100 books like K-punk

By Mark Fisher, Darren Ambrose (editor),

Here are 100 books that K-punk fans have personally recommended if you like K-punk. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Analog Days: The Invention and Impact of the Moog Synthesizer

Nick Prior Author Of Popular Music, Digital Technology and Society

From my list on popular music, technology, and society.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Professor of Cultural Sociology at Edinburgh, UK, and have written extensively on contemporary culture and particularly technological mediations of popular music. I have undertaken empirical research on cultures of popular music in places like Iceland, Japan, and the UK, and I have supervised around 25 doctoral students to successful completion. My work is widely cited in the field of cultural sociology, and I am regularly interviewed by national broadcasters and the press. I’m also an amateur musician, making homespun electronic music in my bedroom and releasing it under the monikers Sponge Monkeys and Triviax.

Nick's book list on popular music, technology, and society

Nick Prior Why did Nick love this book?

This book will change your idea of the place and importance of synthesizers in music history. I had the privilege to be taught by Trevor Pinch as an undergraduate and have followed his work closely since. His passing in late 2021 left a massive hole in the field of Science and Technology Studies and he is sorely missed.

The book is based on primary research on the genesis and development of the Moog synthesizer, perhaps the most important instrument in electronic music history. Unlike most texts on the instruments of electronic music, which dig into the technical details of synthesis, I love the fact that this book gives you the human stories and socio-technical processes behind how an iconic synthesizer was designed, circulated, and adopted by rock musicians from Rick Wakeman to The Beatles.

There is delight in the details, such as how salesmen packed the unwieldy Moog synth into…

By Trevor Pinch, Frank Trocco,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Analog Days as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Though ubiquitous today, available as a single microchip and found in any electronic device requiring sound, the synthesizer when it first appeared was truly revolutionary. Something radically new--an extraordinary rarity in musical culture--it was an instrument that used a genuinely new source of sound: electronics. How this came to be--how an engineering student at Cornell and an avant-garde musician working out of a storefront in California set this revolution in motion--is the story told for the first time in Analog Days, a book that explores the invention of the synthesizer and its impact on popular culture.

The authors take us…


Book cover of How Music Works

Nick Prior Author Of Popular Music, Digital Technology and Society

From my list on popular music, technology, and society.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Professor of Cultural Sociology at Edinburgh, UK, and have written extensively on contemporary culture and particularly technological mediations of popular music. I have undertaken empirical research on cultures of popular music in places like Iceland, Japan, and the UK, and I have supervised around 25 doctoral students to successful completion. My work is widely cited in the field of cultural sociology, and I am regularly interviewed by national broadcasters and the press. I’m also an amateur musician, making homespun electronic music in my bedroom and releasing it under the monikers Sponge Monkeys and Triviax.

Nick's book list on popular music, technology, and society

Nick Prior Why did Nick love this book?

I wasn’t expecting this! One of the most gifted and quirky songsmiths of the age, the lead singer of art pop band The Talking Heads no less, turns his attention to the technological evolution of music.

I found profound insight and erudition on every page, but it’s not preachy or overly auto-biographical. Instead, Byrne limns out the changing shapes of music and how it comes into being in composition, performance, and education. He is as much at ease with Hume and Adorno as he is with scales, harmonies, and DJ culture, and the payoff is enormous.

Whenever I pick this book up, which is regularly, it takes me on unexpected journeys and provokes new ideas. My favorite quote on the creative process: “The idea is to allow the chthonic material the freedom it needs to gurgle up.” 

By David Byrne,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked How Music Works as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How Music Works is David Byrne's buoyant celebration of a subject he has spent a lifetime thinking about.

Equal parts historian and anthropologist, raconteur and social scientist, Byrne draws on his own work over the years with Talking Heads, Brian Eno, and his myriad collaborators - along with journeys to Wagnerian opera houses, African villages, and anywhere music exists - to show that music-making is not just the act of a solitary composer in a studio, but rather a logical, populist, and beautiful result of cultural circumstance.

A brainy, irresistible adventure, How Music Works is an impassioned argument about music's…


Book cover of Performing Rites: On the Value of Popular Music

Nick Prior Author Of Popular Music, Digital Technology and Society

From my list on popular music, technology, and society.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Professor of Cultural Sociology at Edinburgh, UK, and have written extensively on contemporary culture and particularly technological mediations of popular music. I have undertaken empirical research on cultures of popular music in places like Iceland, Japan, and the UK, and I have supervised around 25 doctoral students to successful completion. My work is widely cited in the field of cultural sociology, and I am regularly interviewed by national broadcasters and the press. I’m also an amateur musician, making homespun electronic music in my bedroom and releasing it under the monikers Sponge Monkeys and Triviax.

Nick's book list on popular music, technology, and society

Nick Prior Why did Nick love this book?

This is the book that changed my view of music and made me realise that I could write about popular music from a sociological perspective and not bore people to death!

Simon combines the punchy directness of a music critic with a thorough understanding of music as a social force that shapes our lives, loves, and identities. The book demonstrates an encyclopedic knowledge of 20th-century popular music.

I often start any research project by using the index to look up related terms and ask: “What does Simon say?” I particularly like the sections on how star persona works, and the chapter on technology is a must, too.

By Simon Frith,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Performing Rites as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Who's better? Billie Holiday or P. J. Harvey? Blur or Oasis? Dylan or Keats? And how many friendships have ridden on the answer? Such questions aren't merely the stuff of fanzines and idle talk; they inform our most passionate arguments, distill our most deeply held values, make meaning of our ever-changing culture. In Performing Rites, one of the most influential writers on popular music asks what we talk about when we talk about music. What's good, what's bad? What's high, what's low? Why do such distinctions matter? Instead of dismissing emotional response and personal taste as inaccessible to the academic…


Book cover of Why Music Matters

Nick Prior Author Of Popular Music, Digital Technology and Society

From my list on popular music, technology, and society.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Professor of Cultural Sociology at Edinburgh, UK, and have written extensively on contemporary culture and particularly technological mediations of popular music. I have undertaken empirical research on cultures of popular music in places like Iceland, Japan, and the UK, and I have supervised around 25 doctoral students to successful completion. My work is widely cited in the field of cultural sociology, and I am regularly interviewed by national broadcasters and the press. I’m also an amateur musician, making homespun electronic music in my bedroom and releasing it under the monikers Sponge Monkeys and Triviax.

Nick's book list on popular music, technology, and society

Nick Prior Why did Nick love this book?

Is music as universally positive and life-affirming as we think?

This book made me think twice about that idea. Yes, music lubricates our identities and can generate fellow feeling and a sense of well-being, but it can just as easily drive us apart. Think about pop’s repertoire of overtly sexist and racist songs, the booing of national anthems at sports events, and music reserved for the status acquisition practices of the elite, like opera.

What I like about David Hesmondhalgh’s exploration of why music matters is that it takes a balanced view of these questions. I use it a lot in teaching as an antidote to the somewhat lazy idea that music is *always* a force for social good. I also admire David’s ability to move from the somewhat abstract realms of moral philosophy to dancing bodies without losing sight of basic but important questions like social inequality.

By David Hesmondhalgh,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Why Music Matters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Listen to David Hesmondhalgh discuss the arguments at the core of 'Why Music Matters' with Laurie Taylor on BBC Radio 4's Thinking Allowed here: www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b03q9q2n/Thinking_Allowed_Why_Music_Matters_Bhangra_and_Belonging/

In what ways might music enrich the lives of people and of societies? What prevents it from doing so? Why Music Matters explores the role of music in our lives, and investigates the social and political significance of music in modern societies.

First book of its kind to explore music through a variety of theories and approaches and unite these theories using one authoritative voice Combines a broad yet theoretically sophisticated approach to music and…


Book cover of The Long Shadow: The Great War and the Twentieth Century

Benjamin Carter Hett Author Of The Death of Democracy: Hitler's Rise to Power and the Downfall of the Weimar Republic

From my list on the legacy of the First World War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was a law school graduate heading for my first job when, unable to think of anything better to do with my last afternoon in London, I wandered through the First World War galleries of the Imperial War Museum. I was hypnotized by a slide show of Great War propaganda posters, stunned by their clever viciousness in getting men to volunteer and wives and girlfriends to pressure them. Increasingly fascinated, I started reading about the war and its aftermath. After several years of this, I quit my job at a law firm and went back to school to become a professor. And here I am.

Benjamin's book list on the legacy of the First World War

Benjamin Carter Hett Why did Benjamin love this book?

David Reynolds is simply one of the smartest and most original historians operating today. Do we imagine that no one thought much about the poems of Wilfred Owen until the 1960s? Do we think about how important the fiftieth anniversary of the Somme was for the politics of Ireland? This book is packed full of perceptive and original insights about the Great War’s very long legacy.

By David Reynolds,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

One of the most violent conflicts in the history of civilization, World War I has been strangely forgotten in American culture. It has become a ghostly war fought in a haze of memory, often seen merely as a distant preamble to World War II. In The Long Shadow critically acclaimed historian David Reynolds seeks to broaden our vision by assessing the impact of the Great War across the twentieth century. He shows how events in that turbulent century-particularly World War II, the Cold War, and the collapse of Communism-shaped and reshaped attitudes to 1914-18.

By exploring big themes such as…


Book cover of Civilization Critical: Energy, Food, Nature, and the Future

Sandy Graham Author Of You Speak For Me Now

From my list on to influence human society.

Why am I passionate about this?

Over the past decade, I’ve become very concerned with the direction authoritarianism is taking human society. It’s a global problem that now infects America, leaving us with a partisan divide we may not be able to bridge. My recommended books helped me understand the situation and how one might speak out against this negative force effectively. Convinced that bombarding readers with facts alone is useless, I chose to provide a novel that is interesting and captivates readers. My goal is to entice readers to press on to the end regardless of their political persuasion, in hopes that along the way some thought will be devoted to the issues raised.

Sandy's book list on to influence human society

Sandy Graham Why did Sandy love this book?

Despite the Covid pandemic, the two biggest threats to human society are political strife and degradation of its food supply through climate change and population explosion. Darren Qualman provides an easily understood discussion of the latter. He starts with the simple closed-loop plant/animal cycle powered by the sun’s energy, which existed up until about 300 years ago. Then, explains how the discovery of coal and oil, invention of the tractor, and development of a process to convert oil into fertilizer changed all that.

As a teenager, I was taught that the population explosion would cause mass starvation in the near future. Darren explains how force-feeding plants and domesticated animals, now using over 400 million tons of oil-based fertilizer each year, forestalled that. But combined with oil, gas, and coal burned today, human society is living with a time-bomb unless we learn to live with energy now available from the sun.

By Darrin Qualman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Civilization Critical as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The modern world is wondrous. Its factories produce ten thousand cars every hour and ten trillion transistors every second. We carry supercomputers in our pockets, and nearly a million people are in the air at any time. In Civilization Critical, Darrin Qualman takes readers on a tour of the wonders of the 21st century.
But the great strength of our modern word is also its great weakness. Our immense powers to turn resources and nature into products and waste imperil our future. And plans to double and redouble the size of the global economy veto sustainability.
So, is our civilization…


Book cover of What We Owe the Future

Benjamin Todd Author Of 80,000 Hours: Find a Fulfilling Career That Does Good

From my list on how to have a positive social impact with careers.

Why are we passionate about this?

We’re a nonprofit that aims to help people have a positive social impact with their careers. Since you have, on average, 80,000 hours in your career, what you decide to do with that time might be your biggest opportunity to make a difference. Over the past ten years, we’ve conducted careful research into high-impact careers, and have helped thousands of people plan a career that has a high positive impact. 

Benjamin's book list on how to have a positive social impact with careers

Benjamin Todd Why did Benjamin love this book?

Future generations might be very much impacted by the actions we take today: with climate change, nuclear war, or the changes in global values. But we often don’t take their interests into account. 

In this book, Will argues that positively influencing the fate of future generations is a key moral priority of our time and that there are things we can do today to make them better off. This may be one of the most important books of our time.

By William MacAskill,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked What We Owe the Future as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Instant New York Times Bestseller

“This book will change your sense of how grand the sweep of human history could be, where you fit into it, and how much you could do to change it for the better. It's as simple, and as ambitious, as that.”
—Ezra Klein

An Oxford philosopher makes the case for “longtermism” — that positively influencing the long-term future is a key moral priority of our time.

The fate of the world is in our hands. Humanity’s written history spans only five thousand years. Our yet-unwritten future could last for millions more — or it could…


Book cover of The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution

Adam Ellwanger Author Of Metanoia: Rhetoric, Authenticity, and the Transformation of the Self

From my list on why looking for your ‘true self’ is pointless.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a professor of rhetoric at the University of Houston – Downtown. In addition to my academic research, I write political and cultural commentary for a variety of right-of-center online publications. Much of my own work focuses on how individuals come to be persuaded about who they are. I argue that much of the frustration people feel when searching for their authentic identity is due to the fact that the existence of the hidden ‘true self’ is an illusion. The quest for authenticity is never complete. The good news, though, is that you can put an end to the suffering… only if you’re willing to give up the fevered pursuit of the “true self.”

Adam's book list on why looking for your ‘true self’ is pointless

Adam Ellwanger Why did Adam love this book?

While Trueman reviews some of the ideas covered by other thinkers on this list, his new book is notable because it focuses on how personal sexual identity (sexual orientation, gender, desire, etc.) came to be the most important site for the expression of individualism. His analysis underscores the threat that a radically subjectivized sexual ethic posed to longstanding social norms and cultural traditions. This one also includes a gushing foreword by best-selling author Rod Dreher of The American Conservative magazine.

By Carl R. Trueman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Carl Trueman traces the historical roots of many hot-button issues such as transgenderism and homosexuality, offering thoughtful biblical analysis as he uncovers the profound impact of the sexual revolution on modern human identity.


Book cover of The Jewish Century

Ari Joskowicz Author Of Rain of Ash: Roma, Jews, and the Holocaust

From my list on uncovering hidden and marginalized histories.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a scholar of European history who spent the last twenty years studying how minorities relate to each other and how their efforts to communicate their silenced histories are entwined. I remain fascinated by the many ways we think we know—and so frequently fail—to grasp the suffering and ambitions of others. All of this makes me ultimately a historian of the hidden stories of marginalized people and of the struggle to document and understand them.

Ari's book list on uncovering hidden and marginalized histories

Ari Joskowicz Why did Ari love this book?

While other books use small subjects to make big points, Slezkine’s book is nothing if not ambitious in its breadth.

A provocative book that is not afraid to make sweeping claims, Slezkine manages to convey the story of twentieth-century Russian Jews as a transnational drama between the Soviet Union, Israel, and the United States on an epic scale. Hidden histories need not be small.

By Yuri Slezkine,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Jewish Century as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This masterwork of interpretative history begins with a bold declaration: "The Modern Age is the Jewish Age, and the twentieth century, in particular, is the Jewish Century." The assertion is, of course, metaphorical. But it drives home Yuri Slezkine's provocative thesis: Jews have adapted to the modern world so well that they have become models of what it means to be modern. While focusing on the drama of the Russian Jews, including emigres and their offspring, The Jewish Century is also an incredibly original account of the many faces of modernity-nationalism, socialism, capitalism, and liberalism. Rich in its insight, sweeping…


Book cover of The Ethics of Authenticity

Adam Ellwanger Author Of Metanoia: Rhetoric, Authenticity, and the Transformation of the Self

From my list on why looking for your ‘true self’ is pointless.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a professor of rhetoric at the University of Houston – Downtown. In addition to my academic research, I write political and cultural commentary for a variety of right-of-center online publications. Much of my own work focuses on how individuals come to be persuaded about who they are. I argue that much of the frustration people feel when searching for their authentic identity is due to the fact that the existence of the hidden ‘true self’ is an illusion. The quest for authenticity is never complete. The good news, though, is that you can put an end to the suffering… only if you’re willing to give up the fevered pursuit of the “true self.”

Adam's book list on why looking for your ‘true self’ is pointless

Adam Ellwanger Why did Adam love this book?

If you want to learn about the history of the concept of authenticity and how it is understood in the western world, this is probably the best book to read (after my book, of course!). Charles Taylor is one of the most prominent living philosophers of selfhood, and this book (topping out at only a little over 100 pages) is an easy-to-read digestion of the ideas that he elaborated in his much-longer book Sources of the Self. Taylor is ambivalent about whether personal authenticity is a good or a bad thing in our era. He recognizes the harms imposed by some of the debased forms that it takes in modern society, but Taylor also tries to articulate an ethics that could rehabilitate authenticity in a way that affirms the dignity of and respect for each individual. I don’t like the fence-sitting, but this remains required reading.

By Charles Taylor,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Everywhere we hear talk of decline, of a world that was better once, maybe fifty years ago, maybe centuries ago, but certainly before modernity drew us along its dubious path. While some lament the slide of Western culture into relativism and nihilism and others celebrate the trend as a liberating sort of progress, Charles Taylor calls on us to face the moral and political crises of our time, and to make the most of modernity's challenges.

"The great merit of Taylor's brief, non-technical, powerful book...is the vigor with which he restates the point which Hegel (and later Dewey) urged against…


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