This book is one of three essential reads, says David Brooks, if we hope to understand the daunting challenges facing our contemporary society. Putnam is ever the exceptional social scientist, marshaling all the statistics needed to support his main thesis: The American dream is in crisis. For most people in poor communities of our nation, the rags-to-riches myth of equal opportunity is only a taunting fantasy. And here’s the real tragedy: The full weight of this collapse lies heavily across the shoulders of our kids. For far too many poor kids, the future is bleak. In the end, Putnam reflects on “how we might begin to alter the cursed course of our society.” Strong on the need for public support, the solutions will lie, nevertheless, in revitalized families, neighborhoods, churches, schools, and local communities. This is the common theme we hear from so many quarters these days: Renewal will come from the bottom up, from the small places, from the now-battered institutions of old. Putnam puts it all together—a must read, in my opinion, along with Charles Murray’s Coming Apart and Yuval Levin’s The Fractured Republic, all Brooks’ recommendations.