The most recommended anthropologist books

Who picked these books? Meet our 25 experts.

25 authors created a book list connected to anthropologist, and here are their favorite anthropologist books.
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Book cover of Written in Bone: Hidden Stories in What We Leave Behind

Chris Sherrit Author Of Growth

From Chris' 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Horror lover Dog lover Reader Weight lifter

Chris' 3 favorite reads in 2023

Chris Sherrit Why did Chris love this book?

I really enjoyed how this book takes a more factual approach. Always keen to learn more about the human body and the dark acts humans carry out on each other, I was enthralled by the stories Sue tells of real-world murders and deaths.

Although factual, I found it fascinating just how much emotion I felt reading Sue’s book. I can’t deny that I was choked up at quite a few points.

By Sue Black,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE CWA GOLDEN DAGGER FOR NON FICTION 2021

'Gripping from the start, Written in Bone is superb' - Dr Richard Shepherd, author of Unnatural Causes

From the Sunday Times Bestselling author of All That Remains, Sue Black reveals the secrets hidden deep within our bones.
Drawing upon her years of research and a wealth of remarkable experience, the world-renowned forensic anthropologist Professor Dame Sue Black takes us on a journey of revelation. From skull to feet, via the face, spine, chest, arms, hands, pelvis and legs, she shows that each part of us has a tale to tell.…


Book cover of Rolling Nowhere: Riding the Rails with America's Hoboes

Stephen Benz Author Of Topographies

From my list on the spirit of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.

Who am I?

Traveling, meeting people, hearing stories, learning about places and landscapes—this is what my writing is all about. Sometimes it takes the form of nonfiction, sometimes poetry. I’ve had a wandering spirit from early on, finding joy and wonder as a child while sitting in the backseat on road trips, or taking the bus cross-state, or (best of all) riding on a train going anywhere. Reading Kerouac’s On the Road brought everything together: heading out with no particular destination in mind other than finding oneself on the road. And then writing it all down, telling the story. Here are some books that have rekindled the Kerouac spirit for me.

Stephen's book list on the spirit of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road

Stephen Benz Why did Stephen love this book?

Curiosity about hobo life led Ted Conover to drop everything and ride the rails for a spell. What he learned became the basis of his first book, Rolling Nowhere. It’s filled with the things I love best about these books: fascinating characters, indelible scenes, and movement through landscapes both sublime and gritty. On every page, there’s a reminder of Kerouac and London. Reading it, I am filled with longing, the urge for going, wanderlust. I’m older now; I’ve done my share of traveling and written about it, too. But maybe I’m not totally done with it: a half-mile from my comfortable house, my street intersects with the road out of town, the city limits sign visible in the distance. And beyond: desert, wide sky, open road. A boundless dreamland.

By Ted Conover,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Hopping a freight in the St. Louis rail yards, Ted Conover—winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award—embarks on his dream trip, traveling the rails with “the knights of the road.” Equipped with rummage store clothing, a bedroll, and his notebooks, Conover immerses himself in the peculiar culture of the hobo, where handshakes and intoductions are foreign, but where everyone knows where the Sally (Salvation Army) and the Willy (Goodwill) are. Along the way he encounters unexpected charity (a former cop goes out of his way to offer Conover a dollar) and indignities (what do you do when there are…


Book cover of Elder Race

Terry Madden Author Of Three Wells of the Sea

From Terry's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Curious Creative Traveler Historian Animal lover

Terry's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Terry Madden Why did Terry love this book?

Arthur C. Clarke said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Well, take that idea and turn it into a novel. I could not stop reading.

The "wizard" in this low-tech world is a stranded anthropologist from an advanced race of humans who settled on this planet thousands of years before. When the local princess calls upon him to destroy a monster, they build a friendship that changes them both.

I so loved this setup and the way Tchaikovsky unfolded it. It's one of my favorite science fiction reads in a while.

By Adrian Tchaikovsky,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In Adrian Tchaikovsky's Elder Race, a junior anthropologist on a distant planet must help the locals he has sworn to study to save a planet from an unbeatable foe.

Lynesse is the lowly Fourth Daughter of the queen, and always getting in the way.

But a demon is terrorizing the land, and now she's an adult (albeit barely) with responsibilities (she tells herself). Although she still gets in the way, she understands that the only way to save her people is to invoke the pact between her family and the Elder sorcerer who has inhabited the local tower for as…


The Blighted Mission

By E. Chris Ambrose,

Book cover of The Blighted Mission

E. Chris Ambrose Author Of The Mongol's Coffin

New book alert!

Who am I?

As an art school drop-out who'd been majoring in sculpture, I'm fascinated by material culture—artifacts created by early peoples that reveal their cultural values. Often, the relics and sites that engage both archaeologists and readers suggest unexpected depths of knowledge that show human ingenuity through the ages. I strive to incorporate the details of an artifact or monument's creation into the clues and descriptions in my work, hopefully illuminating a little-known historical realm, if only by torchlight as the adventure unfolds. The fact that I get to explore so many exotic locations, in research if not in person, is a definite plus!

E. Chris' book list on weaving adventure and history

What is my book about?

Disgraced British anthropologist Nigel Rowe hopes his YouTube adventure channel will be just the treat to redeem him, but vengeful treasure hunters have other plans! Seeking a legendary Jesuit mission in Baja, Nigel saves his producer’s life when the man takes a bullet meant for him. 

When an ex-Marine strolls up for a bodyguard interview, and dresses him down for his lax security, she might be precisely what he needs, or the last face he'll ever see. They plunge into the desert in search of fame, fortune and viral footage. Will he survive long enough to work out who's after him or meet a sticky end in the mountains of Mexico? All he can hope is that his new partner's doesn’t pull the trigger herself.

The Blighted Mission

By E. Chris Ambrose,

What is this book about?

A disgraced British anthropologist hopes his YouTube adventure channel will redeem him, but vengeful treasure hunters have other plans.

From the author of the internationally best-selling Bone Guard archaeological adventures!

On the trail of a legendary Jesuit mission in Baja—and the treasure it may contain—Nigel Rowe leaps into action to save the life of his producer when the man takes a bullet meant for Nigel. Alas, the list of those who might wish him dead spans the globe and ranges from American treasure hunters to Russian mobsters to his own dear brother, with their mother's consent if not her explicit…


Book cover of And a Time to Die: How American Hospitals Shape the End of Life

Ed Cohen Author Of On Learning to Heal: or, What Medicine Doesn't Know

From my list on learning to heal.

Who am I?

I earned a Ph.D. in Modern Thought from Stanford and have been an award-winning professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies for over three decades. I've also lived with Crohn’s Disease for more than 50 years. At the intersection of these two experiences, I developed a therapeutic practice oriented towards those with chronic and life-threatening illnesses called Healing Counsel. As both a teacher and a counsellor, I ask people to reconsider the ways they make sense of their experiences. I try to assist people to open up new possibilities for healing, not only as individuals, but also as societies, maybe even as a species, or perhaps even as planetary beings.

Ed's book list on learning to heal

Ed Cohen Why did Ed love this book?

Many people imagine that healing and dying are antithetical. However, this is not necessarily so. Sometimes, in the right circumstances, death can be healing not just for the person whose life is ending but for those who love them. 

Unfortunately, American hospital care does not usually facilitate such graceful transitions.  Kaufman, a medical anthropologist, compiles case histories of end-of-life care in medical facilities in order to help us understand the complexities that face us in these contexts. Since most Americans now die in some kind of medical institution, this book should be required reading for everyone—before it happens to us.

By Sharon R. Kaufman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked And a Time to Die as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Over the past thirty years, the way Americans experience death has been dramatically altered. The advent of medical technology capable of sustaining life without restoring health has changed where, when, and how we die. In this revelatory study, medical anthropologist Sharon R. Kaufman examines the powerful center of those changes: the hospital, where most Americans die today. She deftly links the experiences of patients and families, the work of hospital staff, and the ramifications of institutional bureaucracy to show the invisible power of the hospital system in shaping death and our individual experience of it. In doing so, Kaufman also…


Book cover of Jump at the Sun: The True Life Tale of Unstoppable Storycatcher Zora Neale Hurston

Nina Nolan Author Of Mahalia Jackson: Walking with Kings and Queens

From my list on women who shaped history.

Who am I?

I’m a picture-book author who wrote about Mahalia Jackson so more people would feel the sense of awe about her that I do. When I first read how she was treated by our own country, I was furious. But her amazing grace allowed me to focus on the positive aspects of her life, like she did.

Nina's book list on women who shaped history

Nina Nolan Why did Nina love this book?

The life of Zora Neale Hurston, the extraordinary novelist and first female African-American anthropologist, was bigger than words. But this picture book catches the uncatchable. The words are gorgeous. And the illustrations further illuminate the portrait, including delightful hats on the endpapers (a hat-tip to Ms. Hurston’s “HATitude”).

By Alicia Williams, Jacqueline Alcántara (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Jump at the Sun as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 5, 6, 7, and 8.

What is this book about?

From the Newbery Honor-winning author of Genesis Begins Again comes a shimmering picture book that shines the light on Zora Neale Hurston, the extraordinary writer and storycatcher extraordinaire who changed the face of American literature.

Zora was a girl who hankered for tales like bees for honey. Now, her mama always told her that if she wanted something, "to jump at de sun", because even though you might not land quite that high, at least you'd get off the ground. So Zora jumped from place to place, from the porch of the general store where she listened to folktales, to…


Book cover of The Vulnerable Observer

Paul Stoller Author Of Wisdom from the Edge: Writing Ethnography in Turbulent Times

From my list on writing about the wisdom of others.

Who am I?

I was passionate about anthropology in the 1970s when I was in my twenties and am still passionate about anthropology in the 2020s in my seventies. Throughout the years I have expressed my passion for anthropology in university classrooms, in public lectures, and in the 16 books I have published. As my mind has matured, I understand more and more fully just how important it is to write powerfully, cogently, and accessibly about the wisdom of others. In all my books I have attempted to convey to the public this fundamental wisdom, none more so than in my latest book, Wisdom from the Edge: Writing Ethnography in Turbulent Times.   

Paul's book list on writing about the wisdom of others

Paul Stoller Why did Paul love this book?

The Vulnerable Observer is a classic work in anthropology in which the author underscores the emotional impact of being a research anthropologist. 

Behar’s wonderfully crafted stories evoke the wisdom of others and demonstrate why it is important for anthropologists to describe the emotional impact of social being in the world. It is an important text for understanding the emotional contours of the human condition.

By Ruth Behar,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Eloquently interweaving ethnography and memoir, award-winning anthropologist Ruth Behar offers a new theory and practice for humanistic anthropology. She proposes an anthropology that is lived and written in a personal voice. She does so in the hope that it will lead us toward greater depth of understanding and feeling, not only in contemporary anthropology, but in all acts of witnessing.


Book cover of Nan Domi: An Initiate's Journey Into Haitian Vodou

Madison Smartt Bell Author Of Master of the Crossroads

From my list on Haitian history and Haiti today.

Who am I?

I was drawn to Haiti for two reasons; the Haitian Revolution is the only one of the three 18th century upheavals to fulfill the declared ideology of the French and American Revolutions by extending basic human rights to all people, not just white people. Secondly, or maybe I should put it first, the practice of Vodou makes Haiti one of the few places where one can meet divinity in the flesh, an experience I coveted, although (as it is written) it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.

Madison's book list on Haitian history and Haiti today

Madison Smartt Bell Why did Madison love this book?

Nan Domi is the only book I know of that reports on the interior, private, mystical practices of Vodou—one of the world’s great religions, though much misunderstood and despised outside of Haiti. A preface I wrote for the book gives an efficient introduction to the basic history, beliefs, and practices of Vodou, providing the necessary context for Beaubrun’s more esoteric text.

By Mimerose Beaubrun,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"This new and valuable book delves into the 'interior' experience of voodoo, as opposed to the usual outsider focus on ritual and cosmology. In telling the story of her own initiation and painstaking education in voodoo, Beaubrun takes us into the mystical dimensions of this ancient religion."--The Guardian UK Like all the great religions Vodou has an external, public practice of rituals and ceremonies--and also an internal, mystical dimension. Before Nan Domi, works about Vodou have concentrated on the spectacular outward manifestations of Vodou observance--hypnotic drumming and chanting, frenetic dancing, fits of spirit possession. But practically all reports on Vodou…


Book cover of The Sterkarm Handshake

Rebecca Lisle Author Of Stone Underpants

From my list on mysterious time travel.

Who am I?

The house I grew up in was haunted. I believe that we shared the space with other people who’d lived there before us. I longed to communicate with them and to see them – but I never did. The closest I ever got to those spirits, was hearing a marble roll across the floorboards of my bedroom; I was alone in the room, the room was carpeted, but the sound was unmistakable. Perhaps it was the little boy whose lead soldiers we’d unearthed in the garden? I never knew. I never found a way of slipping through the shadows to join him, though I desperately wanted to.

Rebecca's book list on mysterious time travel

Rebecca Lisle Why did Rebecca love this book?

In The Sterkarm Handshake, the device for time travel is simply a tube; not magical, but scientific, down which modern ruthless developers travel back to 16th century Scotland. Here they meet with equally ruthless highlanders. The scientists are planning to plunder Scotland’s resources (the 16th-century locals have been plundering roundabout for years), and of course, the modern developers run into problems. As in all books of this genre, the characters who travel through time may want to fit in or may choose to reject what the past has to offer. 

The heroine, like similar time-travellers, falls in love with a long-dead character and here, there’s also the possibility of the 16th century Scots coming up the tube to 20th century England – a good twist. There are also some very satisfying links between past and present, moments where you smile and think, Ah, how clever!

By Susan Price,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Sterkarm Handshake as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10.

What is this book about?

A twenty-first-century corporation invades the domain of a warlike sixteenth-century Scottish clan in this "brilliantly imagined" time-travel adventure (Philip Pullman).

The miraculous invention of a Time Tube has given Great Britain's mighty FUP corporation unprecedented power, granting it unlimited access to the rich natural resources of the past. Opening a portal into sixteenth-century Scotland, the company has sent representatives back five hundred years to deal with the Sterkarms, a lawless barbarian clan that has plundered both sides of the English-Scottish border for generations.

Among the first of the company's representatives to arrive from the future, young anthropologist Andrea Mitchell finds…


Book cover of The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World

Mark Juergensmeyer Author Of Terror in the Mind of God

From my list on religious violence.

Who am I?

Though religious violence is an odd obsession for a nice guy like me, the topic was forced on me. Having lived for years in the Indian Punjab, I was struck by the uprising of Sikhs in the 1980s. I wanted to know why, and what religion had to do with it. These could have been my own students. It is easy to understand why bad people do bad things, but why do good people—often with religious visions of peace—employ such savage acts of violence? This is the question that has propelled me through a half-dozen books, including the recent When God Stops Fighting: How Religious Violence Ends. 

Mark's book list on religious violence

Mark Juergensmeyer Why did Mark love this book?

This modern classic by a Harvard anthropologist is about torture and inflicted body pain in general, though it has abundant examples from the bible and religion-related conflicts. Her main thesis is that acts of torture are attempts to destroy the worlds of the victim and remake them in the mold of the torturer. It helps us understand that acts of religious violence are always so some extent a clash of worldviews and the attempt to forcibly destroy one view of reality with another. 

By Elaine Scarry,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Part philosophical meditation, part cultural critique, this profoundly original work explores the nature of physical suffering. Elaine Scarry bases her study on a wide range of sources: literature and art, medical case histories, documents on torture compiled by Amnesty International, legal transcripts of personal injury trials, and military and strategic writings by such figures as Clausewitz, Churchill, Liddell Hart, and Henry Kissinger. Scarry begins with the fact
of pain's inexpressibility. Not only is physical pain difficult to describe in words, it also actively destroys language, reducing sufferers in the most extreme cases to an inarticulate state of cries and moans.…


Book cover of The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy

James Poskett Author Of Horizons: A Global History of Science

From my list on how technology is ruining everything.

Who am I?

I grew up with digital technologies. It was the 1990s. Things could only get better. Or so we were told… I went to study computer science at Cambridge in the 2000s. Switched subjects a few times, and ended up with a degree in the history and philosophy of science. By the time I graduated, life had changed. The world economy was on the brink of collapse, China was on its way to becoming a superpower, and right-wing nationalism was on the rise. That experience absolutely shaped me as a historian and writer. The world of science and technology suddenly seemed a lot more politically fraught.

James' book list on how technology is ruining everything

James Poskett Why did James love this book?

Everyone hates bureaucracy. But no one hated it quite like the late David Graeber. Amongst all of Graeber’s intoxicating books, this is my favourite. Utopia of Rules finally made me understand what exactly was so pernicious about bureaucracy. (Short version: it does the opposite of what it promises.) Graeber also sets out, with typical lucid prose, how new technologies, particularly digital technologies, are making everything even worse.

By David Graeber,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the author of the international bestseller Debt: The First 5,000 Years comes a revelatory account of the way bureaucracy rules our lives  

Where does the desire for endless rules, regulations, and bureaucracy come from? How did we come to spend so much of our time filling out forms? And is it really a cipher for state violence?
 
To answer these questions, the anthropologist David Graeber—one of our most important and provocative thinkers—traces the peculiar and unexpected ways we relate to bureaucracy today, and reveals how it shapes our lives in ways we may not even notice…though he also suggests…