I've read dozens and dozens of books on Buddhism, but the clarity with which Smith and Novak explain basic principles, distinctions between sects, and the development of Buddhism in America makes Buddhism: A Concise Introduction very special. It's definitely the first book I'd recommend to anyone interested in learning about Buddhism (supplanting Steve Hagen's Buddhism Plain and Simple, a great book itself, but in a different way). Best of all, this book helped me understand which type of Buddhist practice made the most sense for me.
Of the dozens of Buddhist books I've purchased, this book provides the clearest, most understandable introduction to Buddhism. It gives a succinct historical background, complete with context (religions that were prominent where Buddism's roots sprouted). It then lays out the foundations of Buddhism (4 noble truths, eightfold path, etc.).
The authors do a great job explaining some of Buddhism's complex terms (dependent arising, nen-self, etc.), and do not confuse matters by relying to heavily on Sanskrit or Pali terminology.
Although the description of the various branches of Buddhism was a bit short, it did lay out the fundamental thoughts of each branch, and compare/contrast with the others.
The authors detail meditation types(vipassana, samantha) and how the different branches use meditation differently.
Finally, there is a summary of how Buddhism migrated to the western world, and how it is practiced today.
An excellent book, I would highly recommend it.