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January 12, 1986|ALEX RAKSIN

The City and the Grassroots, Manuel Castells (University of California: $14.95) was written by an activist, academic and idealist and, as such, opens itself up for criticism: Urban-planning theorists might call Castells' blueprint for social change presumptuous, while lay readers might be fazed by such two-dollar words as "spatial manifestation" (the term refers to our need to be associated with a community). Yet stylistic problems aside, the synthesis has allowed Castells to take an in-depth look at conflict in world cities that delves beyond popular assumptions. Urban problems, writes Castells, a professor of city and regional planning at UC Berkeley, cannot simply be blamed on inept public bureaucracies, as right-wing activists might have it, or capitalist oppressors, as left-wing activists might believe. Castells argues, for instance, that protests in Paris during the 1960s and early '70s were part of a larger political movement that forced the French government to create low-cost housing in the 1980s.

Executive Etiquette: How to Make Your Way to the Top With Grace and Style, Marjabelle Young Stewart and Marian Faux (St. Martin's: $7.95) is at times obvious ("When introducing two peers to each other, say . . . 'Jack Jones, I would like you to meet Bill Bailey' ") and arbitrary (". . . it is not appropriate to open a presentation at a business meeting with an anecdote or a joke"), but always interesting. There are tips for employees--"Poor grammar, like bad breath, is not something your boss will call you in to talk about improving"--as well as for executives--"People work well only when they think they are good at what they do, and to undermine confidence is also to undermine the company, so criticism always should be couched in the most tactful terms." Some tips, on the other hand, are unlikely in themselves to jet you to the top: When eating potatoes, don't "scoop them onto your plate and mash them"; when dressing in the morning, refrain from wearing "hats, high boots, sequins on anything, and T-shirts with comic or pornographic messages printed on them."

The Stroop Report: The Jewish Quarter of Warsaw Is No More!, Juergen Stroop; Sybil Milton, translator; Andrzej Wirth, introduction (Pantheon: $9.95). While chronicles by Holocaust survivors are impassioned, detailed and abundant, the few reports penned by the perpetrators are horrifying because of their lack of passion. "Today's success," reads a sentence in this report by an SS leader in charge of suppressing uprisings in the Jewish Quarter of Warsaw, "raises the total number of Jews apprehended or destroyed to 33,401." Another typical sentence is misleading as well as cold, for the word voluntary is used to refer to behavior that bends to the will of the "Master Race": "The Jews no longer considered voluntary resettlement but were determined to resist with all weapons and means at their disposal." Whether Juergen Stroop is recording new armaments shipments or discussing "the need to create a Jewish Quarter," his writing never surpasses the mechanical. The dominance of rhetoric isn't surprising, however, for as Stroop saw things, blind obedience led to ideal government, while liberalism brought only anarchy.

The Computer Entrepreneurs: Who's Making It Big and How in America's Upstart Industry, Robert Levering, Michael Katz, Milton Moskowitz (New American Library: $8.95). Most of the moguls profiled here live in California, and, if the descriptions in this book are on target, their presence is unlikely to damage California's reputation as an oddball state. Take Sat Tara Sing Khalsa, for example. A convert to the Sikh religion, Khalsa divides his time between designing computer software, running his ashram (spiritual retreat), meditating and marketing a product called "Foot Sweaters." This look at the latest visions of the American Dream is entertaining and well organized. The authors, whose last effort was "The 100 Best Companies to Work for in America," divide the pioneers into seven categories, including "survivors" who endure harrowing experiences as children but emerge with a relentless drive that serves them well in business, "Popeyes" who spend a decade or more inside big companies before "eating their spinach" and going out on their own, "visionaries" who are intoxicated by the technology and "Compulsive Business Starters" ("for them incorporating is a way of life").

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