TALKING FROM 9 TO 5

HOW WOMEN'S AND MEN'S CONVERSATIONAL STYLES AFFECT WHO GETS HEARD, WHO GETS CREDIT, AND WHAT GETS DONE AT WORK

The workplace (primarily the office) is the setting for this third volume of Tannen's Linguistics Lite trilogy. Tannen (Sociolinguistics/Georgetown) sticks close to the main idea she popularized almost a decade ago in That's Not What I Meant (1985): Men and women have different conversational styles that are equally valid (though unequally valued). Here, she describes women's disadvantages in the workplace: They are paid less than men for the same work and face ``sexism'' (a term Tannen keeps dubiously between quotation marks), a glass ceiling, and sexual harassment. Why do such problems persist? Tannen considers the difference in male and female conversational style as a primary cause. Women are likely to have an indirect manner, to apologize more, and to offer softer criticism; they're problem preventers instead of heroic crisis solvers; they generally strive for the appearance of equality with, not superiority to, their co-workers. Many (male) bosses overlook the value of this style. Tannen concludes that women should go with their own approach, but they should also try to be assertive and worry less about being liked than about being competent. Yet in the next breath, she acknowledges that women who act assertive may bring unpleasant consequences on themselves. In the end, she reaches for platitudes, blithely recommending that workers adopt a mix of styles and that managers learn to recognize and appreciate quality in diverse forms. She says ``on that happy day, the glass ceiling will become a looking glass through which a fair percentage of Alices will be able to step.'' Readers of her earlier books will find much that is familiar, from the research to the conclusions. Women facing a hostile work environment and seeking substantive improvements in their situation are likely to find that Tannen's recourse to ``stylistic differences'' ultimately offers little help. (First printing of 200,000; first serial to New York Times Magazine and Redbook; Book-of-the-Month Club alternate selection; Quality Paperback Book Club main selection; Fortune Book Club main selection; author tour)

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 1994

ISBN: 0-688-11243-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1994

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics,...

HOW DEMOCRACIES DIE

A provocative analysis of the parallels between Donald Trump’s ascent and the fall of other democracies.

Following the last presidential election, Levitsky (Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America, 2003, etc.) and Ziblatt (Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy, 2017, etc.), both professors of government at Harvard, wrote an op-ed column titled, “Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?” The answer here is a resounding yes, though, as in that column, the authors underscore their belief that the crisis extends well beyond the power won by an outsider whom they consider a demagogue and a liar. “Donald Trump may have accelerated the process, but he didn’t cause it,” they write of the politics-as-warfare mentality. “The weakening of our democratic norms is rooted in extreme partisan polarization—one that extends beyond policy differences into an existential conflict over race and culture.” The authors fault the Republican establishment for failing to stand up to Trump, even if that meant electing his opponent, and they seem almost wistfully nostalgic for the days when power brokers in smoke-filled rooms kept candidacies restricted to a club whose members knew how to play by the rules. Those supporting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders might take as much issue with their prescriptions as Trump followers will. However, the comparisons they draw to how democratic populism paved the way toward tyranny in Peru, Venezuela, Chile, and elsewhere are chilling. Among the warning signs they highlight are the Republican Senate’s refusal to consider Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee as well as Trump’s demonization of political opponents, minorities, and the media. As disturbing as they find the dismantling of Democratic safeguards, Levitsky and Ziblatt suggest that “a broad opposition coalition would have important benefits,” though such a coalition would strike some as a move to the center, a return to politics as usual, and even a pragmatic betrayal of principles.

The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics, rather than in the consensus it is not likely to build.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6293-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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