I’ll answer your first question, since the second one is still too hard, I think. Luckily, there aren’t really any narrative hurdles. You may have heard things about “complicated timelines” or that some of the games are direct sequels to each other, but the truth is much simpler: the way I think about it, the games are like folk tales, passed down through generations or shared among different cultures. It’s basically the same story, though it changes (sometimes radically), depending on who’s doing the telling. The point is, when you’re trying to decide where to start, don’t worry about picking the right point for the story.
The original NES game makes a certain amount of sense to start with, since it’s the first and it’s also pretty simple, mechanically speaking. It can also be pretty brutal in terms of difficulty and lack of direction, so it’s hard to ultimately recommend that one. A Link to the Past also makes sense, because it’s the genesis of many of the series staples, and also where the “formula” of the series got pretty cemented. But it’s also a very well designed game, with lots of exploration, intricate dungeons, world-spanning quests, excellent pixel art and fabulous music. You could do a lot worse than this one.
Another solid candidate is Ocarina of Time, considering its place as the first 3D game in the series, and its place as one of the more beloved games of all time. If you just want to be a part of the conversation when it comes to this series (and games in general), this is a decent choice. It’s also fairly well designed and also has some really great music. It’s aged a bit more than the others I’m mentioning, but it’s still a great game.
There is also a case to be made for Wind Waker. It makes less sense than the others because it feels a bit different than the others, and if what you want is to know what the series is like, this might not be the best choice. But it’s also the most modern-feeling one on this list, and it just looks and sounds beautiful. It’s a free-roaming adventure on the high seas, and it loosens up the pretty rigid overworld/dungeon formula from the rest of the series. There’s a lot of charm and personality here that’s sometimes missing from the other games.
If I absolutely had to pick one, for someone who already plays games, I would probably pick A Link to the Past, but it’s a close call. For someone less familiar with games in general, I might point you to Link’s Awakening instead; or for a younger person who just can’t get past 2D sprites, I might say go with Wind Waker. Different strokes for different folks. But whichever one you pick, I definitely recommend you give one a try, if for no other reason than to figure out they’re not your thing.