How to get a quick overview of Japan

Understanding any culture takes time, patience and lots of humility. Japan and Japanese language are notorious as one of those that take very long to really learn and understand. Enter "taiyaku" (対訳) book series which brings you the key Japanese concepts in bite size chunks, in both English and Japanese. Many long-time Japanese learners probably already read a several of these, but regardless of your Japanese ability, these are the books you want to check out.

First off, what is "taiyaku"? It just means that the original (Japanese) text is printed alongside its translation (English). The English text is not literal translation and it helps readers understand the context.

The "Taiyaku Nippon Sousho" (Side-by-side translation Japan series) is one of my latest favorites as it gives a quick overview of many facets of Japan. The 38 books in the series cover history, culture, language, communication styles, Japanese systems, customs, foreigners' experience in Japan and more.

The serial is aimed at Japanese readers who want to explain Japan to foreigners. While the English text is modified to suit English as foreign language speakers, the texts are good quality in both languages. So there are no bounds to how one should use it :)

If your goal is to understand Japanese culture and mentality, start from "Heart & Soul of the Japanese" (日本人のこころ) and "Everything You Should Know about Japan" (日本まるごとQ&A).

If your goal is to simply be able to discuss certain topics in both languages, pick an appropriate book from the range, and look up texts on the topic you need. I like to read the English pages for a quick overview and peek at the Japanese pages for the appropriate translations of the concepts I did not know.

Have you ever read any bilingual edition books? 
How do you like to use them?

To check the range of English titles, Amazon Japan is useful ↓
対訳ニッポン双書 (Taiyaku Nippon Sousho)