Social Sciences Books: Home Library Arrangement

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April 7, 2021

Every book collection is different. The point of this series of posts is to narrow your collection down more specifically, so you will be able to locate a book effortlessly when you need to find one. An added benefit is the serendipitous connections that can be made when similar books are placed together.

In an earlier post, I outlined the basics of using the Dewey Decimal Classification system for organizing your nonfiction books. If you have a lot of nonfiction print books in your collection, reading that post would be a good first step.

300s     Social sciences

The social sciences books cover relationships between people, so it has to be broad. Here are a few topics in this discipline:

  • social groups (by sex, gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, etc.)
  • social problems (poverty, drug abuse, domestic violence, etc.)
  • crime
  • statistics
  • politics
  • law
  • government
  • military history and science
  • communications
  • education
  • fashion
  • etiquette
  • folk and fairy tales

Because of the newsworthy events this section covers, the number of books published in this discipline section over the last few decades has been massive. 

300-309     Social sciences

Books shelved in 300-309 cover a broad range of social issues in mass culture. Interdisciplinary works on sex and the sexes, sexual orientation and gender studies, marriage and families, and community and community issues are just a few topics shelved in this section.

Recommended books in social sciences:

  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X
  •  Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond
  • Nickle and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich,
  • Finding Out: An Introduction to LGBTQ Studies by Deborah Meem, et al.
  • City by City: Dispatches from the American Metropolis by Keith Gessen.

310-319     Collections of general statistics

This is not a huge collection in most public libraries. Books on how to collect statistical data, for example, don’t go here, they go in the 000s, in general knowledge and computer science. And books on statistics of specific subjects aren’t shelved here either. Instead, they are shelved with the subject itself. For example, books of linguistics statistics are shelved in the 400s with the linguistics books. Only books that contain statistics on multiple topics are shelved in this section. With the internet and databases making updated statistical information more cost-effective to find online, these sorts of print books are not as common as they once were. 

320-329     Political Science

Political science encompasses politics and government, of course, in the United States and everywhere else. Systems of governments (like feudalism, democracy, and communism), political parties, and international relations are shelved here too.

Recommended books in political science:

  • Politics by Aristotle
  • The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt
  • Under God: Religion and American Politics by Gary Wills
  • Pillar of Fire by Taylor Branch
  • Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America by Ari Berman
  • Gandhi and Churchill: The Epic Rivalry that Destroyed an Empire and Forged Our Age by Arthur Herman
  • The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition by Manisha Sinha
  • Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA by Tim Weiner
  • Congressional Procedure: A Practical Guide to the Legislative Process in the U.S. Congress by Richard A. Arenberg

330-339     Economics

Economics is a huge, slippery science.  It covers different economic systems, schools, and theories.

Recommended books on economics:

  • Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson
  • The Affluent Society by John Kenneth Gailbraith.
  • The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance by Ron Chernow.
  • Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water by Marc Reisner,
  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
  • Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond.
  • Working: People Talk about What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do by Studs Terkel
  • Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution by Mary Gabriel
  • Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power by Steve Coll

340-349     Law

Law is a huge and complex topic. Books that deal with legal schools of thought, comparative law, law reform, philosophy and theory, the law profession, the history of law, conflicts in law, and foreign laws are shelved in the 340s. 

Codes of law, if they are available in a public library, would most likely be shelved either in a separate law library section or in the non-circulating (not available for checkout) reference collection.

Recommended books in law:

  • The Constitution Today: Timeless Lessons for the Issues of Our Era by Akhil Reed Amar
  • Lincoln’s Code: The Laws of War in America’s History by John Fabian Witt
  • Simple Justice by Richard Kluger
  • Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age by Kevin Boyle
  • We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights by Adam Winkler
  • Ruth Bader Ginsberg: A Life by Jane DeHart

350-359     Public administration and military science

Public administration covers the executive branches and functions of government. 

Military science includes tactics, history, training, and other topics surrounding the armed forces.

Recommended books in public administration and military science:

  • Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
  • Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War by Barbara Ehrenreich,
  • The Face of Battle by John Keegan,
  • The Fate of the Earth by Jonathan Schell, and
  • The Art of War by Sun Tzu.
  • Sea Power: The History and Geopolitics of the World’s Oceans by James Stavidis

360-369     Social problems and services; associations

Social problems of one sort or another impact almost everyone. This section broadly covers everything from social action to social work. It also covers governmental assistance, community action, history, and biographies related to social problems.

Associations cover secret societies like the Freemasons and the Knights of Pythias, and it also covers general clubs that are not secretive like social clubs and study clubs. Insurance books belong here, too. 

Recommended books on social problems:

  • Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Shadow of Rocky Flats by Kristen Iversen
  • Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink
  • Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Great Nuclear Disaster by Adam Higginbotham
  • Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker
  • The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath by Leslie Jamison
  • Dopesick by Beth Macy
  • The Poisoned City: Flint’s Water and the American Urban Tragedy by Anna Clark
  • The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy B. Tyson
  • Gulag by Anne Applebaum.
  • Greed on Trial: Doctors and Patients Unite to Fight Big Insurance by Theresa Barta

370-379     Education

This section houses the books on different theories, levels, and subjects of education from birth to late adulthood.

I used to work in public schools and I frequently used Edutopia which gives a peek at the issues the K-12 systems in the U.S. face.

Recommended books in education:

  • How Children Learn by John Holt
  • What I Didn’t Know: True Stories of Becoming a Teacher edited by Lee Gutkind
  • Book Smart: How to Develop and Support Successful, Motivated Readers by Anne E. Cunningham and Jamie Zibalsky
  • Columbine by Dave Cullen
  • The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton by Jerome Karabel
  • Ebony and Ivory: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities by Craig Steven Wilder

380-389     Commerce, communications, transportation

Commerce books cover marketing, retail, products and services, trade, policy, and international commerce.

Communications books examine communication through postal services, computers, wireless, radio, and television.

Transportation books contain information on railroads, waterways, and air transportation methods, including outer space. Metrology and standardization books are also shelved here.

Recommended books in commerce, communications, and transportation:

  • How Markets Fail: The Logic of Economic Calamities by John Cassidy
  • The Price of Fish: A New Approach to Wicked Economics and Better Decisions by Michale Mainelli and Ian Harris
  • When America First Met China: An Exotic History of Tea, Drugs, and Money in the Age of Sail
  • Exploding the Phone: The Untold Story of the Teenagers and Outlaws Who Hacked Ma Bell by Phil Lapsley
  • The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires by Tim Wu
  • Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America  by Richard White
  • Falling Upwards: How We Took to Air by Richard Holmes
  • Too Big to Fall: America’s Failing Infrastructure and the Way Forward by Barry B. LePatner

390-399     Customs, etiquette, folklore

Customs include the way people dress (fashion), ceremonies and celebrations, our homes, and holidays. Etiquette books give advice on manners.

Folklore books can have fairy tales or interdisciplinary works on mythology.

Recommended books in customs, etiquette, and folklore:

  • Clothing and Fashion: American Fashion from Head to Toe edited by Jose Blanco et al.
  • At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson
  • The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee’s, Farm Fields, and the Dinner Table by Tracie McMillan
  • Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human by Richard Wrangham
  • The Book of Nice: A Nice Book About Nice Things for Nice People by Josh Chetwynd
  • Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version by Philip Pullman
  • Favorite Folktales from Around the World by Jane Yolen

Social sciences books arranged together

Once you have further subdivided your social science books, be sure to update any spreadsheets or card catalogs you may have made for them. Part of the joy of having a system is that you will never need to worry about misplacing a beloved book again.

Do you have a lot of books in one of these subdivisions? Leave a comment below.


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