The best books about the history of punk rock

Frank Turner Author Of Try This at Home: Adventures in Songwriting
By Frank Turner

Who am I?

My two passions in life are music (especially punk rock) and history, so obviously books about music history really hit the spot for me. As both a fan and a writer / performer, learning about the history of the music I love is very important (not to mention entertaining) for me. Here are some of my favourites.


I wrote...

Try This at Home: Adventures in Songwriting

By Frank Turner,

Book cover of Try This at Home: Adventures in Songwriting

What is my book about?

Taking 36 songs from his back catalogue, folk-punk icon Frank Turner explores his songwriting process. Find out the stories behind the songs forged in the hedonistic years of the mid-2000s North London scene, the ones perfected in Nashville studios, and everything in between. Some of these songs arrive fully-formed, as if they've always been there, some take graft and endless reworking to find 'the one'. In exploring them all, Turner reflects with eloquence, insight, and self-deprecating wit on exactly what it is to be a songwriter.

From love songs and break-up songs to political calls-to-arms; songs composed alone in a hotel room or in soundcheck with the Sleeping Souls, this brilliantly written memoir - featuring exclusive photos of handwritten lyrics and more - is a must-have book for FT fans and anyone curious about how to write music.

The books I picked & why

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England's Dreaming

By Jon Savage,

Book cover of England's Dreaming: Anarchy, Sex Pistols, Punk Rock, and Beyond

Why this book?

The original and best record of the initial (British) punk explosion in the 1970s, this is required reading for anyone with any interest in the history of punk. It's thorough, thoughtful, and entertaining in equal measure, a book I've read more than once.


Please Kill Me

By Legs McNeil, Gillian McCain,

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

Why this book?

The perfect counterpart to Savage's book, telling the story of the American punk experience as a work of oral history. This tome delves into the broader worlds of fashion and art, and is hilarious and shocking as well as magisterial. Highyl recommended.


Dance of Days

By Mark Andersen, Mark Jenkins,

Book cover of Dance of Days: Two Decades of Punk in the Nation's Capital

Why this book?

Tells the story of the further development of punk in Washington DC, and the birth of a thousand subgenres, from emo to post-hardcore and beyond, and punk's embracing of a more aware political consciousness, as well as a broader musical spectrum.


Our Band Could Be Your Life

By Michael Azerrad,

Book cover of Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991

Why this book?

A one-of-a-kind book about the wider history of underground music in America in the 1980s, it traces the thread from Black Flag to Nirvana, cataloguing a huge range of vital bands in the process, and documenting many scenes that would otherwise have been lost to obscurity.


Get in the Van

By Henry Rollins,

Book cover of Get in the Van: On the Road With Black Flag

Why this book?

This book has been my bible for most of my adult life - reading it as a teenager changed everything. Rollins' diaries from the gruelling years of grunt level touring with arguably the most important punk band of them all (Black Flag), it has to be read to be believed, and will make you grateful for everything you have in life, whilst also tweaking your hunger for the road.


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