I'm as much Buddhist as I am anything ;) I developed an interest in 2002, 2003. Finally got off my rear and joined a center (Zen to be specific) to make it more than just an academic study. That was in 2009, stuck with that for 5 years, and have moved to just a solo meditation practice but staying in touch with friends in that circle, including a close friend who is a novice Zen priest (that's an actual certified title, recognized by the head temple of that lineage in Japan).
Zen is very stark, and I get much more out of a guided practice. Zen should really be a graduate-level practice IMO, after you have studied Vipasanna (generally known as mindfulness) meditation. Otherwise one can spend years 'doing it wrong'; you're just sitting there still lost in thought and not realizing it.
As far as studying theory to understand the what's-it-about I can highly recommend two books- "Buddhism Without Beliefs" by Stephen Batchelor, and "What Makes You Not a Buddhist" by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse. Neither is very large and both are engaging reads.
Buddhism is at its core very pragmatic, and that core is what survives export to other cultures outside of where it grew and thrives (India, Nepal, Burma, Japan, etc). What you end up with is something that can be appreciated without accepting any metaphysical baggage, if one so chooses.
Stoicism I've recently learned to appreciate quite a bit. My Zen priest friend calls it a Buddhism that is native to the Western world.