I know only Redhat-based (Fedora), Ubuntu, and Gentoo linux. So my opinion might be somewhat biased.
If you're truly a novice, say, you don't know anything about shell scripting or programming languages, and want to learn a Linux system, I would suggest Ubuntu. Or find any Ubuntu-like system. Another benefit will be, since lots of Cloud servers use a Ubuntu-based image, you could easily adopt to this.
Or, you could start with a Redhat-based distribution, such as Fedora Core (as a desktop user), or CentOS (as a server application developer). CentOS and RHEL also very popular on servers including Cloud IaaS.
Or, if you are somewhat familar with the Linux system, and know some shell scripting, I strongly suggest you learn Gentoo Linux, which does not have binary packages, so you need to compile every package you need. During installation (if you're like me), you may encounter various problem (compilation errors, etc.), but when you finish installing it, you'll have more knowledge about Linux than any other distribution, plus optimized binaries for your own system.
In short, if you need a descent/urgent workload based on Linux system, or have some topics to learn based on the Linux, try Ubuntu-like or RedHat-based distribution.
If you have enough free time, and are willing to learn, try Gentoo. (but I don't recommend Gentoo Linux, if you have absolutely no experience on other distribution.)