100 books like Spheres of Influence

By Douglas S. Massey, Stefanie Brodmann,

Here are 100 books that Spheres of Influence fans have personally recommended if you like Spheres of Influence. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Great American City: Chicago and the Enduring Neighborhood Effect

Douglas S. Massey Author Of American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass

From my list on how neighborhoods perpetuate inequality.

Why am I passionate about this?

My mother was the child of immigrants from Finland with grade-school educations who grew up in a small Alaskan town with no roads in or out. She came down to the “lower 48” during the Second World War to work her way through the University of Washington, where she met my father. He was a multigenerational American with two college-educated parents. His mother graduated from Whitman College in 1919 and looked down on my mother as a child of poorly educated immigrants. She was also openly hostile toward Catholics, Blacks, and Jews and probably didn’t think much of Finns either. Witnessing my grandmother’s disdain for minorities and the poor including my mother, I learned about racism and class prejudice firsthand. But I am my mother’s son, and I resented my grandmother’s self-satisfied posturing. Therefore I’ve always been on the side of the underdog and made it my business to learn all that I could about how inequalities are produced and perpetuated in the United States, and to do all I can to make the world a fairer, more egalitarian place.

Douglas' book list on how neighborhoods perpetuate inequality

Douglas S. Massey Why did Douglas love this book?

Rob Sampson has compiled the most comprehensive dataset ever to document the existence multiple inequalities across neighborhoods in major urban area and how they create unequal social worlds by race and class that serve to perpetuate inequality over time.

By Robert J. Sampson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For over fifty years, numerous public intellectuals and social theorists have insisted that community is dead. Some would have us believe that we act solely as individuals choosing our own fates regardless of our surroundings, while other theories place us at the mercy of global forces beyond our control. These two perspectives dominate contemporary views of society, but by rejecting the importance of place they are both deeply flawed. Based on one of the most ambitious studies in the history of social science, "Great American City" argues that communities still matter because life is decisively shaped by where you live.…


Book cover of Stuck in Place: Urban Neighborhoods and the End of Progress Toward Racial Equality

Douglas S. Massey Author Of American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass

From my list on how neighborhoods perpetuate inequality.

Why am I passionate about this?

My mother was the child of immigrants from Finland with grade-school educations who grew up in a small Alaskan town with no roads in or out. She came down to the “lower 48” during the Second World War to work her way through the University of Washington, where she met my father. He was a multigenerational American with two college-educated parents. His mother graduated from Whitman College in 1919 and looked down on my mother as a child of poorly educated immigrants. She was also openly hostile toward Catholics, Blacks, and Jews and probably didn’t think much of Finns either. Witnessing my grandmother’s disdain for minorities and the poor including my mother, I learned about racism and class prejudice firsthand. But I am my mother’s son, and I resented my grandmother’s self-satisfied posturing. Therefore I’ve always been on the side of the underdog and made it my business to learn all that I could about how inequalities are produced and perpetuated in the United States, and to do all I can to make the world a fairer, more egalitarian place.

Douglas' book list on how neighborhoods perpetuate inequality

Douglas S. Massey Why did Douglas love this book?

Pat Sharkey draws on a rich longitudinal dataset (the Panel Study of Income Dynamics) that follows individuals and households over decades and keeps track of them as they change, move, and form new households. He uses it to show that Black Americans are unique in the degree to which they are confined to poor and disadvantaged neighborhoods across time and the generations, and how neighborhood disadvantage works so powerfully to perpetuate poverty and stymie upward mobility.

By Patrick Sharkey,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the 1960s, many believed that the civil rights movement's successes would foster a new era of racial equality in America. Four decades later, the degree of racial inequality has barely changed. To understand what went wrong, Patrick Sharkey argues that we have to understand what has happened to African American communities over the last several decades. In "Stuck in Place", Sharkey describes how political decisions and social policies have led to severe disinvestment from black neighborhoods, persistent segregation, declining economic opportunities, and a growing link between African American communities and the criminal justice system. As a result, neighborhood inequality…


Book cover of Divergent Social Worlds: Neighborhood Crime and the Racial-Spatial Divide

Douglas S. Massey Author Of American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass

From my list on how neighborhoods perpetuate inequality.

Why am I passionate about this?

My mother was the child of immigrants from Finland with grade-school educations who grew up in a small Alaskan town with no roads in or out. She came down to the “lower 48” during the Second World War to work her way through the University of Washington, where she met my father. He was a multigenerational American with two college-educated parents. His mother graduated from Whitman College in 1919 and looked down on my mother as a child of poorly educated immigrants. She was also openly hostile toward Catholics, Blacks, and Jews and probably didn’t think much of Finns either. Witnessing my grandmother’s disdain for minorities and the poor including my mother, I learned about racism and class prejudice firsthand. But I am my mother’s son, and I resented my grandmother’s self-satisfied posturing. Therefore I’ve always been on the side of the underdog and made it my business to learn all that I could about how inequalities are produced and perpetuated in the United States, and to do all I can to make the world a fairer, more egalitarian place.

Douglas' book list on how neighborhoods perpetuate inequality

Douglas S. Massey Why did Douglas love this book?

Peterson and Krivo meticulously demonstrate how residential segregation creates and maintains inequality in neighborhood crime rates using data from their groundbreaking National Neighborhood Crime Study. Using a nationally representative sample, the authors provide a more comprehensive picture of the social conditions underlying neighborhood crime and violence than has ever before been drawn.

By Ruth D. Peterson, Lauren J. Krivo,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

More than half a century after the first Jim Crow laws were dismantled, the majority of urban neighborhoods in the United States remain segregated by race. The degree of social and economic advantage or disadvantage that each community experiences―particularly its crime rate―is most often a reflection of which group is in the majority. As Ruth Peterson and Lauren Krivo note in Divergent Social Worlds, "Race, place, and crime are still inextricably linked in the minds of the public." This book broadens the scope of single-city, black/white studies by using national data to compare local crime patterns in five racially distinct…


Book cover of Cycle of Segregation: Social Processes and Residential Stratification

Douglas S. Massey Author Of American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass

From my list on how neighborhoods perpetuate inequality.

Why am I passionate about this?

My mother was the child of immigrants from Finland with grade-school educations who grew up in a small Alaskan town with no roads in or out. She came down to the “lower 48” during the Second World War to work her way through the University of Washington, where she met my father. He was a multigenerational American with two college-educated parents. His mother graduated from Whitman College in 1919 and looked down on my mother as a child of poorly educated immigrants. She was also openly hostile toward Catholics, Blacks, and Jews and probably didn’t think much of Finns either. Witnessing my grandmother’s disdain for minorities and the poor including my mother, I learned about racism and class prejudice firsthand. But I am my mother’s son, and I resented my grandmother’s self-satisfied posturing. Therefore I’ve always been on the side of the underdog and made it my business to learn all that I could about how inequalities are produced and perpetuated in the United States, and to do all I can to make the world a fairer, more egalitarian place.

Douglas' book list on how neighborhoods perpetuate inequality

Douglas S. Massey Why did Douglas love this book?

In The Cycle of Segregation offer a major breakthrough in our understanding of the roots of residential segregation in U.S. society today. Their social-structural sorting perspective elegantly and convincingly explains how black and Hispanic segregation can persist even as minority incomes rise and discrimination and prejudice in housing markets decline.

By Maria Krysan, Kyle Crowder,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 outlawed housing discrimination by race and provided an important tool for dismantling legal segregation. But almost fifty years later, residential segregation remains virtually unchanged in many metropolitan areas, particularly where large groups of racial and ethnic minorities live. Why does segregation persist at such high rates and what makes it so difficult to combat? In Cycle of Segregation, sociologists Maria Krysan and Kyle Crowder examine how everyday social processes shape residential stratification. Past neighborhood experiences, social networks, and daily activities all affect the mobility patterns of different racial groups in ways that have cemented…


Book cover of No Politics But Class Politics

Todd Cronan Author Of Red Aesthetics: Rodchenko, Brecht, Eisenstein

From my list on art and politics belong together.

Why am I passionate about this?

Even the purest of artists thrive under tension. For some artists, politics has provided a crucial source of tension which has led to great achievement. Usually, it doesn’t. Why? Because artists, like critics, are often poor at gauging political realities. (Artists are usually better off not getting involved with “ideological confusion and violence,” as Greenberg put it.) Occasionally, though, problems become so acute that being unserious about the world is not an option—the 1930s was like this for some, and maybe a second Trump presidency will have a similar effect on artists and critics today, although there is real room for doubt.

Todd's book list on art and politics belong together

Todd Cronan Why did Todd love this book?

Ok, I cheated (already). This is not really about art, but it is about politics. There are some essays on art, but all of it is about how badly we have screwed up how we think about politics, especially in the United States.

We think and talk—incessantly, endlessly—about disparities between groups. What this book shows, from every angle, is that this way of talking and thinking is how exploiters want us to talk and think. Sounds counterintuitive, I know.

The point is to stop talking about disparities and disproportionalities of awfulness and start talking about class inequality. The point is also to say that addressing class inequality is addressing disparities, but not vice versa. 

By Walter Benn Michaels, Adolph Reed Jr., Daniel Zamora (editor) , Anton Jager (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked No Politics But Class Politics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Denouncing racism and celebrating diversity have become central to progressive politics. For many on the left, it seems, social justice would consist of an equitable distribution of wealth, power and esteem among racial groups. But as Adolph Reed Jr. and Walter Benn Michaels argue in this incisive collection of essays, the emphasis here is tragically misplaced. Not only can a fixation with racial disparities distract from the pervasive influence of class, it can actually end up legitimising economic inequality. As Reed and Michaels put it, “racism is real and anti-racism is both admirable and necessary, but extant racism isn’t what…


Book cover of A Brief History of Equality

Mark Robert Rank Author Of The Poverty Paradox: Understanding Economic Hardship Amid American Prosperity

From my list on understanding the paradox of American inequality.

Why am I passionate about this?

For much of my career as a sociologist and professor of social welfare, I’ve focused my research and teaching on the issue of economic and social inequality in America. Why should the United States have both great wealth and yet at the same time extreme poverty and inequities? This question has motivated much of my scholarly and popular writing over the years. For me, this represents the fault line of America. We profess the importance that all are created equal, and yet our actions undermine such a belief. Why should this be the case, and how can we change the reality to reflect the ideal? 

Mark's book list on understanding the paradox of American inequality

Mark Robert Rank Why did Mark love this book?

Thomas Piketty’s earlier book, Capitalism, was one of those books that many people purchased but only wound up reading the first 20 pages because of its dense argument and writing style. 

A Brief History of Capitalism is much more accessible, and in my opinion, useful. The book takes a long-term perspective for examining inequalities among social classes in human societies. Piketty’s argument is that since the end of the 18th century, there has been a long-term movement toward more social, economic, and political equality.

The book provides an excellent overview of inequality across time.

By Thomas Piketty, Steven Rendall (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Brief History of Equality as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
A Public Books Best Book of the Year

"An opportunity for readers to see Piketty bring his larger argument about the origins of inequality and his program for fighting it into high relief."
-Nicholas Lemann, New York Times

The world's leading economist of inequality presents a short but sweeping and surprisingly optimistic history of human progress toward equality despite crises, disasters, and backsliding. A perfect introduction to the ideas developed in his monumental earlier books.

It's easy to be pessimistic about inequality. We know it has increased dramatically in many parts of…


Book cover of Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis

Fathali Moghaddam Author Of The Psychology of Revolution

From my list on why revolutions fail.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have a deep passion for the psychology of revolution because my family has experienced revolution in our country of birth, and I have expertise on this topic because, as a psychologist, I have extensively studied revolutions for decades. This is a topic seldom studied by modern psychologists, perhaps because most research psychologists live in Western countries and have not experienced revolutions. Western psychologists have no experience with revolutions. The last book published with the title of my book, The Psychology of Revolution, came out in 1894! I am very enthusiastic about putting together this diverse reading list, which is made up of research books, novels, and a poetry collection.

Fathali's book list on why revolutions fail

Fathali Moghaddam Why did Fathali love this book?

I include Robert Putnam’s book because, in a sense, it is about continuity rather than change, so it is about how things stay the same in some ways rather than revolutions that change things. What I particularly like about this book is Putnam’s discussion of inheritance, which he sees as being about far more than monetary wealth. Inheritance includes all the social networks, friends, connections, social knowledge, and everything else of value that your family passes on to you. Many inherited things are intangibles–like what you learn while sitting around as a child with your family, listening to grown-ups speak. 

Because inheritance is so vast, kids who are ‘poor’ are not just poor materially; they are poor because they lack the vast social knowledge and informal networks that rich kids inherit. This makes it far more difficult for poor kids to move up and make a success of themselves–so there…

By Robert D. Putnam,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A New York Times bestseller and "a passionate, urgent" (The New Yorker) examination of the growing inequality gap from the bestselling author of Bowling Alone: why fewer Americans today have the opportunity for upward mobility.
Central to the very idea of America is the principle that we are a nation of opportunity. But over the last quarter century we have seen a disturbing "opportunity gap" emerge. We Americans have always believed that those who have talent and try hard will succeed, but this central tenet of the American Dream seems no longer true or at the least, much less true…


Book cover of Happiness for All? Unequal Hopes and Lives in Pursuit of the American Dream

Maurizio Pugno Author Of Well-being and Growth in Advanced Economies: The Need to Prioritise Human Development

From my list on human development in advanced economies.

Why am I passionate about this?

'Human development' indicates an advancement that I would like to find in any kind of progress. Different disciplines define 'human development' in different ways, but my research is to identify the common core in order to link both the individual- with the social dimension, and natural evolution with changes due to personal choices and policies. Through such research, I have been able to take a new perspective on my academic subjects: economic growth and happiness. My belief is that it is possible to make human development, economic growth, and happiness go together. But unfortunately, this is not what is occurring, and understanding why is key.

Maurizio's book list on human development in advanced economies

Maurizio Pugno Why did Maurizio love this book?

I like this book because it does not simply show how income inequality affects happiness inequality, thus suggesting that unhappiness is just a sign of material disadvantage.

The book also links income and happiness to hope, which is a feeling that motivates people to plan and invest for the future. 

To convince the sceptical reader about measuring hope and happiness, Carol Graham provides an abundance of empirical evidence.

But being an economist, in addition to telling emblematic stories, she reports evidence based on large samples and international data.

It is a challenging book, but rewarding, because it helps to understand both how the exhaustion of the American Dream will affect the future, and where to look for new hope.

By Carol Graham,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Happiness for All? Unequal Hopes and Lives in Pursuit of the American Dream as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How the optimism gap between rich and poor is creating an increasingly divided society The Declaration of Independence states that all people are endowed with certain unalienable rights, and that among these is the pursuit of happiness. But is happiness available equally to everyone in America today? How about elsewhere in the world? Carol Graham draws on cutting-edge research linking income inequality with well-being to show how the widening prosperity gap has led to rising inequality in people's beliefs, hopes, and aspirations. For the United States and other developed countries, the high costs of being poor are most evident not…


Book cover of Pride and Prejudice

R.K. Scott Author Of Choosing Season

From my list on characters displaying inner strength.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in a large family and was often forgotten since I wasn’t the loud and rebellious child, but I was often pushed over because I wouldn’t stand up for myself in fear of anger. My only escape was walking the seven blocks to my local library and reading about heroic deeds, beautiful ladies falling in love with the dashing prince, and wishing I could be brave like the characters in my books. In my late teens, I realized there’s more to a person than physical strength. 

R.K.'s book list on characters displaying inner strength

R.K. Scott Why did R.K. love this book?

This one is the queen of romance novels. I loved this when I read it in high school, and whenever I decide to pick it up again, I remember why. Elizabeth Bennet must overcome many obstacles before finally finding love with Mr. Darcy. It takes courage to say no to the societal expectations of her time, like marrying the first man who asks just because they aren’t wealthy or who her mother tells her to because her cousin could take their home away.

What I love most about her is that she’s virtuous but isn’t a pushover; she stands up for herself. Something I’m constantly working on in my personal life.

By Jane Austen,

Why should I read it?

35 authors picked Pride and Prejudice as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of BBC's 100 Novels That Shaped Our World.

Jane Austen's best-loved novel is an unforgettable story about the inaccuracy of first impressions, the power of reason, and above all the strange dynamics of human relationships and emotions.

Part of the Macmillan Collector's Library; a series of stunning, clothbound, pocket sized classics with gold foiled edges and ribbon markers. These beautiful books make perfect gifts or a treat for any book lover. This edition is illustrated by Hugh Thomson and features an afterword by author and critic, Henry Hitchings.

A tour de force of wit and sparkling dialogue, Pride and…


Book cover of Falling Angels

Thomas H. Keels Author Of Philadelphia Graveyards and Cemeteries

From my list on boneyards (aka cemeteries and graveyards).

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up with a graveyard in my backyard: the historic Schenck-Covenhoven Graveyard in Penns Neck, New Jersey, just outside Princeton. This small square plot, filled with the 18th- and 19th-century graves of local families, served as the perfect playground for hide-and-seek and cops-and-robbers with my friends. Working as a tour guide and volunteer at Laurel Hill Cemetery for nearly thirty years, I fell in love with its rich history and its architectural and horticultural beauty. As I grow older, I have come to value cemeteries for their role as both a meeting place and a mediator between the living and the dead. 

Thomas' book list on boneyards (aka cemeteries and graveyards)

Thomas H. Keels Why did Thomas love this book?

January 1901: Queen Victoria is dead and her subjects nervously await a new king and a new century. Two families—the aristocratic Colemans and middle-class Waterhouses—meet at their adjoining plots in London’s elegant Highgate Cemetery. Their five-year-old daughters form an immediate bond. The lives of the two families entwine over the next decade as they struggle with social change, betrayal, and grief. Surprisingly, Highgate offers a release from the confining decorum of their everyday lives. The two girls play among the graves with a gravedigger’s son, while adult members of their households indulge in forbidden liaisons there. Chevalier’s crisp prose creates rich character portraits and vivid historical scenes with only a few strokes. This slim novel resonated in my mind long after I finished it. 

By Tracy Chevalier,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Vividly imagined' Sunday Telegraph

'Sex and death meet again in [a] marvellous evocation of Edwardian England' Daily Mail

The girl reminded me of my favourite chocolates, whipped hazelnut creams, and I knew just from looking at her that I wanted her for my best friend.

Queen Victoria is dead. In January 1901, the day after her passing, two very different families visit neighbouring graves in a London cemetery. The traditional Waterhouses revere the late Queen where the Colemans have a more modern outlook, but both families are appalled by the friendship that springs up between their respective daughters.

As the…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in social class, race, and equality?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about social class, race, and equality.

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