La Familia: Chicano Families in the Urban Southwest, 1848 to present, Richard Griswold del Castillo (Notre Dame: $7.95). "One of the more useful purposes to which a historian can devote his or her energies," writes the author, "is the correction of false historical beliefs and the elimination of simplified stereotypes." Academic, well-researched, extensively documented, "La Familia" is unlikely to capture the wide readership necessary to do away with stereotypes about Chicanos. For the record, at least, the author, a professor of Mexican-American studies at San Diego State University, does invalidate several prevalent characterizations in this 1984 study of Mexican immigration, economic class struggles, intermarriage, discrimination and prejudice. Mexican-American women have not been "virtual slaves of the family," writes Castillo, nor were Mexican Americans hesitant to adapt to American culture. As men searched for jobs in the late 19th Century, Castillo writes, women assumed control of the family. And throughout history, Mexican-Americans always have managed to survive because they are "flexible, pluralistic and adaptive."
The Living Planet, David Attenborough (Little, Brown: $17.95). One must attribute at least part of the author's prominence to his two recent television series for the BBC, "Life on Earth" and "The Living Planet." But this book, written independently of the TV production, suggests another reason. Attenborough informs as well as entertains. His productions are inviting because they find a balance between the "believe it or not" approach, which highlights the eccentric and the anecdotal at the expense of everything else, and zoological theory, which often focuses on complex interrelationships, leaving the drama on the periphery. Chapters in this 1985 book are organized by geography, and the narrative follows the food chain, with the author interjecting only one dominant point of view throughout his book: "We have no moral right to exterminate forever the creatures with which we share this Earth."
The Tao of Leadership: Leadership Strategies for a New Age, John Heider (Bantam: $3.95) is publicized as a primer about "skillful management of human resources" for "today's professional men and women." Readers venturing past the jacket cover, however, might conclude that the binders made a mistake, for this is actually a book about the importance of "desiring nothing" and the need for "vibration . . . in all events and things." But the cover is correct. John Heider, who helped direct the Esalen Institute in Big Sur before founding the Human Potential School of Mendocino, Calif., attempts to bridge the longstanding gap between Eastern and Western notions of success by adapting Lao Tzu's "Tao Te Ching" (roughly, "The Book of How Things Happen"). Heider is successful, for the most part, demonstrating how a sensitivity toward the timeless and universal can help us handle the here and now. Since this 1985 book is aphoristic rather than analytical, however, any unity between East and West forms in our minds, not on paper.
NOTEWORTHY: The Abolition, Jonathan Schell (Avon: $3.95) debunks philosophical arguments against the abolition of nuclear weapons and forwards a plan in which nuclear weapons can be eliminated despite the continuation of world political divisions. Lisa H. (Penguin: $5.95). The highly acclaimed story of a young woman suffering from the worst case of "Elephant Man" disease in history and the team of doctors that worked to make her "normal." Marxism: Philosophy and Economics, Thomas Sowell (Quill: $6.95). A clear introduction to Marx and a clear, carefully developed argument that Marx's vision was insular. Nominated in 1985 for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.