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The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen's Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear Paperback – August 18, 2004

4.6 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this uneven collection, Loeb, author of Soul of a Citizen: Living With Conviction in a Cynical Time, gathers together over sixty poems, memoirs and essays tailored to buck up the spirits of a left-liberal audience depressed by the sorry state of the world. Although generally in favor of justice and democracy and against the "runaway global market," the selection of writers includes a wide range of environmentalists, civil rights crusaders, anti-poverty activists and dissidents against both fascism and communism. From these eclectic offerings some hopeful, albeit familiar themes assert themselves: ordinary people can make a difference, every little bit counts, in solidarity there is strength, a positive attitude is half the battle, the powers that be are unexpectedly vulnerable, and history is full of surprising victories of the weak over the strong. Not surprisingly, many of the pieces amount to motivational lectures, while others inflate the notion of hope into tiresome dilations on, for example, the links between information processing, daydreams and butterflies. But the articles that deal with concrete struggles and achievements—Nelson Mandela’s memoir of imprisonment on Robben Island, Vaclav Havel’s account of the ant-like construction of civil society and a dissident political culture in Communist Czechoslovakia, Bill McKibben’s homage to the urban planning triumphs of Curitiba, Brazil—deliver real inspiration.
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"A shot in the arm for all of us who feel withered by crisis and paralyzed with cynicism...." -- Aretha Williams, San Antonio Express News, Sept 12 2005

"A stirring collection of essays aimed at people who still want to believe that ordinary people can change the world." -- Atlanta Journal Constitution, October 30, 2004

"An anthology of some of the most powerful voices of our time." -- Boston Globe, Oct 3 2004

"An indispensable anthology of hope. Put away your Prozac, and pick up The Impossible Will Take a Little While." -- Arianna Huffington

"Deeply moving and motivating... a retinue to be reckoned with from those dedicated to the concept of a better world" -- Baltimore Sun, Jan 2, 2005

"Hopeful, inspiring, and motivating... May well be required reading for us all." -- Sierra Club magazine, December 2004

"Paul Loeb brings hope for a better world in a time when we so urgently need it." -- Millard Fuller, founder, Habitat for Humanity

"This book can even make one hopeful about the future despite so many signs to the contrary." -- Bill Moyers

"This might possibly be the most important collection of stories and essays you will ever read." -- History Channel top-10 2004 political book list, November 2004

"Will resonate with anyone struggling with despair and doubt." -- Dallas Morning News, Nov. 30, 2004

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 422 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Trade Paper Edition edition (August 18, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465041663
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465041664
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #366,405 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Edited 20 Dec 07 to add links to more recent books along these lines.

My title page, where I put my summary notes, is covered with writing. The first and most important point: this is not a "do gooder feel good" book--it is a compelling, absorbing book that lays out some good insights and provides an antidote to paralysis and dispair. It is, in short, a book that inspires many small actions that in the aggregate could lead to revolutionary improvements in democracy and our quality of life.

It took a lot of work to put this book together, including getting all the copyright permissions, and if I had one complaint, it is that I have already read many of these older items (e.g. Mandela, Havel, Martin Luther King) and it was too difficult to find the original pieces commissioned just for this book. Having said that--as a 52 year old that reads a great deal--I would quickly say that if you want to introduce younger people to great thinkers in the democratic tradition, it would be hard to do better than this book as a "reader."

The book is also complemented by the online aids for further study and for reading group discussion.

I thought of my teen-ager as I read the book, and wrote his name in several places on the margin--this book is relevant to parents dealing with very smart young people who may tend to say "I'm never having children" because the world is going to hell.

At a tactical level, this book complements Bill Moyer's "Doing Democracy," and is a personal counterpart to Jonathan Schell's work, "The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People.
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Format: Paperback
REV. MARIE JONES of BookIdeas.com writes:

With all the despair, fear and overwhelming anxiety today's citizens live with, who has the time, energy or courage to try to make a real difference in the world? Author Paul Rogat Loeb, who changed lives and empowered hearts with his first book, "Soul of a Citizen," returns with a truckload of fresh, new hope in his follow-up, "The Impossible Will Take A Little While." This inspiring and motivating collection of essays by people who did indeed find the time, energy and courage to make a difference in the world will have your heart and spirit soaring, even as the world around us threatens to become even more dark and violent and unforgiving.

Featuring powerful essays from the likes of Marian Wright Edelman, Desmond Tutu, Jim Hightower, Susan Griffin, Arundhati Roy, Alice Walker, Jim Wallis, Howard Zinn and so many others, this book serves as a spiritual guidebook on activism and working for change in a world that often resists positive change with negative force. These people, and many others far less famous or well-known, provide the reader with countless ways of making a difference and doing good in their communities, even via small acts of kindness which often result in huge ripples of change, often years down the road.

This book is filled with hope, the kind of energizing hope needed by citizens who long to find something good to hold onto as they question their ability to change the world and make it a better place for their children and grandchildren. The kind of hope that spurs action, even the smallest action, knowing that the end result may never come, but that acting is still the right and moral thing to do.
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Format: Paperback
I interviewed Paul Loeb on this book for local radio station WERU-FM. Not only did the book engage me so, that I read it cover to cover - I found myself getting even more committed to doing whatever I can to change our country's course for the better.

I recommend this book highly to anyone seeking a respite from the media circus and the heavy pall of despair and cynicism that seems to have settled over our land since 9/11.

If you're wondering, "What difference can I make in the world, just one person, insignificant as I am," please read this book. You can, I can, and together we can change our world for the better.

Bela Johnson, Medical Intuitive


Host, Alternative Currents

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Format: Paperback
There are so many crises in the world, it's tempting to put our heads under the covers and give up. This is a book that got my spirit going again. In a time when so much seems to be run for short-sighted advantage, this book can help us go for the long haul.

It includes powerful essays by world-renowned writers, including famous activists such as Nelson Mandela, who describes surviving 27 years in prison. But I was also really moved by some people I'd never heard of. There's a wonderful woman named Danusha Goska who writes about responding to someone who says they feel politically paralyzed by talking about her own intermittent physical paralysis and what she's still able to do. She then goes on to talk about how we've come to confuse virtue and celebrity in a way that demeans all the more humble efforts in which any of us are actually likely to participate. I work with the Chicago Recycling Coalition, and this rang so true with my experience.

The book is a wonderful mix of memoirs, essays, stories and poems to help keep us going in the difficult task of working for a better world. I've already thought of people I'll be giving it to as gifts.
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