It DOES get easier...I PROMISE!
Its hard to answer your questions in an absolute way....
I would say that needles no smaller than (US size) 8 and a worsted or heavier yarn will probably work best for a beginner. I learned on chunky yarn. A lighter color will help your ability to see the stitch anatomy.
If you know how to knit and purl, try making the SCRUNCHABLE SCARF
. Its satisfying as it has somewhat of a pattern and makes a NICE SOFT SQUOOSHY material.
As to the needles, that is SUCH a personal preference. I dont like metal needles, beginner or not. They are too slippy for my taste. But, some like the slippiness. If you have an arena in which you can try several types to see what works best for you, then take advantage of that.
If you are picking up extra sts, my guess would be that you are knitting into the "legs" of the st at the beginning of a row. Make sure that you bring your working yarn down around the FRONT of the work and THEN toward the back. If you move the yarn UP and OVER the work, then the "legs" will show....you will see how easily one st can be mistaken for 2.
I hope Ive been able to help!