So far my favorite comment comes from Eric T.:
Eric Eve, Behind the Gospels (because recommended here)
Graham Stanton, The Gospels and Jesus
Stephen Prothero, American Jesus
The wild card: Richard Horsley, Jesus and Empire
So far it seems most choices are books on the historical Jesus, and only a few on the gospels. Not sure what, if anything, that says...While I have not yet looked at Eric Eve's book (embarrassed to say!), I've been meaning to do so. By all accounts, it is up-to-date and takes the recent advances in social memory theory seriously. Although I can't speak to how accessible it would be for novices. Stanton's book is a classic. I like to include at least one "classic" (defined according to my own whims). And I have indeed used Prothero's American Jesus with much satisfaction!
But what makes Mr. T's comment my favorite is his observation that most of our lists are "historical Jesus" heavy and "Gospels" light. Allow me to take this teaching moment to point again to Jesus Among Friends and Enemies by Larry Hurtado and (our very own) Chris Keith. This book is the best I've seen at balancing the historical-critical questions/themes about Jesus with the literary-critical questions/themes about the Gospels. See my full endorsement here. (And, no, I receive no royalties for book sales on this one.)