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

The Books I Picked & Why

Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk

By Legs McNeil, Gillian McCain

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.


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American Hardcore: A Tribal History

By Steven Blush

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. 


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

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

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.


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Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

By Hunter S. Thompson

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.


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

By Chuck Klosterman

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.


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