I’m an amateur anthropologist at best, having taken the plunge as a post-doc in 2015. Having not taken Anthropology 101 (or 701 for that matter) I was left to consult with colleagues in various departments on the best mode of induction. Aside from “do the work” (e.g. fieldwork), a common piece of advice that I received was to read ethnographies. A lot of them. One common adage, particularly in US anthropology departments, is that a PhD student should try to read 100 ethnographies. I’ve not quite gotten there myself, yet, but found the principle to be a good one. Don’t start with the technical manuals and methods handbooks, though do consult these as well. Start with practice and studying the practice of others. In passing this advice along to students and other researchers, I’ve often been asked how to find ethnographies and get started on this journey. I’ve gradually accumulated a list of works based on my own interests which includes folks like James Frazer, Emile Durkheim, Bronislaw Malinowski, Marcel Mauss, Margaret Mead, E.E. Evans-Pritchard, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Mary Douglas, Victor Turner, Gregory Bateson, Roy Rappaport, Clifford Geerz, Talal Asad, Roy Wagner, Maurice Bloch, Paul Rabinow, Bruno Latour, Arjun Appaudurai, James Clifford, Lila Abu-Lughod, Keith Basso, George Marcus and Donna Haraway. I’ve also been delighted to discover the work of more recent “greats” like Saba Mahmood, Anna Tsing, Veena Das, Stephan Helmreich, Paolo Gerbaudo, Gabriella Coleman, and Michael Jackson. You can see my interests here in more-than-human anthropology, science & technology studies, netnography etc.
There are specialist areas not represented in the list above where you can do a deep dive – into visual ethnography or auto-ethnography (two other interests of mine), and it’s not hard to find a few recent journal articles on a given methodological niche and the trace citations backwards to the key reference points in monograph form.
If you’re looking to get into the field, it’s also worth keeping an eye, or reading backlists arising from the various anthropology prizes. This includes prizes awarded by the Society for Cultural Anthropology (including the Gregory Bateson prize).