The entirety of my current chess knowledge consists solely of the valid moves which the pieces can make. I've played a few matches, but my moves tend to be aimless, by this I mean they lack any purpose. What books and video series would you recommend so that I can bring some structure to my chess game? I'm looking for something of an absolute beginner's difficulty that goes on to an intermediate level.
Absolute beginner? My best advice to you would be getting/buying Chess Master Grand Master Edition game. Install the Josh Waitzkin Academy (it will ask you while you're installing it's easy to notice) and go through his tutorial.
It's an interactive tutorial that teaches you how to start thinking as a chess player, it's completely voiced and will have puzzles and questions as it goes from one level to another forcing you to put what you just learned into practice. When you finish the entire tutorial, you should have at the end at least basic knowledge about openings (including some traps and how to avoid them!) middle game tactics and some sacrifices and last but definitely not least basic understanding of end game.
At the start it will even have you slightly practice memorizing the chess board annotations (like where b4 is or any other square) which definitely helps in the long run when you go into higher levels of chess.
After you're completely done with this tutorial and master it (you will most likely watch it more than once throughout your chess career to understand everything completely 100%) there is another course, which is less of a tutorial and more of a high level analysis between a GM and a ferocious Chess machine.
I advise you to not just watch and finish these tutorials but to also go out and play with other people... If there's a chess club out there near you or at least you can reach by bus or something, definitely go there and play against stronger players and you'll improve even faster.
Hope I helped :)
Regarding videos, there are some very instructive channels on YouTube. For an absolute beginner I would highly recommend Majnu2006. In particular, the playlists "Practical chess endgames" and "Chess middlegame training" are really good for getting a feel for positions where you normally get stuck and do not know what to do. Of course, other playlists are also very good, but for a start, the two mentioned above should do.
Secondly, I would also recommend the YouTube channel of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. There you have grandmasters like Yasser Seirawan (a living legend of the game), Var Akobian etc. giving lectures for different levels (beginner, intermediate, advanced). There are lectures on basic concepts, and there are lectures on some famous games, all varying in difficulty level, style and topics, so there is a lot of helpful material to choose from. In my view, Yasser Seirawan is especially gifted in conveying chess knowledge---his ideas are easy to follow and to remember. On top of that, he often tells chess anecdotes, which serve as a nice spice to an already good lecture. In short, he is a very good choice for people who are starting to play chess.
There are several other very good channels, mentioned in my answer here.
Regarding books, it is usually a good idea to learn from the masters. Therefore, my suggestion would be Capablanca's little gem "Chess Fundamentals". As the name says, the book is an introduction to the basic concepts in chess. How suited is the book to your needs depends, of course, on how seriously you are planning to study chess. As a general advice, though, I cannot think of a better introduction to the magic world of 64 squares.
Guide to Good Chess by CJS Purdy
Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess
In order of recommendation. The Purdy book is an easy read, once you get past some of the slang (he's an Aussie and it shows) and covers all phases of the game from a very basic level. The Fischer book is a programmed instruction book, meaning every page asks a question or poses a problem for you to solve, and when you turn the page, the answer is revealed and explained.
The Modern Chess Self-Tutor by David Bronstein
This book is for when you get past either of the first ones. It will demand work from you, but you'll benefit from it for a long time.
Somewhere in between those levels are
Comprehensive Chess Course by Alburt and Palatnik
Secrets of the Russian Chess Masters Alburt and Parr
The first was originally a two-volume set, occasionally the two are bundled together in one volume. Albert wrote 3-4 more books in the series, but don't worry about them for now. The Alburt/Parr two-volume set resembles the first, but is written more for adult self-study (the other was written more for teaching children in a classroom).
Good Beginner Books:
- Winning Chess... series by Yasser Seirawan
- The Soviet Chess Primer by Ilya Maizelis
- If you can find it: Journey to the Chess Kingdom by Averbakh and Beilin
The last two are considered classics and were the 1st chess books for many great Soviet and Russian grandmasters.