Book Reviews: The Argument Culture, Heaven's Face Thinly Veiled, The Plain Reader, The Community of the Future, by Frances Hesselbein

Book Review Shorts:
The Argument Culture

by Deborah Tannen
Random House, 1998, New York, NY
348 pages; $25 hardcover

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The Argument Culture examines the ways we communicate in public – in the media, in politics, and in the courtroom and classroom – that cause us to “approach the world ... in an adversarial frame of mind.” Tannen says that our tendency to polarize issues turns them into conflicts that could have been avoided. For example, the media often cover an issue by finding two people who represent opposing extremes and presenting them as “both sides.” Also contributing to the argument culture, she says, are the military metaphors we use in everyday language – phrases such as “gender wars,” or “take a shot at it.” Tannen offers examples from non-western cultures that show alternative ways to negotiate disagreement.

The Plain Reader
edited by Scott Savage
Ballantine Books, 1998, New York, NY
241 pages; $13 paperback

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Fans of Plain Magazine will welcome this new anthology of thought-provoking, personal essays by Amish, Quakers, and others who make simple living a conscious practice. Read about a trip to New York City through an Amish perspective; a mother who gives her children innovative toys of wood and cloth instead of Barbie dolls and plastic cars; a family that gets rid of their TV and radios and discovers their love of singing. This small, elegant book provides a new perspective on the downshifting movement, rooted in spiritual tradition and the ethics of hard work and close family ties.

Heaven's Face Thinly Veiled
edited by Sarah Anderson
Shambala Publications, Inc., 1997, Boston, MA
368 pages; $17 paperback

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Limited in their public roles throughout much of history, women have often found outlets by developing their private, spiritual lives, exploring in depth what St. Teresa of Avila called “the interior castle.” Heaven's Face Thinly Veiled is a gorgeous compilation of the spiritual ruminations of a wide range of women – from Julian of Norwich, whose mystic visions gave her a glimpse of the feminine side of God, to 10th century Afghan poet and mystic Rabiah Balkhi, to novelist and activist Alice Walker.

The Community of the Future
by Frances Hesselbein et al.
Jossey-Bass, 1998, San Francisco, CA
283 pages; $25 hardcover 

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With the onslaught of alienating institutions in our daily lives, is it possible to create meaningful, lasting relationships in our neighborhoods, cities, and workplaces? Leading thinkers from the education, government, business, and non-profit worlds collaborate to answer an emphatic “yes” to this question in The Community of the Future. The third title in the Drucker Foundation's Future Series, this collection offers innovative steps individuals and organizations can take to move beyond short-term economic logic toward sustainable, diverse communities. Contributors show the signs of an emerging movement that recognizes the need for skills such as “public listening,” and assets such as “wisdom capital” in building communities.

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