If you've ever been perplexed or baffled by books on Buddhism - especially books on Zen Buddhism - your perplexity will vanish when you read this book. The Experience of Insight is a well-edited transcription of many talks given to participants over the course of a one-month meditation retreat. The teachings are largely coaching for meditation. During the retreat, these short talks were small pockets of coaching between large stretches of silence and meditation. That may be why the information comes across so clearly and so usefully.
You'll learn, probably with more understanding than you've ever had before, the Buddhist fundamentals: The Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, the seven factors of enlightenment, etc. But they are explained in a way that makes their relevance and importance to your practice perfectly clear. I'm the author of the book, Self-Help Stuff That Works, and I've specialized in knowing the difference between information that merely sounds great and instruction that actually helps, and Joseph Goldstein manages to deliver teachings that will really help you in your meditation practice. He will inspire you, encourage you, and teach you good technique. If you meditate and would like support for your practice, The Experience of Insight is the best you will find.
I picked up this book in hopes of becoming more acclimated with Insight (or Vipassana) meditation. The format is unique in that it is excerpts from speeches given by Mr. Goldstein during a 30 day meditation retreat. Each "chapter" is a different topic, some consisting of a page or two (usually the morning talks) while others span upwards of 10 pages. I liked this format because it felt a little like reading a daily journal. You can follow along, reading a passage in the morning, then one in the evening or whatever pace you choose. One aspect that I really liked was the question and answer section at the end of each evening talk. Many of the questions that I had after reading the passage were brought up and explained in these sections.
The topics chosen by Mr. Goldstein are basic but interesting. The author has a great skill of bringing in outside sources to help clarify and reinforce the ideas that are being expressed. Whether it be Taoism, Japanese Zen, or Tibeten Buddhism, Goldstein shows how closely the hearts of these teachings resemble each other. He also takes time to show that the different schools of Buddhism are just different ways of looking at the same thing or, as he puts it, different fingers pointing to the same moon. To become pre-occupied with the finger is to miss the main point.
As for actual instruction on sitting meditation, this book covers some things lightly but doesn't get into a lot of depth on it. He talks briefly about the common "Mindfulness of Breathing" meditation (along with some small variations on it) and also meta bhavana (lovingkindness) meditation. As far as this aspect of the book goes, I still prefer Pramanada's meditation guide, "Change Your Mind," to this one because of it's detail.
Whether you are new to Buddhism (and it's meditation) or have been practicing it for a while, this book has something to offer you. The journal-like format and easy-reading prose that Goldstein displays allows the reader to focus on the teachings and not the style. I highly recommend you give it a try.