I like to use five too, but will switch to four if the pattern (lots of socks for instance) works better that way.
As for holding them, I like to hold mine a certain way and I find it easier and more comfortable so I will try to describe it. It's very simple, really, so hopefully it will be of some help to you. I looked at a picture in Elizabeth Zimmerman's "Knitting Workshop" btw, and copied what she did
As I knit around, I hold the right and left *working* needles on TOP of the back needles (resting needles)-this makes it easier for me to knit as the needles aren't getting "caught" on the resting needles, so I am not distracted by them. Does that make sense? Good luck! It seems awkward at first but you will get the hang of it very quickly and it will be second nature. You'll be impressing your friends in no time!