Danow, David K. The Thought of Mikhail Bakhtin: From Word to Culture. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991. This gracefully written introduction is a clear and accessible presentation of Bakhtin’s thought for readers encountering the philosopher for the first time.
Dentith, Simon. Bakhtinian Thought: An Introductory Reader. New York: Routledge, 1995. This anthology reprints excerpts from Bakhtin’s key works and presents well-researched critical guides to the concepts in those works.
Emerson, Caryl. The First Hundred Years of Mikhail Bakhtin. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1997. An indispensable book for those who wish to explore the ongoing world of Bakhtin scholarship. It provides an in-depth overview of the issues debated by Russian Bakhtinians as well as those debated by Bakhtin scholars of the English-speaking world.
Emerson, Caryl, and Gary Saul Morson. Mikhail Bakhtin: Creation of a Prosaics. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1990. Though it is a little too detailed to be an accessible introduction to Bakhtin’s philosophy, this is an invaluable companion to anyone trying to read his entire body of work.
Holquist, Michael, and Katerina Clark. Mikhail Bakhtin. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1984. An excellent biography of the man and a penetrating study of his ideas. Includes useful and unusually thorough summaries of Bakhtin’s major works, terms, and concepts. Notable in part for its assertion that selected works of Bakhtin’s associates, Pavel Medvedev and Valentin Voloshinov, were in fact the work of Bakhtin, dictated to his friends and published under their names when he was out of favor with the Stalinist government.
Vice, Sue. Introducing Bakhtin. New York: Manchester University Press, 1997. Though this may not be the most definitive guide to Bakhtin’s thought available, its use of contemporary references in long discussions of Bakhtin’s concepts of heteroglossia, polyphony, dialogism, and the carnival make it helpful for those coming to his work with only a basic knowledge.