100 books like Social Graces

By Larry Fink,

Here are 100 books that Social Graces fans have personally recommended if you like Social Graces. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Americans

Tom Carter Author Of China: Portrait of a People

From my list on documentary photography.

Why am I passionate about this?

Peeking over the American fence, I found myself in China in 2004 as the nation was transitioning from its quaint 1980s/90s self into the futuristic “China 2.0” we know it today. My occupation, like many expats, was small-town English teacher. I later departed for a two-year backpacking sojourn across the country. I took a bunch of snapshots along the way with a little point-and-shoot camera. 800 of those images became my first book. Photography – be it travel, documentary, street or reportage – is my passion. The following are but five of five hundred books I’d love to recommend.

Tom's book list on documentary photography

Tom Carter Why did Tom love this book?

I tried to do something different with this list than the usual photography books people often cite, however, there is just no avoiding how important Robert Frank’s The Americans has been on the medium. In 1955, Frank departed for a two-year road trip to document the people of the United States, which coincided with the evolution of new post-war classes – namely, the working poor and those who would eventually become the beatniks of the ‘60s. Focusing on the racial and socio-geographic divide, Frank was a pioneer, as his work defiantly contradicted the popular romanticized propaganda of Life Magazine, opening the doors to the gritty documentary and street photography genres we know today.

By Robert Frank,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

First published in France in 1958, then in the United States in 1959, Robert Frank's The Americans changed the course of 20th-century photography

First published in France in 1958, then in the United States in 1959, Robert Frank's The Americans changed the course of twentieth-century photography. In 83 photographs, Frank looked beneath the surface of American life to reveal a people plagued by racism, ill-served by their politicians and rendered numb by a rapidly expanding culture of consumption. Yet he also found novel areas of beauty in simple, overlooked corners of American life. And it was not just Frank's subject…


Book cover of Teenage Lust: An Autobiography

Tom Carter Author Of China: Portrait of a People

From my list on documentary photography.

Why am I passionate about this?

Peeking over the American fence, I found myself in China in 2004 as the nation was transitioning from its quaint 1980s/90s self into the futuristic “China 2.0” we know it today. My occupation, like many expats, was small-town English teacher. I later departed for a two-year backpacking sojourn across the country. I took a bunch of snapshots along the way with a little point-and-shoot camera. 800 of those images became my first book. Photography – be it travel, documentary, street or reportage – is my passion. The following are but five of five hundred books I’d love to recommend.

Tom's book list on documentary photography

Tom Carter Why did Tom love this book?

Larry Clark is most well known for his controversial 1995 motion picture Kids, but decades before refashioning himself into a filmmaker, Clark got his start as a shutterbug. His first and most critically acclaimed photo essay, Tulsa, was on the heroin habits of friends from the fringes of his Oklahoman hometown throughout the 1960s. His follow-up book, 1983’s Teenage Lust, is a much more accomplished and focused collection; Clark dials up to 11 his intrigue for rebellious children, paralleling the graphic imagery with anecdotes of his own wayward youth. Out of print for decades, good luck finding an affordable copy.

By Larry Clark,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In Teenage Lust, Larry Clark returns to Oklahoma and the frank autobiographical material of his first book Tulsa (1971). This time he focused on the next generation, local teenagers, some of whom were the younger brothers of his old friends, whose lives were just beginning to spiral out of control through amphetamine use and petty crime. ‘Teenage Lust is a scrapbook whereas Tulsa is a movie,” he told [Mike] Kelley. The needles and guns that had been Tulsa’s key motives are reprised here, along with the seedy glamour of the addict turned outlaw. But Teenage Lust is also about innocence…


Book cover of History Is Made At Night

Tom Carter Author Of China: Portrait of a People

From my list on documentary photography.

Why am I passionate about this?

Peeking over the American fence, I found myself in China in 2004 as the nation was transitioning from its quaint 1980s/90s self into the futuristic “China 2.0” we know it today. My occupation, like many expats, was small-town English teacher. I later departed for a two-year backpacking sojourn across the country. I took a bunch of snapshots along the way with a little point-and-shoot camera. 800 of those images became my first book. Photography – be it travel, documentary, street or reportage – is my passion. The following are but five of five hundred books I’d love to recommend.

Tom's book list on documentary photography

Tom Carter Why did Tom love this book?

Manhattanite David Godlis took up street photography in the 1970s, spending after dark at the now-notorious Bowery punk-rock bar, CBGB. However, few others could have predicted that the bands he was capturing in their infancy would go on to become some of the most iconic musicians of the era: Blondie, the Ramones, the Talking Heads, the Cramps... Godlis’ lens is grainy and gauzy, using only the scant natural light available to document these dark personalities on and off stage. History Is Made At Night is equal parts talent and perfect timing, as only a true historian would have had the foresight to hang out with who other photographers then considered just a bunch of unwashed miscreants.

By David Godlis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked History Is Made At Night as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Book cover of It's All Good

Tom Carter Author Of China: Portrait of a People

From my list on documentary photography.

Why am I passionate about this?

Peeking over the American fence, I found myself in China in 2004 as the nation was transitioning from its quaint 1980s/90s self into the futuristic “China 2.0” we know it today. My occupation, like many expats, was small-town English teacher. I later departed for a two-year backpacking sojourn across the country. I took a bunch of snapshots along the way with a little point-and-shoot camera. 800 of those images became my first book. Photography – be it travel, documentary, street or reportage – is my passion. The following are but five of five hundred books I’d love to recommend.

Tom's book list on documentary photography

Tom Carter Why did Tom love this book?

I’ll bookend this list with what I consider to be a sort of updated take on Larry Clark’s Tulsa. Serbian photog Boogie has published similarly solemn collections on Moscow and war-torn Belgrade. With It’s All Good, he arrived in New York’s most violent neighborhoods circa 2010 to document the hard and often tragic lives of urban youth. Gangsters pointing their guns into the lens or jabbing their veins with needles might not make the most appealing coffee table book, but the photos themselves are even more sublime than anything shot by Clark, making this book a worthy successor.

By Boogie,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked It's All Good as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“A whole lot of initiations happen every day. You hear about them on the news, but you don’t know it was an initiation. You hear about somebody getting shot somewhere in New York, and nobody knows why that person got shot; nine times out of ten it was a gang initiation. I am a three-star general in the Bloods, so I know what’s going on. The majority of crime in New York City is ’cause of gangs; drugs, killings, stabbings, robberies, even the bullshit car theft, the fucking pettiest crimes and misdemeanors are all ’cause of gangs.”
—Kasino, from his…


Book cover of Growing Up Female: A Personal Photojournal

Nubar Alexanian Author Of Stones In the Road: Photographs of Peru

From my list on the poetry in documentary photographs.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been a documentary photographer for the past 50 years and my work has been featured in major magazines in the United States and Europe including The New York Times Magazine, Life, Fortune, Geo, Time & Newsweek, and others. I have six books in print, including JAZZ with Wynton Marsalis & Nonfiction Photographs with filmmaker Errol Morris. I love teaching photography and co-founded the Essex Photographic Workshop in 1975. My work is in many collections, including The Peabody Essex Museum, The Worcester Art Museum, Polaroid Collection, Agfa Corporation, Participant Productions, Bose Corporation, Bibliotheque Nacionale, France. Solo exhibitions of my work include the Walker Art Center, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, and the Burden Gallery.

Nubar's book list on the poetry in documentary photographs

Nubar Alexanian Why did Nubar love this book?

When my wife and I met in 1975, one of the things we had in common was that we both owned a copy of Growing Up Female. And the bindings on both copies were pretty worn out. This is a deeply personal journal of compelling photographs and eloquent text about women—from a feminist’s point of view.  What I love about this book is how deeply moving it is and how well it demonstrates a narrative approach to taking, editing, and sequencing first-person photographs. Not to mention that this book sold 25,000 copies (unheard of for books of photography) and had a significant impact on the view of a woman’s place in our culture.  

By Abigail Heyman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Growing up female;: A personal photojournal Hardcover by Abigail Heyman (Author)


Book cover of The Year That Changed Our World: A Photographic History of the Covid-19 Pandemic

Deborah Lupton Author Of COVID Societies: Theorising the Coronavirus Crisis

From my list on everyday life during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a sociologist with a longstanding interest in the social aspects of medicine and public health. I started with research on HIV/AIDS. Since then, I have written many books and conducted a multitude of studies on how people understand and experience health and illness and how they seek help when they are sick or feel at risk from disease. When COVID-19 hit the world in early 2020, it was not long before I started to think about what my research training and expertise could offer to understanding the social impacts of this new pandemic. I started to write about COVID and research on people’s everyday experiences.

Deborah's book list on everyday life during the COVID-19 pandemic

Deborah Lupton Why did Deborah love this book?

This book presents hundreds of photographs taken by Agence France Presse around the world in the first 18 months of the COVID pandemic. The images span the full range from the mundane (people exercising at home) to the bizarre (weird home-made face masks) to those that are frightening and tragic (mass coffins and graves). Over 150 countries are represented in these images, which are arranged chronologically, thereby presenting a visual global timeline of the major events occurring during this crucial early period of the continuing pandemic, when this disease was still a mysterious threat. This book helps us to remember the feelings of urgency, confusion, panic, and fear that were part of this period, as people came to terms with the upheavals wrought by the pandemic.

By Agence France Presse,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Year That Changed Our World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Year That Changed Our World is the definitive, visual history of the Covid-19 Pandemic. With more than 400 photographs, this ambitious publication traces the arc of the Pandemic from China in early 2020 through to the vaccine breakthroughs of Spring 2021.

Behind the relentless nature of the daily news since the events on Wuhan in early 2020 first broke, and the sense of fear and trepidation that the rapidly developing events provoked, what have we seen of the real stories of the world during the Pandemic? What can be told of how we lived through the pandemic and of…


Book cover of Walker Evans First and Last

David Poxon Author Of Watercolour, Heart & Soul

From my list on art influences.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a 5-year-old boy, I was given a tin of watercolour paints by my Grandmother. I had no idea how to use them, and there was no one around to teach me. I had to find my own way. Around the same time I was taken on a day trip to London, where we visited the Tate Gallery. It was there that I was confronted for the first time by the magnificent paintings of J.M.W.Turner. My love for art was ignited. I became a serious student of art, and although I have had to make a living in the world like everyone else, art became my go-to therapy for relief and recreation.

David's book list on art influences

David Poxon Why did David love this book?

Walker Evans was a documentary photographer. He was one of the first to discover that the photos he took of the mundane or overlooked could contain as much or more merit and compassion than the grandest scene. His work has a social consciousness which was not always appreciated at the time (1930s) in an age of great depression in the USA. He was dispatched by the Farm Agency Commission to document rural oppression in the plains and deep south of America, and his photographs hold nothing back. They tell it like it was.

By Walker Evans,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Walker Evans First and Last as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Walker Evans: First and last


Book cover of Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits

Ángela Vergara Author Of Fighting Unemployment in Twentieth-Century Chile

From my list on the history of the welfare state.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historian of Latin America and a professor at California State University, Los Angeles. I write about Chile’s labor and social history in the twentieth century. As a historian, I am especially interested in understanding how working people relate with public institutions and authorities, what they expect from the state, and how they have organized and expanded social and economic rights. While my research centers in Chile and Latin America, I also look to place regional debates in a transnational framework and see how ideas and people have moved across borders. I like books that bring working people’s diverse voices and experiences. 

Ángela's book list on the history of the welfare state

Ángela Vergara Why did Ángela love this book?

In the 1930s, Dorothea Lang photographed poor and migrant families across the United States. She documented the devastating impact of the Great Depression, contributing to raising national awareness about the consequences of poverty. In this outstanding and engaging biography, Linda Gordon tells the story of her life and work and how her photographs were part of a larger political movement to transform and expand social protection to US citizens.

By Linda Gordon,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Dorothea Lange as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

We all know Dorothea Lange's iconic photos-the Migrant Mother holding her child, the shoeless children of the Dust Bowl-but now renowned American historian Linda Gordon brings them to three-dimensional life in this groundbreaking exploration of Lange's transformation into a documentarist. Using Lange's life to anchor a moving social history of twentieth-century America, Gordon masterfully re-creates bohemian San Francisco, the Depression, and the Japanese-American internment camps. Accompanied by more than one hundred images-many of them previously unseen and some formerly suppressed-Gordon has written a sparkling, fast-moving story that testifies to her status as one of the most gifted historians of our…


Book cover of Dorothea's Eyes: Dorothea Lange Photographs the Truth

Kaye Baillie Author Of Railroad Engineer Olive Dennis

From my list on girl-power picture book biographies.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an award-winning children’s author who lives in Australia. I love reading and writing picture books, and although I mostly write fiction, I also love writing biographies. I am drawn to stories about women who have achieved something inspirational and unexpected and who may have not received wide recognition at the time or that any recognition has faded from public knowledge. I find it exciting to work with a team, that is the illustrator and the publisher, to create books that will find their way to children and allow them to imagine and feel another person’s life, and to see that everyday people do amazing things.

Kaye's book list on girl-power picture book biographies

Kaye Baillie Why did Kaye love this book?

The cover shows a woman peering into her camera. She holds the camera carefully, gently and with purpose. Inside, the attractive illustrations show Dorothea Lange who, as a child, was sick leaving her feeling invisible. But the world wasn’t invisible to her. She surprised everyone when she announced one day that she was going to be a photographer. Was it unladylike? What did that even mean? It didn’t matter to Dorothea, who refused to look away from the suffering of people. She used her photos to show that each person is special. Without Dorothea, the images she captured would remain invisible, when they all deserved to be visible. Actual photographs and timeline at the end of this book make it even more fascinating.

By Barb Rosenstock, Gerard Dubois (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dorothea's Eyes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 7, 8, 9, and 10.

What is this book about?

"An excellent beginner's resource for biography, U.S. history, and women's studies." -Kirkus Reviews

Here is the powerful and inspiring biography of Dorothea Lange, activist, social reformer, and one of the founders of documentary photography.

After a childhood bout of polio left her with a limp, all Dorothea Lange wanted to do was disappear.

But her desire not to be seen helped her learn how to blend into the background and observe. With a passion for the artistic life, and in spite of her family's disapproval, Lange pursued her dream to become a photographer and focused her lens on the previously…


Book cover of Landscape

Nubar Alexanian Author Of Stones In the Road: Photographs of Peru

From my list on the poetry in documentary photographs.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been a documentary photographer for the past 50 years and my work has been featured in major magazines in the United States and Europe including The New York Times Magazine, Life, Fortune, Geo, Time & Newsweek, and others. I have six books in print, including JAZZ with Wynton Marsalis & Nonfiction Photographs with filmmaker Errol Morris. I love teaching photography and co-founded the Essex Photographic Workshop in 1975. My work is in many collections, including The Peabody Essex Museum, The Worcester Art Museum, Polaroid Collection, Agfa Corporation, Participant Productions, Bose Corporation, Bibliotheque Nacionale, France. Solo exhibitions of my work include the Walker Art Center, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, and the Burden Gallery.

Nubar's book list on the poetry in documentary photographs

Nubar Alexanian Why did Nubar love this book?

I have loved this book of black & white photographs for nearly 5 decades and still look at it often. It’s like a book of poetry, meant to be lived with rather than simply looked at one or twice. What I like is how quiet these images are while at the same time being incredibly compelling. I see something new in these images almost every time I look at them.  What could be better in a book of photographs? What I’ve learned is that photographs embrace poetry more naturally than narrative storytelling. Yes—it's a picture of a parsnip—but is that an eye in the middle of it looking back at me? 

By Paul Caponigro,

Why should I read it?

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


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in documentary photography, photography, and Pennsylvania?

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