The 1986 What Color Is Your Parachute,...

The 1986 What Color Is Your Parachute, Richard Nelson Bolles (Ten Speed). Finding a job is a job. The adage makes sense, for few of those who hunt for work without some kind of map can expect to discover a satisfying career. But a map is one thing, and the glut of intricately detailed surveyor's guides--how to write a resume in 91 "easy" steps, what to do in "the executive interview"--is quite another. Rather than steering readers to the right job, these manuals all too often prove disorienting. The same criticism cannot be leveled at "What Color Is Your Parachute," which is probably one reason why the guide has been so successful, selling 2.5 million copies since its first appearance in 1970.

This substantially updated edition does include a new, elaborate "functional/transferable skills inventory." But rather than suggesting a rigid plan of action, the inventory offers exercises to stimulate self-discovery. Redesigned graphics define the job-seeker's options and add a touch of whimsy to the often-arduous task of introspection. A new section on "Women in the Workplace" is timely and enlightening, chronicling progress during the Decade for Women, which concluded last year: More women may be working than ever before, but they still represent 99% of secretaries, 97% of typists and 96% of housecleaners and servants.

Dayworld, Philip Jose Farmer (Berkeley: $3.50). Time-travel techniques apparently have been upgraded since the first science fiction writers voyaged into the year 2000, for in this 1985 book, Philip Jose Farmer manages to swing a trip to the 35th Century. The Earth's population, by then, has grown so large that people are permitted to live only one day a week. On the other six days, they're "stoned," frozen into "suspended animation cubicles." But one man--you guessed it, our hero--manages to remain free as Tuesday turns to Wednesday. Will Jeff see Thursday?

Meditations on Hunting, Jose Ortega y Gasset (Scribner's: $7.95). A favorite in social science circles of the 1960s, the author has since been criticized by theorists who insist that his message is political and pragmatic rather than spiritual and philosophical. Countering Ortega's insistence that Western man "has been left without a moral code," critics have said he overlooks the Western ethic of freedom or the moral message carried by Pol Pot and Auschwitz.

In reality, though, Ortega sees no dearth of morally charged messages in the modern world. His fear, on the contrary, is that we're unable to find meaning in an electronic world inundated by information. The image of the hunter is only one of the metaphors in this book that suggest ways to salvage coherence from our fragmented age. By creating a new course of action and observing the environment with acuity, the hunter, Ortega believes, becomes intimately linked to all of creation.

Flaubert's Parrot, Julian Barnes (McGraw-Hill: $4.95). Born in 1821 to a stable, encouraging and enlightening family, Gustave Flaubert inspires friendship easily, and is acclaimed throughout Europe after writing "Madame Bovary," Julian Barnes writes in this book's first chronology. Born in 1821, begins a second version, Gustave Flaubert isn't expected to live long. His father has a small grave dug in preparation. But after fighting off epilepsy attacks, he manages to survive, only to live a largely arid and solitary life. These contradictory accounts, two of many in this book, might disorient readers at first, but in the end, the author's technique encourages more active reader participation, illustrates how radically biographers can shape their subjects, and makes reading more fun. By debunking literary criticism that purports to be "objective," this critically acclaimed 1984 book looks at Flaubert much as he saw himself: "I am only a literary lizard basking the day away beneath the great sun of beauty, that's all," Flaubert writes in this book's third chronology.

The Urban Crucible, Gary B. Nash (Harvard: $8.95). "Every nation," wrote Sir Richard Cox, an 18th-Century businessman quoted in this book, "has the Reputation of being rich or poor from the Condition of the lowest class of its Inhabitants." Is the success of any society best measured by examining the accomplishments of those at the top or the condition of those at the bottom? This, of course, has become one of the $64,000 questions of our time, dividing the political world in half. But Cox was ahead of his time, for in the 1700s, few Americans were thinking about weighty issues like class divisions and the quality of life. America's political self-consciousness, after all, was callow by Industrial Age standards: The economy was still primarily agricultural, vocations were ascriptive, not competitive, and the political system was hierarchical, not participatory.

Even so, insists Gary Nash in this dense, yet accessible 1979 work, there were class divisions in early urban America. And contrary to the images presented in American textbooks, writes Nash, the "lower levels of urban society . . . frequently suffered the unequal effects of 18th-Century change." Thus, Boston is pictured not only as the commercial and intellectual center of New England Puritanism, but as "the New England center of mass indebtedness, widowhood and poverty." As early as the 18th Century, America's cities suffered from a "narrowing of opportunities" and the rise of poverty. Nash's vision, nevertheless, is far from gloomy. Like Alexis de Toqueville, he senses the restless energy in the streets: "The cities," Nash writes, "predicted the future."

Glitz, Elmore Leonard (Warner: $3.95). Psychopaths and sleaze always seem to creep into Vincent's life, even though he manages to flee to Puerto Rico after being shot by a speed freak in Miami Beach. This novel, Elmore Leonard's 19th, has been acclaimed as a farce, a thriller and a voyage inside hollow heads: "The ocean was different," muses one tourist in the book, "than the ocean up in New Jersey. Though it must be the same water because the oceans were all interconnected and the water would get different places."

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