35 Best Sociology Books

Tomas Laurinavicius
June 27, 2024
best sociology books

The American sociologist and humanist sociology professor C. Wright Mills once said, “Whatever sociology may be, it is the result of constantly asking the question, what is the meaning of this?” that’s about the most concise-perhaps though not the most precise- way of putting sociology into words. 

Sociology is among the very few scientific practices that didn’t stay in the ivory tower of academia. From the beginning, it has attracted many curious eyes that have always been amazed at how human society is constructed and functions. And sociology books have indeed done an excellent job in helping us better understand the social forces that shape human behavior.

To put it differently, here we’re talking about a science field so powerful that it can be used almost like a weapon to bring out the worst or the best in human nature. But scary facts aside, by learning sociology, you’ll be better equipped to look at life from different perspectives and make better decisions in the complicated world we all live in.

So, where should we get this priceless knowledge? In sociology books, of course! And as always, we have picked out the best of them for you. A collection of books that will give you not only the latest scientific findings but also the pleasure of solving a piece of the human puzzle. Without further ado, let’s begin:

Best Sociology Books of All Time

Picking a handful of works from a myriad of brilliant sociology books isn’t easy. But these books were chosen for a reason. On the one hand, they represent a resourceful tradition to which they belong. On the other hand, they are themselves turning points in the field that have changed the way we understand human society.

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism by Max Weber

Weber’s best-known and most controversial work, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism was originally published in 1904. He brilliantly studied the relationship between the ethics of ascetic Protestantism and the emergence of the spirit of modern capitalism. Many argue that Weber established the economic morality of liberalism for the first time in history.

The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge by Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann

The International Sociological Association ranked this influential book as the “fifth-most important sociological book of the twentieth century.” Berger and Luckmann view human society from the social construction perspective. Later, social constructivism became one of the most influential theoretical approaches in political science and sociology.

Capital by Karl Marx

Das Kapital, or capital, is a groundbreaking book and arguably the most influential that changed western society forever. Marx inspired working-class laborers, activists and many critical thinkers to recognize their real place in the modern world and fight far-reaching and profound social and political injustices.

The Sources of Social Power by Michael Mann

If you’re interested in reading the social sciences in a historical context, this fascinating book will undoubtedly help you. The book explores the emergence of the particular dynamics of medieval and early modern Europe, from state formation to social stratification.

The Theory of Communicative Action by Jurgen Habermas

Habermas is one of the best-known representatives of Critical Theory and the Frankfurt School tradition. In this book, he presents a systematic synthesis of the major themes in twentieth-century philosophy and the social sciences.

Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste by Pierre Bourdieu

French sociological and philosophical literature is never an easy read, and Bourdieu is no exception. Yet this book, based on the studies of the French bourgeoisie, brilliantly illuminates the social pretensions of the middle classes in the modern world.

The Structure of Social Action by Talcott Parsons

Parsons was a classical sociologist best known for his social action theory and structural functionalism. His idea was developed to respond to and reject the suppression of individual rationality in Institutionalism, and the reductivist conception of choice in behaviorist psychology, most notably in the works of B. F. Skinner.

Best Sociology Books of All Time

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Best Sociology Books for Beginners

If you want to start reading sociology as a beginner, there are two standard options. The hands-on approach suggests studying classics and reading from authorities in the field. Perhaps less overwhelming and intimidating, the second approach is to start with accessible introductions. We combine both strategies here to give you a list of the best sociology books to get the ball rolling: 

Introduction to Sociological Theory: Theorists, Concepts, and their Applicability to the Twenty-First Century by Michele Dillon 

The third edition of Introduction to Sociological Theory provides a thorough revision and a detailed introduction to classical and modern theories. Dillon’s primary concern is to demonstrate the relevance of theory to understanding a wide range of current issues and topics.

Introducing Sociology: A Graphic Guide (Introducing Graphic Guides) by John Nagle

Introducing Sociology is one of the best sociology books, tracing the origins of social science from industrialization, revolution, and the Enlightenment to globalization, neoliberalism, and nationalism. Nagle attempts to address racial disparities, the relationship between power and knowledge, and sexual identity.

A Dictionary of Sociology (Oxford Quick Reference) by John Scott

Dictionaries are invaluable resources for beginning and even advanced researchers. Professor John Scott’s book contains 2,500 entries on terminology, methods, concepts, and thinkers in the field, as well as the related fields of psychology, economics, anthropology, philosophy, and political science.

Sociology by Anthony Giddens

Giddens is one of the well-known authorities in modern sociology. He provides a comprehensive overview of recent developments in sociological thought. The perfect combination of fascinating ideas and thought-provoking questions in the text immerses students in an active learning experience.

Sociology in Action by Kathleen Odell Korgen, (edited by Maxine P. Atkinson)

If it feels good to read sociology, just imagine how it feels to do it. Korgen and Atkinson inspire students to practise sociology through real-world activities designed to improve learning, retention, and engagement with course material. In the second edition of this best-selling text, key sociology concepts are clearly explained through their applications, examples, and experiences.

Sociology Themes and Perspectives by Michael Haralambos and Martin Holborn

If you go looking for course books, manuals, guides, etc., you will have no shortage. But the phenomenal success of Haralambos’ book makes it the king of sociology textbooks. He explores a variety of sociological topics, including sociological research methods, power elite, bureaucracy, revolution, protest, and social organization.

The Sociological Imagination by C. Wright Mills

The Sociological Imagination is not a book to miss when reading about social science. First published in 1959, the book devotes a special focus to the research orientation developed during World War II. Mills opposes the ascendant schools of sociology in America and calls instead for humanistic sociology.

Best Sociology Books for Beginners

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Non-Fiction Sociology Books

Here’s a list of the best non-fiction sociology books:

The Power Elite and the State (Sociology and Economics) by G. William Domhoff

Inspired by C. Wright Mills, Dr. Domhoff illustrates how and why a network of social power within the American power elite has shaped policy issues in recent years against the opposition of every major corporation in the country. He argues why the post-World War II global economic order cannot be understood solely in terms of narrow self-interest or bureaucratic decision-making processes.

Foundations of Classical Sociological Theory: Functionalism, Conflict and Action by Paramjit S. Judge

The book surveys the emergence of sociology as a discipline against the backdrop of socio-economic development that has characterized Western societies since the late Middle Ages. However, Judge also addresses the applicability of sociological ideas to everyday life and provides an insightful and comprehensive analysis of the troubling problems we constantly face as a society.

Social Movements, 1768 – 2012 by Charles Tilly and Lesley J. Wood

This widely acclaimed book meticulously examines social movements’ analytical and oral history. Tilly and Wood cover numerous topics ranging from everyday events to complicated social phenomena, such as the economic crisis, protest actions, immigrants’ rights, new media technologies and platforms, and the role of bloggers and Facebook in social movements.

Mind, Self, and Society by George Herbert Mead 

The lectures collected in Mind, Self, and Society are the intellectual achievement of one of the most brilliantly original American pragmatists, George Herbert Mead. As a social behaviorist, he placed special emphasis on studying social psychology and its connections with human development.

Race, Class, and Gender: An Anthology by Margaret L. Andersen and Patricia Hill Collins

A diverse collection of more than 60 writings by various influential thinkers, this book demonstrates the complex intersection of race, class, gender, and sexuality and how it shapes individuals and society as a whole. Co-editors Andersen and Collins begin each section with an in-depth introduction to the most controversial sociological issues.

Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do by Jennifer Eberhardt

Bryan Stevenson, the New York Times bestselling author of Just Mercy, described this book in one word: groundbreaking. With a perspective shaped by scientific and investigative research and informed by personal experience, Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt digs deep into the questions regarding the African American community in the US.

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

An entertaining, delightful and illuminating landmark work that takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of “outliers”–the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. “Outliers is a pleasure to read and leaves you mulling over its inventive theories for days afterward,” David Leonhardt wrote in the New York Times Book Review.

Non-Fiction Sociology Books

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Best Sociology Books 2021

Here are the seven best sociology books published in 2021:

The Trouble with Passion: How Searching for Fulfillment at Work Fosters Inequality by Erin A. Cech

We all have been told, “follow your passion.” But is that legitimate advice? What if the passion principle eventually fails us and perpetuates inequality based on class, gender, and race? This data-driven study explores the connection between the pursuit of passion and how capitalism achieves its goal by pushing the middle class and working class down an aberrant path.

Nice White Ladies: The Truth about White Supremacy, Our Role in It, and How We Can Help Dismantle It by Jessie Daniels

Jessie Daniels illuminates the unique role white women play in perpetuating racism and explains at length that this is not their immutable fate. She promotes non-gendered feminism that focuses on the intersections of race, class, sexuality, and more.

The Conversation: How Seeking and Speaking the Truth About Racism Can Radically Transform Individuals and Organizations by Robert Livingston

The social unrest of 2020 and the increasing calls for racial justice raise a question before many concerned eyes: how can I be part of the solution? Robert Livingston gives us the answer. By exploring the roots of existing systemic racism against Black people, he provides strategies to eradicate it for good.

Gen Z, Explained: The Art of Living in a Digital Age by Roberta Katz, Sarah Ogilvie, Jane Shaw, Linda Woodhead

Born in the mid-1990s, members of Generation Z were always a big question for other generations. While many viewed them as victims or winners, the authors of this book believe the existing literature on Generation Z has been highly judgmental, and we still have much to learn about and from them.

Discover Sociology by Daina S. Eglitis, William J. Chambliss, Susan L. Wortmann

Discover Sociology is an eloquent response to questions about sociology as a discipline of the curious and scholarly. The book’s central themes are the unequal distribution of power and authority in all aspects of social life and the resulting unjust criminal justice system.

SAGE Readings for Introductory Sociology by Kimberly J. McGann (Editor)

The book is a collection of 24 short readings that illustrate key concepts in sociology. This brief anthology is excellent for stimulating classroom discussion because the topics are not highly theoretical. Students can quickly see relatable points and connections to their own lives.

Conformity: The Power of Social Influences by Cass R. Sunstein

Is conformity a blessing or a curse? When we live in societies divided along the lines of religion, political conviction, race, ethnicity, and gender, we might sometimes struggle to answer such questions. Cass R. Sunstein provides a fascinating argument for exploring conformity and informed dissent in this book.

non fiction sociology books

Best Sociology Books 2020

Here are the seven best sociology books published in 2020:

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson

#1 The New York Times bestseller and Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Caste, has garnered much attention from critics and concerned citizens. Wilkerson gives us a masterful portrait of a hidden caste system, a rigid hierarchy of human rankings which has covered itself behind race, class, and sexual characteristics.

The Real World by Kerry Ferris 

If you want to introduce your children and students to a critical view of the world, The Real World is the best choice. The authors use examples from everyday life and pop culture to encourage readers to think sociologically and show the relevance of sociology to their relationships, careers, and the future of society.

A Curious History of Sex by Kate Lister

One can look at sex from different angles, but sociology has perhaps the strangest and most fascinating point of view. Lister explores the ways in which society dictates how sex is culturally understood and practised and how various emotions and behaviours such as stigma, shame, and humour have shaped our sexual understanding.

Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity―and Why This Harms Everybody by Helen Pluckrose, James Lindsay

From French postmodernism to today’s rubber-stamp culture and social media dogpiles, there is a form of social cynicism practiced by academics and ordinary people alike: Science and reason are tools of oppression, language is dangerous, and assertions of this sort. The authors reveal the amazingly shallow intellectual roots of the movements that seem to be engulfing our culture.

Cassandra Speaks: When Women Are the Storytellers, the Human Story Changes by Elizabeth Lesser

Today, it is widely accepted that men have often suppressed women’s voices throughout history. The question is, how different would human evolution have been? Elizabeth Lesser argues that caring, compassion, and communication would have been more important than revenge and violence in this alternative history.

Online Anti-rape Activism: Exploring the Politics of the Personal in the Age of Digital Media (Emerald Studies in Criminology, Feminism and Social Change) by Rachel Loney-Howes

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, online anti-rape activism offers a critical interpretation of the limits and possibilities of online anti-rape campaigns. Loney-Howes draws on semi-structured interviews with activists, survey data, and content analysis of social media pages, weblogs, and websites to examine this new social phenomenon.

Unfuck Your Boundaries: Build Better Relationships Through Consent, Communication, and Expressing Your Needs (5-minute Therapy) by Faith G. Harper

Boundaries are one of the main reasons we feel safe among strangers, in everyday interactions, and our closest relationships. Bestselling author Dr. Faith Harper offers a practical guide to improving our relationships by respecting each other’s boundaries and eliminating conflict.

Best Sociology Books 2020

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People Also Ask

What books should I read for sociology?

There are an unlimited number of books and articles you can read for sociology. The final answer very much depends on your specific interest and question. But here are three books that will give you a general and in-depth understanding of the field:

  1. Introduction to Sociological Theory: Theorists, Concepts, and their Applicability to the Twenty-First Century by Michele Dillon 
  2. Sociology by Anthony Giddens
  3. The Sociological Imagination by C. Wright Mills

What are the 4 types of sociology?

  1. Structural-Functional: This approach views society as a complex but interconnected system, like a human body, where each part works together as a functioning whole.
  2. Social Conflict: the second theory views society as a system of groups and communities that are not equal and therefore consistently generate conflict and change.
  3. Feminism: Feminist sociology is an interdisciplinary study of gender and power that shifts its assumptions, analytical lens, and thematic focus from the male perspective and experience to that of women.
  4. Symbolic Interactionism: in this view, society is the product of meaningful motives, gestures, and behaviors that occur at any given moment during individuals’ encounters with others in specific social settings.

Who is the best author of sociology?

That’s an impossible question to answer. Sociology has a long and rich tradition of intellectual thinking. Plus, many novelists, fiction writers, activists, political scientists and psychologists have contributed to the field. That being said, C. Wright Mills is the best-known social science author, primarily remembered for his masterpiece, The Sociological Imagination.

What are the main points of sociology?

Primary themes of the sociological vision include the interplay between the individual and society, stability and change in social reality, the causes and consequences of social inequality, recurring patterns of social interaction and the social construction of human life.

Tomas Laurinavicius

Hi! I'm Tomas, a writer and growth marketer from Lithuania, living in Spain. I'm always involved in multiple projects driven by my curiosity. Currently, I'm a marketing advisor at Devsolutely and a partner at Craftled, building Best Writing and Marketful. Let's connect on X and LinkedIn.