- Paperback: 160 pages
- Publisher: Harper Paperbacks; Reprint edition (October 2, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0062210645
- ISBN-13: 978-0062210647
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.4 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 76 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #819,488 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Seventeen Traditions: Lessons from an American Childhood Paperback – October 2, 2012
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“The Seventeen Traditions brings us back to what’s important in life — and what makes America truly great.” (Jim Hightower, Illinois Times)
From the Back Cover
"In these pages, I have tried to capture some of my family's traditions as I recall them today. . . . Such family traditions challenge the notion that the fads, technologies, how-to manuals, and addictions of modern life have somehow taken the place of the time-tested wisdom fashioned in the crucibles of earlier generations."
So writes Ralph Nader in the opening of this delightful and surprising book. Known for his lifetime of activism, Nader looks back in these page to his serene and enriching childhood in small-town Connecticut to reconnect with seventeen key traditions—from listening to learning, patriotism to argument, work to simple enjoyment—that he absorbed from his parents, his siblings, and his community. Warmly human, rich with sensory memories and lasting wisdom, it offers a modern-day parable of how we grow from children into responsible adults—a reminder of how family and friends can teach us how to live in a civil society.
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Throughout the rest of the book, Ralph Nader talks about various interesting ideas and ideals, traditions such as listening, the family table, health, history, scarcity, sibling equality, education and argument, discipline, simple enjoyments, reciprocity, independent thinking, charity, work, business, patriotism, solitude, and civics. Again, regardless of your political affiliation, I think you would be hard pressed to find anything in this book you didn’t agree with. Almost like a Boy Scouts’ field manual on how to be a good citizen, a good person backed up with plenty of personal observations and life experiences.
Some people watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” each year at Christmas, or maybe watch or read “A Christmas Carol”. I think “The Seventeen Traditions” is a book worthy of re-reading and study each year as well. Not only for the enjoyment of it, but to refresh in ourselves the ideals and ideas that we hold dear. I will be reading this book each Thanksgiving from now on. At least the first 30 pages. They are so inspiring, and remind me of where we came from. And they remind me of my folks. I am so grateful that we have people like Ralph Nader to record the times and remind us of the way things used to be. In my humble opinion, this book is a masterpiece. My very highest recommendation.
These parents were not just educated; they were very intelligent in going about the business of bringing up their children. It is surely a dedicated process of nurturing and guiding one's offspring to become thinking and caring individuals able to "think outside the box".
An important part of this book is the introduction that gives a colorful framework to the ensuing story. I would be remiss not to mention the deep, abiding appreciation the writer has for everything: his family, friends, teachers and others, and also the beauties and complexities of the natural world. But as idyllic his hometown was, there were serious issues that were addressed and consequences to the ones that weren't.
During his growing years, it was plain to see that his parents were very civic-minded and saw opportunities for improvement in the realm of their small town and beyond. Nathra Nader left his homeland of Lebanon for political reasons and coming to this country, he took very seriously the rights of free speech, which he used frequently in home or workplace, the Highland Arms restaurant and bakery. And whether at the dinner table at home, the restaurant or town meetings, all of his children learned about caring very much about other people. It was not to be taken for granted that those entrusted to political positions always did the job in the best interest of the people, regardless of the patriotic language used. Not known to many, his siblings also share their parents' accomplishments as advocates, too. It was very interesting to read the number of ways that his parents helped improve their community and the long-reaching effects of their influence.
Understanding Ralph Nader's background of seeing firsthand the consequences of pollution, water, air and land, that were in Winsted because of the careless actions and neglect of its early factory owners also helps the reader grasp how he would want to find a remedy to these problems.
Not to be understated is the balance of the expressed love, kindness and wisdom of generations his parents gave him. It reverberates throughout this many-faceted book that I'll always consider one of my favorites!
We all know (or think we know) who Ralph Nader is, and might be inclined to expect a "cause" book from him. But there is much at work here. This is a smart autobiography written by a private man who is looking back on his childhood. But rather than construct a temporal narrative ("I was born in ..."), Nader tries to recall 17 memorable traditions, values, or ethical practices that were a part of his childhood (family meals, learning to listen, education, discipline, etc) and describes how he learned each one and how it contributed to his moral formation.
While this is not a political book, Nader has a strongly hinted view about where we have come from, who we are, and where we appear to be headed. Nader observes, with a lifetime of experience and insight, that, in the moral, inner life of American society, we have not only not succeeded entirely in defeating the evils of Nader's childhood, but we are also in danger of abandoning or losing so much of what was good. This short reflection on a life lived is a significant contribution in the conversation that leads to stopping and reversing that trend. Anyone who is concerned about our moral substance as citizens in communities and as a society would enjoy this book.
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