The best sociology books

11 authors have picked their favorite books about sociology and why they recommend each book. Soon, you will be able to filter this list by genre, age group, and more. Sign up here to follow our story as we build a better way to discover books.

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Book cover of Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

By Stephen J. Dubner, Steven D. Levitt,

Why this book?

Levitt is a pioneer of, and among the most successful users of, techniques of data analysis to identify causes and effects in economics. This book, based on work that won him the Clark Medal, the economics profession’s premier prize for young researchers, gives us surprising, quirky, and delightful insights into the workings of many economic, political, and social phenomena.

From the list:

The best books on economics and game theory

Book cover of Bauman: A Biography

Bauman: A Biography

By Izabela Wagner,

Why this book?

I had never heard of Zygmunt Bauman when I picked up this book, but then I couldn’t put it down. By the time I had finished reading it, I was filled with the deepest appreciation and respect for both the man, and his biographer. Bauman’s life spanned almost a hundred years and his story is also the story of Europe, from 1925-2017.

Izabela Wagner has done monumental work to produce a biography worthy of its subject. Her loving respect for Bauman is tangible and adds greatly to the pleasure of reading the story of this extraordinary man’s life: Polish Jew,…

From the list:

The best books on understanding the human condition

Book cover of Soccer in Sun and Shadow

Soccer in Sun and Shadow

By Eduardo Galeano,

Why this book?

Galeano was no ordinary sportswriter. He was also a radical journalist, revisionist historian, and clear-eyed social critic whose work redefined modern Latin America in the minds of readers worldwide. In Soccer in Sun and Shadow, the Uruguayan author explores the meaning of soccer far beyond yellow cards and defensive strategies. In a series of short chapters, some no more than a page, Galeano illuminates the Beautiful Game’s legends, known and forgotten, from Maradona and Pele to the match that ended with 44 penalty kicks but whose results no one can quite remember. He is at his best when writing…

From the list:

The best sports books that are about more than wins & losses

Book cover of Queenship in Medieval Europe

Queenship in Medieval Europe

By Theresa Earenfight,

Why this book?

Theresa Earenfight is a renowned queenship scholar whose ideas about queens and queenship inspired me when I was a graduate student and continue to excite me today. This is a book that I recommend to my own students as the perfect place to start with medieval queenship. Earenfight’s book moves chronologically across the Middle Ages, drawing together examples of queens from all across Europe to illustrate key ideas about queenship and demonstrate how different women exercised the queen’s office. An engaging read which is underpinned by years of research and deep expertise in the field.

From the list:

The best books on queens and queenship

Book cover of The Rag and Bone Shop: How We Make Memories and Memories Make Us

The Rag and Bone Shop: How We Make Memories and Memories Make Us

By Veronica O'Keane,

Why this book?

Veronica is a professor of psychiatry with a special interest in psychosis such as schizophrenia and especially those that are seen in women after childbirth. These states of altered consciousness and the memories they produce give us insights into the nature of mental illness and the making of memories. The book develops as a series of case studies that are gently described in relation to the different brain regions that are involved in the experiences with a simple-to-understand diagram. Bringing together her clinical insights with beautiful perspectives from prose and poetry as well as from philosophers especially Henri Bergson, she…
From the list:

The best books on the brain and mind

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

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

By Barbara Ehrenreich,

Why 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…

From the list:

The best books on the ever-more-timely topic of death and dying

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

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

By Rose George,

Why this book?

This is the book that rocked the boat and broke the taboos surrounding the topic of human bodily excretions. The book dug into the stinky topic with dignity and candor, clearly explaining how crucial sanitation is to human health, life, and wellness. Rose George took us around the globe, unveiling the cultures, traditions, and inhibitions surrounding human toilet habits. And in doing so, she graphicly portrayed how lack of sanitation threatens human life, and kills more people than any single disease. I found this book to be a sanitation inspiration and indispensable primer on humanity’s big necessity. And I loved…

From the list:

The best books on the wild and wacky science of human waste that’s not waste at all

Book cover of The Sociological Imagination

The Sociological Imagination

By C. Wright Mills,

Why this book?

This sociological classic is a stinging critique of much academic sociology as amounting to little more than verbose platitudes and cliches that hardly reach beyond common sense. But the book is also an eloquent advocacy of an often neglect academic virtue – imagination. Mills argues that social science can bring dazzling insights to the world we inhabit if it reaches beyond data and observations to identify underlying patterns and truths.

From the list:

The best books for reigniting meaningful social sciences

Book cover of Rescuing Socrates: How the Great Books Changed My Life and Why They Matter for a New Generation

Rescuing Socrates: How the Great Books Changed My Life and Why They Matter for a New Generation

By Roosevelt Montás,

Why this book?

This book assesses the value of liberal education, and the importance of (re) reading the so-called ‘classics,’ rather than resorting to short snippets of articles, YouTube videos, or chapters which make short and pointed arguments about specific issues. The great classics have changed Roosevelt Montás’s life in ways that are to me familiar, since I’ve enjoyed watching the fruits of liberal education as they transformed his life of my own students over the years.

From the list:

The best books to help us harness the ‘classics’ to address crises -- such as flight from persecution

Book cover of Practical Reason: On the Theory of Action

Practical Reason: On the Theory of Action

By Pierre Bourdieu, Randall Johnson (translator),

Why this book?

I have an intellectual crush on Pierre Bourdieu. He has a sexy mind. Unfortunately, he passed away just as I was getting to know his work, back in 2002. Bourdieu wrote a mind-boggling number of books, but I have chosen this one as a good introduction for people who’d like to get to know his work. Practical Reason is actually made up of a series of lectures, all written relatively late in his career. They do quite a good job of accessibly summarizing his key ideas. Bourdieu supported the anti-globalization movement of the late 1990s and early 2000s, and was…

From the list:

The best books about how neoliberalism f*&ks up democracy

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