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social science books

Organize Your Social Science Books in Four Easy Steps

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Do you think of yourself as a people person? Maybe you’re interested in law or social justice, perhaps your interest is in education or finance. Perhaps you’ve got a ton of books on railroads or true crime. Or maybe you’re obsessed with fashion, past and present.

 These are just a few of the books that belong in the social sciences section of any library which classifies its books by the Dewey Decimal Classification system. Whether you have a lot of social science books or if you only have a few, this post will help you organize them.

Let’s get started. 

The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer
children together

Home Library Organization

People who love books often accumulate large collections. If that’s you, then maybe when you find yourself wanting to consult a particular book, you  waste a lot of time trying to track it down. Most of us have been there and it can be a frustrating experience . You’re pretty sure you still have it, but it’s lost among all the others. 

It doesn’t have to be this way. In an earlier post, I outlined the advantages of using the Dewey Decimal Classification system for organizing your nonfiction books. And if you have a lot nonfiction print books in your collection, that’s the first step.

I have posts on how to divide the other sections too. Click on these links to go to  General Knowledge, Philosophy and PsychologyReligion,  Language, Natural Sciences, Applied Sciences, Arts and Recreation, Literature, or Geography, Biography and History books.

In my first post, I listed a few of the types of subjects that belong in the 300s (Social Sciences) section. In addition to law, social justice, true crime, transportation, finance or fashion, you will also find books on feminism, race relations, the government, the military, trade, statistics, manners, and folklore.

If  more than 30 of your books belong in the social sciences, read on. This post will give you the guidance to further refine the placement of the social science books in your collection.

Dewey Decimal Categories

The chart above covers the basic ten categories of the DDC. If you haven’t gone through your books to decide where they belong, you may want to look at my previous posand go through those steps first. Then come back here for more in depth information on the third category:  the 300s-Social Sciences.

The 4-step process for home library organization

The four-step home organization process is covered in more detail in “Easy Home Library Organization Using the Dewey Decimal System.” But here, briefly, are the steps:

  1. Examine the chart above.
  2. Decide in which category each book belongs. 
  3. Make piles of books for each category.
  4. Decide where each category will be housed.

Very few personal collections contain books in every category. You may be surprised to find 90 percent of your books can be grouped into one specific section.

Below is a chart that further subdivides the Social Sciences category.

social science books

You may want to look over each subdivision and further subdivide your books accordingly. If you chose to make a spreadsheet of your books as outlined in “Simple Record-Keeping for Home Libraries,” you may want to record your books and the numbers you assigned them. For instance, if you had 30 books marked as belonging in Social Sciences, you may now have 10 of those marked at 320, 5 as 350, 3 as 370, and 12 as 390.

Every book collection is different. The point is to narrow your collection down more specifically, so you will be able to locate the books effortlessly when you need to find one. An added benefit is the serendipitous connections that can be made when similar books are placed together. 

pedestrian lane

Social Science books in brief

In most public libraries in the United States, the social science books would be the largest section by far. The topics in most of these categories are of significance in the lives of most people. Most of these separate subsections cover a huge amount of ground. I will be doing posts separately on most of them later.

300 Social Sciences


The number of books published over the last few decades in this tens section, general social sciences (300-309) is massive. This is where libraries shelve books on both sociology and anthropology. Interdisciplinary works on society and humans, that relate to society as a whole go here as well.

Books shelved in 300-309 house those on culture and cultural institutions and examinations of patterns of behavior in social relationships, mass culture, and religions from a secular, non-religious point of view. Interdisciplinary works on sex and the sexes, sexual orientation and gender studies; books on marriage and families; and finally, books relating to community and community issues are also shelved in this section.

To sum it up: all books on human connectivity and cohesion go in this first general section of social science books. A few examples would be

  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X
  •  Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, 
  • Nickle and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich, 
  • Finding Out: An Introduction to LGBTQ Studies by Deborah Meem, et al.  
  • City by City: Dispatches from the American Metropolis by Keith Gessen.

310 Collections of general statistics


This is not a huge collection in most public libraries. Books on how to collect statistical data, for example, don’t go here, (in the 000s–001.4 to be exact). And  books on statistics of specific subjects aren’t shelved here. Instead, they are shelved with the subject itself. For example, books of linguistics statistics are shelved in the 400s with the linguistics books.

So what does go here? General statistics books published from anywhere in the world: Europe, Asia, North America, South America, Australasia, Pacific Ocean Islands, Atlantic Ocean Islands, Arctic Islands, and Antarctica.

Would you like to learn more about statistics and probability? Khan Academy is a good place to start.

320 Political Science

Political science encompasses politics and government, in the United States and everywhere else. So books on the philosophy and theory of politics and government belong in this section, as do the history,  comparative governments, the structure and functions of government, political ideologies (liberalism, conservatism, nationalism, etc.), local government, and political situations and conditions.

Systems of governments (like feudalism, democracy, and communism) and the relations of the states to organized groups and their members are shelved here too. That would include books on church and state, labor movements, business and industry, and political action groups to name just a few. Books on the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, like the right to hold office and the right to representation go here too. 

Political parties and International relations are the final category in this section.

Recommended books in political science:

  • Politics by Aristotle
  • The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt
  • Under God: Religion and American Politics by Gary Wills
  • Pillar of Fire by Taylor Branch
  • Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America by Ari Berman
  • Gandhi and Churchill: The Epic Rivalry that Destroyed an Empire and Forged Our Age by Arthur Herman
  • The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition by Manisha Sinha
  • Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA by Tim Weiner
  • Congressional Procedure: A Practical Guide to the Legislative Process in the U.S. Congress by Richard A. Arenberg

330 Economics


Economics is a huge, slippery science.  Systems, schools, theories, and biographies are part of it. Books on labor economics go here, so do those on employment, and workers by specialized groups (young people, women, race and ethnic groups). Financial economics relating to the banking industries are shelved here. Books on public revenues (taxes) go here. Finally, books on production and services; economic development and growth; macroeconomics; and the distribution of money belong in the 330s.

If you are interested in US economic data, it can be found on the Bureau of Economic Analysis website.

Recommended books on economics:

  • Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson
  • The Affluent Society by John Kenneth Gailbraith.
  • The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance by Ron Chernow.
  • Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water by Marc Reisner,
  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
  • Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond.
  • Working: People Talk about What They Do All Day and How They Feel about What They Do by Studs Terkel
  • Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution by Mary Gabriel
  • Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power by Steve Coll

340 Law


Laws have existed since the dawn of civilization all over the world. The topic is huge and complex. Books that deal with the methodology of law; its schools of thought; comparative law; law reform; philosophy and theory; law as a profession; the history of law and geographic treatments of legal systems; conflicts in law; laws of nations; intergovernmental organizations; jurisdiction over physical space (who owns and controls what territories); and the law of war and international cooperation are shelved in the 340s. 

More specifically, this section also has books on individual branches of law in specific places and covering the specific topics. Books belonging here are those on the legislative branch of government and specific types of laws like military, educational, commerce, tax laws, insurance, civil law, criminal law, and family law, to name a few. The court system with its trial protocols and regulations go in this section as well. For more information on American laws, USA.gov is a good place to start.

Books of law, if they are available in a public library, would most likely be shelved in a separate law library section or would be in the non-circulating (not available for checkout) reference collection. 

Recommended books in law:

  • The Constitution Today: Timeless Lessons for the Issues of Our Era by Akhil Reed Amar
  • Lincoln’s Code: The Laws of War in America’s History by John Fabian Witt
  • Simple Justice by Richard Kluger
  • Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age by Kevin Boyle
  • We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights by Adam Winkler
  • Ruth Bader Ginsberg: A Life by Jane DeHart

350 Public administration and military science

military science

Public administration covers the executive branches and functions of government. This examines what is allowed and required of government executives such as presidents, prime ministers, governors, mayors, and the like in addition to  their organizations; levels of management and structure (what kinds of boards and departments they have); their financial administration and budgets; executive management processes; and personnel management. What the public can expect from the executive branches go here as well.

This video sums it up nicely. 

Military science includes military situations and policy; defense; military research and development; military life and customs; resources; training; administration; installation; equipment and supplies; and special types of armed forces.

Recommended books in public administration and military science:

  • Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
  • Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War by Barbara Ehrenreich,
  • The Face of Battle by John Keegan,
  • The Fate of the Earth by Jonathan Schell, and
  • The Art of War by Sun Tzu.
  • Sea Power: The History and Geopolitics of the World’s Oceans by James Stavidis

360 Social problems and services; Associations

 Social problems of one sort or another impact almost everyone. This section broadly covers everything from social action to social work. It also covers governmental assistance, private action, community action, history, geographic treatment, and biographies related to social problems.

Specific issues and groups of people also go in the 360s. Books that discuss services to specific groups of people (like the physically and mentally ill, the displaced, older adults, the poor, ethnic minorities, etc.); public safety programs; and controversies related to public morals and customs (like gambling, prostitution, and obscenity) belong here. But it also covers environmental problems like pollution, as well as food supply, and population issues. Criminology is a large chunk of social problems and crime of all types go in the 360s. Penal (prison) and related institutions go here too.

Associations covers secret societies like the Freemasons and the Knights of Pythias, and it also covers general clubs that are not so secret like social and study clubs. Insurance books belong here,too. This section finishes off with specific types of organizations such as hereditary, military, patriotic, national, ethnic, young people’s clubs, and service clubs.

Recommended books in social problems:

  • Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Shadow of Rocky Flats by Kristen Iversen
  • Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink ,
  • Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Great Nuclear Disaster by Adam Higginbotham
  • Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker
  • The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath by Leslie Jamison,
  • Dopesick by Beth Macy,
  • The Poisoned City: Flint’s Water and the American Urban Tragedy by Anna Clark,
  • The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy B. Tyson, and
  • Gulag by Anne Applebaum.
  • Greed on Trial: Doctors and Patients Unite to Fight Big Insurance by Theresa Barta

370 Education

kids with pencils

This section houses the philosophy and theory of education; educational psychology; vocational education; international understanding of education; multicultural and bilingual education; organizations; research; and other topics related to teaching as well as to schools and their activities.

graduate and cap

Quite a few specific topics like books on teachers and the practice of teaching go here. Next are types of schools based on funding, level of student development, and subject matter. Methods used to teach those students and to maintain discipline go in this section. The curricula taught and the management (administration) and maintenance of schools do as well. Finally, it contains books on students, their needs, and how to serve them, and public policy issues in education.

I used to work in the public schools and I found Edutopia one of the most helpful websites out there. It will give you a great idea of what issues our teachers and students face.

Recommended books in education: 

  • How Children Learn by John Holt
  • What I Didn’t Know: True Stories of Becoming a Teacher edited by Lee Gutkind
  • Book Smart: How to Develop and Support Successful, Motivated Readers by Anne E. Cunningham and Jamie Zibalsky
  • Columbine by Dave Cullen
  • The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton by Jerome Karabel
  • Ebony and Ivory: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities by Craig Steven Wilder

380 Commerce, communications, transportation

commercial vehicle

Commerce (trade) books cover marketing channels; the retail trade; markets, shops; stores; wholesale markets; products and services; domestic trade; warehousing; commercial policy; and international commerce. A good place to get current, global information on commerce is The World Bank.

Communications books examine postal communication; communication through computers; wireless methods; radio broadcasting; and television.

Transportation books contain information on railroad transportation; the facilities and vehicles for railways; inland waterway and ferry transportation; oceanic transportation; and air transportation methods including outer space. Metrology and standardization books are also shelved here.

Recommended books in commerce, communications, and transporation:

  • How Markets Fail: The Logic of Economic Calamities by John Cassidy
  • The Price of Fish: A New Approach to Wicket Economics and Better Decisions by Michale Mainelli and Ian Harris
  • When America First Met China: An Exotic History of Tea, Drugs, and Money in the Age of Sail
  • Exploding the Phone: The Untold Story of the Teenagers and Outlaws Who Hacked Ma Bell by Phil Lapsley
  • The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires by Tim Wu
  • Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America  by Richard White
  • Falling Upwards: How We Took to Air by Richard Holmes
  • Too Big to Fall: America’s Failing Infrastructure and the Way Forward by Barry B. LePatner

390 Customs, etiquette, folklore

table setting

Customs covers lots of territory like costume and general appearance such as fashion (kinds of garments, accessories, buttons, hairstyles, personal appearance, and jewelry).  Then there are customs of the life cycle (ceremonies and celebrations involving birth, puberty, coming of age, retirement, and so on); customs of domestic life, our homes (how they are furnished, heated, lighted, traditional dishes); and holidays are shelved in the 390s. Etiquette books give advice on manners that are for either general readers or children, or manners for a specific event like meeting a queen.

folk masks

Folklore books in this section examine the history and criticism of specific subjects involving folklore and folk literature. These can be fairy tales (like those from the brothers Grimm) or interdisciplinary works on mythology and they cover all times and countries, along with tales and lore of persons with and without paranormal powers, lore of plants and animals, ghost stories, and tales and lore involving physical and natural phenomena, riddles, rhymes and rhyming games, proverbs, and the customs of war and diplomacy (like peace pipes).

Recommended books in customs, etiquette,  and folklore:

  • Clothing and Fashion: American Fashion from Head to Toe edited by Jose Blanco et al.
  • At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson
  • The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee’s, Farm Fields, and the Dinner Table by Tracie McMillan
  • Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human by Richard Wrangham
  • The Book of Nice: A Nice Book about Nice Things for Nice People by Josh Chetwynd
  • Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version by Philip Pullman
  • Favorite Folktales from Around the World by Jane Yolen

Sit back and admire your organized shelves

Once you have further subdivided your social science books, be sure to update any spreadsheets or card catalogs you may have made for them. If you don’t know how, I will cover that in a future post. Part of the joy of having a system is that you will never need to worry about misplacing a beloved book again.


Now pour yourself a favorite beverage and enjoy your organized book collection.

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