100 books like Social Theory and Social Structure

By Robert K. Merton,

Here are 100 books that Social Theory and Social Structure fans have personally recommended if you like Social Theory and Social Structure. 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 Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction

Jack Nusan Porter Author Of If Only You Could Bottle It: Memoirs of a Radical Son

From my list on the sociology of genocide and evil.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm an immigrant child-survivor of the Holocaust, came to America after living in a DP camp in Linz, Austria in 1947 with my wonderful parents. We lost 25 members of our family to the Nazis so I “know evil”. I grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, went to Washington High School, University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, and Northwestern University where I received a Ph.D. in sociology and studied with one of the best sociologists of deviance (Howie Becker). I combined sociology with deviance, evil, the Holocaust, and genocide, but as a progressive Zionist, I added socialist and kibbutz-life. All these things make up my memoir If Only You Could Bottle It: Memoirs of a Radical Son.

Jack's book list on the sociology of genocide and evil

Jack Nusan Porter Why did Jack love this book?

As one of the founders of the field of modern genocide studies, I’m still learning; it is still a relatively new discipline, having been started in the late 1970s;  in fact, the first organization on genocide was founded in only 1994, just 30 years ago, the IAGS, the International Association of Genocide Scholars.

It took a long time to create a textbook; most of the earlier books were anthologies like my own book, and textbooks may not be the most titillating of books to read but the best one is by my Canadian colleague Adam Jones, Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction, second edition.

Jones is not only a good writer but also a photographer. There are dozens of good books and good writers dealing with genocide; a reader might want to consider books by Samantha Power, Timothy Snyder, Martin Shaw, Helen Fein, and Israel Charny.

It’s a gruesome topic but handled…

By Adam Jones,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction is the most wide-ranging textbook on genocide yet published. The book is designed as a text for upper-undergraduate and graduate students, as well as a primer for non-specialists and general readers interested in learning about one of humanity's enduring blights.

Fully updated to reflect the latest thinking in this rapidly developing field, this unique book:

Provides an introduction to genocide as both a historical phenomenon and an analytical-legal concept, including the concept of genocidal intent, and the dynamism and contingency of genocidal processes. Discusses the role of state-building, imperialism, war, and social revolution in fuelling genocide.…


Book cover of Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil

Jack Nusan Porter Author Of If Only You Could Bottle It: Memoirs of a Radical Son

From my list on the sociology of genocide and evil.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm an immigrant child-survivor of the Holocaust, came to America after living in a DP camp in Linz, Austria in 1947 with my wonderful parents. We lost 25 members of our family to the Nazis so I “know evil”. I grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, went to Washington High School, University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, and Northwestern University where I received a Ph.D. in sociology and studied with one of the best sociologists of deviance (Howie Becker). I combined sociology with deviance, evil, the Holocaust, and genocide, but as a progressive Zionist, I added socialist and kibbutz-life. All these things make up my memoir If Only You Could Bottle It: Memoirs of a Radical Son.

Jack's book list on the sociology of genocide and evil

Jack Nusan Porter Why did Jack love this book?

I am fascinated with evil people like Hitler or Putin.

What explains evil? I have spent half a century trying to understand it and it keeps getting more and more complex. Just look around at all the killings, stabbings, bombings—the world has gone mad!

Is it childhood trauma? Yes, to a certain degree. Hitler’s father was very abusive yet his mother loved him; but allowed the beatings so he grew up with tremendous rages against women, gays, Jews, and authority.

One myth is that serial killers are people with low self-esteem; actually, it’s the very opposite—they have too much ego; they think they can outsmart everyone; that they are smarter than anyone else—they often have a “messiah complex”.

So, one hope is to intervene quickly in abusive relationships and get the wife and children to safety as quickly as possible. This would reduce the number of evil killers in the…

By Ron Rosenbaum,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Hitler did not escape the bunker in Berlin but, seven decades later, he has managed to escape explanation in ways both frightening and profound. Explaining Hitler is an extraordinary quest, an expedition into the war zone of Hitler theories. This is a passionate, enthralling book that illuminates what Hitler explainers tell us about Hitler, about the explainers, and about ourselves.


Book cover of Outsiders

Jack Nusan Porter Author Of If Only You Could Bottle It: Memoirs of a Radical Son

From my list on the sociology of genocide and evil.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm an immigrant child-survivor of the Holocaust, came to America after living in a DP camp in Linz, Austria in 1947 with my wonderful parents. We lost 25 members of our family to the Nazis so I “know evil”. I grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, went to Washington High School, University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, and Northwestern University where I received a Ph.D. in sociology and studied with one of the best sociologists of deviance (Howie Becker). I combined sociology with deviance, evil, the Holocaust, and genocide, but as a progressive Zionist, I added socialist and kibbutz-life. All these things make up my memoir If Only You Could Bottle It: Memoirs of a Radical Son.

Jack's book list on the sociology of genocide and evil

Jack Nusan Porter Why did Jack love this book?

I studied with a most fascinating sociologist of deviance Howard S. (but we called him, Howie) Becker.

His most famous book is Outsiders. The topics may seem tame by today’s standards but at a time when graduate school was often boring and filled with inscrutable jargon, Howie’s topics were fun: becoming a marijuana smoker, a jazz pianist, even a medical student.

He sent out us out into the city of Chicago to do “participant observation”, meaning, become part of the people you study, usually people deviating from the norm. Observe, observe, observe! At all hours of the day. I remember my paper was on a “hippie pot store”; other classmates studied drug dealers, cross-dressers, or people who work at an abortion clinic. In short, these were dangerous observations at times.

Other sociologists of deviance and their books that influenced me were Erving Goffman (Stigma); Laud Humphreys (…

By Howard S. Becker,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

One of the most groundbreaking sociology texts of the 20th century, Howard S. Becker's Outsiders revolutionized the study of social deviance.

Howard S. Becker's Outsiders broke new ground in the early 1960s-and the ideas it proposed and problems it raised are still argued about and inspiring research internationally. In this new edition, Becker includes two lengthy essays, unpublished until now, that add fresh material for thought and discussion. "Why Was Outsiders a Hit? Why Is It Still a Hit?" explains the historical background that made the book interesting to a new generation coming of age in the 60s and makes…


Book cover of Tearoom Trade: Impersonal Sex in Public Places

Jack Nusan Porter Author Of If Only You Could Bottle It: Memoirs of a Radical Son

From my list on the sociology of genocide and evil.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm an immigrant child-survivor of the Holocaust, came to America after living in a DP camp in Linz, Austria in 1947 with my wonderful parents. We lost 25 members of our family to the Nazis so I “know evil”. I grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, went to Washington High School, University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, and Northwestern University where I received a Ph.D. in sociology and studied with one of the best sociologists of deviance (Howie Becker). I combined sociology with deviance, evil, the Holocaust, and genocide, but as a progressive Zionist, I added socialist and kibbutz-life. All these things make up my memoir If Only You Could Bottle It: Memoirs of a Radical Son.

Jack's book list on the sociology of genocide and evil

Jack Nusan Porter Why did Jack love this book?

Here again I mean not only the sexuality of deviance or the deviance of sexuality such as crossdressers, transvestites, homosexuals, and lesbians but also historical phenomena such as the gay rights movement or the suppression of gays in Nazi Germany.

The book that most influenced me in the 1970s was Laud Humphrey’s “Tea-Room Trade”. His book was so radical, so astounding in its utter chutzpah that it could never be replicated today at research universities. It was a time when gay consciousness was erupting. The problem was that those gay activists were out in the open, but what about the closeted man? (His study dealt only with men.)

These men may not even label themselves as homosexual or bisexual or Trans. I am speaking of men who go to “hidden” bathrooms in parks or buildings and wait for anonymous sex; then go home to their wives and children and live…

By Laud Humphreys,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the time of its first publication, 'Tearoom Trade' engendered controversy. It was also accorded an unusual amount of praise for a first book on a marginal, intentionally self-effacing population by a previously unknown sociologist. The book was quickly recognized as an important, imaginative, and useful contribution to our understanding of "deviant" sexual activity. Describing impersonal, anonymous sexual encounters in public restrooms-"tearooms" in the argot-the book explored the behavior of men whose closet homosexuality was kept from their families and neighbors. By posing as an initiate, the author was able to engage in systematic observation of homosexual acts in public…


Book cover of Sociological Theory

Shweta Mahendra Author Of Many Visions, Many Worlds: Musings on the past and future of human civilization

From my list on connecting past, present and future civilization.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been a dreamer since my childhood and chasing my dream is the goal of my life. Dreams do not have a visible purpose the destiny is hidden behind dreams. While following my dreams, I had started searching for my origin, because I felt connected to some unknown place. I travelled to various ancient sites of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Indus civilizations and explored that these civilizations were very disciplined and advanced. Still, we are not able to unfold so many mysteries. I see the future in the past and present is just a stem in between, this inspired me to write a book.

Shweta's book list on connecting past, present and future civilization

Shweta Mahendra Why did Shweta love this book?

This book is a must read for everyone because it covers all major sociologist’s work and theories in a very simple and concise manner.

How sociology was born, and thinkers have presented their theory based on the social structure in their era. The cross references of different theories by different thinkers help in self-analysis. The classical and contemporary sociological theory is very well explained.

This is a good book to start with for understanding the history of sociology and how different thinkers made a change in the society in their time.

By George Ritzer, Jeffrey N. Stepnisky,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Written by an author team that includes one of sociology's leading contemporary theorists, Sociological Theory gives readers a comprehensive overview of the major theorists and schools of sociological thought, from sociology's origins through the early 21st Century. Key theories are integrated with biographical sketches of theorists, and are placed in their historical and intellectual context.


Book cover of Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer

Barbara Katz Rothman Author Of A Bun in the Oven: How the Food and Birth Movements Resist Industrialization

From my list on death and dying.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been writing about birth for decades – how it became a medical process, managed by a surgical specialty in a factory-like setting. I’ve worked with contemporary midwives who are trying to reclaim birth, to move it back home, back to physiological and loving care. And over and over again, I see the similarities to the other gate of life – how death and dying also left home and went into the hospital, where people die, as they birth, pretty much alone – with perhaps a ‘visitor’ allowed. Covid made it worse – but in birth and death, it allowed the hospitals to return to what medicine considered essential: medical procedures, not human connections. 

Barbara's book list on death and dying

Barbara Katz Rothman Why did Barbara love this book?

Sometimes I think people just don’t get smarter, or write smarter books, than Ehrenreich, so of course, in a 5 best list, I’m going to put one of hers up. The title of her book comes from obituaries – at a certain point, not entirely clear just when, a death does not have to be explained. When a 93-year-old dies, we don’t have to ask ‘of what?’ the way we do when a 47-year-old does. And yet – what about 73? We ask, and we blame: did they smoke? Not exercise?  Eat poorly? Not get screened early enough?  

While others have focused on the over-medicalization of dying, the repeated hospitalizations, the tubes, and wires, Ehrenreich is looking at the medicalization of living to be old – living from one wellness activity to the next, interspersed with medical testing.  In a world in which ‘health’ means medicine, health care means insurance…

By Barbara Ehrenreich,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

We tend to believe we have agency over our bodies, our minds and even our deaths. Yet emerging science challenges our assumptions of mastery: at the microscopic level, the cells in our bodies facilitate tumours and attack other cells, with life-threatening consequences.

In this revelatory book, Barbara Ehrenreich argues that our bodies are a battleground over which we have little control, and lays bare the cultural charades that shield us from this knowledge. Challenging everything we think we know about life and death, she also offers hope - that we find our place in a natural world teeming with animation…


Book cover of The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters

Bryn Nelson Author Of Flush: The Remarkable Science of an Unlikely Treasure

From my list on the real scoop on poop, waste, and sanitation.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a trained microbiologist who received my doctorate from the University of Washington and who has long been fascinated by the natural world—whether microscopic or gigantic, within us or all around us. For more than 20 years, I’ve also been an award-winning science writer who has written for publications like The New York Times, Nature, Wired, and Scientific American. Ever since I wrote about the incredible ability of fecal transplants to cure a deadly bacterial infection, I’ve been obsessed with books that explore how the seemingly gross or ordinary things we often dismiss as lacking value have the power to transform both us and the planet.   

Bryn's book list on the real scoop on poop, waste, and sanitation

Bryn Nelson Why did Bryn love this book?

This superb book was one of the first to raise the issue of how poorly we’ve considered our waste and what to do with it, and it was a big inspiration for me.

It’s thoughtful and incredibly well-researched, packed full of amazing historical details, and provides a compelling case for how and why we should get our shit together—literally. I learned so much from this book, and it really encouraged me to keep digging and exploring how we might reimagine our human output. Just an excellent read and a compelling case for change.  

By Rose George,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Produced behind closed doors, disposed of discreetly, hidden by euphemism, shit is rarely out in the open in 'civilized' society, but the world of waste - and the people who deal with it, work with it and in it - is a rich one.This book takes us underground to the sewers of New York and London and overground to meet the heroes of India's sanitation movement, American sewage schoolteachers, the Japanese genius at the cutting edge of toilet technology and the biosolids lobbying team. With a journalist's nose for story and a campaigner's desire for change, Rose George also addresses…


Book cover of Pareto's General Sociology

Christopher Adair-Toteff Author Of Vilfredo Pareto's Contributions to Modern Social Theory: A Centennial Appraisal

From my list on Vilfredo Pareto’s sociological writings.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was trained as a philosopher and have been a professor of philosophy for more than three decades. Beginning with Plato, I have been persuaded that reason is powerful. I am also a social theorist and have published scholarly books on Max Weber, Ferdinand Tönnies, and Raymond Aron. Yet Pareto’s writings have convinced me that people are most often motivated by interests and passions and then use reasons to justify their behavior. Plato showed people as they ought to be; Pareto showed them as they are. Philosophy is important, but so is Pareto’s social psychology.

Christopher's book list on Vilfredo Pareto’s sociological writings

Christopher Adair-Toteff Why did Christopher love this book?

Lawrence J Henderson was one of the first Americans to take Pareto’s writings seriously. He was a professor at Harvard during the 1930s, and this 1935 book was an outgrowth of his interest in understanding Pareto’s thought.

The subtitle "A Physiologist’s Interpretation" indicates that his approach to Pareto’s work differed from most because he was a natural scientist rather than a social scientist. As a physiologist, H. was able to recognize Pareto's engineering background with the recognition of universally valid laws, yet he was also able to see how Pareto was influenced as an economist where there are high degrees of regularity.

That makes him one of the best authorities on Pareto's "General sociology". Henderson could see generalities that most social scientists could neither understand nor appreciate. 

Book cover of The Invention of Tradition

Naoíse Mac Sweeney Author Of The West: A New History in Fourteen Lives

From my list on why the past matters for the future.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love stories, and as a child I found that some of the best and most powerful stories I ever heard were those that people told about the past. When I grew up, I pursued a career as an academic archaeologist and historian, and I am now Professor of Classical Archaeology at the University of Vienna. But while I am of course interested in the past, in recent years I have been increasingly thinking about the politics of the past as well. Why do we choose to celebrate some stories about the past and not others? I have found these books all useful in helping me to think through this.

Naoíse's book list on why the past matters for the future

Naoíse Mac Sweeney Why did Naoíse love this book?

This collection of essays offers a broad set of different examples of history and ideas about the past have been pressed into the service of nationalism – often resulting, as the title has it, in the invention of tradition.

I also love the quality of the writing in this book. Hobsbawm has such elegant prose, and as an editor he seems to have influenced the style of the other authors in the volume. 

By Eric Hobsbawm (editor), Terence Ranger (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Many of the traditions which we think of as very ancient in their origins were not in fact sanctioned by long usage over the centuries, but were invented comparatively recently. This book explores examples of this process of invention - the creation of Welsh and Scottish 'national culture'; the elaboration of British royal rituals in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; the origins of imperial rituals in British India and Africa; and the attempts by radical movements to develop counter-traditions of their own. It addresses the complex interaction of past and present, bringing together historians and anthropologists in a fascinating study…


Book cover of Pareto on Policy

Christopher Adair-Toteff Author Of Vilfredo Pareto's Contributions to Modern Social Theory: A Centennial Appraisal

From my list on Vilfredo Pareto’s sociological writings.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was trained as a philosopher and have been a professor of philosophy for more than three decades. Beginning with Plato, I have been persuaded that reason is powerful. I am also a social theorist and have published scholarly books on Max Weber, Ferdinand Tönnies, and Raymond Aron. Yet Pareto’s writings have convinced me that people are most often motivated by interests and passions and then use reasons to justify their behavior. Plato showed people as they ought to be; Pareto showed them as they are. Philosophy is important, but so is Pareto’s social psychology.

Christopher's book list on Vilfredo Pareto’s sociological writings

Christopher Adair-Toteff Why did Christopher love this book?

In Pareto on Policy, Warren Samuels attempted to provide a detailed commentary on Pareto’s Treatise on General Sociology or in the English language translation Mind and Society.

Samuel’s chapters all contain the term “policy” but the chapters themselves are focused on knowledge, power, freedom, control, and change. Samuel’s Pareto on Policy is the best commentary on Pareto’s magnum opus that I know.

By Warren Samuels,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Warren Samuels interprets Vilfredo Pareto's Treatise on General Sociology in terms of a general equilibrium model of policy. Three themes and one conviction run throughout the study. The first is a model of policy making involving three sets of variables: power, knowledge, and psychology. The second is a general equilibrium approach to the study of these variables emphasizing their fundamental interdependence. The third is the importance of Pareto's work.

Pareto is one of the few individuals whose work has had enormous influence in at least three social sciences in the twentieth century: economics, sociology, and political science. Despite Pareto's attempt…


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