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Sociology has been in existence for as long as humans can remember. It is a topic that has been discussed by the greatest minds. Some of the outstanding writers who wrote on sociology include Karl Marx, Émile Durkheim, and Max Weber.
Books on sociology have changed societies and individual minds over the years. Reading books on this topic allows you to appreciate diversity and world cultures. You will also begin to have an objective view of society and human behavior in general.
Here are some of the best sociology books that have come from the greatest minds in history.
- 1 The Sociological Imagination by C. Wright Mills
- 2 The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
- 3 The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life by Erving Goffman
- 4 Suicide by Émile Durkheim
- 5 Mind, Self, and Society by George Herbert Mead
- 6 So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
- 7 Outsiders by Howard S. Becker
- 8 The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism by Max Weber
- 9 Conclusion
This iconic book on sociology is one of the best works of C. Wright Mills without a doubt. In The Sociological Imagination, Mills attempts to reconcile the society and the individual.
He also challenges the existing sociological theories to redefine its current basic terms. This is one of the best sociological books of the 20th century. Therefore, is a must-read for students as well as those who profess their love for the topic.
- Review: The Sociological Imagination is a hard-hitting critique on many levels. It calls for a more humanist society that connects three components – the personal, the social structure, and the historical dimension. The book’s focus is that the formation of a heterogeneous society can be achieved. Mill’s acclaimed work is a goldmine for those who are interested in sociology. However, the book is quite advanced. Therefore, those who are new to the genre can find it difficult to appreciate its real value.
- Author: C. Wright Mills. Born in 1916, Mills was an American sociologist and an accomplished writer from Texas, US. He was deeply concerned with the role of intellectuals in society in the aftermath of WW2. Mills popularized the term New Left in America. He was a sociology professor at Colombia University until he died in 1942.
- Pages: 256.
- Publisher: Oxford University Press, 1959.
Gladwell’s book is both heartening and challenging. He questions why only some things have the potential to start a social epidemic. He uses different examples to illustrate his argument for the tipping point – the moment an idea spreads like a virus.
- Review: The Tipping Point, with the subtitle, How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, is the author’s debut book. Malcolm Gladwell uses catalysts that started epidemic-like events, including Sesame Street, cigarettes, Bernie Goetz, and Paul Revere. The fundamental concept of The Tipping Point is that even small things can make the most significant difference. However, to achieve this, the actions of key players and contextual details must unite. Some argue that Malcolm’s view is inspirational than educational. Nevertheless, it is one of the best sociology books of the century.
- Author: Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell was born in England in 1963. In addition to being a bestselling author, Malcolm Gladwell is an influential speaker. He is also the founder of Pushkin Industries – a company that deals in podcasting. Gladwell resides in New York. He is unmarried.
- Pages: 301, Paperback.
- Publisher: Back Bay Books, January 7, 2002.
This book is the best of Goffman’s work. He uses his iconic dramaturgical approach in his debut book. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life is one of the first books in sociology to discuss face-to-face interaction.
He also uses the analogy of theater to describe the social interaction of humans. Similar to an actor who portrays a character during a play, every individual relies on techniques to present himself in society. The book explores these social techniques through observation and research.
- Review: Goffman’s book is considered a classic in the sociology sphere and rightfully so. Erving Goffman not only takes the readers on stage with the actors but also backstage. He talks about an individual’s perspective while he or she is preparing for a huge performance on stage. It also outlines the consequences when the performance fails. Goffman’s book is a fantastic resource in terms of academics. It can also be an excellent inspiration for those intrigued by impression and expression in social form. However, the in-depth nature of the book and Goffman’s presentation may not be suitable amateurs in the field of sociology.
- Author: Erving Goffman. Goffman was a renowned Canadian-born author and a sociologist. He is also among the most influential American sociologists who wrote several important books in his lifetime. Goffman also held several prominent positions in many universities. After a prolonged illness with stomach cancer, Goffman passed away in 1982 in Pennsylvania. He was born in Alberta, Canada, in 1922.
- Pages: 259, Paperback.
- Publisher: Anchor Book, 1959.
The title of this book can be triggering for some people. However, this is a revolutionary look at Suicide by Émile Durkheim, who is one of the fathers of modern sociology. The book takes an investigative look at the events as well as the social causes of Suicide.
Durkheim takes a close look at the causes of the high rate of suicides in some societies and vice versa. His discovery led him to conclude that social integration, both high and low, is the primary cause of suicides.
- Review: Durkheim’s book, Suicide is one of the first ones to take an investigative approach to this subject. He suggests that this unfortunate act may be a desperate response to societal influences. At the time of publication, critics accused Durkheim of ecological delusion. However, this groundbreaking book continues to fascinate and motivate both academics and scholars.
- Author: Émile Durkheim. Born in France in 1858, Durkheim was a renowned sociologist. He wrote some of the most influential books on sociology during his lifetime. Apart from his gift as a writer, he also gave numerous lectures and taught at the University of Bordeaux. Durkheim died of a stroke in 1917.
- Pages: 405, Paperback.
- Publisher: Free Press, February 1, 1997 (First publication – 1897)
This book contains the fundamentals of Mead’s view on social psychology. The conversational tone of the book easily transports the reader to the mind of the writer.
In short, the book focuses on four major parts – The Mind, Self, Society, and the point of view of social behavior.
- Review: In this book, George Herbert Mead offers a critical look into social psychology. Social interactions and explorations play a great role in creating identities. It analyzes language in communication as well as the concept of “Me” and “I.” Mind, Self, and Society is a classic book for many aspiring sociologists. However, the book is a compilation of Mead’s oral discourse and the notes from his sociology students, which is seen as a drawback.
- Author: George Herbert Mead. Born in 1863, George Herbert Mead was a sociologist, psychologist, and a philosopher. Mead is also one of the first proponents of pragmatism. Until his death in 1931, he taught at the University of Chicago. His students published his works after he passed away.
- Pages: 440, Paperback.
- Publisher: University of Chicago Press, August 15, 1967.
Shaming or the act of publicly pointing out a mistake or error for huniliation – Ronson explores this phenomenon in the book. The effects of publicly jeering and shaming have destroyed careers and lives.
Jon Ronson takes inspiration from his meetings with people who have been through prolific shaming. The book takes a further look at this warfare of dissecting human flaws. It has many hard-hitting truths about public-shaming and how all of us have a role in it.
- Review: With his effortless writing style, Ronson makes a great connection with his readers. In So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, he describes the modern witch-hunt that is fueled by social media. The incidence of public shaming re-emerged with the growth of internet communities, especially Twitter. The smart addition of anecdotes, personal experience from people who underwent public humiliation makes the book relatable. Besides, the book is funny and thought-provoking. However, he points out that we all have our hands dirty in publicly shaming someone, which is sad. Ronson keeps mostly to his feelings rather than his thoughts, which is a small flaw. Overall, this is a fantastic book to understand how society and everyone can be guilty of the downfall of a person.
- Author: Jon Ronson. Born in 1967 in Wales, England, Ronson is a journalist and a filmmaker. He has a career in television, music, as well as filmmaking. Ron Jonson is also an accomplished writer with nine books under his belt. He lives in New York with his wife and son.
- Pages: 290, Hardcover.
- Publisher: Riverhead Books, March 31, 2015.
The book, Outsiders, is widely seen as revolutionary in the sociology sphere. American sociologist Howard S. Becker takes a deep look at social deviance in this book. It is also the best work from the author.
He focuses the discussion mainly on drug culture. The book analyzes the unconventional or deviant individuals in society. It also explores how these behaviors can be solved with help and understanding.
- Review: Becker’s book Outsiders lays the foundations of labeling theory – a concept of stereotyping and self-labeling. Correspondingly, he takes a unique look at those who are deviants in society. The qualitative analyses of the users of cannabis and musicians dance are topics that fascinate many readers. The book, with its complex subject, is still easy to read even for beginners. However, a topic that may be sensitive is the writer’s take on homosexuality. He considers them outsiders, which is an outdated concept and may not sit well with some readers.
- Author: Howard S. Becker.Born in Illinois, US, on April 18, 1928, Becker is a prominent sociologist who has made invaluable contributions in the fields of sociology of arts, deviance, and music. Becker has also written many books on different subjects. He has had a prolific teaching career in some of the best universities in the US. Becker has since retired and but continues to enjoy music recording and writing. He lives in his home in San Francisco.
- Pages: 224, Paperback.
- Publisher: Free Press, March 1, 1997.
Weber’s iconic book starts as a compilation of essays. However, it transitions into some of the most profound ideas in the world of sociology. He notes that the Protestant work ethic influenced the beginning of modern capitalism.
The original book was in German, and Talcott Parsons translated it to English.
- Review: This book, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, is, without a doubt, one of Weber’s most beautiful works. It talks about the reasons that resulted in the Protestants becoming some of the most influential people. This was clearly seen in Europe and England. In many ways, the book is an invitation and a challenge to see how religion affects the economy and culture. Many ideas are interconnected to religion, which is the main drawback of the book. Additionally, reprints of the book come with errors and new forewords, which can be a disappointment for collectors.
- Author: Max Weber.
- Max Weber was a German sociologist, politician and an economist. Born in 1864, he is one of the founders of sociology. Weber’s ideas had a lot of impact on social research and theory. He was also a prolific writer and published several notable books. Weber had a long-standing battle with depression, but it was the Spanish Flu that took his life in 1920.
- Pages: 392, Paperback.
- Publisher: Penguin Classics, April 2002.
Sociology is a topic that has played a significant role throughout human history. Sociologists take an in-depth look at existing social problems and offer solutions. A critical analysis of this nature has helped our society, although it may be just in theory.
Whether in academics, research, or even administration, the best way to understand the current social issues is by getting educated on the matter. Reading the best sociology books, such as those listed above, is a fantastic way to start the journey.
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