This book was used as a text in my university Buddhism class. It is not a detailed explanation of Buddhism but rather gives a glimpse into various traditions and important writings that have contributed to the growth of Buddhism. It quotes extensively from different sources and provides a glimpse into key points in history and from the lives of those who shaped Buddhism. Excellent book for students of Buddhism because of its informative and well-rounded approach. It may not be the best book, if read alone, for the more casual reader unfamiliar with the fundamentals of Buddhism.
This book is a very good introduction to the Buddhist tradition, historically and cross-culturally. The book incorporates excerpts from basic scriptures and major writings, in an effort to represent the mainstream of Buddhist thought. Although, as they state in the preface, there is "an enormous diversity within Buddhism and no fixed standard of orthodoxy" the editor and authors succeed in presenting the "common ground of discussion" they aim to reveal. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in beginning a study of Buddhist history, thought and culture.