Debian would be a good choice. It is very stable, easy to maintain, and there is a lot of documentation available for Debian (or one of it's spin-offs) server configuration. I personally use Slackware on servers as I like the simplicity of BSD-style init over the SysV style used in Debian (and pretty much every other Linux distro, for that matter), but it is not as easy to maintain.
As for books, I am sure there are many excellent books about Linux server administration, I don't personally have any of them. I learned as I went, and made use of online resources like LQ. I am sure somebody else could suggest a modern, comprehensive, book that you could start with.
Last edited by MS3FGX; 02-07-2011 at 01:46 PM.