Good Sociology Books

Last Updated on October 15, 2019 by Karl Thompson

I’m jiggling things about at the moment, this page was originally about sociology text books only, the material for which is still below, but I’m transforming it into a page about sociology reading more generally. It’s likely to broken up into the following sections: 

  • Good books written by actual sociologists
  • Good books with sociological content (but not necessarily written by actual sociologists)
  • Good text books for A level and degree level sociology

NB – on books, often more is less – it can be quite pleasant to pick one of these, read it slowly, and get as much out of it as you can – I’ve done this with Bauman and Giddens especially. Feel free to take this to the next level – David Harvey has read re-read Marx’s Capital every year for the last forty years.

As with all these pages, this is a work in progress, to be gradually populated with more info throughout 2016-17. 

A chronology of good books written by actual sociologists

I’m in the process of re-ordering these in chronological order, so you get a feel a for when they were written. Follow the links to the summaries I’ve done for some of them. I’ll add in a brief synopsis paragraph to all of them when I get chance. 

NB I’ve only selected the most quintessentially sociological books for this list (I’ll get round to explaining what I define as ‘quintessentially sociological’ at some point).

Eric Fromm (1941) Fear of Freedom 

Erving Goffman (1959) The Presentation of the Self in Everyday Life

David Harvey (1989) The Condition of Post-Modernity

Anthony Giddens (1991) Modernity and Self Identity 

Anthony Giddens (1999) Runaway World

Zygmunt Bauman (2000) Liquid Modernity

Thomas Hylland Eriksen (2001) Tyranny of the Moment

  • David Miller – Stuff
  • Ulrich Beck – Risk Society
  • Sudhir Venkatesh (2008) Gang leader for a day: A rouge sociologist crosses the line. London: Penguin books.
  • Wilkinson, R and Pickett, K. (2009) The spirit level – Why more equal societies almost always do better. London: Penguin books.

Good books with sociological content (but not necessarily written by actual sociologists)

  1. Klein, N. (2008) The Shock Doctrine. London: Penguin (reprint edition).  Just Read It!
  2. Chang, Ha-Joon (2010) 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism. Penguin Group
  3. Banyard, K. (2010) The equality illusion : The truth about men and women today. London: Faber and Faber.
  4. Collier, P. (2007) The Bottom Billion – Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  5. Chomsky, N. (2004) Hegemony or Survival: America’s quest for global dominance. London: Penguin Books.
  6. Fisker – Early Retirement Extreme

Good Introductory Sociology Text Books

Giddens and Sutton (2007) Essential Concepts in Sociology, Polity.

This is a handy little supplementary text for students studying mainly degree level sociology. It covers most of the classic and contemporary sociological concepts from ‘society’ to ‘globalisation, and from ‘patriarchy’ to ‘intersectionality’.

The book is divided up into 10 sections, which each section exploring around seven sociological concepts, providing a ‘working definition’, a section on the origins of the concept, meanings and interpretations, critical comments, and a final section on the continued relevance of the concepts.

Concepts SociologyThe 10 sections are:

  • Thinking Sociologically
  • Doing Sociology
  • Environment and Urbanism
  • Structures of Society
  • Unequal Life Chances
  • Relationships and the Life Course
  • Interaction and Communication
  • Health, Illness and the Body
  • Crime and Social Control
  • Political Sociology.


Good contemporary A Level Sociology text books

This page is devoted to outlining and reviewing AS Sociology text books for AS and A level students. They’re not necessarily in any order either…. .

The reviews below are based entirely on the education, family, and research methods aspects of the books.

Just because something is not here doesn’t mean I don’t rate it! This page is a work in progress

Ken Browne (2015) Sociology for AQA Volume One 

Browne_Sociology_ for_AQA_Volume_1_ AS_and_1st-Year A_Level_5th_Edition

Ken Brown’s excellent text book is a nice balance of depth and breadth. The chapters are clearly broken down by specification area, and covers the new areas of the specification well – it is the only text book to specifically deal with the issue of Selection in education for example.

The book is more ‘no nonsense’ than the others on offer, which is what I like about it – It’s well structured and key concepts are defined briefly in the margins where necessary. There are also various mind maps and diagrams throughout the book for some of the topics.

The downside to the book is that there is less of an exam focus compared to other two, but then again, if you want exam practice you could always just buy a revision guide!


Webb et al (2015) AQA A Level Sociology Book One Including AS Level

Even though this is not one of the AQA endorsed text books, the fact that it’s not endorsed probably says more about the AQA than it does about this book.

The book follows the new 7191 specification more closely than all of the others – It uses the kind of ‘structure’ examiners are expecting to see in the exam, so it’s definitely a safe option – for example, the methods section is clearly broken up into Theoretical, Practical and Ethical Factors and there are solid sections on Methods in Context. It also has the most significant updates on the new areas in the specification – such as some reasonable material on globalization and migration, the ageing population, privatization and education, and the sociology of personal life, although the later section seems to have borrowed heavily from from edition 8 of Haralambos

So while I do think this book is lazily written – no major work has gone into updating it since the incarnation before it (given that 4 people have had 4 years to add bits in and, to be honest, haven’t really done that much) – it is a very safe option – hence a good recommendation well suited to our risk society.


Chapman, Holborn, Moore and Aiken (2015) Sociology AQA A-Level Year 1 and AS

If you want an interesting text with more up to date examples, and a good solid focus on contemporary research studies, this is the one to go for. It’s a bit clumsier in terms of structure than Robb Webb’s book, but has a better ‘exam training’ focus  – For example all of the chapters are peppered with definitions and explanations of key concepts which are clearly designed with the new ‘briefly explain with one example’ 4 mark type questions in mind.

This text book has been fully updated for the 2015 specification change – the chapter on the family option is especially good, and seems to have been more thoroughly updated than the rest. One exception is that the material on the personal life perspective is a little on the thin side.

The methods chapter is OK – gets a bit thin towards the secondary data material at the end. What’s nice about this chapter is that the book has clear methods in context boxes throughout the methods chapter which link to education research (some of which has even been done this decade!)

The chapter on education is less well updated than the rest, but it is still good enough to get you through the specification.

All in all I like this book the best, it’s less of a relic than Robb Webb’s book.

Good Text Books for Specific Areas within Sociology

Bryman, Alan (2015) Social Research Methods – A great introductory book on research methods organised by the major different types of research method (surveys, interviews, etc.), with supplementary material including PowerPoints and mutli-choice quizzes.

Gilbert, Nigel (2015) Researching Social Life – A classic introductory text book which takes you through the research process step by step, from research design, to data collection and analysis.

Other Books

AS Sociology for AQA – The Application of Sociological Research Methods to the Study of Education – This odd little booklet provides a useful overview of the methods used in various studies relevant to different topics within the Education module. 

Sociology Teaching Resources for Sale

You might be interested in my latest (November 2019) teaching resource pack which contains everything teachers need to deliver 10 hour long ‘introduction to sociology’ lessons.

sociology teaching resourcesIncluded in the bundle is a clearly structured 50 page gapped student work-pack, six PowerPoints* to structure the 10 lessons, 10 detailed lesson plans outlining a range of learning activities you can use with students, a massive list of relevant contemporary resources with links, and numerous lesson activities including introductions, plenaries and links to some Socrative quizzes.

These resources contain all the core sociology knowledge students need for a through introduction sociology, illustrated with numerous up to date contemporary case studies and statistics.

The resources have been designed for A-level sociology and cover the core themes on the AQA’s specification but are suitable for new 16-19 students studying any specification.

You might also like these teaching resources for the sociology of education. They are specifically designed for A-level sociology students and consist of several versions of key concepts definitions (80 concepts in total), gapped summary grids with answers covering the entire sociology of education specification and 7 analysis activities.

If you want to get both of the above resources and receive regular updates of teaching resources then you can subscribe for £9.99 a month. I’ll be producing 10 hour long lessons worth of resources every month throughout 2020 and beyond. The £9.99 subscription means you get the resources for 50% off the usual £19.99 price.

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