This book will give you a truly deep understanding of general Buddhism, but more importantly, the essence of Buddhism, the spiritual ideals behind it and the relationship of all schools. I think it is the best book on the subject I have read, and over the last decade that amounts to several cases of books.
A very comprehensive text on Buddhism. The reading is difficult and very scholarly. It seems well written and researched, but I would not recommend it to the lay reader simply interested in a history of Buddhism. This text analyzes and gets very deep, very quickly. A text for religious study majors.