25 Best Sociology Books for Beginners by Famous Sociologists

Sociology is a branch of knowledge with its own distinct concepts and theories. Many sociologists and social thinkers studied society from a sociological point of view, and we could read about it from the books they have written. Here is a list of 25 sociology books that students must read

best sociology books

List of 25 important books for the students of Sociology.

1. Das Kapital

Das Kapital or Capital is a famous book by the German philosopher and economist Karl Marx, who wrote about the nature of capitalism in the economy and how the capitalist economy works. Marx wrote about the exploitative nature of capitalism, where the capitalist class or the bourgeoisie exploited the working class or the proletariat for the creation of surplus value to gain profit. The continuous exploitation of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie deprived them of their basic needs. Because of  such exploitation, class consciousness grew among the proletariat, and their class solidarity crystallized. This class solidarity intensified the class conflict between them. Marx in this book, shows his desire for a revolution so that all forms of exploitation get eliminated and dreams of a classless society where, after the victory of the proletariat, a classless society will be established and private property will cease to exist. This book is recommended for sociology students to understand the history of society as well as the impact of social relations on the economy and vice versa. Moreover, this book sees an overlap of society, economy, and history, which proves the fact that society can’t be studied in isolation but rather that there are a myriad of aspects that come along with the study of society.

2. The Protestant Ethic And The Spirit Of Capitalism

The Protestant Ethic And The Spirit Of Capitalism written by Max Weber is undoubtedly the most influential book of all time. This book is important to read if we want to understand Weber’s idea of religion. In this book, Weber tried to find the answer to the question of how religious ideas influence economic actions. Weber found that the religious beliefs of Protestantism had the potential to infuse the spirit of capitalism, and he elaborated in detail on how the beliefs of Protestantism led to the growth of the economy.  This book is essential reading for both Economic Sociology and Sociology of Religion.

3. The Division of Labour in Society

The Division Of Labour in Society is one of the major contributions to sociology by the French sociologist Emile Durkheim, published in 1893.  Durkheim tried to explain the notion of solidarity in this book through the division of labour. Durkheim traced the evolution of the pattern of solidarity from pre-industrial times, when society was cohesive and people were bound together by social norms and sentiments, to modern times, when social structures became incoherent. Durkheim mentioned how earlier societies were based on sameness or resemblance and characterized by mechanical solidarity on the basis of collective consciousness. Durkheim believed that because of rapid population growth, people take on specialized roles, and society operates on the interdependence of people. He called this type of solidarity “organic solidarity,” referring to a lack of collective consciousness. Durkheim warned that division of labour if carried to the extreme, can lead to chaos or normlessness that he termed “anomie.” Durkheim explained this theory in great detail in his book, which is one of the important sociological theories that sociology students should read because the society we live in still draws relevance from Durkheim’s theory.

4. The Sociology of Economic Life

This book written by Neil J Smelser is recommended for Economic Sociology. The author deals with the economic aspect of society in this book and describes how society plays a crucial role in economic activities. However, the book doesn’t completely lean on economics but explains the interconnection of economic and non-economic aspects and how they influence each other. Smelser also used classical sociologists’ theories to explain the foundation of economic sociology and to carry his explanation of economic sociology through the changes that society has been undergoing and how they have influenced the economy. The book is written in a simplistic way, and reading this book will provide an idea that although social and economic are two separate aspects, they both influence each other.

5. The Social System

The Social System is a book written by Talcott Parsons from a structural functionalist point of view where he called a system to be a collection of interrelated parts of the society. He takes social actions into account while describing social system. Parsons maintained that for a smooth functioning of society, each and every unit or part of the system should be interdependent. The social system is maintained through roles, status, sentiments, bonds, faith, norms, power, and sanctions. This book is recommended to understand the structural functionalist school of thought and study the execution of social processes.

6. Mind , Self And Society

Written by George Herbert Mead, this book is a very good representation of social behaviourism. Mead gives a detailed understanding of the notions of ‘self’ and ‘others’ in this book. Mead explains what role the society plays in developing the ‘self’ of an individual. Mead describes how an individual becomes aware of his ‘self’ when he plays the role of others and views himself in an objective way through the eyes of the ‘others’. Mead prioritized society, or the social, and believed that it is society that fosters self-consciousness. This book is recommended to understand the symbolic interactionism school of thought.

7. The Presentation Of Self In Everyday Life

Authored by Erving Goffman, this book is a marvelous explanation of how human beings behave in a social setting. Goffman explained human behaviour in society by metaphorically making use of theatrical performance. This theory is named dramaturgy and explains how individuals, when interacting with someone, try to show their best selves by engaging in impression management just like actors on stage. Social performance is very necessary for a person to save oneself from public embarrassment. Goffman also mentioned something called ‘back region’ where individuals need not impress anyone and can be their own selves and prepare for subsequent social interactions. In this book, Goffman sees a resemblance between life and a drama where individuals play their roles as per expectations. This is a landmark book in social psychology or in understanding human behavior, and this book is a very interesting read for people to analyze how individuals prepare themselves to confront society.

8. The Social Construction Of Reality

Social Construction Of Reality book authored in 1966 by Peter L Berger and Thomas Luckman  is one of the most important books for students of sociology. This book explains how the realities of everyday life are socially constructed, which means society does not have one concrete reality but it can be perceived in multiple ways. The authors of this book drew inspiration from phenomenology, as the book describes how we understand society when we interact with it or how our perception of society depends upon our socialization. Such an understanding of society differentiates a person trained in sociology from a layman and helps them better understand the dynamics of society and its perception. This book is a must-read for students of sociology.

9. The Elementary Structures Of Kinship

Kinship is a universal social institution, and it is a complex system to be understood, but Claude Levi Strauss attempted to explain this institution of kinship with this book, ‘ The Elementary Structures Of Kinship ‘ published in 1949. He began with the foundation of the kinship system which he theorized to be based on a process of exchange under the conditions of reciprocity and incest taboo.  Strauss mentioned that reciprocity would bring mutual obligations between two groups of people and observed how many primitive societies exchanged women for their unique ability to reproduce to solve the problem of incest. Strauss also mentioned the shift of humankind from a state of ‘nature’ to ‘culture’ when  they practiced reciprocity and declared incest as a taboo. Levi Strauss supported his observation with ethnographic evidence and developed numerous kinship theories. Kinship Studies looks at the kinship system through these theories and ethnographic accounts, and students of sociology are recommended to go through this book to grasp the idea of kinship.

10. Kinship And Marriage : An Anthropological Perspective

This book, written by Robin Fox, is a rich piece of work that has made kinship studies easy to understand. With concepts like descent and lineage, Fox explained the kinship system and marriage alliances in great detail by establishing the universal premises on which kinship relations are based. This book is highly recommended to students of sociology who want to know about kinship, and it is a classic in kinship studies.

11. The McDonaldization Of Society

The McDonaldization of Society is a famous book of contemporary sociology authored in 1993 by the American sociologist George Ritzer. In this book, Ritzer has addressed the issues regarding modernity when he explains the paradigm of formal rationality that has drastically changed the idea of life in the 21st century. This book focuses on the paradigm shift from a traditional society to a rational one that consists of the following dimensions – efficiency, predictability, emphasis on quantity and not quality, non-human technology, and the irrationality of rationality. In this book, Ritzer mentions the growing chain of fast food restaurants all over the world. For example, today we find McDonald’s, KFC, and Domino’s almost in every part of the world. The McDonaldization of society is an outcome of advanced technology and, of course, globalization.  In this globalized world, people are working without any geographical or physical boundaries, and with this, the world has come closer. Homogenization and hybridization are taking place, which make the consumption patterns of people all over the world similar. Local cultures are being westernized or Americanized. For instance, more than local food, people prefer westernized food items. According to Ritzer, the principles of McDonaldization are not just limited to food consumption patterns but also dominate the fields like education, entertainment, health, business, etc. This book will make the students analyze how our everyday lives or our lifestyles are being shaped by globalization and how the influence of the West, specifically America, is felt all over the world.

12. The World Is Flat : A Brief History Of The Twenty-first Century

Written by Thomas L Friedman, this book is all about globalization and how it has changed the picture of the world economy. Friedman has metaphorically called the world flat to mean that due to globalization and growing interconnections between countries the world has come together on the same platform where each country is interdependent. Friedman talked about a few events and elements that he termed “flatteners’ that have caused the world to come together. Towards the end of the book Friedman also showed concern regarding the slowing down of the flat world due to certain forces and events. This book is recommended to study the process of globalization, what led to it, how it is beneficial for the world, and what threats it imposes on the world.

13. Theorizing Patriarchy

Sylvia Walby smashes the norms of patriarchy in her book ‘Theorizing Patriarchy’. Patriarchy institutionalizes male dominance in society and oppresses women. In this book,  Walby writes about different structures of patriarchy in which women are oppressed by men or the male dominated society. These structures are: paid work, household production, culture, violence, sexuality, and the state. This proves how expanded and deeply rooted patriarchy is in our society and how tremendously it dominates women. The society overestimates the capabilities of men, and they gain power in almost every structure, unlike women, who are considered weak by the society. Men are stereotyped as being strong, dominant, providers, aggressive, and independent in society, whereas women are stereotyped as being weak, fragile, dependent, and nurturers. These stereotypes further worsen the lives of women in a patriarchal society. She also brings the concept of feminism into play while dealing with patriarchy and explains all the structures of patriarchy from different perspectives of feminism, like liberal feminism, radical feminism, and marxist feminism. Sylvia Walby also mentioned a shift in the form of patriarchy from private (household) to public (outside household), which means that women are oppressed not only at home but also everywhere in the world, in every aspect. This book is essential reading for sociology students who want to understand how society perceives people based on their gender and how they are treated. This book is relatable to each of us because we are all part of this patriarchal society.

Also Read: Types of Feminism

14. Gender Trouble : Feminism and Subversion of Identity

Gender Trouble, written by Judith Butler is a foundational book of the queer theory in which the author deeply explores the idea of gender and presents groundbreaking ideas about it. Butler questioned the socially constructed gender binaries of patriarchal society. She argued that gender is not what one is, but rather a social construction. Butler links the idea of performativity to gender and opines that it is the repeated actions of our performance that create our gender. This book is a must read to understand the dynamics of gender. It is a mind-blowing piece of work that will make us critically analyze gender.

15. Risk Society

Ulrich Beck has written the book Risk Society in response to modernity. According to Beck, the dangers or risks that contemporary society is facing are self induced. Beck contended that risks in the contemporary times are more long-lasting , dangerous than risks in earlier times and have a global character. Risks are produced by the wealth of modern societies, especially in the factories and industries that generate hazardous residues, leading to a deadly environment that is further accelerated by globalization. Beck also warned the risk producers that the deadly consequences of risk society is inevitable and they cannot escape them owing to the “boomerang effect,” which means that the side effects of the risks will come back to the center of their production. This book is an excellent choice for sociology students looking to broaden their understanding of how society has changed over time and in what ways, as well as the effects of scientific and technological advancements on society.

16. Legitimation Crisis

Legitimation Crisis is a book authored by Jürgen Habermas considered to be one of the classic books of contemporary modern society. This book identifies the problems in the development process of modern society and sheds light on economic and political affairs. Habermas mentioned how the polity gets into a conflicting scenario when it tries to intervene in economic matters by regulating the economic mechanism but, in return, does not get the support of the people, and as a result, social integration becomes difficult. Furthermore, Habermas argued that the polity’s shortcomings make it incapable of dealing with society and its demand for social welfare, and that economic fluctuations create tensions in the polity’s functioning. This book is essential reading for contemporary sociological theory to understand the interconnected positions of society, politics, and economy.

17. Discipline And Punish : The Birth Of The Prison

This book written by Michel Foucault is a postmodern piece of work in which the author describes the control mechanisms of society in the form of discipline and punishment. Foucault traces the emergence of penal institutions and how they have changed over time. Foucault analyzed how punishment depended upon the game of power when he observed that in the pre industrial times, public execution, torture and corporal punishment for the offenders was encouraged to bring discipline in the society and instructions to such deadly punishment glorified the position of the highest authority of the concerned place. However, with the passage of time, disciplinary measures were reformed with the coming of the Enlightenment era, and with this, punishment was shifted from the offender’s body to his soul. Foucault observed a new type of discipline in modern society, where the prisoners were kept under surveillance and the intention was not to punish them severely but to reform their ways to prevent further crimes. According to Foucault, observation is a new source of power, and from this notion of discipline, prison emerged. This book can be recommended for studying postmodern society.

18. Sociological Thought

This book is a very comprehensive book of Sociological theories and various Sociological schools of thought written by George Ritzer. Ritzer has given a brief overview of sociology, right from the inception of the discipline to the current postmodern world. The book begins with an explanation of the foundations of sociology, followed by theories advanced by classical and contemporary sociologists, supported by their life histories, so that readers can put their theories into context. Students of sociology are recommended to follow this book for a brief and easy understanding of sociological theories, as this book clearly provides a distinction between classical theories and contemporary theories and shows how far the discipline of Sociology has evolved.

19. Indian Sociological Thought

B. K. Nagla has written this book to present the perspectives of Indian society. This book focuses on the emergence of sociology in India and how Indian sociologists or other foreign sociologists who have worked in India view this society. Nagla writes in this book how the eminent sociologists of India or sociologists working in India  like G. S Ghurye, M.N Srinivas, S. C Dubey, D.P Mukherjee, Louis Dumont, André Béteille  and many others perceive Indian society through different perspectives and present their theories based on it. This book is a must-read for sociology students who want to learn about Indian sociology. Professors, on the other hand, recommend Nagla’s work in graduate and postgraduate Sociology courses.

20. Social Change In Modern India

This book is written by Mysore Narasimhachar Srinivas to explain social change in India. In this book, Srinivas introduce a few terms like ‘Sanskritization’, ‘Westernization’, and  ‘Secularization’ to refer to the social changes taking place in India. This book can be very useful for the students studying Indian Society to analyze the pattern of changes in the society. Caste is undoubtedly a main social institution in India, and M.N Srinivas discusses mobility in the caste system. In the caste system, those in the upper castes had rights and privileges, while those in the lower castes were oppressed and had a low social status. Membership to caste is ascribed, and nobody could change their caste. However, M. N. Srinivas observed how, through the process of Sanskritization, people from the lower castes or tribal people adopted the upper caste’s rituals, food habits, dress patterns, and so on. After a few generations, many lower castes became Sanskritized leading to a positional change in the caste system. Another social change is evident through the process of Westernization when 150 years of British rule in India brought radical changes in the Indian society. Western rule in India changed or replaced many Indian practices and Indians adapted to these changes rapidly. British rule not only brought Westernization but also Secularization that reduced the presence of religious and traditional beliefs and replaced it with rationalism. However this idea of secularization got corrupted with the passage of time.

21. Social Stratification

Social Stratification is a book written by Dipankar Gupta in which he writes about the prevalence of the caste system in India. He focused on the functioning of caste and how it has become a marker of identity in Indian society. Together with caste, Gupta brings in the dynamics of class that make his study of caste multidimensional. He has traced the changing idea of caste over time. This book could be very useful to study the workings of Indian society.

22. Caste, Class And Power : Changing Patterns of Stratification In A Tanjore Village

André Béteille authored this book by presenting ethnographic accounts of his findings that he conducted in Tanjore Village of Madras. Béteille in this book mentioned about the fusion of the three important axes of stratification in the Indian society – caste, class and power. This book deals with the changing structure of the society from a caste based system to a presence of class dynamics and coming up of political institutions like Panchayats and political party. This book is recommended to study the changing Indian society, it’s  causes and consequences and this book is a witness to how social stratification in India is not just limited to the rigid caste system but also expanded to other aspects like economic position of an individual as well political powers.

23. Inequality Reexamined

Authored by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, this book explains the notions of equality and inequality in society. Sen argued against the notion that all people are created equally, pointing out differences in age, gender, talents, financial status, social background, and so on, arguing that equality does not exist in such cases. He rather mentioned equity and efficiency  on the basis of individual capacity, which he employed in his capability approach. This book is essential for identifying the thin line between equality, inequality, and equity.

24. Social Movements In India

Social Movements in India is a book  authored by M.S.A Rao. Rao has shown his empirical excellence in this book when he studied the various social movements going on in India. This book deals with the movements among the peasants, backward classes, women, and sectarian and tribal people. This book is important in the study of social movements to understand what mobilizes people and how people are mobilized to come out and voice their needs to bring social change. The society evolves with social change, and this change is important to study by sociology students, and this book can help students understand the origins and operation of the social movements that bring about change in the society.

25. Staying Alive : Women, Ecology And Development

This book is written by Vandana Shiva who emphasizes ecofeminism with her ideas of perception of women by society while exploring the relationship between degradation of nature and oppression of women. The book focuses on the male centered hierarchy and dualities that oppress women and nature, considering them to have a passive role in society while considering men to be superior to all. Vandana Shiva is seen to  critically analyze the notion of development and believe that economic development always takes place at the cost of women and nature, which is why she called it ‘project of patriarchy ‘. She mentioned how different corporations take over the forests for commercial purposes, thus robbing the indigenous people of their rights, and the worst consequences are faced by women, who get alienated from their livelihood and resources. Vandana Shiva called this development “maldevelopment’ because it overlooked the capacity of nature to create and women’s capacity to work without harming nature, thus declaring them to be unproductive. This book is particularly timely in light of the current ecological crisis, which is exacerbated by the rise of economic development, and how development models ruthlessly exploit nature for profit while marginalizing indigenous women’s rights. Students of sociology can read this book to understand how ecology movements began and what possible solutions could be found to bring such movements to fruition.


Some Other Must Read Books

A Dictionary of Sociology (very useful)

The Sociology Book (Big Ideas) 


Sociology by Anthony Gidden

Sociological Theory

The Sociological Imagination

Essential Sociology

Introducing Sociology: A Graphic Guide

The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge

On Suicide (Penguin Classics)

Important Articles


How to Apply Sociology in Everyday life? – Explained with Real Examples

What is the End Goal of Sociology?

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I am Monsoon Rupam. I did my post graduation in Sociology from Dibrugarh University. I have a curious mind and it always excites me to find 'sociology' in everything around me. I am a keen observer and take interest in research work and analysis. Gender Studies, Social Stratification, Health are a few areas that holds my attention to work upon. Besides, I find solace in music, moon gazing, sunsets, rain and flowers.