59 books like Gangs

By Tony Thompson,

Here are 59 books that Gangs fans have personally recommended if you like Gangs. Shepherd is a community of 9,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of A Brief History of Seven Killings

Tim Pritchard Author Of Street Boys: 7 Kids. 1 Estate. No Way Out. The True Story of a Lost Childhood

From my list on how street gangs develop and why they fall apart.

Who am I?

I’m a filmmaker and writer who made a TV series about street gangs around the world with actor and presenter Ross Kemp. But it was one London street gang, the PDC, that particularly caught my attention. The newspaper reports were full of overblown headlines, terrifying statistics, and quotes from police forces. That’s when I decided to head down to the PDC’s “turf” in a small corner of south London because if you are going to try and tackle this crimewave it’s best to find out who is doing it and why. Right? I spoke to PDC gang members, their friends and families and the surprising truth behind the headlines is revealed in my book.

Tim's book list on how street gangs develop and why they fall apart

Tim Pritchard Why did Tim love this book?

This book opened up a whole new universe for me, not just because its dazzling portrayal of Jamaican street life is so far removed from my own world but because the writing is so free and expressive. Its eye-opening use of Jamaican street slang and lack of traditional grammar makes this a thrilling read and taught me that even hard-to-decipher prose can be powerful and expressive as long as the voice is authentic.

By Marlon James,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Brief History of Seven Killings as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

*WINNER OF THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2015* JAMAICA, 1976 Seven gunmen storm Bob Marley's house, machine guns blazing. The reggae superstar survives, but the gunmen are never caught. From the acclaimed author of The Book of Night Women comes a dazzling display of masterful storytelling exploring this near-mythic event. Spanning three decades and crossing continents, A Brief History of Seven Killings chronicles the lives of a host of unforgettable characters - slum kids, drug lords, journalists, prostitutes, gunmen, and even the CIA. Gripping and inventive, ambitious and mesmerising, A Brief History of Seven Killings is one of the most remarkable…


Book cover of Oliver Twist

Tim Pritchard Author Of Street Boys: 7 Kids. 1 Estate. No Way Out. The True Story of a Lost Childhood

From my list on how street gangs develop and why they fall apart.

Who am I?

I’m a filmmaker and writer who made a TV series about street gangs around the world with actor and presenter Ross Kemp. But it was one London street gang, the PDC, that particularly caught my attention. The newspaper reports were full of overblown headlines, terrifying statistics, and quotes from police forces. That’s when I decided to head down to the PDC’s “turf” in a small corner of south London because if you are going to try and tackle this crimewave it’s best to find out who is doing it and why. Right? I spoke to PDC gang members, their friends and families and the surprising truth behind the headlines is revealed in my book.

Tim's book list on how street gangs develop and why they fall apart

Tim Pritchard Why did Tim love this book?

As a young kid reading Dickens for the first time I was mesmerised by this journey into the underworld of Victorian London. I would go on my own imaginary adventures with the Artful Dodger and his gang of thieving street urchins. Years later, when writing my own book about modern street gang members I had the same sense of going on a thrilling journey of discovery and escapades.

By Charles Dickens,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Oliver Twist as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 5, 6, 7, and 8.

What is this book about?

'The power of Dickens is so amazing, that the reader at once becomes his captive' WILLIAM MAKEPEACE THACKERAY

The story of the orphan Oliver, who runs away from the workhouse to be taken in by a den of thieves, shocked readers with its depiction of a dark criminal underworld peopled by vivid and memorable characters - the arch-villain Fagin, the artful Dodger, the menacing Bill Sikes and the prostitute Nancy. Combining elements of Gothic romance, the Newgate novel and popular melodrama, Oliver Twist created an entirely new kind of fiction, scathing in its indictment of a cruel society and pervaded…


Book cover of Once a King, Always a King: The Unmaking of a Latin King

Tim Pritchard Author Of Street Boys: 7 Kids. 1 Estate. No Way Out. The True Story of a Lost Childhood

From my list on how street gangs develop and why they fall apart.

Who am I?

I’m a filmmaker and writer who made a TV series about street gangs around the world with actor and presenter Ross Kemp. But it was one London street gang, the PDC, that particularly caught my attention. The newspaper reports were full of overblown headlines, terrifying statistics, and quotes from police forces. That’s when I decided to head down to the PDC’s “turf” in a small corner of south London because if you are going to try and tackle this crimewave it’s best to find out who is doing it and why. Right? I spoke to PDC gang members, their friends and families and the surprising truth behind the headlines is revealed in my book.

Tim's book list on how street gangs develop and why they fall apart

Tim Pritchard Why did Tim love this book?

What became apparent as I was writing my book was just how difficult it is for young kids to get away from a life of crime on the streets. Once a King, Always a King helped me understand the challenge – it’s not just that bad habits get absorbed into a personality from a young age, or that adults don’t help kids escape from their criminality. The social care and justice system actively collude in trapping young gang members in a cycle of violence, abuse, and poverty. 

By Reymundo Sanchez,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Once a King, Always a King as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This riveting sequel to My Bloody Life traces Reymundo Sanchez's struggle to create a “normal” life outside the Latin Kings, one of the nation's most notorious street gangs, and to move beyond his past. Sanchez illustrates how the Latin King motto “once a king, always a king” rings true and details the difficulty and danger of leaving that life behind. Filled with heart-pounding scenes of his backslide into drugs, sex, and violence, Once a King, Always a King recounts how Sanchez wound up behind bars and provides an engrossing firsthand account of how the Latin Kings are run from inside…


Book cover of True History of the Kelly Gang

Aidan Phelan Author Of Glenrowan

From my list on Ned Kelly for beginners.

Who am I?

I fell in love with Australian history on a school camp to Beechworth, which was also my first introduction to Ned Kelly. As I got older, after having already tried to establish a career trajectory as an English teacher, I realised my passion for writing and history could help me create the books and media that I wished I could access, as well as be a place to store all those decades of research sitting in my head. My fascination with psychology, true crime, and Australian colonial history naturally reached a meeting point with the Australian bushrangers: the bandits that terrorised Australia for over a hundred years, the most infamous of whom was Ned Kelly.

Aidan's book list on Ned Kelly for beginners

Aidan Phelan Why did Aidan love this book?

 A controversial pick, but I believe this is the finest fictionalised version of Ned's life story written so far. Carey captures a very authentic sense of Ned’s voice and character by basing the book heavily on Ian Jones’ work and the Jerilderie Letter that Ned wrote with gang member Joe Byrne. It retains enough of the truth to craft a realistic world for his creations to exist in, and blends so well with his inventions, that someone unaware that the book is fiction will have a hard time working out some of the fact from the fiction. It is lyrical, powerful, and helped turbo-boost interest in the Kelly legend at a time when it had begun to taper off somewhat.

By Peter Carey,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked True History of the Kelly Gang as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE BOOK THAT INSPIRED THE MAJOR MOTION PICTURE, TO BE RELEASED IN CINEMAS 28TH FEBRUARY 2020

'Extraordinary . . . So mesmerising and moving.' Mail on Sunday

'Vastly entertaining.' New York Times

To the authorities in pursuit of him, Ned Kelly is a horse thief, bank robber and police-killer. But to his fellow Australians, Kelly is their own Robin Hood. In a dazzling act of ventriloquism, Peter Carey's Booker Prize-winning novel of adventure and heroism brings the famous bushranger wildly and passionately to life.


Book cover of 1960s Austin Gangsters: Organized Crime That Rocked the Capital

Scott Montgomery Author Of Austin Noir

From my list on crime with a whole lot of Texas.

Who am I?

I have spent over twenty years over (fifteen in Texas) recommending crime fiction as a bookseller in a couple of prominent stores. Texas and its writers have always fascinated me. Now that I get to call myself one, I am connected more to the genre literature of my adopted state and have an insider's view as both writer and resident.

Scott's book list on crime with a whole lot of Texas

Scott Montgomery Why did Scott love this book?

This coverage of the crime wave of the Overton gang who burgled, pimped, and committed various crimes up and down I-35 is nonfiction, but hard to believe at times.

The story paints vivid time in Austin with a supporting cast of colorful lawyers, madams, and even UT Tower sniper Charles Whitman. Jesse Sublett, author, musician, painter, journalist, and photographer is basically as close as Austin has to royalty and portrays the events in a rock n’ roll style.

I’d also recommend Jesse’s fiction series staring bass player and skip tracer Martin Fender.

By Jesse Sublett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked 1960s Austin Gangsters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Timmy Overton of Austin and Jerry Ray James of Odessa were football stars who traded athletics for lives of crime. The original rebels without causes, nihilists with Cadillacs and Elvis hair, the Overton gang and their associates formed a ragtag white trash mafia that bedazzled Austin law enforcement for most of the 1960s. Tied into a loose network of crooked lawyers, pimps and used car dealers who became known as the "traveling criminals," they burglarized banks and ran smuggling and prostitution rings all over Texas. Author Jesse Sublett presents a detailed account of these Austin miscreants, who rose to folk…


Book cover of The Outsiders

Michael Prime Author Of Kristoff Kent: NYC Psycho

From my list on book to movie adaptations.

Who am I?

I’ve always enjoyed reading the books from which movies are derived from or from which are written after the movie is released, and add more in-depth analysis to the characters and story. Mostly though, I’ve seen the movie first, then read the book. The book almost always has more information about the characters, their reactions, emotions, and feelings. Sometimes, as in the case of Rounders by Kevin Canty, you find out where and what the main character is up to after the end credits roll. Book versus movie: Which is better? It’s a debate that will be here till the end of time. 

Michael's book list on book to movie adaptations

Michael Prime Why did Michael love this book?

The Outsiders is regarded by many readers to be S.E. Hinton's finest novel.

The book is narrated by Pony Boy Curtis and takes the reader through a slew of emotions, from kindness to caring, to friendship and depression, all within a framework that can be considered genius by today’s standards. Pony Boy's friendship with Johnny is a recurring theme throughout the book, not just through him, but through the characters involved.

The movie is almost verbatim from the book, which is a very good thing. This book is timeless and can be read by any generation. Very few books can be said to do this. A good book is one that you read every couple of years. A great book is one that you read every year. This is a great book. 

By S.E. Hinton,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked The Outsiders as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

50 years of an iconic classic! This international bestseller and inspiration for a beloved movie is a heroic story of friendship and belonging.

Cover may vary.

No one ever said life was easy. But Ponyboy is pretty sure that he's got things figured out. He knows that he can count on his brothers, Darry and Sodapop. And he knows that he can count on his friends-true friends who would do anything for him, like Johnny and Two-Bit. But not on much else besides trouble with the Socs, a vicious gang of rich kids whose idea of a good time is…


Book cover of The Street Kids

Charles Lambert Author Of Birthright

From my list on set in 20th century Rome.

Who am I?

I was born in the UK, in Lichfield, but moved to Italy in 1976 and to Rome in 1982. Over the past forty years, Rome has become my city, my home, and my inspiration, as it has for hundreds of thousands of other people during its millennia as caput mundi. It isn’t always the easiest place to live, but it’s varied and colourful and endlessly stimulating. It’s provided a backdrop to several of my novels and not only that. Rome is a character in its own right, boisterous, elegant, breathtakingly beautiful, unutterably sordid. Roma è casa mia!

Charles' book list on set in 20th century Rome

Charles Lambert Why did Charles love this book?

Pasolini’s films, Mamma Roma and Accattone, were among the reasons I decided to move to Rome in the first place.

Their blend of poetry and wretchedness chimed with my own vision of life at that time and I seized the chance to improve my knowledge of the city, of Italian and of Roman dialect, by reading his first novel Ragazzi di Vita, as soon as I arrived in the city.

Ragazzi di vita are hustlers, doomed from birth by circumstances outside their control, and I was drawn to the novel’s dark non-conformist romanticism, its refusal to compromise and the sheer texture of the language, which I only partly understood. It’s like Kerouac, but for real.

By Pier Paolo Pasolini, Ann Goldstein (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Street Kids as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The “provocative” novel about hard-living teenagers in poverty-stricken postwar Rome, by the renowned Italian filmmaker (The New York Times).

Set during the post–World War II years in the Rome of the borgate―outlying neighborhoods beset by poverty and deprivation―The Street Kids tells the story of a group of adolescents belonging to the urban underclass. Living hand-to-mouth, Riccetto and his friends eke out an existence doing odd jobs, committing petty crimes, and prostituting themselves. Rooted in the neorealist movement of the 1950s, The Street Kids is a tender, heart-rending tribute to an entire social class in danger of being forgotten.
Heavily censored…


Book cover of The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the Underworld

Mark Bulik Author Of The Sons of Molly Maguire: The Irish Roots of America's First Labor War

From my list on Irish American true crime.

Who am I?

I’ve been a newspaperman for 40 years, the last 25 at The New York Times, and crime is the meat and potatoes of the business. My mother came from an Irish American clan in the Pennsylvania township where the Molly Maguires were born – my great-uncle died at 13 in the mine where the Mollies made one of their first recorded appearances. So I’ve been fascinated by Irish American true crime ever since the Sean Connery film The Mollies Maguires came out in 1970. I’ve spent most of my adult life researching the subject, and have given lectures on it all over the country.

Mark's book list on Irish American true crime

Mark Bulik Why did Mark love this book?

This work came out in the Roaring Twenties, but the gangsters of that decade had nothing on the 19th-century outfits like the Dead Rabbits and the Gas House Gang.

When the dive bars have names like the Tub of Blood and they’re kept in business by the likes of Razor Riley, One-Lung Curran, and Stumpy Malarkey, you can’t go wrong. But to me the most compelling part was Asbury’s account of New York’s horrendous Civil War draft riots.

The Molly Maguires of Pennsylvania were born in opposition to that same draft, after a Protestant Republican allied with the coal industry used conscription to try to rid the coal fields of Irish Catholic Democrats and mine labor activists before a crucial election. 

By Herbert Asbury,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Gangs of New York as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First published in 1928, Herbert Asbury's whirlwind tour through the low-life ofnineteenth-century New York has become an indispensible classic of urban history.

Focusing on the saloon halls, gambling dens, and winding alleys of the Bowery and the notorious Five Points district, The Gangs of New York dramatically evokes the destitution and shocking violence of a turbulent era, when colorfully named criminals like Dandy John Dolan, Bill the Butcher, and Hell-Cat Maggie lurked in the shadows, and infamous gangs like the Plug Uglies, the Dead Rabbits, and the Bowery Boys ruled the streets. A rogues gallery of prostitutes, pimps, poisoners, pickpockets,…


Book cover of King Suckerman

Lloyd Sachs Author Of T Bone Burnett: A Life in Pursuit

From my list on crime with soundtracks you'll want to playlist.

Who am I?

My earliest filmgoing memory is of a bad guy getting pushed down the stairs in Alfred Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much. That shocking scene has stayed with me, leading me into a lifetime of exploring the dark visions of crime stories. It was only natural that my love of rock music, and in its interaction with other media would draw me to mystery writers whose books were fueled by their love of rock, blues and pop. "If not for music and movies, I wouldn't be a novelist," George Pelecanos once told me. "They have influenced me more than any author. I want to shout about it." Me too.

Lloyd's book list on crime with soundtracks you'll want to playlist

Lloyd Sachs Why did Lloyd love this book?

A lot of people know George Pelecanos from his work as a TV writer, but long before he contributed to The Wire and The Deuce, he was turning out great mysteries, most of them set in his hometown of Washington, D.C. These are smart, sociological thrillers that teach you a lot about life on the city's mean streets. What sets books like King Suckerman apart for me is how much they teach you about the way popular music—heard from car radios, boom boxes, and record store systems—defines people's lives. For me, one of the book's many highlights is a fierce exchange between a guy who, based on Jimi Hendrix's funky playing in Band of Gypsys thinks the guitarist should be filed under soul rather than rock because that was the direction he was going and a friend who responds, "What you think you are, man, the Amazing Kreskin... gonna…

By George Pelecanos,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked King Suckerman as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 13.

What is this book about?

While out looking to buy drugs, small-time dealer Dimitri Karras and his friend, record-store owner Marcus Clay, stumble into a big deal gone bad, acquire some cash that is not theirs, and become players in a savage game of cross and double-cross.


Book cover of The Hollywood Kid: The Violent Life and Violent Death of an MS-13 Hitman

Abigail Leslie Andrews Author Of Banished Men: How Migrants Endure the Violence of Deportation

From my list on the criminalization of immigrant men.

Who am I?

I’m a scholar of gender and state violence, and I live and work at the US-Mexico border. For the past several years, I’ve worked collaboratively with large teams of Latinx-identified students to study the impacts of US immigration policies on migrants from Mexico and Central America. We realized that even though about half of immigrants are women, around 95% of deportees are men. So, we started to think about how US policies criminalize immigrant men. I became especially interested in how immigration enforcement (at the border and beyond) intersects with mass incarceration. In the list, I pick up books that trace the multinational reach of the carceral apparatus that comes to treat migrants as criminals.

Abigail's book list on the criminalization of immigrant men

Abigail Leslie Andrews Why did Abigail love this book?

In this book, two journalist brothers reveal how young teens can get wrapped up in the world of transnational gangs.

We follow a young man who watches murder and death all around him and ends up joining a squad of the MS-13 in El Salvador, until his own untimely death. The book brings to life the experience – and unavoidability for poor Salvadorans of life under gang control. 

By Oscar Martinez, Juan Martinez, John Washington (translator) , Daniela Maria Ugaz (translator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Hollywood Kid as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As a boy, Miguel Angel Tobar fled a small town in El Salvador torn apart by warring guerrillas and US-backed death squads. As a teen in Los Angeles, he fought discrimination and beatings by joining a gang, MS-13. By the time the US deported him to San Salvador, the Hollywood Kid joined a wave of US-bred gangsters, whose violence-in concert with corrupt offiicals-have in turn helped propel new waves of refugees.

The incomparable Salvadoran journalist Oscar Martinez got to know the Hollywood Kid and met with him as he first turned on MS-13, killing gang members, and then in turn…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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