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The Good, the Bad & the Difference: How to Tell the Right From Wrong in Everyday Situations Paperback – March 25, 2003
"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Pre-order today
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Humbly perched atop his "accidental" vantage point (he never intended to be an ethicist), New York Times Magazine columnist Randy Cohen eagerly analyzes the circuitous moral landscape below and offers smart advice in The Good, the Bad & the Difference. Nearly 200 reader letters, Cohen's thoughtful responses, and occasional counterpoints from guest ethicists make up the bulk of this engaging collection. Divided into seven topics, questions seek guidance on appropriate behavior at work, school, and home; with friends; in public; in the medical field; and in situations where money counts. They range from the clear-cut (seeking justification for acts of revenge), to the no-win situation (think "whistle-blower"). The ethicist in Cohen provides a quick, logically gleaned response; the novelist in him "skillfully limns the complex and subtle relationships and the unspoken obligations that bind people together"; and the humorist in him makes it all irresistible. Each chapter's "Pop Ethics Quiz" invites readers to exercise their own moral muscles on serious and whimsical dilemmas. While Cohen claims no formal background in ethics, perhaps his stint as a writer for Late Night with David Letterman was school enough, for he shows a remarkable ability to smoke out the wrong and carefully preserve the right, even in the kookiest situations. --Liane Thomas --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Cohen, author of the popular New York Times Magazine column "The Ethicist," has collected some of his favorite columns, along with guest commentaries, quizzes for readers and revisions of some of his own advice. Not unlike Miss Manners, Cohen tries to focus on problems that everyday people actually face: e-mail privacy at work, "telling" on a philandering spouse, cheating at school, filching motel soaps, ticket scalping and the like. After outlining the basic ethical issues involved, he offers clear if sometimes painful recommendations for what to do, often leavened with a little Dave Barry-ish humor. Unlike Dear Abby or Judge Judy, Cohen allows for more than one right answer; he includes dissenting opinions from Dan Savage, Katha Pollitt and even his own mom. The concluding section, "I Demand a Recant," rounds up columns that Cohen himself has changed his mind about. Still, rethinking positions hasn't made Cohen a relativist; his basic ethical principles remain clear. "The small civilities of ordinary life" are important. Incompetence should not be confused with unethical behavior. And beware "perilous" associations; working as "Attila the Hun's Gardener" may land you in unintended trouble. Agent, David McCormick. (On sale Mar. Forecast: Cohen's weekly fans will want this for their reference shelves; word of mouth should take it much further. It's the perfect gift for anyone who doesn't read a lot, but feels strongly about "how things ought to be done."
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Although this book collects many of the columns Cohen has written for the New York Times and in syndication (as "The Ethicist" and "Everyday Ethics," respectively), this book is far more than just the original columns. Added here is more overview and dialog (which a brief newspaper column would never accommodate). Some of the back and forth is in the original Q&A format of the column, but it's been augmented by postscripts and perspectives from others in the fields related to the original questions. Thus, while Cohen's answers are basically prescriptions and brief explorations, the subsequent discussions from Cohen and the others round the issues out. So, in a sense, it becomes a town-square-type discussion you won't see in some other books.
The really interesting part is that, by engaging others, Cohen opens it up to more discussion and thought from -you.- Cohen doesn't always read like the final word, and you may find that this involving book provokes discussions in your own home. (This past weekend, a question surrounding how much to include on a resume led to a good 20 minute discussion between friends.) Any time a book gets you to think, and then actually leaves its original medium on the page to become part of a broader discussion, is pretty impressive, if you ask me. So many other books of this ilk come off as absolute pontifications, that they seem to do all the thinking for you, and for me that's not enough.
Every parent should read this book and discuss the issues with his or her children. The stories in this book make valuable dinner-table conversation.
There are many references to Samuel Johnson. In fact, the text seems created around his wisdom.
My friends tell me this book has changed me from being an occasional stickler for what's right to being a major pain in the butt. :)
This book is an ethics wakeup call. Read this book and then go do the right thing.
As a publisher and author of 28 books, I realize the responsibility we have in the book industry. This is one book I will not give away (Though I have ordered more from Amazon.com to be sent as gifts).
Dan Poynter, ParaPublishing.com.