Outstanding Academic Titles 2023: Sociology

Enjoy these five selections from the Choice Reviews 2023 Outstanding Academic Titles list. This week we highlight, Outstanding Academic Titles from the past year pertaining to sociology. A hearty congratulations to the winning authors, editors and publishers!

1. The continuing storm: learning from Katrina
Erikson, Kai. by Kai Erikson and Lori Peek Texas, 2022

Recognizing that natural disasters are also social disasters, Erikson (emer., Yale Univ.) and Peek (Univ. of Colorado, Boulder) interpret Hurricane Katrina and its social fallout by placing the storm in a larger context. Katrina hit New Orleans after generations of concentrated poverty had already impacted people and set in motion the continuous dislocation of the city’s Black residents. “Where are you a person?” is the question the authors heard from Louisianans when explaining what defines identity and home. For the state’s Black citizens who have been displaced, the answer may be that there is no personhood to be had in Louisiana. Even before Katrina, Black residents of New Orleans were subjected to the chronic social disasters of poverty, disinvestment in communities, gentrification, and disenfranchisement, all of which accelerated during the city’s post-disaster reconstruction. In detailing the storm’s aftermath, Erikson and Peek describe what can be considered, though not in their own words, only a form of ethnic cleansing that took place through bureaucratic competence and incompetence. The one system left untouched by Katrina, it seems, was American racism, which continues to play a role in acute and chronic disasters, from COVID-19 to immigration and border policies. View on Amazon

2. A voice but no power: organizing for social justice in Minneapolis
Forrest, David. Minnesota, 2022

Forrest’s fresh take on social justice organizing is a must-read volume for academics of social movements and organizers alike. Though social movement theory has long focused on how movements materialize, few works consider how organizing tactics may impact the relative success or failure of movements—past emphasis focused more on the role of structural conditions or political opportunities. Using a city of great relevance to the present moment, Minneapolis, Forrest (politics, Oberlin College) provides a detailed explanation of why social justice organizers might repeatedly fall short of their aims and offers insights into how organizers can improve their chances of attaining what he calls abolitionist goals—efforts to dismantle systemic oppression rather than merely make reforms in the lives of certain groups. Indeed, neoliberalism and capitalist realism created conditions in which organizing for social justice is challenging, but the author demonstrates that groups are capable of advocating for broadscale change. This is sociology at its best—Forrest offers a robust explanation of the structural conditions that create political hazards for progressive groups and concrete examples and explanations of ways to circumvent these barriers to achieve a more egalitarian society. View on Amazon

3.On target: gun culture, storytelling, and the NRA
Schwartz, Noah S. Toronto, 2022

This book is an excellent treatment of a very important topic: the role of the National Rifle Association (NRA) in the great gun debates taking place across the US, especially the sources and nature of its political power. Schwartz (political science, Univ. of the Fraser Valley, Canada) is a skilled ethnographer and writer. His detailed descriptions of the NRA annual meeting, gun classes, range visits, and the NRA museum bring readers inside an organization and culture that remain enigmatic to many social scientists and reviled by many Americans. The scholarly framing employs collective memory theory, but readers not familiar with that field or its academic debates will still benefit from this valuable, well-executed study. This book will interest students of all levels as well as scholars, but also anyone who wants to understand contemporary American gun culture and politics. View on Amazon

4. Advanced introduction to social capital
Cook, Karen S. E. Elgar, 2022

Cook (Stanford Univ.) brings decades of scholarship on social capital and trust to her contribution to the “Elgar Advanced Introduction” series—slim volumes that present theory, empirical research, and current directions in social science for scholars seeking an introduction to important topics, such as social capital. Beginning with the work of Émile Durkheim, sociologists have posed the transcendental question: how is social solidarity possible in complex urban social structures? Robert Putnam’s pioneering work Bowling Alone (2000) identifies the decline in we-oriented action, community participation, the legitimacy of societal institutions, and trust, all of which threatens democracy. Cook considers recent events from the 2016 election, the January 6 insurrection, the polarization of political discourse that demonizes opposition, and the climate crisis as exacerbating the trends that Putnam identified. She investigates three dimensions of social capital with respective chapters on networks, norms, and trust. Those seeking a framework for societal reform will be disappointed in the concluding chapter, “Conclusions and the path forward,” which succinctly summarizes the work of Putnam and his critics and the crises of modern times but fails to offer practical solutions. A comprehensive consideration of social capital theory and research that provides an indispensable introduction to the field.

5Race, ethnicity, and the COVID-19 pandemic ed. by Melvin Thomas, Loren Henderson, and Hayward Derrick Horton Cincinnati, 2023

The aftershocks of the COVID-19 pandemic require extensive scrutiny and analysis, and the editors of this important volume have brought together an array of essays that explore the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on communities of color. To explain this, chapters excellently situate pandemic data within the historical circumstances of racism and exclusion in the US. As the preface states, systemic racism is the common thread that explains the racial inequalities and the health disparities that preceded and were amplified by the pandemic in the US. Historical practices of exclusion, such as mass incarceration (chapter 10) and forced relocation of Native Americans onto reservations (chapter 6) set the stage for the high rates of illness and death among people of color. The volume speaks to global inequalities (chapters 1 and 7) and domestic ones, which is significant in an era of racial capitalism with global reach. Finally, in addition to rich data and theoretical explanations for these inequalities, the text provides potential policy solutions to prevent racial disparities in the future. View on Amazon

Read more about Choice Outstanding Academic Titles.

Sign up for the weekly Outstanding Academic Titles enewsletter

Between December and June you’ll receive a weekly enewsletter from Choice highlighting a themed snippet from our list of Outstanding Academic Titles of 2023.

Sign Up Now

Enjoying our reviews? Academic librarians may sign up for a complimentary trial of Choice Reviews for their institution.

*Trial limited to academic institutions that have not had a trial/subscription to Choice Reviews in the past 24 months. The offer is limited to institutional trials only, not available to individuals/publishers.

Read previously published Outstanding Academic Title list snippets.