When asked by someone just starting out, is there a standard camera for shorts and what book would you recommend:
I am currently recommending this book to everyone, it is a must, and I would say perfect for someone in your situation.
Also, here's and oldy but a goldy.
Here's another I haven't actually read, but having watched the film, the extras and the commentary on El Mariachi and being a big fan of Rodreguiz' work ethic, I would say it's a good one to get.
As for standard camera's, there are no standard cameras, only what you can afford to buy or rent and what you want the film to look like, whether it be film of digital.
As Godard said "Show me the budget and I'll show you the film."
If I were you I might try to get a look at a few Irish shorts, see which ones you like the look of and ask the filmmakers how they achieved that look.