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?