I'm about to start learning mandarin chinese myself, without any teachers but with a help of textbooks and video (audio) lessons. My question is: where do I start, I mean, is it better to start with pinyin or with Han characters? What words do I need to start with? What about grammar? Maybe someone can recommend me a good book to start with?
Regarding starting with pinyin or characters: It's funny, I recently asked this question myself. In your case, I would recommend:
Good luck! If I think of anything else I'll let ya know.