My preferences are not important. Just look at what I've read, note what's lacking, and tell me to read it posthaste.
Andrew Barratt's book offers a helpful leg up to anyone who has an interest in Mikhail Bulgokov's famous novel, but has deficient knowledge of censorship in Stalinist Russia, the novel's literary and philosophical influences, the circumstances of its numerous publications, and the criticism written about it.
Barratt offers much of his own thoughts on all of these subjects throughout the book, and it proves very insightful. The Master and Margarita, a head-spinning cocktail of a book, has intoxicated many critics to such a degree that they speak of it in romanticized, and consequently very simplified terms. It's relevance to the age in which it was written has attracted zealous political animals who appropriate every facet of the novel for purely political interpretations. Its explicit indebtedness to Goethe's Faust has had many critics trying often unsuccessfully to tap into the characters' complex spiritual journeys. Barratt navigates these critical trends convincingly, lays out their weaknesses, and supplements them with his own insights.
For anyone who has wanted to read the Master and Margarita, but has either been preemptively or retroactively baffled by its unconventional story and references to Soviet life, I would highly recommend this book.