As one can see by the academic tone of the other reviews, they are no doubt acquaintances of this professor of sociology.
While this book is definitley Buddhism 101, that is not necessarily a criticism. But, at least in the area of Tibetan Buddhism, it is filled with such misinformation, odd ideas and strange notions, that one wonders what the source of his investigations really were. Some of the material seems incredibly dated. For example, to be discussing the centers of Kalu Rinpoche, who passed away 15 years ago (the author says 'recently') while ignoring an estimated 500 centers and their activities is more than an oversight. The authors statements about practitioners being in a quandry because their guru died-and they have to wait for his incarnation-is quite laugable, if it were not presented as truth. Every Eastern tradition, Hindu included, is emphatic that the physical presence of one's root guru is inconsequential. His further assertions that all the great masters have died and there are few left is just blatant ignorance, as therre are, literally, hundred of extremely high level lamas living in and visiting America. Every page contains such compeltely fallacious material, that the basis for even writing such a book could only be as a thesis or a "publish or perish" piece to keep one's teaching job. There certianly is a full scholastic bibliography, but the authors text, while assuming an air of authority, does not accurately potray Buddhism, in America or elsewhwere.
This is an interesting and readable exploration of the "new Buddhism" in the West--that is, the meditation-oriented Buddhism (Zen, Tibetan, and Vipassana) practiced mainly by "converts," as opposed to the Buddhism practiced mainly by Asian immigrants and their offspring. Coleman, a sociologist and a practicing Buddhist, takes a look at the history, practices, teachings, demographics, problems, and trajectory of this new Buddhism. Although the book is ostensibly about "Western" Buddhism, it's actually mainly about American Buddhism, with occasional mentions of British Buddhism.
I think this book will especially be of interest to practitioners of the "new Buddhism" who want to learn more about our history and our fellow practitioners. It could also be used as a text in a college course on Buddhism or on American religion. (If you want to learn about all the major forms of Buddhism in the U.S., I would recommend Richard Hughes Seager's "Buddhism in America," which includes chapters on Jodo Shinshu and Soka Gakkai as well as Zen, Tibetan, and Theravada Buddhism.)
After an introductory chapter, Chs. 2 and 3 provide an excellent overview of the history of Buddhism in Asia and in the West, including the main schools, practices, and teachings. Coleman does an impressive job of covering the important points in a small space while also keeping it interesting. Ch. 4 discusses in detail the practices and beliefs of Zen, Tibetan, and Vipassana Buddhism and their similarities and differences. Ch. 5, "Sex, Power, and Conflict," explores issues of gender, sexual passion, and homosexuality in the history of Buddhism and in the new Buddhism and examines the scandals revolving around sex and power in Buddhist centers in the 1980s. Ch. 6 includes a look at the demographics of the new Buddhism. (I hadn't realized just how well educated and how liberal we are. Of Coleman's sample of 359 members of seven Buddhist centers, 83% were college graduates, and 51% had advanced degrees; 60% were Democrats, only 2.6% Republicans, and 9.9% Greens.) Ch. 6 also describes the typical path that Westerners follow into Buddhism and considers reasons for Buddhism's growing popularity. And Ch. 7 briefly considers the future of Buddhism in the West.