Recommended Reading

I’m in the process of putting together a list of the books that have helped me to get to grips with teaching some of the material on the course, particularly those areas that I was unfamiliar with when the process began (all the teachers are coming at this from different perspectives and backgrounds, as, I suppose, are all the students). If you have any suggestions that you found useful that I can add to the list, you might be good enough to let me know by emailing me on with the title ‘recommended reading’. If you have a mini ‘blurb’ about how you used the book, and particularly which part of the course it linked to, I’ll include that and give you named credit. This applies to both teachers and students, but the way…! The goal is to try and keep each section to a maximum of 3-4 titles, and I’m happy to ‘bump’ some of my recommendations off the list if you can suggest something better.

General Reading:

The Politics Book (DK) You get 2,3 or 4 pages on a wide number of political thinkers. It’s an excellent place for any ambitious student to start, particularly if you’re trying to find thinkers to butt up against some of the thinkers on the course. Very good, short boxes that illustrate thought processes and key terminology. I found this incredibly useful.

The Sociology Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained (DK) Similar to above, but really useful in terms of contextualizing a lot of the thinkers on the course. I found it particularly useful when looking at the ‘Identity’ part of the course.

Sociology For Dummies by Nasar Meer and Jay Gabler. Don’t laugh. There are parts of this book that are actually really well written and are really accessible. The section of Social Stratification was very usable, and the Citizenship and National Identities section links in with our course quite a lot. The recommended reading bit at the end “Ten Sociology Book That Don’t Feel Like Homework” will keep me going for quite a while!


Hobbes: A Very Short Introduction – as the name suggests, a short, readable, but fairly comprehensive little book. Certainly more than enough to be getting one with if this is your first time through the course, or a good springboard if you’re a very keen student.

 Leviathan, (Penguin Classics, 2016) This is the main text, with some short commentary. Best to dig into this one after you have at least some context! Language issues tend to trip people up a lot…


Locke: A Very Short Introduction I found this one the most readable of the ‘short introductions’ many of which I relied on during my first time through the course. There’s a good balance of relevant biographical details and useful summaries of key works and terminology. I thought the section on Toleration were particularly well framed.

An Essay Concerning Human Understanding: Second Treatise of Government (Wordsworth Classics of World Literature). This is massive (800+ pages) but if, like me, you spend a bit of time on Locke’s theory of property, it’s handy to have a book version of Chapter 5 ready to hand….

Karl Marx:

What Would Marx Do?: How the greatest political theorists would solve your everyday problems. I actually got a present of this from Conor Harrison in Maynooth after helping out with a PME Pol-Soc methodology class. I found it was a particularly good way of trying to link that ideas of the key thinkers to the modern world – finding the key thinker’s footprint kinda thing. I think I’ll be using some of the little case studies from the book with my TY group next year. A really good place for a keen student to start.

Marx: A Very Short Introduction. This one was updated in 2018 and saves you having to actually slog your way through Das Kapital. (I only ever managed a couple of dozen pages of that one). Again, a good balance of relevant biography and key concepts.

Karl Marx  – by Francis Wheen. I haven’t read this one yet, but it comes highly recommended and is on my Christmas list for next year. The preview in amazon looks very promising!

On Ireland and the Irish Question (by Marx & Engels). I got this from my school library (surprisingly). It’s very heavy going, but little snippets of it could be used with both a Pol-Soc or History class. I took a few small extracts on it for a class text on Marx at one stage (with mixed success).


***Caveat*** The links above are Amazon ‘Affiliate’ links. If you purchase the books through those links, it’s helps to fund and maintain the website, but don’t feel under any obligation to do so. I just want to be totally transparent with what’s happening on the page. I’m trying to keep any advertising to an absolute minimum, but can’t afford to run the page out of my own pockets for much longer (the donations have been, shall we say, “meagre” even though we’re getting lots of traffic), and therefore, any advertising that you see, will be for stuff that I am happy to promote myself.