Tarot Fundamentals, though more expensive than most alternatives, is my recommendation as the single best book for beginners. It has the grounding you need in tarot history; it lists the astrological, elemental and qabalistic influences for every card; it provides excellent "how-to" essays on approaches such as intuition and the journey of the fool; and it provides illustrations of the renderings of eight decks for every card. The primary authors have continuing relationships with the Tarosophy Tarot Association, and this book is meant to be an encyclopedic volume of a good portion of their teachings.
Tarot: History, Symbolism and Divination is the best history of the origin of tarot, bar none. The first two thirds of the book should be required reading for anyone who wishes to even begin to truly understand the major arcana. Robert M. Place does have his "hobby-horse"—alchemy—and he gives far too little emphasis to the Golden Dawn. But his explanation of how the symbols in the majors got there and what they mean is unparalleled. The last third of the book is a description of the RWS deck.
The Lo Scarabeo Tarot is the "go-to" deck I use when I have my own questions. (I use RWS for other people). It's an attempt to reconcile the Golden Dawn, Waite/Colman Smith and Thoth. It doesn't do it perfectly. It's gorgeous. It's not for everybody. But if Tarot "theory" is your cup of tea, it may be a good choice for you, too.
To be honest, Secrets of the Waite-Smith Tarot is more "cute" and "fun" than insightful, in my opinion. But it is great fun. It visually relates Pamela Coleman Smith's theatre work to the deck she drew.