Monday, December 14, 2009

12 'Beer' Books for Christmas, #8: The Great Good Place

The 8th Book for Christmas

The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons, and Other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community
Ray Oldenburg
Da Capo Press (3rd edition) USA: 1999
ISBN: 1-56924681-5

Originally written in 1989, The Great Good Place is about the missing community forums of modern American life, and the essential need for those meeting places to be re-discovered and re-nurtured. The author, Ray Oldenburg, is Professor Emeritus at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of West Florida in Pensacola.

Oldenburg takes his title from a Henry James short story, in which the Great Good Place is a place of brief supernatural respite. Oldenburg's vision isn't quite so passive or mysterious. His so-called 'third places' are real places, such as brewpubs (and bars).

I'll cheat and crib from Wikipedia's entry:
Life without community has produced, for many, a life style consisting mainly of a home-to-work-and-back-again shuttle. Social well-being and psychological health depend upon community. It is no coincidence that the 'helping professions' became a major industry in the United States as suburban planning helped destroy local public life and the community support it once lent. <...>

Most needed are those 'third places' which lend a public balance to the increased privatization of home life. Third places are nothing more than informal public gathering places. The phrase 'third places' derives from considering our homes to be the 'first' places in our lives, and our work places the 'second.'

Now, skip to the very last paragraph in Oldenburg's book (which will not be a plot spoiler):
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. And when that lesson is learned, community may again be possible and celebrated each day in a rich new spawning of third places.

Its message applied, The Great Good Place can be a manifesto for true community activism, democracy in conversation. To "think globally, yet drink locally" can be one, enjoyable, portion of thriving locally.

  • This is the third in a a series of 12 recommendations for beer-themed books —one per day, until the Winter Solstice, 21 December.
  • This is not a Top 12 list. It's my list of 12 books, personal delights. On Christmas Day: put your feet up, pour yourself a good beer, and read a good book. Better yet: give a friend the gift of a beer and a book.
  • 12 'Beer' Books For Christmas: the full list here.

1 comment:

  1. this sounds right up my street. I love the idea of the great, good place, and its nice to see a book being written to promote/muse on that. This one's on the list.


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