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

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  690 ratings  ·  89 reviews
The landmark survey that celebrates all the places where people hang out--and is helping to spawn their revival

A New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice

"Third places," or "great good places," are the many public places where people can gather, put aside the concerns of home and work (their first and second places), and hang out simply for the pleasures of good compa
Paperback, 384 pages
Published August 18th 1999 by Da Capo Press (first published July 1st 1989)
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Average rating 3.84  · 
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 ·  690 ratings  ·  89 reviews

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Feb 06, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Jan 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sociology
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
Russell Lay
Feb 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you're like me, raised in the suburbs but strangely attracted to cities and newer suburbs, the opposite of the places where planning departments, homeowners associations, and elected officials have created disjointed subdivisions that lack the vitality of newly revitalized urban areas, read this book.

When I visit places like Richmond, Raleigh, Tampa and I see people who live in the same places they work, shopping, walking, visiting small bistros, taverns, wine bars, tiny parks, local barber s
Miranda Rosbach
Nov 03, 2007 rated it liked it
Read this in Library School and really enjoyed it. Now I need to read Bowling Alone. ...more
Lesley Looper
Mar 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2018
I think I first became familiar with the phrase "third place" in relation to libraries when I was in grad school for library science, and I've been interested by the concept ever since. A lot of television series have portrayed the "third place" well ("Cheers" is a good example). I enjoyed reading about how events in history, as well as urban development and other things, have affected the third place, and what the consequences have been. I've been intrigued by some new apartment developments in ...more
Jeff Elliott
Definitely too long. This book had been on my list for several years and it took what felt like several years to finish it. I don't disagree with his conclusions but it could have been said much more concisely. My concise version: "Community is necessary and necessitates a place for it to happen."

Thank you! Proceeds may be sent to me at this account...
Nick Klagge
Apr 29, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Nov 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
“The third place” as a term began in this book, almost thirty years ago. Ray Oldenburg wanted to make the case for the informed public life, which, in the late eighties, he found in cafés, bookshops, diners and similar places. But he also found these places disappearing as suburbs of that period drained some cities of the people who populated these spots. And that’s what inspired this book. After home and work, third places now make a resurgence in older cities with active walkable neighborhoods ...more
Dec 10, 2020 rated it it was ok
The thesis of this book is wonderful but Oldenburg loses himself in nostalgia and a meandering story. The examples feel contrived and all of history is viewed from the perspective of men. Grateful for the thesis on the importance of third places and community. But the rest of the book is outdated and repetitive.
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
Aug 20, 2009 rated it did not like it
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
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
Jul 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: brainy, museums
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
Dorine Ruter
Jan 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Finished reading Ray Oldenburgs’s The Great Good Place, where he originally coined the term ‘Third Place’ that I use to describe part of our approach as Stichting Lokaal. Less based on research than I had hoped and expected, the book does provide many examples that are both identifiable and food for thought. With the American suburbs as distopian reference, the book reviews the old Main Street, French bistro, English pub, German biergarten (also the imported biergartens in New York, those vibran ...more
Paul Signorelli
Apr 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
May 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
"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
Amar Pai
Apr 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
May 17, 2008 rated it it was ok
First to profile this idea of a necessary public setting for hanging out that we have had through history but left behind in recent socio developments in America.
Jul 16, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: urbanology
It's been a while since I've read an urban studies book and I was excited to finally get round to reading Ray Oldenburg's The Great Good Place, where he introduces the concept of the "third place".

Unfortunately, the book fell flat for me. At 296 pages (excluding the notes and bibliography), it felt about 196 pages too long.

In the opening chapters, Oldenburg makes a compelling case for so-called "third places" - the spaces beyond the home and workplace where members of the local community can g
Karen Adkins
Jun 05, 2020 rated it liked it
This book riffs on Jane Jacobs' classic study of urbanism. Oldenburg's version doesn't look broadly at what generates life in cities, but narrowly; he argues that places where people can hang out and loiter enjoyably are crucial for community well-being (both the well-being of the individuals in the community, but also the health of the community as a community). For Oldenburg, the marker of what he calls a "third space" is that it's neither strictly private (home) or the space of work, and cruc ...more
Oct 01, 2017 rated it liked it
Oldenburg's Third Place concept is frequently referenced in my specific field of student unions, so I wanted to read the source material. Casually, I know the idea as being separate from your home and work, as a place you can go to be yourself and relax. This is something student unions strive to be for students and others in the community.

I'm glad I read the book, but it definitely feels dated (e.g., blaming TV for people's lack of connection in free time to community, mentioned prevalence of b
Dominic Lenzo
Aug 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
I would recommend skimming the first 200 pages and deep reading the last 100. This book was difficult to get through for the first 2/3 since it covered “third places” around the world and the writing felt pretentious. How many different ways can one talk about cafes, taverns and Main Street? Apparently a lot. Some sentences in the early stages were so complex that it took me multiple reads to understand. I think the part 1 topic could’ve been covered in half as many pages. The last section of th ...more
Theresa Jehlik
I only gave this three stars because the author, a university professor, couldn't find the right balance between an academic treatise and popular nonfiction for the lay reader. His analysis of "third places" historically include English pubs, French bistros, American taverns (the local neighborhood "dive" variety, the American small town Main Streets, German beer gardens, and Viennese coffee shops. When homes were much smaller and a lot less lavishly decked out, these places provide a gathering ...more
Dec 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
The main argument of this book - that human beings need physical spaces that are easily accessible and conducive to chance social encounters, and that we should fight their disappearance - remains resonant and still very current. But many of the supporting arguments feel outdated. Not just because this book predates the internet, but outdated in its assumption that the author’s heteronormative white male experience is entirely universal. He articulately argues that women should have more space t ...more
Aug 16, 2018 rated it liked it
The central concept of the third place is well-articulated and agreeable. Oldenburg outlines what it is and why it is important. I wish he would've stopped after the first section because all of that is cogent and relevant to scholars and regular readers alike. However, the second and third parts contain plenty of objectionable claims that lack support, broad generalizations, a tenor of expertise for places the author seems to have visited once or only heard about, and a writing style that is ve ...more
Julia Harr
Jan 25, 2021 rated it it was ok
The good: Ray lends his world view to the plague of loneliness and isolation by way of dissolution of places people can go to find easy access to others to have repeated, positive exposures. It’s harder to have casual run ins with people now than ever and we should explore any reason that may be. He correctly points out how zoning and car culture have negatively impacted community.

The bad: Ray presents us exactly what he sees from where he sits and where he sits alone. I am a female social work
Sep 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Third Place is a place of comfort that one finds when away from home or work. The author examines the importance of third places in American society. In the past, these places were a part of neighborhoods and accessible by a short walk. The author laments not only the disappearance of third places but also the emphasis upon reaching places only by automobile.

This was a fascinating read. Because it was published in 2000, it is a bit dated, and I would like to see the author revise his work t
Jan 16, 2019 rated it liked it
"The environment in which we live out our lives is not a cafeteria containing an endless variety of passively arrayed settings and experiences. It is an active, dictatorial force that adds experiences or subtracts them according to the way it has been shaped. When Americans begin to grasp that lesson, the path to the planners' offices will be more heavily trod than that to the psychiatrists' couches." (296)

Long slog through the middle, but it picked up at the end. Point (quoted above) well made.
Mar 16, 2019 rated it did not like it
“The Great Good Place (for American Men)” is a more appropriate title.

I still recommend anyone interested in culture of community read this book, and I give the first 2/3 of the book four-ish stars.

Unfortunately, even in the 1999 third edition, the author chooses to keep the sexist interpretations of women and third places in Part 3.

My hope is the author is more enlightened today than he was 20 years ago. The message received from this book is that communities need to revitalize third places for
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