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If you are interested in becoming a social worker, or need a little inspiration and knowledge about the field you already work in, these 10 books can provide a fresh perspective. This list is just a sampling of the many books available about social work and offers diverse perspectives and genres; such as journalism, history, biography, memoir, and polemic. These books also provide the latest thinking about the social work practice and present the rich history of the social work profession. You won’t find any dry reading here and we hope it will inspire new ideas and energy for your current or future career.
1. Days in the Lives of Social Workers ed. by Linda May Grobman
This book gives anecdotal glimpses into the daily lives of 58 different social workers, ranging from those who work on problems like bullying to September 11th first-responders. Edited by the founder of The New Social Worker External link Magazine, this is a great book for students and also a good book for social workers considering changing jobs.
2. The Road Not Taken: A History of Radical Social Work in the United States by Michael Reisch
This book offers a well-researched and carefully documented alternative to the mainstream idea of what social work is and where it came from. Focusing on voices and actions often overlooked by other historians, it is an essential complement to what you likely learned about the profession in school.
3. Trauma and Recovery: From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror by Judith Herman
This book examines commonalities between personal traumas such as rape and societal traumas such as terrorism, developing a micro to macro framework for understanding how we process and recover from violence.
4. American Dream: Three Women, Ten Kids, and a Nation’s Drive to End Welfare by Jason DeParle
A social policy journalist for the New York Times follows the stories of three cousins working their way out of poverty as welfare reform laws work their ways through Washington. The book eloquently relates the struggles of the characters to their larger social context, and interrogates the real positive and negative consequences of welfare reform, with particular attention to race.
5. Unfaithful Angels: How Social Work Has Abandoned Its Mission by Harry Specht and Mark E. Courtney
A controversial examination of changes in the field of social work since its inception, this book casts a critical eye toward the relationship between social work and psychotherapy. It argues that as an increasing number of social workers transition to private practice psychotherapy, the field has lost its focus on systemic issues affecting the underprivileged and become too focused on the individual issues of the middle class.
6. Motivational Interviewing: Preparing People for Change by William R Miller and Stephen Rollnick
This method of inspiring clients to change their behaviors developed in the substance abuse field as an alternative to the shame- and guilt-based persuasion addicts often encounter, but it is applicable in many other areas, too.
7. Jane Addams: Spirit in Action by Louise W. Knight
This fast-paced story is the first full biography of Jane Addams published in 40 years. Addams was a central figure in the Settlement House movement, a nationally known activist, and provided an early model for social work.
8. The Life and Thought of Louis Lowy: Social Work through the Holocaust by Lorrie Greenhouse Gardella
Lowy came to social work through an unusual path that included time spent in concentration camps and a leadership role in a displaced persons camp afterward. This book offers a unique and inspiring perspective on the profession.
9. Carrying a Banner for Psychiatric Social Work: Essays, Perspectives, and Maida Herman Solomon’s Oral Memoir by Maida H. Solomon, John B. Gussman, and Helen Z. Reinherz
Maida Solomon was one of the major contributors to the development of psychiatric social work, which we now know as clinical social work. This book tells her story in her own words, and provides the perspectives of her contemporaries.
10. The Social Work Graduate School Applicant’s Handbook by Jesus Reyes
If you’ve made the decision to earn an MSW, then this book will provide valuable guidance in making the most of your application in order to get the best education.