After trying to read Confucius 'raw' I realized I needed a little help and orientation. This hit the spot and I now feel much more able to tackle the Analects for my own purposes. What I found most helpful?
1) The little bit of context in the introduction about Confucius' aims, his career, and how the Analects were put together, particularly the insight that they're not trying to have a structure.
2) Relatively detailed guides to the historical context behind selected sayings. Although it still won't help me understand all the rest, it turned a morass of obscurity into situation where I can at least be clear on what I don't know and get Confucius' overall drift.
3) One reader (Rodney Taylor's) model of how to approach Confucius: by sorting the sayings by topic of interest, interpreting and comparing them.
A little note on expectations: First of all, this isn't a complete or in depth guide to Confucius and only covers a selection of sayings. I was using it as a preliminary to going back to the full text, but you could use it as a simple 'what's this all about' kind of book to read in half a day. Secondly, both the publication series and the author are motivated by a religious worldview I don't share. This isn't a criticism as such, and I'm in no doubt at all about the author's academic credentials, even though this is an easy book for everyone. Probably, those American Christians who want to read ancient Chinese texts will feel right at home! But that worldview strongly motivated some of the emphasis and direction of the book, sometimes to the point of harping on points that really make no difference to me either way: the difference between a classic and a scripture, and the category into which Confucius should fall??
Still, as I was trying to say above, I looked on the book more as an example for what I might try to do myself, so it was interesting and helpful to watch Taylor go through the process with a lot more historical and linguistic knowledge than I will have.