Muslim Identities: An Introduction to Islam, by Aaron W. Hughes.
Hughes approaches Islam from the religious studies perspective (not necessarily from Islamics) and tries to steer a middle way between a theological introduction and a polemic against Islam. He shows the diversity of islams today and draws many important contrasts between traditional Islamic teachings (often exposing historical inaccuracies in Islam’s account of its origins) and how Muslims in different places diverge from those understandings. For Hughes, a ‘Muslim’ identity is something more created than it is inherited. I appreciate his ability to portray the complexity of Islam in a way that is not complicated, rather than simply homogenize Islam, which has been so common in books on Islam since 9/11.
I also like The Emergence of Islam: Classical Tradition in Contemporary Perspective by Gabriel Said Reynolds, and A New Introduction to Islam by Daniel Brown.
What is your favorite Intro to Islam, and why?