100 books like Bowling Alone

By Robert D. Putnam,

Here are 100 books that Bowling Alone fans have personally recommended if you like Bowling Alone. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America

Landon Y. Jones Author Of Celebrity Nation: How America Evolved into a Culture of Fans and Followers

From my list on celebrity culture and what it is doing to America.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated by celebrities and heroes ever since I was a child. That compulsion became something I wanted to understand. I got my chance as the head editor of People magazine. Over the years, I met more than my share of celebrities – Ronald Reagan, Tom Hanks, Malcolm X, and Princess Diana, to name only a few. I began to take notes about my brushes with fame and think about celebrities in history and why they have recently become so dominant in our culture. Celebrity Nation is the result. Enjoy it!

Landon's book list on celebrity culture and what it is doing to America

Landon Y. Jones Why did Landon love this book?

Daniel Boorstin’s The Image is an amazing study by the former Librarian of Congress that first set in place many of the ideas about celebrities that are still with us today.

“The celebrity is a person who is known for [their] well-knowness,” Boorstin wrote. He describes “pseudo-events”, the manufactured illusions that we mistake for reality in a media-saturated world.

Drawing on examples like Charles Lindbergh, Boorstin shows how we come closer and closer to degrading all fame into notoriety. Thus, the heroes of the past are blurred before our eyes and eventually disappear.

The Image is the first book I read about celebrity and it remains one of the best.

By Daniel J. Boorstin,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Image as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First published in 1962, this wonderfully provocative book introduced the notion of “pseudo-events”—events such as press conferences and presidential debates, which are manufactured solely in order to be reported—and the contemporary definition of celebrity as “a person who is known for his well-knownness.” Since then Daniel J. Boorstin’s prophetic vision of an America inundated by its own illusions has become an essential resource for any reader who wants to distinguish the manifold deceptions of our culture from its few enduring truths.


Book cover of The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity

Craig Nelson Author Of V Is for Victory: Franklin Roosevelt's American Revolution and the Triumph of World War II

From my list on history that will wake you up.

Why am I passionate about this?

I spent twenty years as a book publishing executive learning how the trade works before launching myself as a full-time author wanting to make the world a better place. My books use state-of-the-art scholarship for history you can read on the beach, and focus on ‘hinge’ moments, great turnings of the world, as well as on forgotten and unsung heroes.

Craig's book list on history that will wake you up

Craig Nelson Why did Craig love this book?

What ideas do you have about what the first peoples were like, and how human society developed?

Maybe you’ve even read the popular authors on this topic such as Diamond, Harari, Pinker, Hobbes, and Rousseau. Prepare to have all of your notions and received opinions upended and turned to dust by David Graeber (a man universally acknowledged as a genius) and the book he worked on for the last ten years of his life, which brings revolutionary ideas to 30,000 years of civilization.

By David Graeber, David Wengrow,

Why should I read it?

15 authors picked The Dawn of Everything as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

A dramatically new understanding of human history, challenging our most fundamental assumptions about social evolution—from the development of agriculture and cities to the origins of the state, democracy, and inequality—and revealing new possibilities for human emancipation.

For generations, our remote ancestors have been cast as primitive and childlike—either free and equal innocents, or thuggish and warlike. Civilization, we are told, could be achieved only by sacrificing those original freedoms or, alternatively, by taming our baser instincts. David Graeber and David Wengrow show how such theories first emerged in the eighteenth century as a conservative reaction…


Book cover of Strong Towns: A Bottom-Up Revolution to Rebuild American Prosperity

Richard Kyte Author Of Finding Your Third Place: Building Happier Communities (and Making Great Friends Along the Way)

From my list on building strong, healthy, friendly communities.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in a very small town in northern Minnesota (which also happens to be home to the world’s largest turkey). The town had a vibrant community spirit, which I took for granted then. For the last 15 years, I have been passionately learning how to create flourishing communities that can make our lives better and be great places for raising the next generation of children. This list reflects the best of what I have learned and incorporated into teaching classes on the topic of “building community.” 

Richard's book list on building strong, healthy, friendly communities

Richard Kyte Why did Richard love this book?

I didn’t expect to love this book as much as I did. Charles Marohn comes from an engineering background, which makes his urban design approach very interesting.

This book has changed the way I look at cities and towns. I drive past a new big box store with its huge parking lot and think, what a waste of economic opportunity. I can’t count the number of people I have recommended this book to. 

By Charles L. Marohn Jr.,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Strong Towns as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A new way forward for sustainable quality of life in cities of all sizes

Strong Towns: A Bottom-Up Revolution to Build American Prosperity is a book of forward-thinking ideas that breaks with modern wisdom to present a new vision of urban development in the United States. Presenting the foundational ideas of the Strong Towns movement he co-founded, Charles Marohn explains why cities of all sizes continue to struggle to meet their basic needs, and reveals the new paradigm that can solve this longstanding problem.

Inside, you'll learn why inducing growth and development has been the conventional response to urban financial…


Book cover of Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design

Richard Kyte Author Of Finding Your Third Place: Building Happier Communities (and Making Great Friends Along the Way)

From my list on building strong, healthy, friendly communities.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in a very small town in northern Minnesota (which also happens to be home to the world’s largest turkey). The town had a vibrant community spirit, which I took for granted then. For the last 15 years, I have been passionately learning how to create flourishing communities that can make our lives better and be great places for raising the next generation of children. This list reflects the best of what I have learned and incorporated into teaching classes on the topic of “building community.” 

Richard's book list on building strong, healthy, friendly communities

Richard Kyte Why did Richard love this book?

I like the way Montgomery connects the rich and varied happiness research to discuss how to design better cities. The book is packed with information, but the wealth of examples from Montgomery’s experiences in many different settings kept me engaged and entertained all through.

This is the best place to begin if you want to understand the new urbanism movement. 

By Charles Montgomery,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Happy City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Happy City is the story of how the solutions to this century's problems lie in unlocking the secrets to great city living

This is going to be the century of the city. But what actually makes a good city? Why are some cities a joy to live in?

As Charles Montgomery reveals, it's not how much money your neighbours earn, or how pleasant the climate is that makes the most difference. Journeying to dozens of cities - from Atlanta to Bogota to Vancouver - he talks to the new champions of the happy city to explore the urban innovations already…


Book cover of The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger

Sam Pizzigati Author Of The Case for a Maximum Wage

From my list on why we need a world without billionaires.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in the 1950s next door to Long Island’s iconic Levittown. All my aunts and uncles lived in similar modest suburbs, and I assumed everyone else did, too. Maybe that explains why America’s sharp economic U-turn in the 1970s so rubbed me the wrong way. We had become, in the mid-20th century, the first major nation where most people—after paying their monthly bills—had money left over. Today we rate as the world’s most unequal major nation. Our richest 0.1 percent hold as much wealth as our bottom 90 percent. I’ve been working with the Institute for Public Studies, as co-editor of Inequality.org, to change all that.

Sam's book list on why we need a world without billionaires

Sam Pizzigati Why did Sam love this book?

The British epidemiologists Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett have an American doctor friend who has a fascinating exercise for his first-year medical school students.

This doctor asks his students to write a speech detailing why the USA has the world’s best health. The students eagerly set about collecting all the relevant data and quickly find themselves absolutely shocked. Among major developed nations, the USA turns out to have the worst health.

Americans also turn out to be up to ten times more likely than people in other developed nations to get murdered or become drug addicts. What’s going on here? Inequality!

The more wealth concentrates at a society’s summit, Wilkinson and Pickett vividly show in this 2009 classic, the worse that society performs on the yardsticks that define basic health and decency. 

By Richard Wilkinson, Kate Pickett,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Spirit Level as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Groundbreaking analysis showing that greater economic equality-not greater wealth-is the mark of the most successful societies, and offering new ways to achieve it.

"Get your hands on this book."-Bill Moyers

This groundbreaking book, based on thirty years' research, demonstrates that more unequal societies are bad for almost everyone within them-the well-off and the poor. The remarkable data the book lays out and the measures it uses are like a spirit level which we can hold up to compare different societies. The differences revealed, even between rich market democracies, are striking. Almost every modern social and environmental problem-ill health, lack of…


Book cover of Our Common Wealth: The Return of Public Ownership in the United States

Keith Harrison-Broninski Author Of Supercommunities: A handbook for the 21st century

From my list on how community can save society.

Why am I passionate about this?

I studied Mathematics – the art of solving a problem by making it as general as possible, then attacking it with a combination of different techniques. By profession, I am a technologist, but the problem that interested me wasn’t technical – I wanted to know why, when most people are basically well-meaning, the world was in such a mess! Early on in my career, I came to believe that better collaboration was part of the answer. Later, I saw how you also needed the right kind of communities. Along the way, I’ve learned a lot about psychology, biology, systems theory, learning theory, anthropology, history, management, economics, finance, and more. I’m still learning.

Keith's book list on how community can save society

Keith Harrison-Broninski Why did Keith love this book?

It always seemed to me that public ownership could be a way to unlock better use of resources, and didn’t believe it was the same as Soviet-style economic planning. But I didn’t really know what it did mean!  So, I bought Hanna’s book as soon as it came out in 2018, and wasn’t disappointed. He is Research Director at the Democracy Collaborative, and shows by example how public ownership comes in many varieties. He debunks the myths about it being worse than corporate or private ownership, showing how it can be more efficient and effective. Read this to see how public ownership in one form or another is a sensible and pragmatic option that can help address the really big social challenges such as inequality, sustainability, and fragility.

By Thomas M. Hanna,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Our Common Wealth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Public ownership is more widespread and popular in the United States than is commonly understood. This book is the most comprehensive and up-to-date analysis of the scope and scale of U.S. public ownership, debunking frequent misconceptions about the alleged inefficiency and underperformance of public ownership and arguing that it offers powerful, flexible solutions to current problems of inequality, instability, and unsustainability- explaining why after decades of privatization it is making a comeback, including in the agenda of Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party in Britain. Hanna offers a vision of deploying new forms of democratized public ownership broadly, across multiple sectors, as…


Book cover of ...and forgive them their debts: Lending, Foreclosure and Redemption From Bronze Age Finance to the Jubilee Year

Keith Harrison-Broninski Author Of Supercommunities: A handbook for the 21st century

From my list on how community can save society.

Why am I passionate about this?

I studied Mathematics – the art of solving a problem by making it as general as possible, then attacking it with a combination of different techniques. By profession, I am a technologist, but the problem that interested me wasn’t technical – I wanted to know why, when most people are basically well-meaning, the world was in such a mess! Early on in my career, I came to believe that better collaboration was part of the answer. Later, I saw how you also needed the right kind of communities. Along the way, I’ve learned a lot about psychology, biology, systems theory, learning theory, anthropology, history, management, economics, finance, and more. I’m still learning.

Keith's book list on how community can save society

Keith Harrison-Broninski Why did Keith love this book?

I can’t say how much I love this book. It explains everything we know intuitively about economics but find hard to justify. Hudson was one of the few who saw the 2008 crisis coming, and he is still one of the few who know what we must do now. Taking the discussion of David Graeber’s extraordinary 2011 book Debt: The First 5000 Years to the next level, Hudson shows how Bronze Age rulers understood economic instability better than we do. When people get into serious debt, their personal crises not only destroy their own lives but ripple outwards to derail society, by giving their creditors enough power to compete with governments. To avoid society being run into the ground, governments must start cancelling debts – as they did long ago.

By Michael Hudson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked ...and forgive them their debts as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In ...and forgive them their debts, renowned economist Michael Hudson – one of the few who could see the 2008 financial crisis coming – takes us on an epic journey through the economies of ancient civilizations and reveals their relevance for us today. For the past 40 years, in conjunction with Harvard’s Peabody Museum, he and his colleagues have documented how interest-bearing debt was invented in Bronze Age Mesopotamia, and then disseminated to the ancient world. What the Bronze Age rulers understood was that avoiding economic instability required regular royal debt cancellations. Professor Hudson documents dozens of these these royal…


Book cover of His Picture in the Papers: A Speculation on Celebrity in America Based on the Life of Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.

Landon Y. Jones Author Of Celebrity Nation: How America Evolved into a Culture of Fans and Followers

From my list on celebrity culture and what it is doing to America.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated by celebrities and heroes ever since I was a child. That compulsion became something I wanted to understand. I got my chance as the head editor of People magazine. Over the years, I met more than my share of celebrities – Ronald Reagan, Tom Hanks, Malcolm X, and Princess Diana, to name only a few. I began to take notes about my brushes with fame and think about celebrities in history and why they have recently become so dominant in our culture. Celebrity Nation is the result. Enjoy it!

Landon's book list on celebrity culture and what it is doing to America

Landon Y. Jones Why did Landon love this book?

When I decided to write about celebrity, I knew from the beginning that I would depend on Richard Schickel’s His Picture in the Papers.
Schickel was the former movie reviewer for both LIFE and TIME magazines, and I used simply enjoy his perceptive insights when I also worked at TIME.
Schickel uses the case study of the charismatic Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. to show how his celebrity was generated by his image reproduced in movies, magazines, and newspapers.

Schickel later wrote Intimate Strangers: The Culture of Celebrity in America, which further discussed how celebrity images have replaced the value of ideas in American culture.

By Richard Schickel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked His Picture in the Papers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Book by Schickel, Richard


Book cover of Life: The Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality

Landon Y. Jones Author Of Celebrity Nation: How America Evolved into a Culture of Fans and Followers

From my list on celebrity culture and what it is doing to America.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated by celebrities and heroes ever since I was a child. That compulsion became something I wanted to understand. I got my chance as the head editor of People magazine. Over the years, I met more than my share of celebrities – Ronald Reagan, Tom Hanks, Malcolm X, and Princess Diana, to name only a few. I began to take notes about my brushes with fame and think about celebrities in history and why they have recently become so dominant in our culture. Celebrity Nation is the result. Enjoy it!

Landon's book list on celebrity culture and what it is doing to America

Landon Y. Jones Why did Landon love this book?

Neal Gabler is one of our most astute cultural critics.

I met him when I invited him to be my guest in a Princeton seminar called “Writing about Popular Culture.”

He talked compellingly about his books like Winchell: Gossip, Power and the Culture of Celebrity and An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood, which carefully examined the inner workings of entertainment and celebrity. 

In Life: The Movie, Gabler takes the argument even further, drawing on examples ranging from Elizabeth Taylor and Tom Cruise to Princess Diana and Oprah Winfrey to show how celebrity hagiography has turned everything from news to religion and politics into an inescapable public entertainment. 

By Neal Gabler,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The story of how our bottomless appetite for novelty, gossip, and melodrama has turned everything—news, politics, religion, high culture—into one vast public entertainment.

Neal Gabler calls them "lifies," those blockbusters written in the medium of life that dominate the media and the national conversation for weeks, months, even years: the death of Princess Diana, the trial of O.J. Simpson, Kenneth Starr vs. William Jefferson Clinton.  Real Life as Entertainment is hardly a new phenomenon, but the movies, and now the new information technologies, have so accelerated it that it is now the reigning popular art form.  How this came to…


Book cover of Claims to Fame: Celebrity in Contemporary America

Landon Y. Jones Author Of Celebrity Nation: How America Evolved into a Culture of Fans and Followers

From my list on celebrity culture and what it is doing to America.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated by celebrities and heroes ever since I was a child. That compulsion became something I wanted to understand. I got my chance as the head editor of People magazine. Over the years, I met more than my share of celebrities – Ronald Reagan, Tom Hanks, Malcolm X, and Princess Diana, to name only a few. I began to take notes about my brushes with fame and think about celebrities in history and why they have recently become so dominant in our culture. Celebrity Nation is the result. Enjoy it!

Landon's book list on celebrity culture and what it is doing to America

Landon Y. Jones Why did Landon love this book?

The sociologist Joshua Gamson was among the first to analyze the effects of television on our image of celebrityhood.

In Claims to Fame, he rebels against the democratization of fame and is nostalgic for the days before fame was divorced from merit.

He cites Clifford Geertz’s classic The Interpretation of Cultures to make the point that celebrities are “a powerless elite” with high status and visibility but literally no power of any kind over audiences.

And now, of course, in the age of social media, these discrepancies are magnified.

By Joshua Gamson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Claims to Fame as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Moving from "People" magazine to publicists' offices to tours of stars' homes, Joshua Gamson investigates the larger-than-life terrain of American celebrity culture. In the first major academic work since the early 1940s to seriously analyze the meaning of fame in American life, Gamson begins with the often-heard criticisms that today's heroes have been replaced by pseudoheroes, that notoriety has become detached from merit. He draws on literary and sociological theory, as well as interviews with celebrity-industry workers, to untangle the paradoxical nature of an American popular culture that is both obsessively invested in glamour and fantasy yet also aware of…


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