of the key features of Marxism is its analysis of capitalism, and, assuming you don’t feel like tackling Das Kapital right off the bat, Engels produced another very helpful pamphlet (seriously, what a great guy) called Wage Labour and Capital, which explains the key concepts quite well. I recommend this as a good intro to Marxist economics. There’s also a free audiobook of it over at Librivox, which is handy if you’re into that.
And of course, the Communist Manifesto is a classic, and does introduce a lot of key concepts, although keep in mind for this one that it was intended more to be a rallying cry for early communists than a deep theoretical text.
Finally, I’m not sure if this is totally within the range of beginner materials, but I think one of the most important contributions Marx made was his analysis of ideology, so I think at some point it’s important to read Chapter One of The German Ideology. There’s some great stuff in there about how the economic base of society has a reciprocal relationship with the superstructure (politics, laws, philosophy, etc). There’s also a sketch of the historical development of capitalism. Altogether, it’s probably the best and most thorough presentation of what Marxism as a school of thought really is. (Don’t worry too much about the other sections of the book; they’re mostly a takedown of contemporary German socialists. The really key part is Chapter 1, which I linked above). Something else you might find helpful is this 2 hour podcast the guys at Partially Examined Life did on this exact work. They themselves are not Marxists and I do disagree with some of their interpretations and conclusions, but on the whole it’s a pretty good-faith reading of the text and may help to illuminate some of the trickier concepts.
this is pmuch how I started six years ago, minus the podcast.