Goodreads Monday: Palaces for the People

Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme where we randomly select a book from our Goodreads To Be Read list and share it with the world. It’s hosted by Lauren’s Page Turners, so be sure to link back to her site so that we can all see what everyone plans to read!


 

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Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life
by Eric Klinenberg
Nonfiction
288 pages
Published September 11, 2018, by Crown Publishing Corp.
From Goodreads: An eminent sociologist and bestselling author offers an inspiring blueprint for rebuilding our fractured society.

We are living in a time of deep divisions. Americans are sorting themselves along racial, religious, and cultural lines, leading to a level of polarization that the country hasn’t seen since the Civil War. Pundits and politicians are calling for us to come together, to find common purpose. But how, exactly, can this be done?

In Palaces for the People, Eric Klinenberg suggests a way forward. He believes that the future of democratic societies rests not simply on shared values but on shared spaces: the libraries, childcare centers, bookstores, churches, synagogues, and parks where crucial, sometimes life-saving connections, are formed. These are places where people gather and linger, making friends across group lines and strengthening the entire community. Klinenberg calls this the “social infrastructure” When it is strong, neighborhoods flourish; when it is neglected, as it has been in recent years, families and individuals must fend for themselves.

Klinenberg takes us around the globe–from a floating school in Bangladesh to an arts incubator in Chicago, from a soccer pitch in Queens to an evangelical church in Houston–to show how social infrastructure is helping to solve some of our most pressing challenges: isolation, crime, education, addiction, political polarization, and even climate change.

Richly reported, elegantly written, and ultimately uplifting, Palaces for the People urges us to acknowledge the crucial role these spaces play in civic life. Our social infrastructure could be the key to bridging our seemingly unbridgeable divides–and safeguarding democracy.


 

I heard about this book a week or so ago when I was listening to an episode of the podcast 99% Invisible. The host, Roman Mars, was talking about social infrastructure- public spaces and institutions built solely for public use such as libraries and parks. Though they are often overlooked, these places help bring communities together, reduce stress and crime, and can even help save lives. The public spaces are special, and cannot be replicated by corporate entities, no matter how badly companies like Starbucks want to proclaim that they bring communities together. Given my own love of the public library, this book seems to be right up my alley.

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