If you want to get a feel for chemistry, one way might be to wander through the periodic table, picking one particular type of compound and seeing how things change as you go from element to element. (That's a good part of how Mendeleev figured the whole thing out, actually). But you'll want to pick carefully. Chlorides, for example, are rabble, as Primo Levi put it memorably. He was right: one chloride is often very much like another, even when the elements involved are very different - it's as if they've been pulled down to a lowest common denominator. I make some exception for the beautiful green of nickel (II) chloride, or the startling metallic purple of the anhydrous chromium (III) salt, but really, if you can't get something neat looking from the nickel or chromium compounds, you're really in a bad way. Most other chlorides are nondescript white powders. Boring!
Pick hydride instead. Hydrides are, if anything, a bit too exciting sometimes, since they tend to be rather reactive. With water, the usual reaction of a metal hydride is to strip off a proton immediately, giving you the hydroxide of the metal and plenty of lively hydrogen gas bubbling off. Sometimes the whole process is joyful enough for the whole mess to burst into flame.
That'll happen to you with the alkali metal hydrides, over on the left-hand side of the table. Organic chemists the world over know sodium hydride the best. It's a fine strong base - kinetically rather slow, but it deprotonates and spares not. By contrast, you hardly ever see much lithium hydride around. Potassium hydride makes an appearance every so often, though, to muttered curses, since it's usually stored as a slurried suspension in mineral oil and is correspondingly painful to weigh and dispense. It's lively stuff, too, and will set things on fire for you with great thoroughness. The higher alkali hydrides are things I've never seen, and I have no desire to, if their ferocity steps up like potassium does versus sodium.
The next row over (the alkaline earths) feature a compound that gets used every so often in the lab, calcium hydride. It's a good drying agent, because of that water reactivity, and solvents are distilled from a spoonful or two of it to make them anhydrous. But has anyone ever seen or handled magnesium hydride? I sure haven't. It's one of the things that the hydrogen-storage people mess around with, apparently, but you just don't come across it in an organic chemistry lab. Ditto for the other alkaline earths: barium hydride? Never seen it or even thought about it. I don't have access to Scifinder for the time being, since I have no desire for a second mortgage on my house just now, but I see from the web that apparently some people are using the stuff. Maybe it has a great future in organic synthesis, but it sure has no past.
This same pattern holds as you go across the elements. You come across some things that are used all the time (boron hydride, better known as borane), and some that are encountered once in a while (aluminum hydride, copper hydride). There are some well-studied chemicals that are just too reactive and nasty for most people, like phosphine or stannane, and some that are too reactive and nasty for any sane person at all, like mercuric hydride. Some of the nasty ones that are used much more outside of organic chemistry. People who do semiconductor work, for example, know all about the arsenic and germanium hydrides, for example, while few organic chemists have ever touched them.
And then there are some that I'm not sure anyone ever messes with at all. They don't seem to be particularly worse than their neighbors; they just sort of seem to be overlooked. Chemists in the audience - ever thought about titanium hydride? Me neither. Chromium hydride? Never once, until this evening (I wonder what color it is?) These are simple compounds, but even among the simple ones you keep finding all these streets that no one ever walks down. . .