I learned from a old-school jazz/big band drummer and he played size 7A sticks--very light and fast with lots of rebound so it makes some of the playing easy... He also recommended getting a set of heavier sticks by 2-3 sizes for practicing rudiments etc. and building hand strength and coordination. After you switch back to the smaller sticks they feel even easier to use.
Because of my hand size, (big hands here) I use a bigger stick that fits my grasp better. I go back and forth between 5A and 5B sticks-- I like the 5A with rubber dip on them but if I am only using wood I go 5B. I ALWAYS use nylon tips--they get much better sound out of cymbals and they have a higher resistance to chipping at the tip which could damage the drum heads.
As for shell material, it comes down to a matter of personal taste as to how you want to sound. Some types of music are better played with Birch shells because the cut through the mix better with a brighter tone (rock, metal, fusion etc.). Sometimes Maple is better because it has a inherently warmer tone and shorter sustain.
Here's a site that explains all the dynamics of drum shell types, bearing edges, head selection, tuning, etc. Great resource!
Drum Tuning Bible