The diminishment of community in an era of two-job families and corporations that work employees over 60 hours a week leaves very little time for fellowship and relaxation in what Ray Oldenburg has labeled "great good places." In this graceful and desperately needed sequel to his landmark The Great Good Place, the editor has gathered a wide-ranging collection of 19 essays on some of the best-loved gathering spots in America where people can relax in a setting of conviviality.

According to Oldenburg, the third place is a setting beyond home and work that is accessible, modest, playful, and small-scaled. He calls these spots "necessary to the infrastructures of human relationships." One of the most vivid examples is Annie's Gift and Garden Shop in Amherst, Massachusetts. The founder describes herself as being in "the nurturing business." Customers can learn about gardening in workshops on plants, flowers, or landscaping. Poems are given out with each purchase. They even have a labyrinth made of sunflower plantings that customers can walk. Besides being a good neighbor, Annie believes that education is the most precious commodity at her store.

Again and again in these essays, the authors emphasize the importance of hospitality — being open and welcoming to people of all types and backgrounds. Some of our other favorite places described here are Horizon Books in Traverse City, Michigan; Miami Passport Photo Shop in Hialeah, Florida; the Great Good Gym in Atlanta, Georgia; and Square One Restaurant in San Francisco, California.