Top Ten Books for Fans of The Wire

Books for Fans of The Wire

In a bit of a twist on my usual Top Ten Tuesday, this is divided based on seasons of the show. Though the central theme of The Wire was established in Season 1, which centered on the police department and the drug dealing organization run by the Barksdale family, fans will remember that consecutive seasons focused on a specific aspect of life in Baltimore. Enjoy the non-fiction goodness!

SEASON 1 – Police/Drugs
Homicide by David Simon 
This list wouldn’t be possible without this book because the TV show wouldn’t be possible without this book. David Simon created The Wire out of the time he spent embedded in a Baltimore police unit as research for Homicide

Buck by M.K. Asante 

An incredible memoir of a kid who educated himself both on the streets of Philadelphia and by finding his voice in writing. [Review]

Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward
Jesmyn Ward’s beautiful memoir about the death’s of five men in her life could fall under any one of The Wire‘s seasons, as she addresses the impact of poverty and racism on the lives of black men. [Review]

SEASON 2 – Blue-Collar Workers
Ninety Percent of Everything by Rose George
I usually try to make sure I’ve read all of my Top Ten Tuesday choices, but this book on the world of freight shipping is just too perfect for the docks of Season 2 not to be listed.

The Hard Way on Purpose by David Giffels

Though Giffels’ book explores life in the Rust Belt, he touches on many of the same themes that Season 2 of The Wire explores in Baltimore. [Review]

SEASON 3 – Politics
The Unwinding by George Packer
A look at the history of the United States over the past three decades, exposing the gradually weakening systems of what was once a great superpower. [Review]

The Savage City by T.J. English

An examination of failing political machines in 1960’s New York City through the case of George Whitmore, Jr., a 19 year-old who was coerced into confessing to the 1963 “Career Girls Murders”. 

SEASON 4 – Schools
Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol
I always use Savage Inequalities as a stand-in for any Kozol book. He has been studying inner-city schools for decades and, sadly, the tragedy remains the same. 

How Children Succeed by Paul Tough
In this amazingly researched book on students, school and education, Tough argues that character traits like grit and curiosity have much more to do with success than IQ or ability.

SEASON 5 – Journalism

Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink
Instead of looking at the negative side of journalism like The Wire, Sheri Fink shows off her amazing skills as she investigates what happened in Memorial Hospital after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. [Review]

Are you a fan of The Wire? What books remind you of the show?


Need more recommendations?
  • Great list! I’ve never watched The Wire but I heard so many good things about the show; will have to make it a point to check it out one of these days. I also haven’t read any of these titles but some of them look familiar (Five Days at Memorial, The Unwinding) :)

    My TTT

    • Five Days at Memorial and The Unwinding are both fantastic books and have won tons of awards. The Unwinding just came out in paperback, too!

  • I haven’t watched The Wire before, but I love how much detail you’ve gone into to explain your reasons for the book choices.

  • I love how you did this by seasons!! So neat.
    Top Ten Tuesday- Clue!

  • I love how you’ve done it season-wise, it’s very fitting too. I’ll definitely check out the season 3 and 4 books.

  • debnance

    I love how you recommended all these fabulous nonfiction reads!

    Here’s my Top Ten!

  • I’ve never seen The Wire but I have read How Children Succeed and thought it was a very insightful and well-researched book

  • What an amazing list, is add all of them to my TBR if they weren’t already there. Also must watch The Wire And Homicide (again)

    • The whole time I was putting this together I was thinking about how I wanted to start another binge watch of The Wire.

  • Erin’s Inside Job

    This is awesome! I want to read all of these :)

  • I really want to read The Hard Way on Purpose, I’ve been seeing it all over the place lately!

    Also, I’ve never seen The Wire – but I do really want to, so I’m pretty excited that it’s coming to Amazon Prime.

  • Soooo want to read Men We Reaped.

  • mariahelena

    I loved how you divided your list based on the seasons.