This collection of the best David Graeber books contains some of the most fascinating works I’ve ever read.
Graeber was a fascinating anthropologist, whose curiosity led him to write books that look at a variety of topics.
There’s his famous thesis on Debt, Bullshit Jobs, where he looks at the phenomenon of ‘pointless jobs’ and the epic The Dawn of Everything he co-wrote with David Wengrow, about the origins of political systems.
Books by David Graeber are fascinating reads and I’m yet to find one I didn’t enjoy! His writing is lucid, funny and easy to follow. He has a great way with words and of explaining complex issues in easy-to-understand terms.
Below you will find a comprehensive collection of Graeber’s books that look at a wide variety of topics through the prism of anthropology.
Whether you’re a fan of his work, or curious about the topics, these books will make you reevaluate the way you look at the world.
Table of Contents
David Graeber Books In Order
Below you’ll find all of David Grareber’s books in chronological order. They include his most popular works and ones that are lesser known.
Toward an Anthropological Theory of Value: The False Coin of Our Own Dreams (2001)
The first book on this list, Toward an Anthropological Theory of Value, is probably the most challenging and academic of Graeber’s work.
The book looks at how value can be determined from an anthropological point of view. It’s not for the faint-hearted and different from his later, more popular books.
He looks at the work of Karl Marx and Marcel Mauss and states that although they have differing viewpoints, they offer complimentary possibilities.
Toward an Anthropological Theory of Value is a tough book to read, and you’ll need some background in anthropology if you want to read it. It’s probably better to read some of Graeber’s earlier work before you read this one.
Why you should read it: Probably best to read this book if you have a background in anthropology or you’re intrigued to read Graeber’s early work
Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology (2004)
Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology is a short pamphlet that Graber wrote in regard to one of his core beliefs, anarchy.
The thrust of the pamphlet was to try and formulate an anarchist anthropology, which didn’t exist. The work is an allegory of anarchy itself, which does not exist in a tangible political form either.
This book is one of the best to get an idea of Graeber’s beliefs and his area of work. It’s short and accessible, with many intriguing passages.
Graeber lists nine points in Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology that his hypothetical form of anthropology would need to address, such as a theory of the state, a theory of political happiness and hierarchy.
It’s a short but fascinating read and one of the most interesting David Graeber books on the list!
Why you should read it: If you’re interested in learning more about anarchy and how it relates to anthropology, this is the book to read.
Lost People (2007)
Lost People is one of the more interesting books by Graeber on this list.
It looks at a community in Madagascar that’s divided between the descendants of nobles and slaves and how that affected the society after a communal incident years earlier.
Graeber spent a lot of time in Madagascar during his academic career and it’s reflected in Lost People. You can tell he knows the country in intimate detail.
Again, this is another of Graeber’s books that’s more academic in nature and won’t appeal to most people. However, if you like his work and enjoy anthropology, it’s worth a read.
Why you should read it: If you want to learn more about the work Graeber did during his early academic career, this is the book to read.
Possibilities: Essays on Hierarchy, Rebellion and Desire (2007)
As the title of the book suggests, Possibilities is about possible different ways to organise society.
The book is a collection of essays, many of which were written before and after Graeber completed his Ph.D. The book is divided into three parts, which each part focusing on a certain topic.
The first part looks at capitalism, with ruminations on hierarchy and consumption. You can see the early ideas that led to Graeber’s work in Debt.
The second part looks at his time in Madagascar and features reflections on the work he did there during his Ph.D.
The globalisation movement is the focus of the final part of Possibilities and features many interesting essays. Graeber was a part of the movement and these are perhaps the clearest and most interesting parts of the book.
Possibilities is a fascinating book and if you’ve read some of his later works, it’s intriguing to see how his ideas have developed and formed through his career.
Why you should read it: Get an early insight into Graber’s thoughts on many topics that would inform his later work.
Direct Action: An Ethnography (2009)
Direct Action is one of the lesser-known books written by David Graeber, but it’s also one of his most personal and illuminating.
Graeber looks back at his past in the Global Justice Movement and also provides an ethnography of the movement.
The book is centred around protests in Quebec City in 2001 at the Summit of the Americas. Graeber looks at the history of direct democracy, what happened in the movement and much more.
At 600 pages, Direct Action is a long read. There are a lot of fascinating thoughts inside, but I do feel this is a book for Graeber aficionados more than the general public.
Why you should read it: A personal look at the Global Justice Movement that will inform you about its origins and history.
Debt: The First 5000 Years (2011)
Debt explores the relationship of debt to social institutions such as barter and marriage.
It’s one of the most ambitious of the David Graeber books on this list and received mixed reviews as a result.
I enjoyed it and found it to be an enlightening read, especially as I wasn’t familiar with many of the concepts introduced.
Some of the main arguments by Graeber are that debt is the oldest form of trade and that informal economies are only replaced by more precise ones through the means of violence.
Debt is a long book at over 500 pages, and it can be confusing in places. But, it’s an interesting read and offers many counterpoints, right or wrong, to perceived wisdom.
Why you should read it: A wide-ranging account of debt that will teach you a lot about history and society today.
Revolutions in Reverse: Essays on Politics, Violence, Art, and Imagination (2011)
Revolutions in Reverse is a collection of essays that, you guessed it, focus on revolutions.
The title comes from Graeber’s observation that modern revolutions are happening in reverse to what’s perceived in the historical imagination.
The essays look at a range of topics, such as capitalism imagination and violence. All of which are explored through Graeber’s prism of left-wing politics and anarchy.
In some ways, the essays in Revolutions in Reverse represent some of Greber’s most intriguing thoughts.
It’s only a short book but the arguments are lucid and exemplify why Graeber was one of the best thinkers of the early 21st century.
Why you should read it: Discover Graeber’s thoughts on a variety of topics that will make you reevaluate your beliefs.
The Democracy Project: A History, a Crisis, a Movement (2011)
The Democracy Project is Graeber’s inside account of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Graeber was a participant in the Occupy Wall Street protests and is positive about the impact they had, even if they weren’t successful.
He looks at how the movement came about following the financial crash in 2008, why it was effective in attracting so many people to it, and the reason for its eventual demise.
The Democracy Project is different from the other books by Graeber on this list. It’s one more based on personal experiences and reveals some of his political leanings while providing an overview of the history of democracy.
It’s probably not his best-ever book, but if you want to find out why Graeber was an advocate of Occupy Wall Street, this is the book to read.
Why you should read it: An inside look at the Occupy Wall Street movement from someone who was a major part of it.
The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy (2015)
The Utopia of Rules is easily one of the best David Graeber books.
It looks at how we are influenced and react to bureaucracies, with Graeber describing the age that we live in as one of ‘total bureaucratisation.’
He relates a story about dealing with bureaucracy when his mother died and the forms he had to fill in to confirm that someone who passed away was ‘officially’ dead.
Graeber notes that despite how much we dislike bureaucracies, the majority of us do not desire to overthrow them. Hence, the ‘utopia’ of rules that we end up living in.
The Utopia of Rules should be seen as an academic accompaniment to many books on utopia. It explains in simple terms the maddening nature of bureaucracies and our inability to live without them.
Why you should read it: A brilliant look at bureaucracy and how we put up with it despite despising it.
On Kings (2017)
On Kings was written in collaboration with Graeber’s colleague Marshall Sahlins and looks at the history of kings.
It’s a collection of essays that explore what kingship is and its relation to power. There are also essays on what the idea of kingship means for society and the human condition.
The great thing about On Kings is that Graeber and Sahlins look at kings from a variety of different cultures and societies.
This means we get a more rounded idea of kingship rather than a one-dimensional look at the traditional king in the Western mould.
On Kings is a brilliant book on a fascinating topic that will leave you with plenty to ponder.
Why you should read it: An intriguing look at the history of kingship and what it can tell us about society.
Bullshit Jobs (2018)
Bullshit Jobs is one of the best books I’ve ever read.
The book is the result of an essay Graeber wrote in 2013 that went viral. He looks at why so many people regard their jobs as pointless and the harm does to society as a result.
Graeber divides these pointless jobs into five categories: flunkies, goons, duct tapers, box tickers, and taskmasters.
The arguments Graeber makes are more convincing because of the testimonies he uses from people who wrote to him to describe their bullshit jobs. It doesn’t make for good reading and makes you wonder why so many people consider their jobs to be pointless.
Bullshit Jobs is a book that you will struggle to put down and will be thinking about long after you’ve read it. Without a doubt, it’s one of David Graeber’s best books!
Why you should read it: If you’ve ever felt like your job is pointless, you’re not alone. You might discover why that’s the case after reading Graeber’s book.
The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity (2021)
The Dawn of Everything is the first of David Graeber’s books published posthumously following his death.
It was co-authored with the archaeologist David Wengrow, and offers a critique of the current views of the progress of Western civilisation by the likes of Steven Pinker and Yuval Noah Harari.
If you’ve read Harari’s Sapiens, The Dawn of Everything is a blistering counterpoint. Graeber and Wengrow argue that the idea of the linear progression of Western civilisation is false and not backed up by archaeological and anthropological evidence.
It’s a long book but a fascinating one that challenges a lot of preconceptions about the development of civilisation.
Why you should read it: A tour de force on the origins of political systems that will challenge many of the preconceptions you hold.
Pirate Enlightenment, or the Real Libertalia (2023)
Pirate Enlightenment is the last David Graeber book to be published following his death.
It looks at Ratsimilaho, a member of the Zana-Malata Malagasy ethnic group in Madagascar who was descended from a pirate.
Graeber argues that Ratsimilaho was not a European civiliser but a pirate who oversaw the development of democracy on the island before the Age of Enlightenment in the 17th century.
Pirate Enlightenment is an interesting book, and typical of Graeber is one that challenges preconceived notions of history.
Why you should read it: A look at a lesser-known part of history and why what we conceive to be historically correct might not be the case.
Looking For More Books?
Books by Plato – If you enjoyed Graeber’s books, you’ll want to read some of Plato’s who’s considered to be the father of Western philosophy.
Best Albert Camus Books – Camus is a different writer than Graeber but their books focus on similar themes and complement each other well.