Best sociology books of all time | W. W. Norton
Best sociology books of all time | W. W. Norton

What works

Anthony Giddens, Mitch Duneier, Richard Appelbaum, and Deborah Carr put together this list of keyworks in sociology starting way back in 1837. W. W. Norton illustrated each book with a simple diagram that helps illustrate what that book’s main argument is – some are kind of humorous if you happen to be a sociologist – and then laid the whole thing out in a snake stack.

Here’s what I like:

+ the book list includes Harriet Martineau who is often overlooked
+ the book list is short enough to fit on a poster – ask most sociologists about keyworks and they are likely to still be going on about it a week later.
+ the book list uses graphic depictions of the content – spare but intriguing – rather than an annotated bibliography of short summaries. This version is so much more interesting for having said less. Want to know?: read the book.

What needs work

I would have included Simmel, Toqueville, and Mary Douglas. I might have tried to find a way to represent multiple works by the same author (like Marx, Durkheim, and Weber who appear more than once here) in the same grid slot so that more other authors could be included. In order to accomodate that change, I think it would have been possible to arrange this not in a rigid timeline, but in a partitioned grid with early, middle, and contemporary works (or something like that). Even categories like: >100 years ago, between 50 and 100 years ago, in the last 50 years.

One more quibble – the background color has too much green in it to read as a soft brown. I would have liked a soft brown better. Somehow with the green, it ends up with a repellant quality. HOWEVER, I bet this is one of those situations where the poster was designed to be printed, looks fantastic coming off whatever printer it was calibrated for, and looks slightly more pukey on the screen. Trade offs, trade offs.


I have been mightily enjoying W.W. Norton’s tumblr which is where I found this poster. The archive is the best way to get introduced to what they’ve been doing. It certainly is neither primarily about information graphics nor primarily about sociology, but it is wholly intellectual in the most fun kind of way.

If you are more of a twitter person and/or you would like sociology information more than the potpourri of information on the tumblr, W. W. Norton has a twitter feed, too.


Giddens, Anthony; Duneier, Mitch; Appelbaum, Richard; and Carr, Deborah. (16 August 2011) Keyworks in Sociology. [information graphic] New York: W. W. Norton.