Best Sociology Books – Top 11 Picks For Understanding Human Society

by | Aug 7, 2020

Sociology enables you to better understand the social forces that shape human behavior. Once you learn sociology, you’ll be better equipped to handle a variety of life situations. 

So, how exactly should you go about learning sociology? Reading about it from the experts, of course! That’s why we’ve found the best sociology books, so you can learn everything you need to know.

Best Sociology Books

To better understand how social forces operate and the ways they may create fortune or misfortune, take a look at the top 11 sociology books below. 

1. The Sociological Imagination by C. Wright Mills 

The Sociological Imagination by C. Wright Mills

In The Sociological Imagination, C. Wright Mills sets forth his beliefs on how social science should be pursued. In this, he takes issue with the ascendant schools of sociology in America and calls for a humanist sociology instead. In a humanist sociology, the personal, social, and historical dimensions of our lives would be intertwined.

In this, he calls for a sociological vision in which we can see the links between the apparently private problems of the individual and pressing social issues.

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2. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life by Erving Goffman

The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life by Erving Goffman

The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life is one of the most notable contributions when it comes to better understanding ourselves. In this, Goffman explores the realm of human behavior in social situations and how we appear to others. Using theatrical performance as a framework, this book explains how knowledge of everyday social intercourse can help us control the impressions that others form about us.

By reading this, you’ll learn about the techniques that you can employ to sustain a particular performance, similar to an actor with an audience. The various social techniques offered in this book are based upon detailed sociological research and various cultural customs from around the world. 

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3. Distinction by Pierre Bourdieu 

Distinction by Pierre Bourdieu

Distinction is a sociology classic that brilliantly illuminates the social pretensions of the middle class in the modern world. First published in 1979, this book explores the tastes and preferences of the French bourgeoisie. 

In the course of everyday life, we constantly choose between what we find appealing and what we find appalling. Taste is not pure. Rather, our different choices are all distinctions, made in opposition to other options. This fascinating book argues that the social world functions as both a system of power relations and one in which taste becomes the basis for social judgment. 

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4. Suicide: A Study in Sociology by Emile Durkheim 

Suicide- A Study in Sociology by Emile Durkheim

If everyone understood the social frameworks in which we operate, there would be no need for sociology. Thanks to Emile Durkheim, we do have a connection to the larger picture. If anything can explain how individuals react and relate to society, it is suicide. Why does it happen? What goes wrong? Why is it more common in some places than others?

In this, Durkheim explains how suicide can help us refine our approach to sociology and better understand humans from this largely misunderstood act.

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5. The Social Construction of Reality by Peter L. Berger

The Social Construction of Reality by Peter L. Berger

A treatise in the sociology of knowledge, The Social Construction of Reality examines how knowledge forms and how it is both altered and preserved within a society. In this, Berger goes beyond intellectual history and focuses on common sense, everyday knowledge. The proverbs, morals, and beliefs shared by the majority of people can teach us loads about the human condition and our interactions with each other.

This book transformed both Western philosophy and sociology, introducing social construction and many more revolutionary ideas.

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6. Bowling Alone by Robert D. Putnam 

Bowling Alone by Robert D. Putnam

Drawing on new data that reveals the underlying reasons for Americans’ change in behavior, Bowling Alone explores why we have become increasingly disconnected from one another. Social structures, from church groups and political parties, have widely disintegrated. 

In this fundamental book, Putnam explains how social groups hold fundamental power when it comes to creating a happy and healthy society. Not only does he define what this central crisis means for our society, but explains what we can do to improve our current condition. 

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7. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell takes the reader on a story of success, explaining exactly what makes high-achievers different from the rest. Not only does he provide timeless pieces of wisdom and advice, but backs it up with evidence of those who have lived the most influential lives.

According to Gladwell, we pay too much attention to what successful people are like and too little attention to their upbringing. Along the way, he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what made The Beatles the greatest rock band, and how you can apply the knowledge of successful humans to your life, too. 

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8. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

The Tipping Point is all about how little things can make a huge difference. In this, Malcolm Gladwell explores the science behind viral trends in business, marketing and human behavior. The tipping point is the magic moment when an idea or social trend spreads like wildfire. Similar to how one single person can start a pandemic, one single person can start a worldwide trend.

In this widely acclaimed best-seller, Gladwell explains how this process occurs and how this phenomenon is already changing the way that people think about human behavior and business. 

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9. Economy and Society by Max Weber

Economy and Society by Max Weber

Recognized as one of the greatest sociological books of the 20th century, Economy and Society is the foundational text of the sociological imagination. In this, Weber compares social structures and normative orders. Conducted in world-historical depth, this book looks at social action, religion, law, political communities, and more.

This book offers important challenges to our sociological thought. Whether you’re a scholar who must match wits with Weber or a new graduate student looking to develop your analytical skills, this book will help you apply that knowledge.

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10. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

Named one of the best books of 2017, Evicted is a compelling exploration of one the most basic human rights: shelter. From abandoned slums to shelters, author Matthew Desmond has spent his life recording the stories of those who struggle to survive. Yet, none of these people give up. 

In this work of care and humanity, Desmond reminds us why, without a home, nothing is possible. 

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11. The Rules of Sociological Method by Emile Durkheim 

The Rules of Sociological Method by Emile Durkheim

The Rules of Sociological Method is a masterful work on the nature and scope of sociology. Now with a new introduction and complete translation, this book remains one of the most important contributions to the field of sociology. Through letters, arguments, and debates, Durkheim defends his objective scientific method that he applies to the study of humans.

This essential work argues that explanations of human behavior cannot be reduced to individual-level factors. Instead, social phenomena must be explored on a much larger scale to better understand how and why certain trends occur. 

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Final Thoughts: Best Sociology Books

The books above will help you better understand how social trends start, how communities impact our happiness, and how social norms prevail. 

Andrew Green

Andrew is a successful entrepreneur and lifelong learner. Throughout his career, he has watched hundreds of online courses that have allowed him to achieve success in highly competitive fields such as online marketing, investing, and sales. Andrew is committed to expanding his knowledge and expertise and he reviews the premium courses he watches on his online blog.
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