New lease for bestsellers
Three of these books are longstanding bestsellers. Sociology: A New Approach first emerged as an O-level text in the mid 1980s, but this third edition represents a radical reappraisal.
Each of the 19 chapters is subdivided into sections addressing key issues and organised around a brief summary from the authors, a piece of data and a set of related questions.
The page layout is well designed and illustrated, the data is varied and up to date, and students rarely get through more than a handful of paragraphs before finding something to do. However, there is more to a GCSE course than data response questions, so teachers will need to supplement the book with coursework suggestions, other research activities and pieces of extended writing.
Sociology is a repackaging of the popular Sociology for GCSE and retains the range of coverage and activities of its predecessor. There are two key innovations. First, the authors have updated the original text and much of the data.
More importantly, they have increased the range of GCSE questions from the various examination boards which helps to give the text a much harder currency in the classroom.
Sociology Alive! has been more substantially rewritten than the Townroe and Yates book and includes a range of activities together with the accessible writing style and well-designed page layout of the original text. It will continue to sell well, but like each of the two texts noted so far, it lacks the sort of "how to use this book" guide that GCSE students often require.
This is where Ken Browne's An Introduction to Sociology has an advantage over these revised editions of the established favourites. It contains such guidance, includes a glossary of complex terms and has the strongest chapter on sociological research. Given that it was published in 1992, it is surprising later publications haven't adopted these features.