10 Best Anthropology Books for Beginners

Read this article to know about 10 best Anthropology books for beginners!

American Anthropological Association, AAA, calls anthropology ‘the study of what makes us human’. It is the discipline which explores the rise and fall of human civilizations. It tries to understand the cultural development and biological evolvement of homo sapiens from a variety of disciples. For an area of study of similar to this, it is very pertinent to first understand the various concepts, methodologies, schools of thought and debates present in the academic world of the anthropology.

Reading Anthropology Books

Here is a list of 10 best Anthropology books for that show the ropes around Anthropology 101 for anyone who is starting out at undergrad level or is a novice pursuer of the discipline.

  1. History and Theory in Anthropology

This textbook traces the genealogical and historical roots of Anthropology. The book presents theories and concepts of the discipline in chronological order, ranging from the social anthropological theories of the 19th and 20th centuries, and later, the more complex theories of the 1960s until today. The material discusses various schools of thought and debates in anthropology in a precise and simplistic manner. It serves as an excellent reference for introducing anthropology to undergraduate students. (Barnard, 2000)

Source: Barnard, A. (2000). History and Theory in Anthropology. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.ISBN: 0-511-01616-6

  1. Research Methods in Anthropology

Russell Barnard’s fourth edition of this classroom textbook provides an updated detailing of the ins-and-outs of the anthropology industry. It unrestrainedly incorporates real-life examples and in-depth interviews to describe the basic techniques and ethical standards of working in field settings. It’s the absolute go-to methodological source for every novice anthropologist. Barnard’s witty and jest-filled language make it easier for the first-timers to understand how to collate, think and organize data from observational analysis. (Barnard, 2006)

Source: Barnard, H. R. (2006). Research Methods in Anthropology (Fourth ed.). Oxford, UK: Altamira Press. ISBN:0-7591-0869-2

  1. Anthropology: Appreciating Human Diversity

The advances and changes of 21st century — climate change, a global economy and communication improvements — have impacted the world of anthropology. Kottak’s ‘Anthropology’ encompasses today’s relevance of the discipline along with its core values. It presents examples from students’ classroom experiences and appreciates human diversity in time and space to add more dimensions of understanding culture in the field of anthropology.

Source: Kottak, C. P. (2011). Anthropology: Appreciating Human Diversity (Fourteenth ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill. ISBN: 978-0-07-811699-5

  1. Anthropology: A Global Perspective

The text material incorporates educational information available from the four-field disciplines of anthropology– cultural, linguistics, biology and archaeology. It covers the diverse cultures of a global, interconnected world which has become a ‘small place’ in current times. Scupin and DeCorse promise an integrated and holistic approach on anthropology by teaching the readers value of critical thinking, completing hypothesis and generalisation skills. (Scupin, DeCorse, 2012)

Source: Scupin, R., & DeCorse, C. R. (2012). Anthropology: A Global Perspective (Seventh ed.). USA: Pearson Education. ISBN:0-205-18102-3

  1. Humanity: An Introduction to Cultural Anthropology

Peoples and Bailey have written a wonderful academic overview of today’s problems. The text discusses cultural issues faced in the light of contemporary globalisation, including topics of world hunger, the politics around same-sex marriages and societal inequalities and the endangerment of indigenous cultures. The Ninth Edition of the eponymous book delves into the realities of an interconnected world of Humanity, mostly North America, using cultural examples and incidents. (Peoples, Bailey, 2012)

Source: Peoples, J., & Bailey, G. (2012). Humanity: An Introduction to Cultural Anthropology (Twentieth ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning. ISBN:978-1-111-30152-1

  1. Anthropology Beyond Culture

This book examines the debates and conceptual definitions of the word ‘culture’. Anthropology, as a practising and theorising discipline, has attempted to explain culture in different ways. The text provides the reader to acquaint with the term and understand its standing amongst anthropologists. It also argues the necessity, or alternative options for the concept of ‘culture’ and outlines the epistemological evolution of Anthropology as a discipline based on the usage of the concept by its practitioners.

Source: Box, R. G., & King, B. J. (Eds.). (2002). Anthropology Beyond Culture. Oxford, UK: Of Oxford International. ISBN:1475-536X

  1. Yuganta: The End of An Epoch

Yuganta is for Indians interested in exploring their nation’s anthropology and history through the most extensive work of literature available on Indian civilization, the epic Mahabharata. This book investigates the humanity of Mahabharata through secular, anthropological and secular perspectives. In ten-character essays, Karve has explored many themes including the societal and class struggles, the position of women in a patrilineal society, etc. The extrapolations and conclusions drawn from this Sanskrit drama are logical, clear and presented from an anthropological perspective into a particular historical period of Indian society. (Karve, 2000)

Sources: Karve, I. (2000). Yuganta: The End of an Epoch (First ed.). Orient Black Swan. ISBN:9788120532281. Retrieved from https://gyanpedia.in/Portals/0/Toys%20from%20Trash/Resources/books/yuganta.pdf

  1. Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society

In this new-take on biology, Nicholas A. Christakis explains a holistic view on the bio-cultural aspects of human origins. Illustrating the development through the use of various cultures and development, he explores the ‘ancient roots of goodness in civilization. This is book is a must for anthropology beginners as it brings in history, philosophy, sociology, statistics, genetics, epidemiology, and many other disciplines into the one fold of anthropology while explaining the ‘goodness’ of our history.

Source: CHRISTAKIS, N. A. (2020). BLUEPRINT: The evolutionary origins of a good society. S.l.: LITTLE, BROWN, &.

  1. Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?

This book is biology 101 for anthropology beginners as it delves into the similarities between animals and humans. It reminds readers that it isn’t a cognitive hierarchy of intelligences, rather a bush where various species have evolved in similar, yet arguably different forms. It is an interesting read to understand the gap created by a vacuum of bio-cultural epistemology. It also informs scientists to shed their prejudices and superiority against other animals since all of us have evolved in a comparable manner.

Source: Waal, F. B. (2017). Are we smart enough to know how smart animals are? London: Granta Books.

  1. Cultural Anthropology: Asking Questions About Humanity

Welsh and Vivaco have written a book from the point of view of an anthropologist. Using a question-centred approach, the text includes the basic concepts and debates from introductory-level anthropology courses. This book tries to bridge the traditional and contemporary views of the subject. It also uses the classic examples and case studies of the discipline. This material is a pretty-simple read for a beginner of anthropology to understand the key issues, and to attempt to start thinking like an anthropologist by using the methods presented in the text.

Source: Welsch, R. L., & Vivanco, L. A. (2018). Cultural anthropology: Asking questions about humanity. New York: Oxford University Press.

Read: Cultural Anthropology

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