The best social science books 📚

Browse the best books on social science as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

Coming Fall 2022: The ability to sort this list by genre (signup here to follow our story as we build a better way to discover books).

Book cover of Limits of Organization

Limits of Organization

By Kenneth J. Arrow

Why this book?

The core question in social science may well be this: markets or central planning? This short book contains one person’s take on that big question. That person, Ken Arrow, many believe to be the greatest economic theorist of the past hundred years. His clarity, constraint, and curiosity inspire awe. Arrow, who derived the fundamental welfare theorems of economics,  describes the advantages markets as only he can without being blind to their shortcomings; markets reward selfishness and fail to include any defensible distribution of income. His rich, prescient analysis of formal organizations goes far beyond the standard transaction costs logic and…

From the list:

The best books for an aspiring or inspiring social scientist

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Book cover of Predictive Analytics: The Power to Predict Who Will Click, Buy, Lie, or Die

Predictive Analytics: The Power to Predict Who Will Click, Buy, Lie, or Die

By Eric Siegel

Why this book?

As a data scientist in the industry, it is very helpful to understand the business context behind the problems that you are solving. In many cases, you are trying to predict behavior—who is likely to buy an item, who is likely to click on a link, who is likely to repay a loan, etc.

This book by Eric Siegel is a great introduction to predictive analytics as used in real-life. It will help you frame data science problems in standard ways. For example, suppose you are asked to score sales leads so that salespeople can prioritize their efforts. How would…

From the list:

The best books if you want to become a data scientist

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Book cover of Learn to Write Badly

Learn to Write Badly

By Michael Billig

Why this book?

This is a must for any aspiring social scientist. Ironically entitled, the book offers a brilliant account of how many researchers in the social sciences resort to esoteric jargon and abstruse arguments to promote themselves in their academic micro-fiefdoms, defend their areas of expertise from outsiders but also to obfuscate and conceal their own ignorance. The book, however, can also be read on how to write well and get published in the social sciences.

From the list:

The best books for reigniting meaningful social sciences

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Book cover of Empty Labor: Idleness and Workplace Resistance

Empty Labor: Idleness and Workplace Resistance

By Roland Paulsen

Why this book?

This is an old-fashioned sociology book that shows what can be done with some sociological imagination. Many of us do entirely meaningless work and get paid for it, and what is more, we know that we do. And yet, we pay a high price for it. How to avoid doing empty labour and rediscover the meaning of serious academic work.

From the list:

The best books for reigniting meaningful social sciences

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Book cover of Triumph of Emptiness: Consumption, Higher Education, and Work Organization

Triumph of Emptiness: Consumption, Higher Education, and Work Organization

By Mats Alvesson

Why this book?

This magisterial book punctures the grandiosity and narcissism of our times when we succumb to the illusions that image, hype, and empty talk create value, when everyone must claim to be cutting edge and a world leader. Alvesson demonstrates that behind such grandiosity lurks an emptiness of meaning, of value, and of imagination. His powerful critical discussions of modern consumption, higher education, professionalism, and leadership insinuate that our current malaise goes far deeper than the economic crisis in which we find ourselves. This is a book that shows how we can recover meaning in the work we do as social…
From the list:

The best books for reigniting meaningful social sciences

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Book cover of The Human Condition

The Human Condition

By Hannah Arendt

Why this book?

This book is not about the Stoics per se, but addresses the distinction between the public and private sphere, as it was understood by the ancient Greeks. In this respect, Arendt is addressing political concerns deep at the heart of Stoic philosophy: what does it mean to be a citizen? When and where am I a citizen? How essential is politics to the life of a human being?

From the list:

The best books on stoic themes, influence and inspiration

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