This is a serious book written at a graduate-student or advanced-under-graduate level for the practicing professional employed in designing optical telecommunications systems and components. I don't think the book was written with students particularly in mind, since (for example) there are no examples or problems in the book as typically found in university course work In his introduction, Agrawal says "[t]he book is aimed for researchers already engaged in or wishing to enter the filed of nonlinear fiber optics." As the title suggests, the book's emphasis is on nonlinear effects in optical fibers, as opposed to nonlinear effects in bulk materials.
The first chapter is pretty basic, and is mostly review material that describes things like the index cross section in an optical fiber, material issues, fabrication, chromatic dispersion, modal birefringence (which leads to polarization mode dispersion), non linear refraction and stimulated inelastic scattering. The review here is pretty brief (the chapter has only about 25 pages).
Chapter two develops the mathematics of wave propagation in optical fibers, including the mathematics of mode propagation and basic propagation equations derived from Maxwell's equations. This chapter actually develops several different differential equations; each based on various assumptions applicable to different pulse widths. These differential equations then form the basis for later investigations into various non-linear effects discussed in the book. Chapter two is thus a foundational chapter and should be read and understood completely before moving on. There is a brief discussion at the end of the chapter that describes numerical methods.
Chapter three describes group-velocity dispersion, including chromatic dispersion as well as dispersion-induced pulse broadening and higher-order dispersion and their implications for optical systems.
Chapter four introduces self-phase modulation and self steepening.
Chapter five describes optical solitons (including fundamental and higher order solitions), soliton lasers, and soliton-based communications systems.
Chapter 6 describes some techniques for optical pulse compression using gratings and chirped optical pulses. It also describes soliton-effect compressors.
Chapter 7 is devoted to the subject of cross-phase modulation, chapter 8 to stimulated Raman scattering, chapter 9 to stimulated Brillouin scattering, and chapter 10 to parametric processes, including four-wave mixing, parametric gain, and phase matching.
The book is quantitative, making (as you'd expect in a graduate text) liberal use of mathematics. The level of mathematics, however, should be well within the grasp of senior college students majoring in physics, engineering, or mathematics. The subject, however, is non-trivial, and you should expect this book to present a real intellectual challenge in reading and understanding all the details. I took about six months to finish the book, including time taken to fill in some details in the derivations and to plot some of the equations on my computer.
Agrawal makes good use of figures and illustrations, which I found particularly helpful. The book also has an adequate index that makes the book more valuable as a desk reference.
Each chapter cites a wealth of reference material in the literature so that any subject covered within its pages can be studied in more detail and from the original sources.
I would not make this a first study of nonlinear optics (although it was for me). Rather, I'd look for texts that discuss nonlinear effects qualitatively, and I'd try to expose myself to experiments that illustrate these nonlinear effects to gain a more qualitative understanding before diving into Agrawal's mathematical derivations. With a more qualitative basis first acquired, however, Agrawal's book is an invaluable tool for understanding the most obscure nonlinear effects in optical fibers.