There are a lot of good books out there and then there are some poor examples of fringe "scholarship" (Tony Bushby's Bible Fraud comes easily to mind) that should be avoided. Too often sensationalistic polemical books get more attention than sober research pieces.
It sometimes is good to start with one of the "oldies but goodies". For the novice, Asimov's Guide to the Bible is pretty nice....it gives a book-by-book survey that gives the consensus critical view (tho of course somewhat dated, published in the '60s), and is written in simple language for the layperson. For something more advanced, my favorite books are S. R. Driver's Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament and James Moffatt's Introduction to the Literature of the New Testament. There's a ton of detailed, fascinating information in these books, tho again they are a century out of date.
Current stuff that is good to start with include Bart Ehrman's The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, Lost Christianities and Misquoting Jesus. For the OT, some important books for laypeople include Richard Friedman's Who Wrote the Bible?, Israel Finkelstein's The Bible Unearthed, and Tim Callahan's The Secret Origins of the Bible. For an excellent survey of the roots of Christianity in early Judaism, the best book on the subject for the novice is George Nickelsburg's Ancient Judaism and Christian Origins. For info on the origins of Israelite and Jewish religion, Mark Smith's The Early History of God is the best.
Hope this helps!