10 books like So Real It Hurts

By Lydia Lunch,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like So Real It Hurts. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Revenge of the She-Punks

By Vivien Goldman,

Book cover of Revenge of the She-Punks: A Feminist Music History from Poly Styrene to Pussy Riot

Vivien Goldman is a guardian of sacred punk knowledge. With decades of experience writing about punk, post-punk, and reggae in addition to playing in bands herself, she has a necessary lens on the music industry and the political structures that both uphold and challenge it. Today, she is a documentarian and adjunct professor of punk and reggae at NYU. 

I first caught a glimpse of this book at 57th Street Books in Hyde Park in Chicago on display on the new release table. Its hot green cover with a bright red mouth immediately caught my eye, and once I recognized what it was and it who it was by, I tossed the title into my basket without question. I couldn’t put it down; it’s a poetic and historical account of women’s role in punk, organized into four themes that are explored through personal essays, interviews, and academic analysis. It’s an…

Revenge of the She-Punks

By Vivien Goldman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Revenge of the She-Punks as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As an industry insider and pioneering post-punk musician, Vivien Goldman's perspective on music journalism is unusually well-rounded. In Revenge of the She-Punks, she probes four themes-identity, money, love, and protest-to explore what makes punk such a liberating art form for women.

With her visceral style, Goldman blends interviews, history, and her personal experience as one of Britain's first female music writers in a book that reads like a vivid documentary of a genre defined by dismantling boundaries. A discussion of the Patti Smith song "Free Money," for example, opens with Goldman on a shopping spree with Smith. Tamar-Kali, whose name…


Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville (33 1/3)

By Gina Arnold,

Book cover of Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville (33 1/3)

When I was 15, Liz Phair’s album Exile in Guyville completely turned me on to indie rock. Until then, everything I heard was baked for the radio. Liz’s dry, quivering voice, slipping in and out of key, singing candidly about sex and the unspeakable aspects of relationships, challenged the boys club and spoke to me in a way that Courtney Love and Shirley Manson hadn’t. I think it was her ability to tell a story, or maybe it was that nothing seemed “over-produced.” Either way, many years later, this book gave me important insights on the way Chicago indie-rock functioned in the ‘90s and how much bullshit Liz Phair had to put up with just for being herself.  

Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville (33 1/3)

By Gina Arnold,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville (33 1/3) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Although Exile in Guyville was celebrated as one of the year's top records by Spin and the New York Times, it was also, to some, an abomination: a mockery of the Rolling Stones' most revered record and a rare glimpse into the psyche of a shrewd, independent, strong young woman. For these crimes, Liz Phair was run out of her hometown of Chicago, enduring a flame war perpetrated by writers who accused her of being boring, inauthentic, and even a poor musician. With Exile in Guyville, Phair spoke for all the girls who loved the world of indie rock but…


Violence Girl

By Alice Bag,

Book cover of Violence Girl: East L.A. Rage to Hollywood Stage, a Chicana Punk Story

I’ve read this book twice. Both times, I couldn’t put it down. Alice Bag can tell a story, and my neurodivergent ass loves books parsed into bite-sized sections. Alice’s stories begin with her childhood and end with her becoming a teacher. 

I look up to Alice and relate to her a lot. We both grew up in difficult family situations; we were both ambitious teens who were able to befriend just about anybody; and then we both learned to express our creativity and exercise our demons through punk. Growing up a bit and reigning in our talents, we both became public school teachers. Not to mention, we both love to write our memoirs. It’s cool to see her grow and reflect on her experiences, and a perfect read for anyone wanting new stories about all the characters in the early LA punk sphere.

Violence Girl

By Alice Bag,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The proximity of the East L.A. barrio to Hollywood is as close as a short drive on the 101 freeway, but the cultural divide is enormous. Born to Mexican-born and American-naturalized parents, Alicia Armendariz migrated a few miles west to participate in the free-range birth of the 1970s punk movement. Alicia adopted the punk name Alice Bag, and became lead singer for The Bags, early punk visionaries who starred in Penelope Spheeris' documentary The Decline of Western Civilization.

Here is a life of many crossed boundaries, from East L.A.'s musica ranchera to Hollywood's punk rock; from a violent male-dominated family…


I'm Not Holding Your Coat

By Nancy Barile,

Book cover of I'm Not Holding Your Coat: My Bruises-and-All Memoir of Punk Rock Rebellion

I’m a sucker for memoirs. And English teachers. Nancy is both. She teaches language arts at a public school in Massachusetts. But most importantly, she can tell a story. The book is a series of memories from the Philly and Boston hardcore scenes in the early ‘80s. It’s hard to put down, and it’s a really necessary account that tells of all the ways women were present and participating in what has always been referred to as a movement of exclusive, testosterone-induced navel-gazing. 

I'm Not Holding Your Coat

By Nancy Barile,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I'm Not Holding Your Coat as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From disenchanted Catholic schoolgirl and glam maniac to instigator on the 1980s hardcore punk scene, Nancy Barile discovered freedom at a time when punk music was new and dangerous. She made her place behind the boards and right in the front row as insurgents such as SSD, Minor Threat, Bad Brains, Dead Kennedys and Black Flag wrote new rules and made history. She survived punk riots and urban decay, ran the streets with outcasts, and ultimately found true love as she fought for fairness and found her purpose. "Thank God we had girls like Nancy back then to keep things…


Fire in the Night Sky

By Chris J. Pike, M.D. Cooper,

Book cover of Fire in the Night Sky

Clair Johnson is determined to prove herself and find out what really happened to her mother. Neither of those things happen the way she expects. 

This is an easy read, with interesting world building, and a realistic set of characters. I enjoyed the setting, the friend group, and the intrigue a lot!

Fire in the Night Sky

By Chris J. Pike, M.D. Cooper,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fire in the Night Sky as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In a world of music videos on television, punk rock, and roller derby, the race for space is finally on in this young adult SF adventure!

The United Federation has set a goal of sending a manned rocket to the moon; but rival countries will stop at nothing to plant their flags first—no matter the cost.

For Claire Johnson, that cost might be her life.

The seventeen-year-old spunky waitress wants nothing more than to honor her mother's memory by gaining entrance to the United Federation Space Program and doing her part for the mission. Yet her father wants Claire as…


Get in the Van

By Henry Rollins,

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

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.

Get in the Van

By Henry Rollins,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Get in the Van as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Book by Rollins, Henry


Dance of Days

By Mark Andersen, Mark Jenkins,

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

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.

Dance of Days

By Mark Andersen, Mark Jenkins,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The nation's capital gave birth to the most influential punk underground of the '80s and '90s. Dance of Days recounts the rise of trailblazing artists such as Bad Brains, Henry Rollins, Minor Threat, Rites of Spring, Fugazi, and Bikini Kill.


Iggy Pop

By Paul Trynka,

Book cover of Iggy Pop: Open Up and Bleed

It’s not an easy task to convey the carnal intensity and animal abandon of a performer whose default mode has always been unadulterated excess, but Paul Trynka’s masterful study of Iggy Pop hit the motherlode. Trynka went the extra mile and then some, tracking down hundreds of key witnesses to, and victims of, Pop’s creative chaos, and even attending his high school reunion (which is more than Iggy did). Jaw-dropping anecdotes were legion (taking a mid-gig dump behind the speakers, anyone?) and Trynka captured the driven essence of this brittle soul, perennially fighting the world while never even knowing why.

Iggy Pop

By Paul Trynka,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“Fellow rock stars, casual members of the public, lords and media magnates, countless thousands of people will talk of their encounters with this driven, talented, indomitable creature, a man who has plumbed the depths of depravity, yet emerged with an indisputable nobility. Each of them will share an admiration and appreciation of the contradictions and ironies of his incredible life. Even so, they are unlikely to fully comprehend both the heights and the depths of his experience, for the extremes are simply beyond the realms of most people’s understanding.”

—from the Prologue

The first full biography of one of rock…


A Visit from the Goon Squad

By Jennifer Egan,

Book cover of A Visit from the Goon Squad

Jennifer Egan’s 2011 novel (and its 2022 sibling novel, The Candy House) take readers back and forth through the recent past and near future as we drop in on the lives of characters at different turning points in their lives. Each chapter takes readers in a new direction that deepens, complicates, or thoroughly upends our sense of characters. It makes for breathtaking reading.

A Visit from the Goon Squad

By Jennifer Egan,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Visit from the Goon Squad as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE FOR FICTION
NEW YORK TIMES TOP 10 BOOKS OF 2010

Jennifer Egan's spellbinding novel circles the lives of Bennie Salazar, an aging former punk rocker and record executive, and Sasha, the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Although Bennie and Sasha never discover each other's pasts, the reader does, in intimate detail, along with the secret lives of a host of other characters whose paths intersect with theirs, over many years, in locales as varied as New York, San Francisco, Naples, and Africa.

We first meet Sasha in her mid-thirties, on her therapist's couch in…


The Minutemen's Double Nickels on the Dime

By Michael T. Fournier,

Book cover of The Minutemen's Double Nickels on the Dime

From Martin’s expansive look at things, let’s move onto a more granular approach – Fournier’s Double Nickels. Fournier focuses on just one band and an album (albeit a double record album and one of the best to come out of punk in the 1980s). The Minutemen played a fast, discordant music that sounded like jazz as much as hardcore thrash music. Fournier’s examination turns up something few people consider, that punk wasn’t all about blistering music but rather sophisticated in its nature. Fournier documents how the bassist in the band, Mike Watt, had extended conversations with one of the most important artists associated with 1980s punk – Raymond Pettibon (who as of now has made his way into accomplished art museums and galleries). They talked about everything from Ludwig Wittgenstein to James Joyce. Band members supposedly got into heated debates about history and would stop at public libraries while…

The Minutemen's Double Nickels on the Dime

By Michael T. Fournier,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Minutemen's Double Nickels on the Dime as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In recent years, the Minutemen have enjoyed something of a revival, due to both a chapter in Michael Azerrad's book "Our Band Could Be Your Life", and a feature length documentary film, "We Jam Econo", showcasing the band's legacy. (And having a song serve as the theme for MTV's "Jackass" show doesn't hurt, either.) To date, though, the band's actual work hasn't been the subject of much attention - everything has focused on either the interpersonal relationships that made the Minutemen so distinctive or the sudden and tragic death of guitarist/singer D. Boon. This book shines a light on the…


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