Mindfulness is not an easy concept to explain in words yet H. Gunaratana does a nice job of doing just that. First and foremost, this book is a beginner's guide to the practice of Vipassana (or Insight) meditation. Having it's roots in the Gutama Buddha's life over 2500 years ago, Vipassana meditation is a skill that takes only a short while to learn but a lifetime of dedication to master.
The introduction gives a brief look at the roots of the practice and tells the reader that meditation is intrinsically experiential so the best way to get started is to just sit and try it. In the following chapters, Gunaratana helps the reader to understand exactly what meditation is and what it isn't. From there he goes into more detailed instructions as to what your mind and body should be doing while you meditate. This is accompanied with useful tips on dealing with problems that may arise in your practice, including the 5 major hindrances that nearly all meditators face. The book wraps up with a more in depth look at exactly what "mindfulness" is and how to "take it from the cushion" and integrate it into our daily lives.
I found this book very easy to read and understand and feel it would be an excellent guide for people just getting into Buddhism and meditation. Already being the owner of a collection of books on Buddhism, this book didn't offer any new revelations but I was extrememly pleased with the sections on mindfulness and have already used some of the author's suggestions on integrating it into daily life. The main reason I did not give the book 5 stars is because it offers much more for the new reader than it does for one with more experience.
If you buy this book and still feel like you could use more detailed instructions on meditation, I recommend you also purchase "Change Your Mind: A Practical Guide to Buddhist Meditation" by Paramananda (ISBN: 0904766810).
I love this book. It is straightforward, thorough, and easy to read. I don't know who Gunaratana is, but he does a great job with this book. Even the layout of the book is clean and simple and pleasant.
If you are interested in vipassana or mindfulness meditation, or even zazen, this book is worth reading. It tells you how to do this kind of meditation, and what to do with the problems that come up. It is a practical handbook and it's also fun to read. I'm the author of the book, Self-Help Stuff That Works, and I can tell you with some authority that the techniques Gunaratana describes in this book work, and they are worth applying, even if you don't sit still. You can do your work with mindfulness. You can talk to your child with mindfulness. Anything can be a meditation. Mindfulness in Plain English will show you how. I recommend this book.