Better Together

Restoring the American Community

The author of the bestseller Bowling Alone and a colleague offer readers inspirational tales about the successful building of social capital.

318 pages. ©2003.
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Reader Reviews for this Book


Review posted June 3, 2022


"Better Together: Restoring the American Community" is an example resource to any community member looking for successful examples of communities overcoming overwhelming obstacles. Examples include public libraries being at the center of change and local neighborhood councils making decisions. This book is for any community member looking for ways to improve not only their lives but the lives of an entire community. Included are the concrete steps taken that led to success.


Review posted March 6, 2022


This book was pretty disappointing and uninteresting to me. Some of the short vignettes were mildly interesting in and of themselves, but the book didn’t really weave them together in a very meaningful way. I started this book 5 months before I finished it and ultimately had to just force myself to read it. I’d liken it to a dry, boring textbook. I’ve read that Bowling Alone, by one of the authors is a much better read so I’d encourage people to start there. I would have given up on finishing this book if I wasn’t reading it for the Selectbooks program.


Review posted February 4, 2022


This is an interesting study and an accessible read for non-academics. It would be great to read an update, since the data is over 20 years out of date, and things have changed in America. The book presented both positives and negatives of each case study, and didn't gloss over problematic areas.


Review posted September 23, 2021


I would rate this book just shy of 4 stars. It does a great job giving a variety of examples of ways people have revitalized their communities but that's where it ends. I wanted a bit more meat in terms of the theories. I feel like I should've read his first book, Bowling Alone, to get the meat and then move on to this more specific read.

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Review posted July 7, 2021


This was a good read with some projects resonated with me more than others. It definitely includes a lot of ideas to pursue in building a sense of community.

Laura Tolmich

Review posted May 6, 2021


Much of how one thinks put into words. Inspirational.


Review posted February 17, 2021


Good source of thought-provoking pieces with some irrelivant word salad thrown in.


Review posted December 26, 2020


I really appreciated the variety of stories in this book talking about how communities have come together through different organizations and types of people. It did not hold back criticism where things didn’t work, but was able to offer ways that would be able to translated to other communities as well. My only negative feedback would be reading this in late 2020 some of the stories had me wondering if they were still relevant moving forward...especially during COVID.


Review posted December 14, 2020


i appreciated the information provided and have shared the book with friends. I believe it has been "handed down" to multiple people now.


Review posted December 8, 2020


A broad range of stories on community building. Among the stories include: 1) Community libraries in a new way, 2) Community dance project about a submarine shipyard (this really opened my eyes about what could be a community project). 3) Rebuilding an inner-city neighborhood by a neighborhood association (a neighborhood-controlled initiative in a desolate place), 4) Letting young people lead, “Do something”, 5) Union built on relationships at Harvard university, and 6) Experience Corps- bringing “old Heads” to schools. It has a chapter on neighborhood activism in Portland, Oregon. I would have wanted a more structured book, so I could dive into only what interested me. Also, make it more useful as a resource to refer back to. However, after reading it I was pleasantly surprised about the creativity and breadth of the stories. In the end it caused me to explore stories that I really liked and touched me that I may have overlooked otherwise. A couple of the chapters now are a bit dated. For example, Craigslist is used as an example of building community online.


Review posted November 10, 2020


This book brings together so many areas that instead of a “review” I’d like to offer my comments on what seemed relevant to me. It was surprising and encouraging to me to see the ways that connectedness and communication could resolve even hardened differences. Any chance that the members of the U.S. Congress could take this to heart? The authors focus on situations in which social capital was used to solve problems or achieve goals. However, the examples involve one or more key players, either someone with drive or an outside force such as the city or an existing organization. My initial idea of “community” was a much more relaxed, informal, less directed one than the authors study: people taking in packages for each other or sharing excess zucchini. So I wonder how in a fair-sized city, (I live in Eugene) with people moving often and with work commitments, people can begin to develop some level of community. Does community always have to revolve around solving a problem? What is the value of this other kind of community? How do we even begin to make a contact?

Bek Hawley

Review posted July 8, 2020


Better Together is a good concept, in general.


Review posted May 6, 2020


Great book for building Community Building and action.


Review posted April 21, 2020


A great book, learned a lot and was able to share with my community


Review posted November 15, 2019


Great book for highlighting the importance of community.


Review posted October 22, 2019


We are discovering that Community plays a larger role in our economy than was previously known. Better Together is an excellent ready about restoring the American Community, and the importance of why it needs to be restored.


Review posted March 20, 2019


Putnam's work is always thought-provoking.


Review posted January 19, 2019


A good book to read for those interested in community building and restoration.

Brenda Bailey

Review posted January 11, 2018


I hadn't read Bowling Alone, and I admit I had a hard time becoming interested. Only until flipping thru did I come across the chapter on Portland, Oregon. So now I had something I could personalize with. As a result I went back picking thru chapters, reading what seemed interesting to find I read the whole book except one chapter. So for whatever thats worth that's my review. I can't really comment on how useful the information is for implication just knowledge.


Review posted December 26, 2017


Reading success stories is always inspiring. "Better Together" shares how each organization or group succeeded, highlighting specific obstacles and the steps taken to overcome them and build social capital along the way. Since it is a little now over a decade since publication, it was also great discovering that some of this work has continued. Had not read "Bowling Alone" before this, but will now look for it.


Review posted November 22, 2017


Great author


Review posted October 15, 2017


I always enjoy Robert Putnam books. They make me think.


Review posted May 15, 2017


As a follow-up to Bowling Alone, people are rightly comparing the two. I have not yet read Bowling Alone, so I read Better Together as a stand-alone book. It was extremely encouraging! There are so many opportunities for nonprofits, businesses, schools, faith communities, and different age groups to collaborate in order to improve the world around us. I would definitely recommend this book.


Review posted April 14, 2017


Thought it could have had less meaningless details and more examples.

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Review posted March 29, 2017


Better Together is a great follow up to Bowling Alone. It demonstrates that relationships and common interests are still important in strengthening communities. Those relationships just develop in different ways then they used to. I appreciate Putnam’s use of specific examples and how he leaves it to the readers to determine what could be applied to their situations.


Review posted January 21, 2017


When I started reading this book I wasn't impressed until I got to page 105. When I got to page 105 I learned about one man making a difference and started taking notes. Taking notes I read the rest of the book which then impelled me to go back with a different attitude and read the first 104 pages. I can't use all that I learned in this book, but what I can use will be useful to help our community live better together.


Review posted January 13, 2017


Really good book on community mobilizing. It's not an A-Z how-to per se but more of real life community stories. Each story started with the 'why' and then worked toward solutions. Lots of gold gems in each chapter. I was able to 'see' strategies/solutions for my own community in the chapters. Easy to read; smooth writing style.. Very well done!

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Review posted May 25, 2016


I have really enjoyed this one. It is one thing to talk about the mechanics of community action, but clearly another thing to read story's about how others have actually accomplished positive change. Need a good balance I guess of both categories. Thanks for the book.


Review posted April 6, 2016


This book provided some great case studies related to community development. I liked reading about projects that I have studied before or have heard about. I will definitely use some of this in my community development work!


Review posted March 27, 2016


This collection of case studies explores how social capital is created, common themes, and potential guidelines for establishing relationships through trust and reciprocity. Building social capital is a labor-intensive process, requiring time to develop relationships in which people find their commonalities through the telling and the listening to of personal experiences. Social connectedness is the by-product of working toward a common goal. The more people interact and in various contexts, the stronger the sense of reciprocity and empathy. Success is thus built on shared endeavors, and reconstruction of interests toward a shared goal. These stories provide examples of how civic leaders and community activists can challenge the way community goals are met, leading to social and economic transformations built on the desires of the community itself.

Edie Reid

Review posted March 6, 2016


Putnam and Feldstein have collected successes in many different regions of the USA. Chapter 12 focuses on Portland, Oregon and how the citizens worked together to change the area of harbor freeway into the current Tom McCall Waterfront Park. In Waupen Wisconsin The Do Something organization is a youth center organization that focuses on projects of interest to those involved. By engaging youth in a political process, it builds their citizenship skills that will continue into their adult years. They state that "the only way to learn to participate is to participate; the only way to become a leader is to lead. (p. 164)


Review posted February 1, 2016


Great follow up to Bowling Alone. This book includes some great examples of social capital in action. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on Portland, OR!


Review posted January 28, 2016


This book is an exciting follow up to Putnam's Pivotal Bowling Alone. I am enjoying it very much.


Review posted January 9, 2016


This is a great book! Lots of wonderful stories on building stronger communities. I am going to use these lessons in the future in my organization.


Review posted December 17, 2015


Such a well done book. The Author takes the time to not only point out some sobering realities of our culture and society but also provides us with some ways to turn things around and help build community where ever you may be.


Review posted December 16, 2015


This is the book that I have been looking for! I understand the decline of our sense of community, and I have been looking for direction. How do I get something started? How do I capture that sense of belonging? Great read.


Review posted December 16, 2015


Good read- interesting perspectives and case studies on important public health topics. It gives me hope that these concepts are being more widely accepted and working together towards common goals will get us further than working alone.

Sandi Richard'

Review posted November 9, 2015


This book effectively uses stories to inspire community members to achieve great things. Each chapter tells a different story about how a community need was met when people got together and started to really listen to each other. Much of the book emphasizes the importance of growing social capital, developing effective social networks which then enable people to renew their communities and thereby improve their own lives.


Review posted October 14, 2015


This was essentially a sequel to "Bowling Alone," discussing the importance of building social capital within small community groups and collaborating with larger groups that share common interests. "Face-to-Face" interaction is emphasized in this time of ever increasing social media replacing actual relationships between individuals.


Review posted June 28, 2015


living in a small community, this really was a great read for me. Thank you


Review posted April 28, 2015


A good follow up to "Bowling Alone." It has poignant stories and case studies that each chapter follows leading the reader to connect to the issues covered in each chapter.