Three and a half shelves of sociology books at Barnes & Noble

While browsing at a local Barnes & Noble store, I again noted something of interest: they have three and a half shelves of sociology books.

This is fairly common as sociology is lumped in with sections like Cultural Studies and Criminology. Just across the aisle to the left was fifteen shelves of Current Affairs and just behind this was at least 15 shelves of History.

I’m not surprised by this: sociology in the public’s eye has a low profile. If you look closely at the books in the sociology section, you can find a number on sociological topics that are not written by sociologists such as Nickel and Dimed, There Are No Children Here, The Social Animal, Triumph of the City, and The Better Angels of Our Nature. So there is really less than three shelves of books by sociologists. This is the case even with several books on the shelf that have received recent attention such as Going Solo and The Cosmopolitan Canopy. Along with anthropology, I can’t think of any of the big academic disciplines from which you could find fewer books at your average chain bookstore.

Is this simply indicative of the small number of people who go into a Barnes & Noble and purchase sociology titles or does it illustrate the broader profile of sociology in American life?

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