I have recently been asked by some of our new student intake which books I would recommend for someone coming to philosophy for the first time, and it is also a question that often crops up at Open Days. To some extent it is a subjective matter (and I’m sure other staff and students have their own views here), but based on some student feedback, there are a couple of gems that are consistently praised.
Adopting a thematic approach, Nigel Warburton’s Philosophy: The Basics does exactly what ‘it says on the tin’: it’s concise, accessible, walks you through the basics, and encourages you to ‘do’ philosophy.
Another favourite of many is Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy which adopts an historical approach and gives the reader a sense of how philosophy has developed over the years, although I should point out it was published in 1911, so you won’t get anything after that!
To keep up with current developments you might like to take out a subscription to The Philosopher’s Magazine. Although it is a ‘magazine’ and not a journal, it provides a good balance between not being too dense, but also not too simplistic in its approach to topics and issues.