The best books about social class

28 authors have picked their favorite books about social class and why they recommend each book.

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Book cover of Classes and Cultures: England 1918-1951

Classes and Cultures: England 1918-1951

By Ross McKibbin,

Why this book?

If you are going to read Orwell you need to know something about what Mckibbin calls the “fundamental mentalities and structures” of English social and political life. This is the best, covering Orwell’s life-span. These were the years when England first began to see itself as ‘democratic’, and yet, “the great mass of the English people was unmoved, or unmoved directly, by the cultures of the country’s intellectual elites”. Enter George Orwell.

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The best books on George Orwell

Book cover of Spheres of Influence: The Social Ecology of Racial and Class Inequality: The Social Ecology of Racial and Class Inequality

Spheres of Influence: The Social Ecology of Racial and Class Inequality: The Social Ecology of Racial and Class Inequality

By Douglas S. Massey, Stefanie Brodmann,

Why this book?

In addition to neighborhoods, Americans also experience rampant inequalities across other social settings such as families, schools, and peer networks. These settings define the ecological context within which humans develop and each “sphere of influence” determines the development trajectories of people as the move from childhood, through adolescence, and into adulthood. This book examines how each of these spheres affects human development at different stages of the life course among White, Black, Hispanic, and Asian young people in the United States to produce the racial and class inequalities that characterize contemporary American society.

From the list:

The best books on how neighborhoods perpetuate inequality

Book cover of Caste


By Isabel Wilkerson,

Why this book?

Masterful, profoundly humane, and impeccably researched. Wilkerson creates a light-bulb moment, by taking the Indian caste system and overlaying it onto the generational subjugation of Black Americans. This book doesn’t preach – it presents: gripping our hearts with real-life stories; haunting us with the unjust laws and social practices which have ensured inequality and poverty, no matter how hard black Americans worked. A poisonous system weakening and dividing the nation. Caste profoundly changes our personal understanding of American racism. 

From the list:

The best books by writers of colour

Book cover of Falling Angels

Falling Angels

By Tracy Chevalier,

Why this book?

For modern fiction dealing with Edwardian women's suffrage, I recommend Chevalier's moving account of two girls growing up as the new century begins. It's a beautiful, atmospheric handling of the turbulent period of social change. The Victorian idealisation of the 'Angel of the House' falls from grace and the outcome is heartbreaking.

From the list:

The best books on the lives of suffragettes

Book cover of Perfect Chemistry

Perfect Chemistry

By Simone Elkeles,

Why this book?

Perfect Chemistry is one of the books I read as a model for writing the character relationship between my young adult novel characters, Shantel and Christopher. Alex is the perfectly crafted bad boy character who falls in love with Brittany and in the process is changed with how he sees his life. 

From the list:

The best books with YA romance bad boys

Book cover of Divergent


By Veronica Roth, Nicolas Delort (photographer),

Why this book?

The faction system in the book, and series, is brilliant and I think most people would find their place and live quite comfortably. I identified as a Divergent and I believe it represents a number of creatives and intuitives that are popping up in society today. Though this book is a few years old, it has never been more relevant. Teens are changing the world by insisting on inclusion, diversity, and adaptability. They are so fluid and open; the older generations should really wake up and pay attention. There are millions of Triss Priors out there!

From the list:

The best YA SFF books about utopian societies

Book cover of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

By Jane Austen, Seth Grahame-Smith,

Why this book?

Few books can make you laugh just from the title alone, and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was just one such book. Before the book blew up, became a movie, and spawned its own subgenre of fantastical reimaginings of classical literature, I remember seeing it on display at a Barnes and Nobles and laughing just at the title alone. The good news is that, much like a zombie who just ate a clown, the book continues to be funny on the inside.

From the list:

The best funny (drop dead hilarious) zombie books

Book cover of The Maid of Fairbourne Hall

The Maid of Fairbourne Hall

By Julie Klassen,

Why this book?

Wellborn Margaret Macy is not used to hard work, so when she falls on hard times and disguises herself as a maid in a gentleman’s palatial home, she’s going to have difficulties. However, it’s not just a matter of getting the silver shiny as she also has to remain undetected by her employer…who tried to court her not so very long ago.

From the list:

The best books about servants (fake and otherwise)

Book cover of The Selection

The Selection

By Kiera Cass,

Why this book?

This book takes the readers into a dystopian version of North America: the world is no longer the same! America Singer, a poor girl from a lower caste, is selected to play bachelorette with the prince (along with 29 other girls) while the country is in chaos with rebellions. It’s a really great story that evokes thoughts about the system of the world we live in while springing us into new versions of the real world.  

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The best books with emotions and colliding worlds

Book cover of Vanity Fair

Vanity Fair

By William Makepeace Thackeray,

Why this book?

Written more than thirty years after the Napoleonic Wars, Thackeray’s novel says a great deal about Regency morality and behaviour. Anti-heroine Becky Sharp is a penniless young woman on the make who considers morals and fair play to be a luxury. Becky moves with the changing times, aiming to advance and profit from every useful contact – particularly male. In short, she uses people and none more so than her supportive friend Amelia Sedley. As time sweeps on, Becky often goes too far but will she get her comeuppance?

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The best books for Regency wars, wit, & wisdom

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