I have written or edited six books that focus on social roles and relationships, with a particular emphasis on design and people’s interaction with technology, media, objects, and spaces in settings such as homes, schools, workplaces, and the natural environment.

Whether it’s love letters, smartphones, furniture, playground equipment, or toys, I always seek answers to questions about why and how people engage with their digital and physical possessions and spaces, and what factors may make some groups have lesser or greater access to valuable and desirable things.

The Stuff of Family Life, published in 2017 (Rowman & Littlefield), won the silver award in the Families and Relationships Section of the Foreword 2017 INDIES Book Awards!

Between: Living Life in Neither Extreme (Montezuma Publishing, 2017) is a collection of essays that were formerly featured on my blog.

Love Letters: Saving Romance in the Digital Age (Routledge) was published in 2018, and examines the cultural dimensions of romance and technology in today’s relationships and families.

Contemporary Parenting and Parenthood: From News Headlines to New Research (Praeger) is an edited book about today’s parenting roles and challenges, and was published in 2019.

Sociocultural Dimensions of Childhood is an edited book on global patterns in children’s experiences, published in Bulgaria (in English) in 2020.

A Guide to Socially-Informed Research for Architects and Designers (Routledge, 2023) is a how-to for designers to employ empathetic, inclusive, and rigorous methods of gathering input from various stakeholders throughout the design process.

My books are accessible to academic and general interest audiences. 


“The Stuff of Family Life, by Michelle Janning, is a fascinating sociological exploration of what material goods say about people and society. . . .The book is intelligent. It is also a relatable and entertaining read. . . .The Stuff of Family Life is an illuminating, well-researched and remarkable book. The insights it offers afford […]

for The Stuff of Family Life: Foreword Reviews

“Have you ever considered why your house has a dining room? Or have you thought about which rooms in your house are public (such as the living room) or private (like the bedroom)? Sociologist Janning looks at spaces and items in modern American homes to understand the boundaries between public and private lives for families, […]

for The Stuff of Family Life: Booklist

“[The Stuff of Family Life] is well-stocked with fun examples and intriguing analyses of how our homes and the stuff within them reveal more than we might have imagined. It’s a fascinating class in social issues, with Janning as a likable teacher.”

for The Stuff of Family Life: Notre Dame Magazine

“The Stuff of Family Life: How Our Homes Reflect Our Lives speaks to the everyday reader through easy-to-follow text and language…. Janning truly combines education and entertainment in a nonfiction book accessible to casual readers through dedicated sociology students. I find her use of amusing anecdotes especially engaging. I found myself chuckling as I read some […]

for The Stuff of Family Life: The Parenting Patch

“Focusing on the meaning of objects associated with ‘home’ and with family-related social processes such as parenting, divorcing, and aging, Janning takes a sociological glimpse at several seemingly trivial but terribly relevant family topics. Her subjects are far ranging, including owners’ suites; living spaces with great rooms, toys, and photo albums; dining rooms, with evidence […]

for The Stuff of Family Life: American Library Association CHOICE Magazine

“If we ever thought,  as many of us did, that the digital age would crush romantic messages or make them evanescent, Janning has shown us that we were wrong; love just surfaces in a different form. This is a wonderful book full of rich and surprising details and very suitable for classes. Students can learn […]

for Love Letters: Pepper Schwartz, University of Washington

“In this insightful and enjoyable book, Michelle Janning draws readers into a deeper understanding of love letters as cultural artifacts. Utilizing innovative methods, this timely contribution tells an illuminating story about the ways in which we curate love letters — as reflections of collective values and individual experiences — that will appeal to a wide […]

for Love Letters: Adina Nack, California Lutheran University

“Michelle Janning has edited a must-have collection that offers research-based perspectives for parents overwhelmed with ‘how-to’ books and images of perfection on social media. The expertly-written chapters are relevant, timely, and informative; they offer variety at the same time they collectively navigate common concerns related to helicopter parenting, technology, mental health, public policy, and social […]

for Contemporary Parenting and Parenthood: Samantha Bowen, Director, Early Childhood and Parenting Education Programs, Walla Walla Community College

“This collection of articles on parenthood is both smart and engaging. For an introduction to the sociology of contemporary parenthood, I’ve seen none better.”

for Contemporary Parenting and Parenthood: Frank Furstenberg, Zellerbach Family Professor of Sociology, Emeritus, University of Pennsylvania

“Parenting has become fraught with tension, insecurity, and worry. Family structure changes and increased family complexity are accelerating at a head-spinning rate, and children have changed from being family income producers to costly investments. There is no lack of parenting advice in these changing times, but much of it is either based on opinion and […]

for Contemporary Parenting and Parenthood: Marilyn Coleman, Distinguished Curator’s Professor Emerita, University of Missouri, and Lawrence Ganong, Chancellor’s Professor at the University of Missouri

“Modern parenting is often confusing. Rapid demographic and technological change have reshaped family life in ways we are all struggling to understand, and news and social media coverage of family life often raises more questions than it answers. In this original and innovative volume, leading social scientists and family scholars look past the headlines to […]

for Contemporary Parenting and Parenthood: Kristi Williams, PhD, Professor of Sociology, The Ohio State University, and Editor, Journal of Marriage and Family

“I am always answering the question of “why” as I practice interior design. Solutions may appear as beautiful draperies or furniture, but they are physical manifestations to specific analysis that includes client needs, wants and constraints. But I haven’t always thought about inherent prejudices and assumptions that I may bring to a project. Michelle gives academic tools […]

for A Guide to Socially-Informed Research for Architects and Designers: Robin Daly Interior Designer, Robin Daly Color & Design
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