Good Reads

My top eight books with sociological content – roughly in order

NB – on books, often more is less – it can be quite pleasant to pick one of these, read it slowly, and get as much out of it as you can – David Harvey has read re-read Marx’s Capital every year for the last forty years… And no.2 on my list above is widely regarded as one of the 50 most important books written since WW2, so he must be doing something right.

My best books – At some point I will do a detailed analysis of why these books are in my top five – but for the most part it’s because they are based on rigorous research and move theoretical debates forward.  At some point, I’ll sort these by topic

  1. Klein, N. (2008) The Shock Doctrine. London: Penguin (reprint edition).  Just Read It!
  2. Chang, Ha-Joon (2010) 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism. Penguin Group
  3. Harvey D. (1991) The Condition of Postmodernity: An enquiry into the conditions of social change. Wiley- Blackwell.  
  4. Banyard, K. (2010) The equality illusion : The truth about men and women today. London: Faber and Faber.
  5. Collier, P. (2007) The Bottom Billion – Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  6. Chomsky, N. (2004) Hegemony or Survival: America’s quest for global dominance. London: Penguin Books.  
  7. Wilkinson, R and Pickett, K. (2009) The spirit level – Why more equal societies almost always do better. London: Penguin books.   
  8. Venkatesh, S. (2008) Gang leader for a day: A rouge sociologist crosses the line. London: Penguin books. 

And some other good ones I’ve read over the years… in alphabetical order by author….

Bauman, Z. (2000) Liquid Modernity. London: Polity Press.

Dowden, R. (2008) Africa: Altered states, ordinary miracles. London: Portobello books.  

Furedi, F. (2005) Culture of Fear. Continuum international publishing group Ltd (Revised edition).

Giddens, G. (1999) Runaway World: How globalisation is reshaping our lives. London: Profile books.  

Goldacre, B. (2008) Bad Science. London: Harper Collins.

Harvey D. (2004) The New Imperialism. Oxford: Oxford university press.  

Heale, J. (2008) One Blood: Inside Britain’s new street gangs. Simon & Schuster Ltd; First edition First Printing edition.

Levitt, S and Dubner, S. (2005)  Freakonomics: A rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything. London: London: Penguin books.

Monbiot, G. (2000) Captive State: The corporate takeover of Britain. London: Macmillan.

Stiglitz, J. (2002) Globalisation and its discontents. London: Penguin

Toynbee, P and Walker D. (2008) Unjust Rewards: Exposing greed and inequality in Britain today. London: Granta Publications.


Top Documentaries

This is a list of good documentaries – mostly relevant to the module on Global Development and most of them with a broadly anti-capitalist slant. 

Most summaries are taken from the Internet Movie Database

Sweet Crude (2010) Sandi Cioffi – In a small corner of the most populous country in Africa, billions of dollars of crude oil flow under the feet of a desperate people. Immense wealth and abject poverty stand in stark contrast. The environment is decimated. The issues are complex, the answers elusive. The documentary film Sweet Crude tells the story of Nigeria’s Niger Delta. The region is seething and the global stakes are high. 

Capitalism: A Love Story (2010) Michael Moore – examines the impact of corporate dominance on the everyday lives of Americans

The Age of Stupid (2009) Fanny Armstrong – A future archivist looks at old footage from the year 2008 to understand why humankind failed to address climate change.

The Shock Doctrine (2009) Mat Whitecross and Michael Winterbottom Investigations of “disaster capitalism”, based on Naomi Klein’s proposition that neo-liberal capitalism feeds on natural disasters, war and terror to establish its dominance. It is worth nothing that Klein removed her name from the film, but due to stylistic differences.

Black Gold (2007) Mark and Nick Francis – Explores the global coffee trade and looks at how unfair trade rules laid down by the WTO hurt farmers in Ethiopia while Corporations such as Starbucks make a fortune.

The Trap: Whatever happened to our dreams of Freedom? (2007) Adam CurtisThe Trap is a series of three films by Bafta-winning producer Adam Curtis that explains the origins of our contemporary, narrow idea of freedom. It shows how a simplistic model of human beings as self-seeking, almost robotic, creatures led to today’s idea of freedom. All three films are available at

The War on Democracy (2007) Christopher Martin and John Pilger –  Award winning journalist John Pilger examines the role of Washington in America’s manipulation of Latin American politics during the last 50 years leading up to the struggle by ordinary people to free themselves from poverty and racism. Since the mid 19th Century Latin America has been the ‘backyard’ of the US, a collection of mostly vassal states whose compliant and often brutal regimes have reinforced the ‘invisibility’ of their majority peoples. The film reveals similar CIA policies to be continuing in Iraq, Iran and Lebanon. It also looks at the rise of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez despite ongoing Washington backed efforts to unseat him.

Darwin’s Nightmare (2004) Hubert Sauper – A documentary on the effect of fishing the Nile perch in Tanzania’s Lake Victoria. The predatory fish, which has wiped out the native species, is sold in European supermarkets, while starving Tanzanian families have to make do with the leftovers.

Farenheit 911 (2004) Michael Moore  – Michael Moore’s view on what happened to the United States after September 11; and how the Bush Administration allegedly used the tragic event to push forward its agenda for unjust wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

The Corporation (2004) Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott Documentary that looks at the concept of the corporation throughout recent history up to its present-day dominance.

The New Rulers of the World (2001) John Pilger – Explores globalisation, looking at the role of the World Bank, The World Trade Organisation and Neo-Liberalism.

I’ve had a few things published, although now I’ve discovered blogging I can’t help but feel paper publications are somewhat old school….

2010 – I contributed to the CGP A2 Sociology Revision Guide – which is very reasonably priced!

April 2009 – Globalisation, Culture and Identity – Sociology Review volume 18 no4 –

February 2009 – New Social Theories – The relevance of Zygmunt Bauman’s Liquid Times to A level Social Theory – Sociology Review vlume 18, no 3-

February 2008 – Radical Theory and 911 – Sociology Review volume 17, no 3 –

2007 – A2 Resource Pack: Religion, Philip Allen –

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3 thoughts on “Good Reads”

  1. Great choice of books Karl, including some interesting ones I don’t know. Daniel Dorling Injustice: Why Inequality Persists (Policy Press 2010) is pretty good and have also enjoyed Jock Young’s The Criminological Imagination (Polity, 2011) recently. Love the blog, great to see somebody doing this although the comments on Rob Webb’s book were a bit ageist!
    Martin Holborn

  2. Hi thanks Martin – Will check out Jock Young, and the comment about Webb’s book wasn’t meant to be ageist, I’ll check the tone of it! Thanks,

  3. Karl,

    Some more for your list: Modern Political Economics and The Global Minotaur by Yanis Varoufakis and co-authors. See my review here: MPE is an academic book, but very witty and controversial in tone. TGM is out in a new edition now from Zed Books. Also, Bad Samaritants, by Chang is probably a better book than 23 Things.

    Look forward to reading more of your posts.


    Randal Samstag

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A hyperreflexive blog focussing on critical sociology, infographics, Buddhism and extreme early retirement

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