“The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Buddhism,” by Gary Gach and Michael Wenger
This is one of the most complete guides to the Buddhist tradition that I have come across. Not only that, but it’s accessible, practical, and lighthearted. Gary Gach is a talented writer who makes learning about Buddhism not only interesting but a great deal of fun as well. I think you’ll like it.
Like all the “Complete Idiot” guides the writing style is light, humorous, and fast-paced. There are illustrations and numerous sidebars to present quotes, definitions, comments and anecdotes.
You’ll learn about the Buddha’s life story, the various Buddhist traditions, the arrival of Buddhism in the west, and about the key teachings of Buddhism, such as the eightfold path, nonviolence, karma, meditation, etc.
There are special chapters on Vipassana, Zen, Pure Land, and Vajrayana Buddhism. There are also explorations of the intersection between Buddhism and western life: relationships, food, work, popular culture, science, and the arts.
There’s also a handy glossary (neatly titled “A Vocabulary of Silence.”)
All in all, this is a rare overview of Buddhism and a book well-worth having.