The 10 Best Anthropology Books

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This wiki has been updated 18 times since it was first published in February of 2018. Whether you're a serious student of anthropology or simply an armchair archaeologist, this diverse area of study will never leave you with a shortage of interesting reading material. In our selection of books you'll find topics including physical, cultural, linguistic and archaeological choices, with both rigorous educational texts and engaging narratives to choose from. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. Anthropology: Appreciating Human Diversity

2. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

3. Essentials of Physical Anthropology

Editor's Notes

April 17, 2020:

To give insight into this wide-spanning field, we wanted to include volumes that spoke to its variety, so you'll find tomes that expound on language, cultural anthropology, and archaeology, as well as fascinating accounts that read like novels but are full of educational material.

For instance, The Unfolding of Language and Language, Culture, and Society both touch on linguistics, however, the first is written with fluid prose while the latter is a rigorously structured textbook meant to cover a semester or two of an introductory course. Both require some mental fortitude to get through, as each covers the study in detail.

Almost Human, Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, and Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind are extremely interesting non-textbooks that are just as suitable for laypeople as they are professionals in the field. All are thought-provoking and interesting, with Sapiens being particularly insightful. For further study in a similar vein, check out our list of books of ancient history.

Aspiring cultural anthropologists will glean much from Cultural Anthropology: Asking Questions About Humanity, a queries-based textbook that encourages critical thinking, and today's new addition, Gods of the Upper Air.

Gods of the Upper Air is an engaging read that covers the genesis of the discipline by chronicling the moral and scientific struggle of Franz Boas and his team of visionaries in the early 20th century. What they discovered changed our collective idea of human identity and challenged entrenched biases that have held certain factions of people down throughout history. To make room for this title we removed When Science Sheds Light on History, an interesting collection of case studies from a forensic medical examiner. While the material is fascinating, the volume lacks a coherent thread and overarching premises and comes across as jumbled and dry as a result.

We've also brought all editions up to their most current iterations, including Anthropology: Appreciating Human Diversity, which now reflects the 18th edition rather than the previously listed 16th.

Special Honors

Coursera If you're interested in supplementing your new anthropology book with an online course, then consider using Coursera. This website provides both free and affordable courses curated from leading universities and companies, offering on-demand video lectures from top instructors and self-paced classes with quizzes and hands-on projects. They offer dozens of courses in anthropology, from linguistics to history.

American Anthropological Association Founded in 1902, the American Anthropological Association is the world's largest scholarly and professional organization of anthropologists. Members work across dozens of industries, including higher education, public, private, and non-governmental sectors. They host annual meetings, help tackle world issues, and provide career assistance, academic resources, and up to date news.

4. Gods of the Upper Air

5. Cultural Anthropology: Asking Questions About Humanity

6. Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies

7. Almost Human

8. Language, Culture, and Society

9. The Unfolding of Language

10. Archaeology: The Essential Guide to Our Human Past

Gia Vescovi-Chiordi
Last updated by Gia Vescovi-Chiordi

Born in Arizona, Gia is a writer and autodidact who fled the heat of the desert for California, where she enjoys drinking beer, overanalyzing the minutiae of life, and channeling Rick Steves. After arriving in Los Angeles a decade ago, she quickly nabbed a copywriting job at a major clothing company and derived years of editing and proofreading experience from her tenure there, all while sharpening her skills further with myriad freelance projects. In her spare time, she teaches herself French and Italian, has earned an ESL teaching certificate, traveled extensively throughout Europe and the United States, and unashamedly devours television shows and books. The result of these pursuits is expertise in fashion, travel, beauty, literature, textbooks, and pop culture, in addition to whatever obsession consumes her next.

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