Looking for light sociological holiday reading material
July 31, 2009 3:55 AM   Subscribe

Looking for light, sociological holiday reading material...

I am a second year Sociology degree student, currently on summer break. I'd like to read something relatively easy-going over summer with some level of relevance to my course. It doesn't have to be totally dumbed-down, just not extremely challenging! Any suggestions would be highly appreciated. Thanks in advance!
posted by FuckingAwesome to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Hah, how about Paul Fussell's Class. It's not at all academic, but as a sociologist you'll find it fascinating. And it's ridiculously funny.
posted by paultopia at 4:06 AM on July 31, 2009

Happiness: Lessons from a New Science by Richard Layard is pretty interesting.

You probably know it already, but Gang Leader for a Day by Sudhir Venkatesh is a good read.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 4:19 AM on July 31, 2009

Anything by Mitchell Duneier or Erwin Goffman.
posted by thecolor12 at 5:43 AM on July 31, 2009

Howard Becker's Tricks of the Trade: How to think about your research while you are doing it.

As a prof. in a social science field, it's the book I *make* students read at the beginning of graduate school. You will learn to think like a social scientist in 200 pages of crisp and elegant prose. There is nothing like it, a great investment of time for anyone seriously thinking about a career in any social science field.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:20 AM on July 31, 2009

This is really lightweight but is actually quite thought-provoking and really funny, and it gave me and Mr. Llama the term "garrulous ass" which we've found quite handy.

A short but self important history of the baby boomers.

Also, I very much admire your bold user name.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:21 AM on July 31, 2009

Black Like Me isn't exactly easy, as it deals with some horrible experiences, but it's a quick and smooth read.

Miriam's Kitchen

When I was Puerto Rican

posted by runningwithscissors at 6:58 AM on July 31, 2009

Bowling Alone
posted by lunit at 7:45 AM on July 31, 2009

On the gender studies side of sociology, there's Susan Faludi's Backlash and Stiffed and Arlie Hochschild's Second Shift. I found all three to be "fun" reads when I was a sociology student.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:20 AM on July 31, 2009

Rise of the Creative Class is a pretty good read especially if you have any interest in urban sociology or planning. Another book in the same socio-geographical vein is The Big Sort.

Another book that isn't necessarily light, but happens to be a very engaging and quick read, is The Working Poor: Invisible in America.
posted by thisjax at 9:49 AM on July 31, 2009

Does Unequal Childhoods meet your criteria? I found it fascinating. Also Random Family if you haven't read it. It's a real page-turner, or at least it was for me.
posted by not that girl at 10:09 AM on July 31, 2009

I'll second Class and Gang Leader for a Day. I've read that Gang Leader for a Day may have some problems from an ethical or research methodology standpoint, but it is still a very interesting book. Don't disregard Class either. Its examples are outdated, but Mr. Fussell is a pretty sharp character and has a lot to say in that book; both serious and humorous.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 5:36 PM on July 31, 2009

If you like Venkatesh, grab a copy of Off the Books, his other book. It's slightly thicker, but it's also less...mainstream.

He talks about the sociology of poverty, how and why people end up in illegal jobs.

Ya, the methodology makes my ethics radar squeal, but it's a fascinating story.
posted by bilabial at 7:46 PM on August 1, 2009

Oh, and Sociolinguistics brings you to Deborah Tannen, she deals with cultural communication, as well as gender and family communication. Which is a good area to have a handle on when going into field work situations, or even in constructing/conducting surveys.

Middlesex is a novel, but deals with some social (mostly familial) issues of intersex and incest. If that topic interests you, check out Anne Fausto-Sterling and her view of genders (cliffs notes: she says there are more than 2). Also read up on the difference between sex and gender. Then check out Athens Boys Choir because I love him (musician/ performance artist/queer rights advocate/ born as a female, has been living as a man for a while now. Awesome person!)

This next suggestion is really anthropology, but since the fields are so closely related you'll surely be doing reading in both. Check out Dr. Paul Farmer. He's an MD and an anthro PhD. He works in Haiti and has really changed the way that poverty and medicine intersect. He gets quality care to an amazing number of people on a shoestring budget. Main problems that he tackles are AIDS, Tuberculosis (they're often co-occurring), combined with poverty and race issues.

If you have access to JStore or other journal materials online, I would suggest printing up a few articles. Read slowly they aren't so heavy. And the more of them you read, the easier they are to tackle in a time crunch. Practice summarizing them, notice flaws or concerns in methodology, ask the questions that the article begs, design research for the questions that the researchers suggest, refute a premise, consider how the article applies to something else that interests you. Also, you can take a theory and find several articles that attach the theory to situations. And you can start with a concept (time, for instance) and find several theories that explain time. Very fun.

Sociology is one of those things that is about practice. The more you approach ideas, the more ideas you will have. Obviously you know that or you wouldn't be aching to read more while you're on break. Kudos to you for that. Enjoy. Feel free to mefi mail me if you any other questions about being a sociology major (I'm a slash major with Anthro, finally -god willing- finishing this fall...would have been done last fall...but...well, harumph.)
posted by bilabial at 7:57 PM on August 1, 2009

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