Best Books of 1990

Last month a reporter called to ask what book in 1990 would I recommend to his audience as part of an “end of the gear” article he was writing. After some reflection I called him back and gave him a list to choose from which make for good and diverse reading. Here are the titles: 1. Ecologue: The Environmental Catalogue and Consumers Guide for a Safe Earth. Edited by Bruce Anderson (Prentice Hall Press), this absorbing collection describes with great graphics and pictures what products to buy and what products to avoid. Brand names are given.

2. The New Medicine and The Old Ethics by Professor Albert R. Jonsen (Harvard University Press) discusses what has happened to modern medicine and how it can regain its grounding in a blend of the old and new ethics for the benefit of patients.

3. Prosperity Lost by Philip Mattera (Addison-Wesley) addresses the question of its subtitle: “How a Decade of Greed Has Eroded our Standard of Living and Endangered Our Children’s Future.” Confronting economic reality as it affects workers, consumers and future generations is the first step in sobering the politicians and business moguls who govern by higher salaries for themselves while they reduce the rest of the participants in the economy into waste, red ink

and lower real incomes.

4. Sam Walton-Founder of Wal-Mart by Vance Trimble (Dutton) is our generation’s Horatio Alger story — coming out of poverty to fabulous riches and maintaining an ordinary life-style.

5. The Money Wars by Roy Smith (Dutton) probes the merger mania and LBO deals of the Eighties and the aggressive financial entrepreneurs who took enormous capital away from job-producing activity for their huge fees and empire-building.

6. Charity Begins At Home by Teresa Odendahl (Basic Books) argues that the rich give charity to activities that the rich control and benefit from far more than contributing to reduce social injustice and inequality. High culture, private schools and colleges absorb these “elite philanthropy” dollars and help reinforce their own power and power structure.

7. Business Crime: Cases and Materials by Harry First (Foundation Press) is not your usual reading. Written for law students, but understandable to anyone, this first such casebook can read like a profound detective’s guide through the jungle trails of corporate crime.

8. Privacy in America by David F. Linowes (University of Illinois Press) touches a nerve felt by many Americans. Detailed personal information stored in computers of government, business and schools can be erroneous, misinterpreted and cost you your new job, your requested insurance policy, your credit or your civil liberties.

9. The Fourth World: The Heritage of the Arctic and Its Destruction by Sam Hall (Knopf) has that haunting, gripping and sad quality that can alert the world’s peoples to save the environmental integrity of that region and its native cultures.

10. Insuring National Health Care: The Canadian Experience by Malcolm G. Taylor (Univ. of North Carolina Press) is very timely. More Americans are demanding national health insurance and looking North for proof that such a system can succeed. Three thousand physicians in the U.S already have endorsed a Canadian-style plan that would bring tens of millions of adults and children under prepaid health care.

11. The Man Who Discovered Quality by Andrea Gabor (Random House) is the biography of W. Edwards Deming and his journey of bringing quality control to Japanese industry after U.S. companies spurned his advice and how more U.S. companies finally are adopting his proven methods.

12. The Imperial Middle by Benjamin DeMott (Morrow) explains why, in a clearly class-stratified economy, the myth of no class divisions perpetrated by the ruling ethos and the governing classes keeps our political institutions from facing up to the poverty, the excluded and the overall needs of our country.

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