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How to Choose Nonfiction: Social Science

Without a doubt, a good nonfiction on social science is the best nonfiction reading material around as it explains about ourselves. In my series of How to Choose Nonfiction, this week we shall delve into the Social Science genre. This post shows you how to choose your Social Science fix based on the different categories available. Book recommendations are according to their categories: Anthropology, Sociology, and Political. Use this post as a guide to choose nonfiction in Social Science genre that can enrich your reading experience.

You might be thinking that it never crossed your mind to read nonfiction in regards to Social Science. That’s because we subconsciously pick up books pertaining to human behaviour and not realise that we’re reading Social Science books. Social Science is the study of why we do the things we do, how we have come to do the things we do and when we will stop doing these things. The whole nine yards on the study of human behaviour is under nonfiction as Social Science. Let’s not limit such reading to just textbooks for schools and my goal is to enlighten the fact such books provide vast knowledge and are not intimidating.

When reading social science non-fiction, the writing skill of the author should not be as important as the idea that the author is bringing forward. It is important to get to know whether the content of the book would pique your interest and curiosity in order to keep the momentum of reading from cover to cover. This post lists the three best books to choose if you’re planning to read nonfiction sectioned under Social Science.


The rave reviews about Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari are true. This book is a must-read to find out the perspective of human evolution from a historian’s point of view. Harari points out the reason that human advances are not because our fingers function better (who came up with that theory, again?), but because of our ability to form an idea and disseminate it. Throughout history, ideas have been disseminated where the process of convincing and believing happens in exchange through conversations, publications, and broadcasts. Harari points out that one of the most popularly believed and practiced idea is capitalism.

Harari explains that the advancement of the world today would not have been possible without the idea of ‘credit’. He also explains the change in human behaviour with the acceptance of developing something based on someone’s future worth. He also went on to assert that the future of human is dependant on automation. Sapiens is a good read if your interest is in human behaviour throughout the history. Therefore this the book you need to get if your looking to for a relaxed read about human behaviour. We would park this book under social science non-fiction and further categorise it under Anthropology.


Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell covers a lot of technical social science theories into a readable and enjoyable book. In this book, Tipping Point, he covers the Pareto Principle at length. Not just in theory, but in the form of real-life stories that anyone could relate to. This way, even non-Social Science graduates can understand the theories and effects of the Pareto Principle easily. If you are new to nonfiction, Malcolm Gladwell is definitely an author you should try for his great storytelling ability.

I would recommend The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell to anybody whose interest is in the ‘Why’ of human behaviour. In this book, you can expect to see the explanation of occurrences, as to why sometimes things happen and why sometimes things don’t. Malcolm Gladwell covers all that in this page-turner that’s a great company for the weekend. This page-turner is nonfiction social science under the category of Sociology. In fact, it wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that all Malcolm Gladwell books are page-turners.


In this controversial book, Tun Mahathir Mohamad pointed out the problems that the Malay race faces if they don’t change their behaviour. Not only did he not sugar coat when he spoke about his own race, but he also exercised the same writing style when commenting about the behaviours of other races. As a Malay myself – though Tun Mahathir Mohamad’s writing at the time was not backed by data but merely his own observation, his claims are somewhat true. As a Malaysian, I had read this book multiple times without finding it offensive because the reading is done from the perspective of a person who wanted to solve a problem that exists in his country.

I would recommend this book to all Malaysians who would like to understand or peek into Tun Mahathir Mohamad’s perspective. This book delves into racial harmony, the importance of education, and developing a can-do attitude to benefit ourselves and our country in the long run. The Malay Dilemma is a perennial read under nonfiction Social Science and it is under the category of Politics.


There you go, three different types of nonfiction under the arm of Social Science that you could choose from. I hope the book recommendations would help you assess the type of reading that’s suitable for your needs. And, more importantly, it keeps you peeling page after page!

If you’re interested to read more on our How to Choose Nonfiction series. Here are the links to our other posts:
Terminal Illness Memoir

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