This book is probably the single best book for those interested in learning the fundamentals of buddhism, as well as for those looking for a guidebook to refine and contemplate their buddhist views. Thich Nhat Hanh is living testimony that Buddhist practice can transform a life of suffering and despair into one of peace and joy. His books were the start of my path and this book is almost like a handbook to the four noble truths and the eightfold path, as well as other fundamental thoughts of buddhists. The language does get somewhat abstract and spiritual and may require some re-reading by some, especially those with no previous exposure to buddhism. Otherwise, the best book covering fundamental buddhism I've ever read.
This is not a bad book, it explains in detail everything you need to know that's important in Buddhism, emphasizing, as the title suggests, the heart of the Buddha's teachings. Any one who reads this book and puts its teachings into practice in his daily life will surely be a better person.
However, I must confess that I am often distracted from the teachings by the teacher's choice of language. We all know that Buddhism is suppose to make us happier, more gentle, content, people, so we expect writers on the subject to of course write in a spirit that reflects these qualities; but Thich Nhat Hanh takes this to an extreme level, in my opinion, making me think of him as the Mr. Rogers of modern Buddhist teachers. I'm sure that in real life he is a sincere, kind, loving Buddhist, but when I read his books I can't help but think that he's catering to middle-aged women who frequent New Age stores. Maybe I'm just showing my own mean-mindedness, a lack of feeling, but, to put it frankly, I just get "turned-off" sometimes by all his talk of flowers, clouds, blue skies, dewdrops, and smiling children.
As just one example of what I'm talking about, in one chapter he says, "When was the last time you looked into the eyes of your beloved and asked, 'Who are you, my darling?'" and tells us not to be satisfied by a superficial answer. That's fine, I have no problem with that, but among the questions that follow to find out the "true" nature of your beloved, is this one: "My love, why aren't you a dewdrop, a butterfly, a bird?", which he says you should ask with your whole being. I'm sorry, but who talks like this in real life? The book is overflowing with this kind of talk from the "heart", with the result that my mind rebels and wants to read something written by an adult for adults---not some PBS programming for kids.
So I give the book three stars for good intentions and explaining Buddhist essentials in detail, but take off two stars for all the superfluous flowery language I had to sift through for those details.
I agree with one of the other reviewers here in recommending
"What the Buddha Taught" by Walpola Rahula as a better introduction to Buddhism for the beginner. It manages to be inspiring and no non-sense at the same time.