One can, of course, find a whole assortment of books which analyze Vatican II. Just do a search on Amazon and you will find dozens of books in English, representing vastly different perspectives. Those of us of the post-Vatican II Church are fully aware of the interpretations and conflicts that are out there concerning the Council. One of my great hopes with Pope Francis is that he can begin to bring some healing as the Church moves forward. I think the dual canonizations of JXXIII and JPII was a very good idea in this regard.
I would recommend Image's Vatican II: The Essential Texts edited by Norman Tanner, SJ. This "essential" collection of Vatican II is a pleasure to read from and portable enough to tuck into your bag without taking up too much space. This volume contains the Four Constitutions (Sacrosanctum Concilium, Dei Verbum, Lumen Gentium, and Gaudium et Spes) along with the Declarations on Religious Freedom (Dignitatis Humanae) and on the Church's Relation to Non-Christian Religions (Nostra Aetate). Each of the documents come with a brief historical introduction by Edward Hahnenberg, which help to place their formation in their historical context. (If anyone can recommend a fuller treatment of the history of the council, which doesn't follow the extreme positions taken by some on both sides, I'd appreciate it.) The translation of the documents comes from a 1990 Sheed & Ward/Georgetown University Press publication, with minor edits by Norman Tanner. The book's appendix contains all the notes that were included with the official documents, which are certainly a must for understanding the true intent of the Council Fathers.
The very first thing you will encounter in this volume are the "introductions" from Pope Benedict XVI and Boston Globe columnist James Carroll. Without getting into specifics, these two share differing opinions on the Council. Pope Benedict is of the school of seeing the Council through the hermeneutic of continuity with the past, while Carroll falls more in the hermeneutic of rupture/change. I stand with Pope Benedict on this issue, so I don't find Carroll's comments all that convincing. (It should be noted that both "introductions" consist in previous articles/speeches done by the authors.) I am not, in general, a fan of Carroll's writings, however, I think having his essay included, along with Benedict's, shows the spectrum of interpretation that has existed during these past fifty years.
As with any volume that claims to be "essential," there are bound to be elements I would have liked to see included. In particular, since this volume is directly primarily towards the lay faithful, I think they should have included the the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity. It would have really rounded out the other six, and plus when we think about the laity's role in the New Evangelization, it would be really helpful to have this document among the others. Also, since Lumen Gentium and Nostra Aetate were included, I would have really liked to have seen Unitatis Redintegratio, the decree on Ecumenism, a part of this collection.
Overall, however, if you want an attractive and portable edition of the main Vatican II documents, this is the one to go with. I highly recommend it.
Thank you to Katie at Image Books for providing me a review copy