Bowling Alone

The Collapse and Revival of American Community

In this alarming study, Putnam charts the deterioration of the organized ways in which people relate to one another in the United States. He concludes with a set of potential solutions, such as community-service programs.

541 pages. ©2000.
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Reader Reviews for this Book


Review posted November 23, 2022


Really a sad read about the decline of the American community. The book describes how we have turned more individualistic in our actions in society, no longer joining social clubs, volunteer groups, or religious organizations in as great of numbers as we once did. It describes potential downsides of this, from higher rates of depression and suicide to reduced charitable contributions nationwide (mostly due to reduced religious efforts). It truly has opened my eyes to the importance of staying involved in my community and making greater efforts to stay in touch with old friends and co-workers. A truly important read for everyone, but I think especially for young students and educators.


Review posted August 25, 2022


Putnam delivers a dense but captivating look at the decline of social capital; but don't despair. His thorough dive through research offers hope that community - and the future of our American society - is healing and thriving, as it readies to uplift us to our next chapter as a country. A great read for the bedside to mull over individually, this book also offers many avenues for discussion in a Book Club, with colleagues, or between generations. I highly recommend it.

Gretchen Stadler

Review posted April 1, 2021


Bowling Alone is an interesting review of American community - why social capital is so important to our feeling of connection, our involvement in civic affairs including voting, equality, and even our health. The book is long and packed full of statistics covering social change in the US from 1870 to 2000. Some of it I skimmed over, but the observations and trends that Putnam identifies are fascinating. He has a new book out now, Upswing, that I look forward to reading because it covers 2000 to 2020, a rich time of social change in our country which continues today.


Review posted February 25, 2021


I was super excited for the book to arrive and start reading. The reviews were great and the topic was so interesting. Gave it the old college try - it read like a text book. Very dry and so much information. Gave up after reading to Chapter 4. Tried skipping around, skimming sections. Decided it will good to use as a reference for future info - skipping around and so on... but reading it cover to cover is too painful.


Review posted February 25, 2021


This book is a must for anyone interested in social capital and restoring community bonds. It will be interesting to see the effect the COVID 19 virus and social distancing has had on our American and world communities.


Review posted July 12, 2020


This was a nice read, easy to do. I recommend this book to people who read a lot.


Review posted May 22, 2020


I read this book at the right time! As soon as our world began to shut down due to COVID-19, I began reading this book. While the book is about the decline of social groups outside of the house, everyone that I knew on social media was longing for the days when we were in social groups. But, while reading this book, I saw people coming together in other ways. It's definitely a different time right now. Still, this book is a must read, very insightful. I didn't even realize that we were becoming a less social society until I read the facts. And now, we are unsocial for a whole different reason. Maybe after COVID-19, we will remember why social groups were so important to us in the first place.


Review posted December 30, 2019


Wish the author used just his information, results from surveys, interviews, experiences, and the like. Far too many pages reflect the work of others. Information seemed just redundant, suggestive, left room for errors. Didn't detail who all participated in the surveys. Even used older information to make his point leaving me to wonder what current results would show?

David Soder

Review posted December 6, 2019


excellent scholarly well researched discussion of the decline of organization membership and social disconnection/isolation in present day America. A sad social commentary


Review posted December 2, 2019


Good read.

Janel Denton

Review posted October 16, 2019


I know that this review is late. After reading the book once , I reread it immediately because I truly needed to understand his arguments. It has changed how I am living my life. I'm now volunteering at the local library, elementary school and joined a reading group. I am doing my best to learn how to listen, truly stop and hear what is being said instead of presuming I know. I hope he is right in that we can change.


Review posted June 10, 2019


A very helpful insight to the history of community crash and rebuild in America.


Review posted April 2, 2019


Wow, this was a long, scholarly book full of sociological data. It is quite long with lots of theory. It could have been more useful if the main points and call to action were more clearly stated. It didn’t leave me with much except the need to increase social capital and community trust as well as the need to find more opportunities to bring diverse groups together.


Review posted April 1, 2019


This book was hard to get thorough with all the details and studies but great concepts. I can't wait to read another one of his books and I look forward to hearing him speak at the end of next month.

dave teem

Review posted March 26, 2019


Very good read. Particularly appreciated the historical support and overview. Read as a good mystery novel that just happened to discuss past, present and expected future trends.


Review posted January 29, 2019


For me this was a very difficult book to read. The author takes the many reasons we don't function well together then puts it all back of how we can begin to work together effectively again. I cannot recommend this book for anyone seeking a casual read.


Review posted October 10, 2018


This is an insightful read, divided by chapters that could really stand alone. It provides research and introspection about why we are a less involved culture than we used to be and how that effects us. I was disappointed that the section with suggestions and next steps was so brief- it left me feeling knowledgeable but not quite clear on what to do beyond baby steps like join an organization. It is interesting to think about how much more isolated and disengaged we've become since this book was published in 2000.


Review posted September 17, 2018


Wow. This book is so good, and so important in an age where true community is dwindling. I definitely recommend this book.


Review posted August 25, 2018


In 400 plus pages, this book charts with statistics the declination of how people relate to each other. For those taking sociology, political science and other courses, this book would be an excellent reference. I know we have gone down hill but this book shows on paper alarmingly just how much.


Review posted August 22, 2018


Highly suggested read


Review posted July 16, 2018


This book is an interesting look at the community. It gives one much to think about


Review posted June 5, 2018


Much information; a slow read.


Review posted April 21, 2018


Putnam shows how we have become increasingly disconnected from family, friends, neighbors, and our democratic structures– and how we may reconnect. Putnam draws on evidence including nearly 500,000 interviews over the last quarter century to show that we sign fewer petitions, belong to fewer organizations that meet, know our neighbors less, meet with friends less frequently, and even socialize with our families less often. We’re even bowling alone. More Americans are bowling than ever before, but they are not bowling in leagues. Putnam shows how changes in work, family structure, age, suburban life, television, computers, women’s roles and other factors have contributed to this decline. Fascinating and very insightful. Highly recommend!


Review posted March 30, 2018


I found this to be a very insightful look at social capital and how communities work together. One thing I was wondering is how the rise of digital technology has effected these social organizations since the book was published. How have things like social media hurt or helped the strength of our community bonds?


Review posted January 19, 2018


This book is a classic on community engagement, in spite of being 18 years old. True, the statistics are dated, but the basic premises are just as relevant today. Putnam's theory boils down to one capital is important for a civil society. Recent events (i.e., political protests) haven't been conducted by cohesive groups, but by unaffiliated groups of people banding together for a common cause. His ideas on the "Internet" and electronic communication was spot on for its time. However, he posits that computer mediated communication would complement, not replace face-to-face communications. It would be nice to see Putnam write a revised version, addressing this in more detail.


Review posted January 16, 2018


It was a good book a LOT of information and charts.


Review posted January 14, 2018


An excellent account on the erosion of the concept of community in the United States. What is disturbing, however, is that this book was published in 2001 and 17 years later the decline of genuine community (the one that does not happen in cyberspace) has been exacerbated by the addiction to electronic gadgets that has alienated people even more; from others, nature, and worst of all, themselves.


Review posted January 4, 2018


This book raises a crucial question about the splintering and erosion of our communities. While perhaps posing more questions than answers, and while slightly dated, it offers an introduction to many of the problems plaguing our society today.


Review posted November 14, 2017


Great read

Kevin Wright

Review posted November 14, 2017


Mr. Putnam's book about social capital was interesting and helpful to me. It was extremely detailed which was a hard read at times. I came away with a better appreciation of the importance of my family and social organizations I grew up in such as 4-H, sports teams, church and a youth group I participated in called Christian Endeavor.

Holly Denman

Review posted November 5, 2017


Social capacity. A term I was unfamiliar with and wanted to learn more. I did. Putnam's research is exhaustive to say the least. Leaving no area of civic engagement or social capital un-turned, he covers politics, religion, philanthropy and the workplace. Engagement has changed, he sums up after 275 pages of detailed research, because of generational change, pressure of time and money, sub-urbanization and long term effects of television as the main culprits. This is the "global warming" of human resources. Lest we are left hanging, Putnam spends the second half of the book summarizing solutions. In the end, we are back at the beginning. Living in community with other human beings is about relationships. No matter how much we would like to escape that reality, it isn't going away. "No man is an island" John Donne pondered in the year 1624. Some things never change and are not likely to in the future. The consequences are sad. Fortunately Putnam is an optimist. I have already given this book to a sociology professor and bought two more for other people. "Bowling Alone" has been in print far too long for no one in my circle of influence not to have heard of it. It was a challenging first read, but exactly what I needed.


Review posted May 17, 2017


This book is great insight into the changing dynamics in our culture and the importance of creating community. I recommend this for anyone looking to increase interactions and garner participation in community projects and activities.

Carla Perry

Review posted April 25, 2017


Although this book, written in 2000, hopefully looks forward to societal change regarding civic involvement by the year 2010, it is still an eye-opener about what caused the decline in social capital over the last century. The book is exhaustively researched and painstakingly presented, and offers conclusions that are both surprising and sad. For instance, on p. 231: "Nothing—not low education, not full-time work, not long commutes in urban agglomerations, not poverty or financial distress—is more broadly associated with civic disengagement and social disconnection than is dependence on television for entertainment." From p. 326: "… have established beyond reasonable doubt that social connectedness is one of the most powerful determinants of our well-being. The more integrated we are with our community, the less likely we are to experience colds, heart attacks, strokes, cancer, depression, and premature death of all sorts." I took many notes while reading the book and plan to go through the material many times so that I can better internalize the author's findings. I find myself bringing up the author's observations in general conversation because it seems as though in this highly politically-fraught time, the lessons are especially pertinent. I spoke with my son about the book. He was born in 1976 and is committed to interacting with his neighbors, serves as president of his neighborhood association, speaks up for his political convictions, endorses candidates in voter's pamphlets, volunteers excessively, organizes community events, and marvelously, I see his friends and other similarly-aged people doing the same. So perhaps the downward trend in civic engagement has reached its low point. At least I have hope.


Review posted April 14, 2017


A lot of good information, (perhaps too much). Is long but thorough. Biggest problem is the information is now 20 years old and I kept wondering how much has changed, perhaps even more dramatically, in the past two decades.


Review posted March 7, 2017


While this book is quite dense, full of well researched data and droves of information, it makes a poignant case for civic engagement and why it is crucial to our democracy.


Review posted January 23, 2017


I read an excerpt from this in college and have been fascinated by the topic ever since. It was an interesting read and super relevant to today's issues. Will be shared widely amongst my friends and colleagues!


Review posted September 27, 2016


I like Putman and the way he mixes academia with the real world. Lots of statistics in the book, but overall a very good read, especially if you like Putman's premises.


Review posted July 12, 2016


I found many interesting tips. I have begun to use many of the ideas shared.

Richard LaPlante

Review posted July 11, 2016


If you love statistical analysis you will not find a more comprehensive book on what has happened to the American Community over the past century. I can't think of any sector of community that the author does not take into consideration in his research.


Review posted June 1, 2016


Great look at habits and behaviors of our population. A very BIG book with a lot of supplemental information, data and graphs.


Review posted May 22, 2016


Putnam's work is important to understand and has had significant influence on social science since its publication. The sections of data that begin the book are hard to get through - but the "so what" sections are worth the wait.


Review posted March 6, 2016


I'd heard a lot about this book and it lived up to my expectations. It was interesting and provided me with insight I am sure I will use in my community development work.


Review posted January 11, 2016


This book offers great insight and realistic suggestions for Americans to become involved and familiarize with Democratic principles and governance through group participation, interaction abd "rubbing off onto each other." A modern De Tocqueville.


Review posted January 8, 2016


This book started out a bit slow, but once I stuck with it, it became pretty interesting. It was pretty inspiring and I agreed with the author on many of his points. It made me think more about what I'm doing to foster community.


Review posted November 16, 2015


This book is an amazing resource. It is constantly referenced in the field of community development. The concept of Social Capital and how to increase that is an important part of any plan to make a community more livable. The book is heavy on the research so might be challenging to read straight through, though it is very interesting, but it is an essential item for a reference library.


Review posted November 15, 2015


No wonder this book is so highly thought of. The author has a breezy style that makes consuming his detailed research palatable. So full of information that you never thought of before, but makes complete sense now.


Review posted October 21, 2015


Well supported by a large, varied body of evidence, and careful about forming conclusions, Putnam presents a picture of societal changes during the last half of the 20th century and beyond. During that time, neighborhood get-togethers, weekly card games, bowling teams, casual evenings with friends, and other forms of regular social interaction have decreased dramatically. Many have almost disappeared. Putnam shows us the evidence, explores why this happened, what its effects are, and how we might begin to regain some of what we have lost during this time and prevent further losses. This is a scholarly, well researched book, and it is also quite readable.


Review posted October 11, 2015


This was or is very goog


Review posted July 31, 2015


Excellent book about the collapse of the US community and insightful suggestion for redevelopment.


Review posted July 14, 2015


Finally got the time to take in this book and how it relates to the world we now work, live, and play in. Has social capital and civic involvement morphed into social media? In a world rightly interested in increased equality and public health, there is an unknown to what the act of bowling alone will make of us.


Review posted May 18, 2015


Excellent read... Very informative on how generations have built community and organization


Review posted January 14, 2015


Very insightful look at the decline of involvement in civic engagement groups. Indepth and detailed which at times was intriguing and others a bit dry -- but overall a very well written book.