My suggestion would be to begin with endgame study. This seems counter-intuitive -- "Surely the place to begin learning chess is by studying the beginning of the game, the openings." This seems quite logical. But someone said/wrote "Until you can learn to manage a few pieces effectively in the endgame how can you hope to manage all 16 pieces you begin the game with against your opponents 16 pieces?"
So I'd suggest going to a local bookstore (or public library) with a good selection of chess books. Or shop online. Look for a book that begins with basic chess endings -- e.g. King vs King and Rook; King and pawn vs King; King vs King and two bishops...and so on.
These basic endings are the place to start. You'll learn how to make just one or two pieces operate effectively with your King and begin to gain some ability to size up quickly at least some endgame positions. Some can be quite complicated as you work your way through endgame studies.
But once you begin to gain some understanding of the endgame you can begin to work on your middle game using insights learned from endgame theory.
You may say, "I'm already losing before I even get to the end game so what good will studying endgames do me?" That's true of almost all players at the start. But persevere in endgame study and when you do get to the endgame with equal or better chances than your opponent you'll have some insight into how to move to win efficiently and effectively.
I don't mean that you should pay no attention to openings or the middle-game as you study the endgame. But rather than playing through many lines of particular openings where you don't really understand the reasons for many of the moves, find a book with a discussion of opening principles and begin to evaluate moves in the opening on those general principles.
For example, some general principles of opening chess play are:
1) Fight to gain control of the center squares of the board or at least maintain equality.
2) Don't move a piece twice during the opening.
3) Develop knights before bishops.
4) Don't move your queen in the opening moves.
There are more opening principles so look for a book (or read online sources) to not only learn these principles but also to understand the reasons for them.
You will also have to learn when there is good reason to ignore an opening principle. For example, if you opponent has left a piece hanging and you can take it without incurring an equal or greater loss, well then you'll probably find it worth it to move a piece twice, or bring out a bishop earlier than you might have otherwise, to capture the hanging piece. But only after studying the board and making certain there's not a trap or serious positional disadvantage you'll be stuck with if you make the capture.
So that's my advice. Begin with the study of basic chess endgames and learn how to use just a few pieces effectively. You'll feel you've really learned something not just by rote, but with comprehension. And that can lay the foundation for further and deeper chess study.
In reality almost anyone who wants to better their game can gain useful chess skills by studying the endgame. With more pieces on the board in the endgame the positions can be quite perplexing. And there are complex endgames to learn with only a few pieces. Without studying it first, put a black king on one side of the board and on the other side put the white king and a bishop and a knight.
White king, bishop, and knight vs lone black king. Should be an easy checkmate, right? Give it a try playing both white and black yourself. How many moves did it take (assuming when you played the black king you really tried to keep from being mated) to force the checkmate? Or were you able to do it at all? Basic endgame study will teach you what you need to understand to force checkmate in with king, knight and bishop against a lone opposing king.
What if you tried white king with his two knights vs a lone black king? How many moves would that take to force checkmate with the pieces set up on opposite sides of the board? I won't make you torture yourself with that one, as it's impossible to force mate with king and two knights vs lone king. Note the word "force". I'm not saying that a poor black player couldn't get mated if the white player has his king and two knights, only that against a reasonably skillful black player white cannot force checkmate. This is another example of basic endgame knowledge.
Off the top of my head I can't suggest an endgame study book. But start with one that covers basic checkmates in the endgame. Most important, choose a writer who makes sense to you. An impressive chess background doesn't necessarily mean a given master or international master is necessarily a good beginners teacher.
Chess, as one other respondent noted, is a very complex game and you can begin to appreciate the depth of the complexity in studying the tremendous variety of endgame positions.
I suspect you can find an old Fred Reinfeld book about both basic chess endings and chess opening principles though there are probably newer and better books available.
I hope this is some help and good luck. ;-)