on 11 October 2007
This is is a bit different from many introductions to Buddhism in that rather than following a historical approach it takes a thematic one. So, for instance, there is a chapter on sacred writings, a chapter on rituals, and a chapter on women. Each of the themes is considered in relation to a range of Buddhist materials. This is a significant strength since it avoids unduly privileging early Buddhism at the expense of later developments.
It is very much an academic overview, aimed more at undergraduates than general readers. However, it contains a lot of useful information, although often rather compressed.Each of the chapters is written by a different scholar, which means that it is uneven; some are much better than others. Nevertheless, gathered altogether in one book one can learn a lot about Buddhism! I would recommend it to be used in conjunction with one or two other general introductions as no overview is definitive. Unfortunately, there is very little attention given to Buddhist art, which seems like a major omission. The current price,however - almost 30 pounds - seems way too much (I got my copy for a fiver).