The best books about journalism and alternative culture

Taylor Markarian Author Of From the Basement: A History of Emo Music and How It Changed Society
By Taylor Markarian

Who am I?

That’s a terrible question that gives me spiritual anxiety. But to get right down to it, I’m just someone who loves culture. I’m fascinated by why people do the things they do, from ethics to aesthetics. As a music journalist, I have interviewed everyone from local bands to Grammy award-winning artists for publications like Alternative Press, Kerrang!, Revolver, and Loudwire. My work as a freelance entertainment writer carried me to other types of lifestyle writing, including food and travel. I am a regular contributor for Reader’s Digest.

I wrote...

From the Basement: A History of Emo Music and How It Changed Society

By Taylor Markarian,

Book cover of From the Basement: A History of Emo Music and How It Changed Society

What is my book about?

From the Basement is part narrative, part oral history. It weaves my personal journey as a lover of emo music with the confessions of the musicians themselves. It explores what was at once the most mocked and adored genre, as well as its wider societal implications regarding subjects like mental health and toxic masculinity. Spanning 1980s hardcore through present-day emo rap, this book features interviews with Minor Threat, Taking Back Sunday, Dashboard Confessional, Saves the Day, and more.

It is a passionate analysis of how pop culture affects deeper aspects of our lives, as told from the point of view of someone who has suffered from depression.

The books I picked & why

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Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk

By Legs McNeil, Gillian McCain,

Book cover of Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk

Why this book?

This oral history gets in at the ground floor of 1960s proto-punk and chronicles how it led to the infamous punk bands of the 1970s. Written and recorded by Punk Magazine founder Legs McNeil, this book gives you a front-row seat to the exploits of New York Dolls, David Bowie, and Sex Pistols. It is incredibly genuine in the way it captures the flippant and belligerent attitudes of the era. It’s witty and it’s gritty, which are the two requirements of excellent journalism.

American Hardcore: A Tribal History

By Steven Blush,

Book cover of American Hardcore: A Tribal History

Why this book?

American Hardcore is like the more aggressive cousin to Please Kill Me. While the latter is more of a narrative, American Hardcore is an audiophile’s masterpiece. It catalogs the evolution of hardcore music from coast to coast: its code of ethics, bloody brawls, and unrelenting spirit. It is as much a compilation of photographs and shows flyers as it is in interviews, providing a bird’s-eye view of the subculture. I appreciate this book for its scope and its commitment to documentation. 

The Dirt: Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band

By Tommy Lee, Mick Mars, Vince Neil, Nikki Sixx, Neil Strauss

Book cover of The Dirt: Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band

Why this book?

This is the off-the-wall, outrageous rock n’ roll autobiography that satisfies your guilty pleasures. It’s the insider story of Mötley Crüe’s ultimate rock star life that is at once disgusting, exciting, and freeing. Post up on a beach somewhere with this whirlwind tour diary for a fun afternoon of sex and drugs.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

By Hunter S. Thompson,

Book cover of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Why this book?

Speaking of drugs, let’s talk about Hunter S. Thompson. For me, this seminal work rooted in 1960s counter culture is more about how to write like yourself than a misguided road trip on drugs. Thompson’s voice is so uniquely brazen; he writes his story with the same grittiness that the best rock autobiographies possess. It’s an amazing example of how much a journalist can insert himself into the topic he’s covering. It breaks the cardinal rule of objective journalism, but in doing so, tells a true story of its own.

Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto

By Chuck Klosterman,

Book cover of Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto

Why this book?

Culture critic Chuck Klosterman is essentially the next-gen Hunter S. Thompson. This book is a stream of consciousness foray into contemporary pop culture, ranging from essays on sports to music to reality TV. It’s an odd, brilliant, self-indulgent take on the American zeitgeist. Feel smart and have a laugh at the same time.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in rock music, pop culture, and journalists?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about rock music, pop culture, and journalists.

Rock Music Explore 129 books about rock music
Pop Culture Explore 82 books about pop culture
Journalists Explore 100 books about journalists

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Homage to Catalonia, Naked Lunch, and A Clockwork Orange if you like this list.