5 books every armchair sociologist needs to read

Armchair sociologist – this is a term used to describe a sociologist who practices sociology without going into the field and doing research. And because these types of sociologist are often at home in their thinking chairs, analyzing society, they need to read a lot of books so that they can learn and understand the different perspectives of society; they need to be able to put on a different set of lens (racial, economic, gender, etc.) when observing people and their behaviours.

So here are 5 books that will show every armchair sociologist the experiences of people as they move through society:

(Just to be totally transparent with you, this review includes affiliate links. What this basically means is that if you decided to use the provided links to buy the product, I will get a small commission from your purchase, at no extra cost to you.)

1) The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

What is this book about? James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time is a book that that talks about his experiences growing up as a gay, black, Christian man in Harlem prior to the Civil Rights Movement. Split into two essays (or letters), Baldwin delves deep into race and religion, and race relations in America during the 1960s.

Why you need to read it: This book is important because not only does it talk about racism in America, it also shows you the experiences of a gay man growing up in a religious household.

2) A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah

What is this book about? A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah is about the life of a boy who fought as a child soldier during the civil war in Sierra Leone. This memoir travels through Beah’s life, starting with the day he fled his village after rebels attacked it and ending with the day he was rescued from war by UNICEF.

Why you need to read it: This memoir will vividly paint the experiences of child soldiers, from how they are groomed to become fighters to how they adjust to life after war.

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Now back to the list…

3) Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

What is this book about? Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner is a book that looks at non-traditional economic issues. Throughout the book, the authors explore issues such as how legalizing abortion reduced the crime rate in the 1990s and how street drug dealers actually don’t make much money while using economic theory to explain each phenomenon.

Why you need to read it: This book is good for those who want to read about the intersections between economics and sociology because, throughout the book, Levitt and Dubner use economic concepts to explain social issues in their case studies.

4) Gang Leader for a Day by Sudhir Venkatesh

What is this book about? Sudhir Venkatesh’s Gang Leader for a Day recounts the author’s experiences as a gang member of an urban Chicago neighborhood. But here’s the kicker –he is actually a first-year graduate student doing a sociological research assignment.

Why you need to read it: This book will show you how people from poor urban neighborhoods live and explain to you why many of them get involved with illegal activities. It will also show you that gang members are the stereotypical gangsters that are portrayed on TV.

5) Killers of the Dream by Lillian Smith

What is this book about? Killers of the Dream by Lillian Smith is a critique of the pre-1960s south. This memoir is a story about a white woman from the south who, as she became wiser, began to recognize the harms (to herself and to society) of conservative southern belief prior to the Civil Rights Movement, and what she did to free herself from that way of thinking.

Why you need to read it: This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the experience of a white person freeing their mind from their privilege (or as Peter Berger would say, becoming “ecstatic”).

There you have it. These are the 5 books that I recommend all armchair sociologist (or anyone who wants to understand society better) should read. It will teach you about the experiences of groups and people that you may not know much about. And through this knowledge and understanding, you will be able to open up your mind and free it from your preconceived beliefs.

Have you read any of these books? If so, share your thoughts about them below. Also, are there any books that should be on this list? Share those in the comments below too.