If there could be such a thing as a text that 'exemplifies' Derrida's thought, one that meticulously and clearly explains the strategies of 'deconstruction,' while at the same time distilling not just its own theory, but also producing a critical reading of several other prominent thinkers and their texts (and one that of course demonstrates the practical ends of the exposé of his theory), then "Given Time" ("Donner le temps") would unequivocally be that book. It is that good. In fact, it is superb. For those who have read Derrida's texts of the late 60s and early 70s, and know where they stand regarding Derrida's ideas, this book acts like a kind of overview or survey of his thought, a matrix or map of his thought, an architectural plan, even a game plan.
The primary text is a story by Baudelaire, and Derrida uses this two-page story to explicate the relations he has with his own masters, the lessons learned and the major points that he has taken from them and transformed. Husserl on the notion of the gift and the necessity to zigzag (a "Zick-Zack" or "mouvement en vrille") between bound and free idealities; Heidegger on being and temporality and the impossibility of appropriation or presence; Bataille on excess. All through a refreshing reading of Baudelaire's story together with Mauss' seminal essay from 1923 "The Gift: The Form and Reason for Exchange in Archaic Societies" (often considered the most influential work of anthropology, focusing on the social customs of exchange and the obligation to reciprocate) which conceives of a total social fact of gifting that Bataille had himself begun to unhinge in his 1949 "The Accursed Share" by implicitly laying waste to Hegel's philosophical economy - a multivolume work that was itself greatly influenced by "The Gift."
From a map of thought to Derrida's Joycean world
"Given Time" is a brief treatise on the layered notions of the 'gift' in several important works (in Husserl, it means what is given to us in the world through the 'immediate experience' of our senses; in Husserl's phenomenological reduction or "epoche" what is intended is separated from what is given. Derrida, in his earliest critical works on Husserl, analyzes the conceptual foundations of the intuition/intention relationship, and while he critiques Husserl's formal limits of the two, he maintains that the "epoche" is indispensable for transcendental phenomenology and for his own work. However, via Heidegger, Derrida will insist that in every act of being given there remains by necessity an aspect of the gift that holds itself back, is not given, and that gives nothing - the flipside of giving, as Deleuze noted, is theft. This temporizing aspect of the gift is reflected in Derrida's title "Given Time"). Derrida's thesis is that giving is only possible through a splintered 'time' of originary difference, which produces a doubling-effect of the notion of the 'origin,' and which means that the only possibility of authenticity will always be that of inauthenticity, which doubles and splits the difference. In other words, contamination occurs between the concepts of authenticity and inauthenticity: authenticity is impossible without the possibility of inauthenticity. Much like all 'counterfeit money' (which is also the title of Baudelaire's story) you can't tell whether the coin is or isn't truly money that you can buy a commodity with and truly possess something. Is it or isn't it fake? It's a split decision that Derrida patiently explores the 'logic' of. (By the way, art historian Georges Didi-Huberman has written a wonderful book, "Phasmes" (1990), partially translated as "The Phasmid," on deception and pretending; search for it on the net.) This important concept, which also runs throughout Deleuze's work, is a term he calls "the power of the false." But to give credit where it is due, it comes first of all in Heidegger's critique of his own project of a fundamental ontology (very arguably, to my mind) in Section 72 of "The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics," where he speaks of the assertive logos as "false," "deceptive," and "pretending," and discusses the as-structure that will be so crucial for all of Derrida's work - in fact his explication of the true/false pair in "Given Time" explains this operative concept of 'relation' without naming it. 'Relation' is one of the most important concepts in Derrida's thought, and he explicates it at length in "Given Time." Derrida shows how there is indeed a beyond to the binary couple of truth and falsity, authenticity and inauthenticity, by exploring a catachresis that simultaneously surpasses each of them (suggesting that they are impossibly pure concepts, as each implies the other as its limit) but that also makes their 'false' opposition possible (and that they must therefore mix or contaminate each other). Derrida has given many strategic names to this notion, such as originary difference or différance (which Leonard Lawlor has suggested is Derrida's reinscription of Husserl's notion of intention). This relation of possibility to impossibility is very clearly laid out in "Given Time" ("on one hand"..."on the other hand"), and gives the reader a penetrating insight into the importance that Derrida ascribes here and throughout his work - especially his more recent works "Aporias" (another very clear book of his, and highly recommended), "The Politics of Friendship" and "Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness" - to the counter-intuitive and non-oppositional relationship between impossibility and possibility (which is an important redrawing of Kant's condition of possibility and the notion of 'limit' and critique).
Also, one can read the entire book as a long commentary on capitalism, one which places Marxian thinkers in an uncomfortable position and that tries to think through capitalism a little bit further from within 'deconstruction': Derrida's most overt attempts at this are 'From restrictive to general economy' of 1966 (a superb essay with a very pretentious title that plays on Einstein's 1905 and 1916 Nobel-prize earning work "Special [aka "Restricted"] and General Theory of Relativity" - although his 1921 Nobel was technically awarded for his "contribution to photoelectrics") and "Specters of Marx," from 1994, with a title that's cribbed from his mentor and colleague Louis Althusser's book "Specters of Hegel" as an homage. One also has to remember that this book was originally a lecture course from c. 1979. Derrida is of course using transcendental phenomenology as the guiding thread to discuss literature and sociology, and makes something really interesting occur in each, along with modifying our concept of capitalism. From anywhere you stand you can see Derrida's French qualities: literature, anthropology, the belief that philosophy has to engage with capitalism if it is to be considered at all relevant. All are relevant to deconstruction, and are considered game for being folded into it, so long as they take you somewhere else, produce different thoughts regarding the world we inhabit, and permit these thoughts to be formalized.
There is no other book written by Derrida that lays out the material and the method so clearly and patiently (although again, "Aporias" is highly recommended). It does assume familiarity with his earliest programmatic works. If one looks at pp. 71-75 of Derrida's brief and incisive "Introduction to Husserl's Origin of Geometry," for example, one glimpses the thematic affinity between that earlier, more programmatic work, and how Derrida's conclusions there are extended in multiple and different directions in "Given Time" (those pages discuss the troubled constitution of ideal objects and how they can always be false and inauthentic in their expression. If Derrida chooses a work of fiction by Baudelaire on counterfeit money, it is in part because all truth must pass through fiction, or to put it differently, the necessary possibility of inauthenticity).
In sum, this is one of Derrida's most elegant and accessible treatises on his own philosophy and how its relations extend to other modes of thought that on the one hand he himself is influenced by, and on the other hand he radicalizes as he engages them. It is a book that thoroughly transforms the interrelated concepts of the gift that exist in separate disciplines - not least of which is philosophy, which is often said to have 'begun' in wonder or amazement at the world and what is supposedly simply presented or given to us. Derrida takes a critical step back (à la Husserl's method of "rückfragen," that attempts to account for the structuring of tradition) to explore how this presencing comes about, and how the 'there is' (es gibt, in German) appears, and then goes a step further to explain how we relate in our everyday, societal lives via an uncanny and counter-intuitive 'structure' or 'logic' (as well as mediated 'experiences') of giving and receiving, and how these open onto the issues of responding responsibly (which is a theme that Derrida explicitly explores in his works on forgiveness and on hospitality).
As to the translation, which is polished and luminous, it is one of the best translations of Derrida's work into English.