Hoofprint of the Ox is by far the best-written and presented systematic book on Chinese, especially Chan, Buddhism out there. Master Sheng-yen's words are so clear and specific. His voice combines the insight of an experienced Chan meditation retreat master and a knowledgeable Buddhist scholar.
This book stands out as a rare jewel in the mountain of books on Buddhism. For example, master Sheng-yen's presentation of meditation techniques from "five points of stilling the mind" (shamata) and contemplative meditation (vipashyana) to gong'an and silent illumination is the best that I have ever read. This book is for the serious practitioner of Chan or Buddhism in general.
Most of the books out there present Buddhism as a "packaged product." For example, most books on Zen or Chan presents it as some isolated, idealized spiritual practice free from religiosity (rituals, faith, and so on), as if it can be adapted to anything. Most times these books are watered down. Hoofprint of the Ox presents Buddhism as it is, without being apologetic or "fundamentalist."
The book covers issue of: buddhist doctrine (clarifying the misconception of buddhist emptiness, selflessness, correct views, etc), path (Chan and classical path: precepts, different types of meditation methods, etc.), and various levels and types of experience (experiences of enlightenment and delusion). Most importantly, master Sheng-yen also delineates what it means to be a Chan master. This is a revealing chapter of the book. It dispels many romantic ideas we may have as a practitioner in the West.
Enjoy the book!