The Best References for Anthropology Students, Part 1: Books

Long time, no see! I know it has been a while since I’ve blogged…I’m still working on the whole work-life-blog balance thing. Anyways, let’s jump right into the post…

The other day I got to thinking about the references that got me through grad school. Of course, my number one resource was my support system–the friends, mentors, and fellow students that had my back throughout my academic journey. If I could bottle up and sell the support that I received from these amazing people I’d probably be a millionaire, but I can’t. So here’s the next best thing!

This post is Part 1 in a multiple part series.


The Best References for Anthropology Students

Part 1: Books

1. Writing in Anthropology: A Brief Guide by Shan-Estelle Brown

This book helped me (and several other students in my master’s program) get over writer’s block during my thesis journey. It is full of helpful diagrams, explanations, and examples for writing all sorts of anthropology papers. The chapter titled The Critical Research Paper was especially helpful for me when writing the methods and results sections of my thesis.

This book doesn’t assume that the reader already knows everything about anthropology as a discipline, making it a great reference for new anthropology students and undergraduates. However, even as an experienced graduate student, I could appreciate the no-nonsense way this book breaks down the anthropological writing process.

You can purchase this book here or here.


2. Anthropology in Practice: Building a Career Outside the Academy by Riall W. Nolan

If you’ve studied anthropology (especially applied anthropology) for a couple years or more, chances are you’ve heard of Riall W. Nolan. Many of his books focus on applying anthropological knowledge and practice to “real-world” projects and careers.

I used this book when I was writing my application for graduate school, as well as for a class during my first semester. This book has great tips on self-definition and self-motivation, both for students and those entering the workforce. It is very useful for articulating what anthropologists can do outside of academia and how they can do it.

I also love this quote from the first page of the Preface, which basically sums up my attraction to anthropology:

“Anthropology’s message is both simple and compelling: there are other minds in the world and they think as well as ours; but they often think very differently.” — Nolan

You can purchase this book here or here.


spiderman reading a book
While searching for images to use in this blog post, I found this gem. I suppose even superheros could use a good reference book! Photo by Road Trip with Raj on Unsplash

3. Exploring Everyday Life: Strategies for Ethnography and Cultural Analysis by Billy Ehn, Orvar Löfgren and Richard Wilk

This was a textbook for my undergraduate senior methods class, but I kept it and referenced it long after completing my bachelor’s degree.

My favorite chapter in this book is chapter 2, The Importance of Small Things. Sometimes when you are working on an exciting ethnography project, you can get lost in a sea of data and insights. This chapter helps you get your thoughts and methods organized by breaking down the ethnography process into five simple steps.

You can purchase this book here or here.


4. Using Anthropology in the World: A Guide to Becoming an Anthropologist Practitioner by Riall W. Nolan

Rounding out this short list is another book by Riall W. Nolan. I recently used this book after graduate school, when I was preparing for a job interview (I got the job by the way!).

Specifically, I used this book to guide me in conducting a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis with an anthropological point of view. This book helped me express how the skills and perspective I learned as an anthropology student could be applied to my current job.

I also love the narratives written by actual practicing anthropologists that are sprinkled throughout this book. The stories from these anthropologists show that there are many ways to approach your career if you have an anthropological background, and what is important is finding a way that works for you.

You can purchase this book here or here.



Although some of these books you may want to purchase and keep for your personal reference, don’t forget to check your university or local library for a copy as well!

Happy reading!

books in a library with hanging lights
What anthropology books do you find most useful? Leave a comment below. Photo by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič – @specialdaddy on Unsplash

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