Also, can you recommend one or several books on early Buddhist history and/or the development of Mahayana and what we now call Theravada? Summer reading season is upon us, and I need some recommendations.The best historical introduction I've found is Peter Harvey's "Introduction to Buddhism" which is used widely as a first year college text. The chapters on the history of early Indian Buddhism are quite good on the councils, the arising of the various schools and the later gradual emergence of Mahayana.
If you want something weightier to chew on, A.K. Warder's "Indian Buddhism" remains a classic. I think it's still in print. You'll find all the minutiae about various early and medieval philosophical trends.
If you want to look at some interesting original source material, try and get a hold of a copy of the Katha-vatthu, "Points of Controversy" in English translation. The only english version I'm aware of is published by the Pali Text Society. This is a late Theravada book of debated doctrinal points in a point, counter-point form. It actually reads like usenet, except more polite.