When Ralph Nader's photo first appeared on the cover of a national magazine, a family friend called his mother to congratulate her. Really? Rose Nader replied, I think I'll go out and get a copy. That's his mother in a nutshell, Nader indicates in his new book The Seventeen Traditions, which covers his childhood and his upbringing at the hands of loving but firm parents.

Born in Lebanon, Nathra and Rose Nader taught their four children the values (or traditions ) of hard work, study, self discipline, respect for others and keeping one's personal success even national fame in perspective. Nader also praises the rural New England setting in which he grew up. It taught him a respect for the earth's natural resources while instilling in him a love of solitude, serenity and a voluntary simplicity allied with fiscal responsibility.

In some respects, The Seventeen Traditions chronicles a swiftly disappearing way of life characterized by long hours spent laboring at a family business, unremunerated civic involvement and religiously attended family dinners. At other points, Nader challenges modern notions of child rearing. Notably, he doesn't think children need a voice in what food is served on the family table. Readers may or may not think the Naders' child-rearing methods speak for themselves depending on how they feel about the often controversial career of writer, consumer advocate and U.S. presidential candidate Ralph Nader, who is better known for his exposŽs of unsafe autos than for his homespun wisdom. (Nader's consumer advocacy is the subject of a documentary, An Unreasonable Man, to be released this month.) Interestingly, Nader anticipates this problem in his final chapter. As evidence of Rose and Nathra's excellent parenting, he offers not himself but his two sisters, both of whom hold doctorates, and his brother, who founded a community college. His siblings model the kind of civic involvement and professional achievement that his parents expected when they chose a quiet Connecticut village as the stage to raise a family.

Lynn Hamilton writes from Tybee Island, Georgia.

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