Hmmm....sounds like thumbprints on the CDs
or just as likely and annoying: a crappy CDreader, dirt on lenz/weak laser.
I have found that DVD/CD combos seem to have better reading abilities,
For example, a CD formatted on my crappy CREATIVE CDdrive is unreadable
on that drive, but is easily read on my DVD burner.
For what its worth, I have had alot of problems with CDdrives (&drivers).
If you can exchange it for a different brand you might be ok.
Also, if you are wondering what Distribution to try, while you still can choose,
You can have the best of both worlds by usling the VLOL auto install of Gentoo.
Yes - have your cake and eat it too: Get the best version of Linux, but skip the
incredibly painful manual install!
(Its still painful, but not as bad as trying to install Gentoo from the command line)