Perhaps the word Contemporary in the title needs some clarification. The papers in the book are not just from the last 10 years, say. Instead, the book aspires to provide some of the seminal papers in sociology, written across the 20th century. To the sociology student, these tracts perhaps form the best expression of how the field developed. Several of the papers relate to and analyse the vast social changes that occurred in the United States during this time; especially in the roles and status of blacks and women.
The editors arranged the text in several parts. Often, a part is grouped around a prominent researcher or philosopher, like Foucault, Giddens or Habermas, giving papers written by them.
To a lay reader, some chapters may be difficult trudging, as they are geared towards professionals already in the field.
Just a heads up: this edition is significantly different from the 3rd edition.
I purchased this one for a class that called for the 3rd edition, and it has differently ordered chapters and is missing at least one chapter included in the 3rd edition. Otherwise, it's contributing greatly to my understanding of the field of sociological theory, and I highly recommend it!