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The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons, and Other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  327 ratings  ·  52 reviews
The Great Good Place argues that "third places" - where people can gather, put aside the concerns of work and home, and hang out simply for the pleasures of good company and lively conversation - are the heart of a community's social vitality and the grassroots of democracy.
Paperback, 384 pages
Published August 18th 1999 by Da Capo Press (first published July 1st 1989)
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Community Reviews

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Farrah
Parts were very thought provoking and informative, but it was too focused and biased toward the third places of men. Even when women and children were present in a third place, they were discussed in terms of how the affected the activity and community of men. Much more of the book should have addressed the third places of women in history and recommendations for how to create new third places for everyone. Third places of the past will not meet the needs and physical environment of today and th ...more
Miranda
Read this in Library School and really enjoyed it. Now I need to read Bowling Alone.
Johnny
If one spends most of one’s time at home (even if asleep a good deal of that time) and the second biggest block of time at work, that means home is your first place and work is your second place. What then, is your third place? The third place is the social venue where one has informal interaction with a group of regulars and potential newcomers such that one experiences novelty, perspective, spiritual uplift, and friends by the set (as opposed to befriending individuals). It is an enriching cro ...more
Rachel
A colleague at work suggested this to get folks thinking about how to look at museums as a third space, how to encourage more community interaction/community building within the scope of the museum. It's an interesting concept, and one that kids are very natural at, but not so much for grownups. Think about it, when you are out in the community—coffee shop, post office, grocery store—how often to you really start up a conversation? Unless you actually bump into someone you know, probably not ver ...more
Paul Signorelli
Few books have had greater influence on the way we perceive communities, community-building, and collaboration than Ray Oldenburg's "The Great Good Place." The terms he introduces have become part of our lexicon: the first place (home), the second place (work), and the third place--the great good place, which is where we meet, socialize, share ideas with, and learn from friends and acquaintances who become part of our personal and extended community. In the first part of his book, Oldenburg desc ...more
Stephen
In Our Oriental Heritage, Will Durant wrote that man is not willingly a political animal, that we do not love society so much as we fear solitude. As much as I love Durant's work -- the grandness of his historical approach and the rich eloquence of the language with which he expressed it -- here I must disagree with him. We are social creatures at our roots: to borrow from Augustine, we are made for each other, and our hearts are restless until we find companionship together. Such is the lesson ...more
Elise
First place: Home
Second place: Work
Third place: Local establishments where, when you are not at your first or second places, you can hang out, run into acquaintances, socialize, gossip. Where everybody knows your name. Where you can leave your kid and know that someone will keep an eye on her. An endangered species.

Reading this book made me want to operate a third place (or a great good place). Or (perhaps the more reasonable option) at least move to a neighborhood full of great good places. At
...more
Dave'n
"Precious and unique benefits accrue to those who regularly attend third places and who value those forms of social intercourse found there. The leveling, primacy of conversation, certainty of meeting friends, looseness of structure, and eternal reign of the imp of fun all combine to set the stage for experiences unlikely to be found elsewhere...The benefits of participation both delight and sustain the individual."

"for letting one's hair down...Many a dutiful wife and mother will confess that s
...more
Amar Pai
This book articulates what I've always felt but been unable to express-- third places are crucial. CRUCIAL. So many places I've lived have lacked one in walking distance. There's a reason we bought our house around the corner from Farley's.
Nick Klagge
After Elise read this book and liked it, I had high expectations. I had just finished reading "Bowling Alone" and was excited to continue reading on the topic of community (see also "Little Chapel On The River"). Ultimately, though, I felt pretty disappointed in this book. In contrast to Robert Putnam, Oldenburg makes very little effort to incorporate academic research into his book. He may well be a highly skilled sociologist, but his totally casual style ends up making him seem more fly-by-nig ...more
Liam
"The examples set by societies that have solved the problem of place and those set by the small towns and vital neighborhoods of our past suggest that daily life, in order to be relaxed and fulfilling, must find its balance in three realms of experience. One is domestic, a second is gainful or productive, and the third is inclusively sociable, offering the basis of community and the celebration of it." (14)

"Necessarily, a transformation must occur as one passes through the portals of a third pla
...more
Kelly
Part I: 4 stars.
Part II: 2.5 stars.
Part III: doesn't deserve a rating.


This book explores a great concept. When it was originally release, it certainly was pretty revolutionary thought. Now, I think we've all heard it and experienced it, so it's not too revolutionary.

But what gets me is the sexist and anti-American sentiment with which Oldenburg writes. Women are obviously the reason men's places have closed, he claims. Most disturbingly, though, is that one of his comments is that women have all
...more
Jay
I'm convinced... While many problems exist in America that have gotten us to where we are today, Great Good Places or "third places" are the beginning of solving nearly all of them.

No matter how educated or brilliant individuals are, synergy will win eventually. And those conditions do not occur within the home, but in the democratic, socially-leveled places where anyone may enter and be a part. Social isolation in urban areas but especially in suburbia severely magnifies the effects of weaker v
...more
Penny
I only read Part I of this book and skimmed the rest very quickly. In Part I he defines "third place" and explains it's benefits and how we've lost it in American culture. In Part II he describes several examples of third places past and present around the world, and in Part III he discusses some miscellaneous issues related to third places and ends with a call to restore them (mainly by creating spaces for them in our neighborhoods and cities).

The premise in Part I is that third places – the lo
...more
Ben
I liked the idea behind this book, which is what prompted me to pick it up and read it. Here we are, a month and a half later, having finished three good books in the interim, and I've finally finished it. The fist part was interesting, albiet dry and slow going. The second part was also interesting although parts of it started to lose its appeal. The final part was filled with outrageous claims that at times made me question the author's sanity.

Anyways, the opening explains the point of the boo
...more
Laura
The first third of this book reads very well. The author provides a good definition of what makes a third place, and what distinguishes it from first and second places (home and work). He also argues that there are individual and collective benefits, and those reviews are well summarized and organized. The empirical chapters, where he reviews specific types of third places (e.g., the English pub, the German beer garden) are by now a little dated (the book was first published in the 1980s). Simil ...more
Jennifer
I'm sympathetic to the main thesis of this book (that the demise of public places for socialization is a problem in American life). But I don't understand how a professional sociologist could be so tone-deaf regarding how changes in gender relations, race, and class have impacted the societal shifts he's describing. I can't imagine that the book didn't seem dated when it was published in 1989, let alone when he had the chance to revise it for a second edition in 1999. The over-generalization bas ...more
Zach
Interesting 100 page idea stretched out to fill over 300 pages.

The idea of a 3rd place between home and work can contribute to well being, community, relationships not dictated by work or class is interesting, but the author seems to repeat it over and over.

Also this idea may have been novel 20 years ago, but the recent republishing fails to acknowledge major societal shifts, women at almost equal numbers to men in the work force and the rise of the internet.

The author also seems focused on a
...more
Jim Dressner
This is a great book! The author argues compellingly for critical role of The Third Place (after the first two places: Work and Home) in bringing a richness to human life. He talks about the problem in North America, then champions the role of the Third Place in general before embarking on a historical review of Third Places in western societies. He lambastes suburban life for its anti-social tendencies, and advocates strongly for walkable neighborhoods, places (like Cheers) where everyone knows ...more
Kevin
I think Oldenburg's thesis is an interesting and important one. Unfortunately, however, this really ought to have been an essay or an article, 5000-10000 words long, not a whole book. Most of the time his writing sounds long-winded and preachy, which makes reading it very tiring, because you expend a lot of energy extracting his main arguments from all the extraneous fluff, and then holding on to them until he moves on to the next point, which may be paragraphs or even pages away. Honestly, I st ...more
Ien Cheng
Wanted this book to be better and smarter than it is. Still a memorable concept and notable book.
Jenn
Apr 08, 2014 Jenn marked it as to-read
Shelves: professional
recommended for customer service perspective
Alexandra
I took this book out from the library on the suggestion of a friend. I loved it, though Oldenburg occasionally got bogged down in facts and trying to prove his point too much. This book was written around 1990, and a lot has changed in 20 years, but I found the ideas in the book stirred up a lot of thoughts on the "great good places" of 2010 and beyond. I wouldn't shut up about this book to anyone, so while it may not have always been the most gripping read [it took me 3 months to finish!] it de ...more
Mister
Although it did take me months to read, that wasn't because it wasn't interesting - I was busy is all. The book is a tidy discussion on sociology and urban planning centered around the need and availability of public spaces. Does that sound dull? It shouldn't. This book really gets to the core of why I enjoy european cities and why there are so few US cities I would bother living in.

What to do with the book when you are done with it: lend it to someone who likes living in San Francisco; they won
...more
Stacy Montgomery
I read this book for a class on the material culture of public houses in England. The discussion of third places was certainly fascinating, but I had a very hard time seeing past the sexist attitude of the author. I found myself getting very mad and needing to walk away from the book; however, I am very glad I read it. I think the concept of the third place is very relevant and it has certainly come in handy when researching and writing about historic third places. I recommend reading it while b ...more
Rachel Wagner
This book is too long but I found it to have a lot of truth in it. Suburbia has given many people access to homes and other high standards of living. However, this lifestyle has come at a cost and I do think that the sense of community that used to exist is rapidly being sacrificed to the streamlined Starbucks of the world. Oldenberg doesn't provide any solutions for this problem. He merely studies the problem and its effects. Very interesting.
Kate
I used this book for a college-level composition course with the theme of community. Oldenburg's observations (some still ring true today and some don't) certainly gave us something to talk about, but I think we all agreed that we could have edited out 100 pages or so. Oldenburg seems to like the sound of his voice. Still, three stars for overall concept and such a thorough explanation of The Third Place.
julie
great to have a name for this thing i've been thinking about and sensing for a long time - these great spaces where we want to spend time. i think i knew of them, but didn't know what they were called. oldenburg sets out a theory and way of thinking about them that can help (but not entirely) quantify what it is that makes them great.
Pat
Excellent thoughts on "third places"--those great gathering spots that are neither home nor work--and the value they have in a community and in our lives. A little dated already, especially in terms of women's roles and not taking gay and lesbian families into account, but there's much to think about and wish for.
Daniel
Tells the story of the different places that have adapted and changed as society has moved away, and how third places can be cultivated but not always easily created. Libraries and Post Offices always have been a place to congregate, and connect with neighbors, and the world is better because of these places.
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Celebrating the Third Place: Inspiring Stories About the Great Good Places at the Heart of Our Communities

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“The course of urban development in America is pushing the individual toward that line seperating proud independence from pitiable isolation.” 3 likes
“The development of an informal public life depends people finding and enjoying one another outside the cash nexus.” 2 likes
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