First off, it is important to mention that this is not a "book" in the traditional sense. It is a collection of academic articles, and as such, a selection of them will be reviewed instead of the "book" as a whole, since it really does not exist. It starts off with a short essay by Craig Evans, introducing the contents of various versions of the Bible. Scholars and serious students can skip over this section, since there is likely to be nothing for them here, although for the absolute beginner this is an excellent section that brings up the topics of the Septuagint (hereafter, LXX), apocrypha, the Masoretic tradition, and the Samaritan Pentateuch, as well as some introduction to Hebrew terminology and a few brief notes on the Syriac tradition and the Latin Vulgate. I discuss three of the articles briefly below:
The first article is by Emanuel Tov, one of the heaviest hitters in Jewish historical scholarship today. In it, he discusses the differences between the LXX and the Masoretic texts. His goal is to determine whether particular problem passages are more accurately preserved in the LXX or the Masoretic tradition by examining how free the LXX translation is, whether there are presence of Hebraisms, or external evidence. He applies this to a number of case studies in the Old Testament, and comes to some interesting results, ultimately arguing that the LXX is just as important to the study of scripture as the Masoretic texts, as they both represent different stages of the tradition. My only criticism is that this is the first article, which seems a little strange because it can be rather complex at times, and yet the traditional reader will have only just experienced Evans' rather basic introduction. For a book that claims to appeal to beginners and scholars alike, this is a bit of an odd choice.
The second article is by the also-renowned J.H. Charlesworth dealing with the formation of the canon. He discusses the origin of the term and how the canonization of the Hebrew Bible came about, suggesting that it was a long and drawn-out process. He touches on a wide variety of topics, including the origin of different canons of various Christian churches, and works that were on the fringe of canon. Given his expertise in that particular field, his insight is appreciated, and he argues for the necessity of the use of apocryphal and Pseudepighraphal works, as they can provide us with a lot of information about trends and concerns in periods not covered by the Bible. On top of that, some are simply excellent literature, Charlesworth argues.
Evans' article is a very typical one for him, as he is doing little more than attacking the views of some scholars that he disagrees with. He claims that the purpose of the article is to assess whether apocryphal gospels are of any use in the study of the historical Jesus. It quickly becomes apparent that he is targeting particular scholars in each of the texts that he examines, but this does not detract from the article at all. On the contrary, it is a very good read and has the sense of being in the battlefield of the particular debate, one that Evans seems to be winning. He dicusses the Gospel of Thomas, the fragment that may be the Gospel of Peter mentioned by Irenaeus (although N.T. Wright disagrees with him on this particular topic, they agree that the text does not tell us anything about the historical Jesus), the Egerton papyrus, and Secret Mark. Each of these discussions is lively and fascinating, and demonstrate why Evans is considered to be on the top of the field.
There are five more articles in this book, and minus one, I learned a lot from all of them and they were all interesting. G. Wooden discusses how the LXX was used in the early church and what affect it had on canon. S. Dempster talks about the tripartite Jewish canon, and how it came to be. S. Porter discusses the effects of Paul's writing on canonization in the early church. All of these articles are well-worth reading, and are geared for a serious audience. If it has a fault, it is that there is no paper on the later canonization of the New Testament and Christian Bible, but given the quality of work contained within, I fully recommend these papers.