Book Corner

Many of us are readers. We read to keep up on the latest sociological research, of course, but we also read for pleasure. In the Book Corner, Sociology faculty, staff, graduate students, and visitors share recommendations for novels, biographies, history, and non-fiction books that have made an impact on us. What these books share in common is that they are all "good reads" that are accessible to a wide range of readers. And while few them are explicitly Sociology books, many touch on themes that come up in our classes, and in contemporary society. We encourage you to browse through these entries, then pull up a chair and start reading. There will be no quizzes, but feel free to let us know what you think.
More than 2 million people in the United States live behind bars, a scale of punishment and human suffering not seen in any other society—yet US crime rates are at historic lows. In her new book, Ending Mass Incarceration, S. Frank Miyamoto Professor of Sociology Katherine Beckett explains how and why mass incarceration persists despite growing recognition of its many failures, despite plummeting crime rates, and even despite… Read more
If you’re already a fan of Third Place Books in Bothell, you owe it to yourself to read urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg’s The Great Good Place, the book that originated the idea of a Third Place.  “The Third Place,” is Oldenburg’s term for the social realm that is neither work, nor home.  It’s a comfortable and welcoming place where people come and go freely, and neighbors may meet up by chance, chat about local concerns, share a bit of conviviality and exchange ideas, or resources. … Read more
I began researching my dissertation shortly after the collapse of the housing market in 2007. Like many others, I was puzzled by the enduring place of ownership in American society. Although public support for homeownership policies dipped briefly as the housing market collapsed, it quickly rebounded. To this day, homeownership remains deeply popular. In fact, as I note in No Place Like Home, nearly all Americans – young and old, black and white, rich and poor – aspire to ownership and… Read more
“I like to think I know what death is…. I try to look like this is normal and boring so Pop will think I’ve earned these thirteen years, so Pop will know I’m ready to pull what needs to be pulled, separate innards from muscle, organs from cavities. I want Pop to know I can get bloody. Today’s my birthday.” Thirteen-year-old Jojo utters these words as Sing, Unburied, Sing, opens. With the announcement of the 2017 National Book Awards, Jesmyn Ward became the first woman to win two… Read more
THE SPIRITUAL VIRTUOSO: PERSONAL FAITH AND SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION Marion Goldman and Steven Pfaff*   Reviewed by Susan Pitchford Every field of endeavor has its virtuosi: those rare ones whose mix of talent and drive cause them to excel. The field of spirituality is no different, as sociologist Max Weber noted a century ago. But while Weber gave most of his attention to spiritual virtuosi who’d withdrawn from the world, The Spiritual Virtuoso by Marion Goldman and Steven Pfaff shows… Read more
Read the Preface to Professor Hamilton's New Book When the two of us first began our collaboration in the 1984–1985 academic year, we thought the secret of Taiwan’s industrialization was there in front of us, waiting to be discovered. Hamilton, a sociologist then located at the University of California, Davis, had gone to Taiwan on a Fulbright fellowship to teach and do research at Tunghai University, located in Taichung City, the third largest urban area in Taiwan. A… Read more
On October 9th, former Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala met with a group of graduate students to share her experiences working in the Clinton White House, as Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin, and as the President of the Clinton Foundation.  During a lively rountable discussion, students learned about the ways is which empirical evidene is -- and is not -- used in the policy process.   At the end of our hour together, Secretary Shalala encouraged us all to read Read more
In 1992 the New England Journal of Medicine publishes a letter to the editor by Jane Porter and Dr. Hershel Jick titled “Addiction Rare in Patients Treated with Narcotics.” Sometime in 2000 a family living in a poor village in the State of Nayarit on the West Coast of Mexico builds a comfortable new house that is the envy of their neighbors. In 2015 economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton of Princeton University publish a study that reveals an unexpected rise in mortality among middle-aged, white… Read more
Why has politics in America and Europe become so polarized and partisan in the last few decades? Journalists, political scientists, and sociologists have all attempted to answer this question, but one of the most interesting attempts I’ve seen comes from a cognitive psychologist. The first 75% or so of ’s The Righteous Mind provides a novel and compelling analysis of the evolutionary and cognitive microfoundations necessary to understand this phenomenon, and the book is worth reading for that… Read more
This past summer I had my SOC 110 students read Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance. While it may seem like a dating advice book, I was pleasantly surprised by how thoughtful and well-researched it is. I received positive feedback from my students as well, who said the book was 'funny', 'not too serious', and 'not boring' - great comments for any assigned reading. Ansari and NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg - with whom Ansari organized focus groups online and in person all over the world - illuminate… Read more