81 books like So Real It Hurts

By Lydia Lunch,

Here are 81 books that So Real It Hurts fans have personally recommended if you like So Real It Hurts. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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

Audrey Golden Author Of I Thought I Heard You Speak: Women at Factory Records

From my list on revealing untold stories in music.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been thinking about and researching obscured narratives for a long time, now. As a lawyer, I learned about how systems and structures marginalize and hide important voices because of overt discrimination and implicit biases, and I took that knowledge with me while I earned a PhD in literary studies. I’ve learned — and am still learning! — that if we want to remedy exclusions from cultural histories, we’ve got to learn to think about what voices are missing and why. I hope reading my book and those recommended here will give you a chance to learn with me. Let’s change the ways we think about so-called “definitive” histories of music. 

Audrey's book list on revealing untold stories in music

Audrey Golden Why did Audrey love this book?

This is an essential book for anyone who wants to learn about women in punk—from the explosion in the UK in 1976 to the present, and across geographic spaces.

Goldman covers a broad and diverse range of artists, highlighting the critical work women have put into making punk what it is while also illuminating the ways in which punk as a DIY ethos has allowed women musicians to push back against barriers built by misogyny and discrimination to create lasting and influential records.

This book gave me in-depth information about bands I already knew and loved, and it introduced me to other women in punk across the globe. Thanks to Goldman’s book, I’ve become invested in punk from Indonesia, Mexico, Tokyo, Iran, and more. What a gift.

By Vivien Goldman,

Why should I read it?

2 authors 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…


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

Jen B. Larson Author Of Hit Girls: Women of Punk in the USA, 1975-1983

From my list on music and memoirs about rule-breaking women.

Why am I passionate about this?

In 2011, when my all-girl garage band began gigging around Chicago, I couldn’t tell you how many times I heard people call us “riot grrrl.” We weren’t riot grrrls; we were far too late for the movement. But for so many people, riot grrrl was the only reference point they had for scary, brash female musicians. The truth is, women were involved in the movement’s origins in every part of the world. I believe we must understand that riot grrrls weren’t the first women of punk. My book Hit Girls: Women of Punk in the USA, 1975-1983 details the stories of lesser-known but highly influential women who helped create punk and its adjacent genres.

Jen's book list on music and memoirs about rule-breaking women

Jen B. Larson Why did Jen love this book?

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.  

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…


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

Jen B. Larson Author Of Hit Girls: Women of Punk in the USA, 1975-1983

From my list on music and memoirs about rule-breaking women.

Why am I passionate about this?

In 2011, when my all-girl garage band began gigging around Chicago, I couldn’t tell you how many times I heard people call us “riot grrrl.” We weren’t riot grrrls; we were far too late for the movement. But for so many people, riot grrrl was the only reference point they had for scary, brash female musicians. The truth is, women were involved in the movement’s origins in every part of the world. I believe we must understand that riot grrrls weren’t the first women of punk. My book Hit Girls: Women of Punk in the USA, 1975-1983 details the stories of lesser-known but highly influential women who helped create punk and its adjacent genres.

Jen's book list on music and memoirs about rule-breaking women

Jen B. Larson Why did Jen love this book?

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.

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…


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

Jen B. Larson Author Of Hit Girls: Women of Punk in the USA, 1975-1983

From my list on music and memoirs about rule-breaking women.

Why am I passionate about this?

In 2011, when my all-girl garage band began gigging around Chicago, I couldn’t tell you how many times I heard people call us “riot grrrl.” We weren’t riot grrrls; we were far too late for the movement. But for so many people, riot grrrl was the only reference point they had for scary, brash female musicians. The truth is, women were involved in the movement’s origins in every part of the world. I believe we must understand that riot grrrls weren’t the first women of punk. My book Hit Girls: Women of Punk in the USA, 1975-1983 details the stories of lesser-known but highly influential women who helped create punk and its adjacent genres.

Jen's book list on music and memoirs about rule-breaking women

Jen B. Larson Why did Jen love this book?

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. 

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…


Book cover of Notes From Underground: Zines and the Politics of Alternative Culture

Katherine Rye Jewell Author Of Live from the Underground: A History of College Radio

From my list on the political side of music scenes.

Why am I passionate about this?

My interests as a historian involve examining how Americans organize to change policy or politics through affiliations beyond political parties and, by extension, thinking about how culture is made and supported through institutions and businesses. These messy networks and relationships ultimately define how we relate to one another in the U.S. Indie music scenes are one way to trace all of these relationships, from federal policy governing radio stations and what goes out over the airwaves to the contours of local music scenes, to the business of record labels, to ordinary DJs and music fans trying to access information and new sounds that they love.

Katherine's book list on the political side of music scenes

Katherine Rye Jewell Why did Katherine love this book?

Before getting to radio, alternative scenes came together in the 1970s and 1980s through informal networks of shared tapes, backyard concerts, and zines. These scenes had politics all to themselves, which revolved around concepts of “authenticity.”

Duncombe’s book not only captures the range and meaning of zines in all their forms, but it unravels the deeper meaning of these DIY publications. As he writes, “Zinesters believe that authenticity can be found only in a person unshackled by the contrivances of society.” Zines thus offered the purest expressions of self, in theory, but soon, the zine scene developed its own codes of conduct and traditions – practices though that would inform the sound and practice of college radio.

What I love about this book is that it delves into theory (zinesters were like Rousseau? Who knew?!) but remains accessible, using the theory only to enlighten underappreciated aspects of zine culture.

By Stephen Duncombe,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Notes From Underground as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

An engaging and scholastic presentation of zines and modern culture

Much history and theory is uncovered here in the first comprehensive study of zine publishing. From their origins in early 20th century science fiction cults, their more proximate roots in 1960s counter-culture and their rapid proliferation in the wake of punk rock, Stephen Duncombe pays full due to the political importance of zines as a vital network of popular culture. He also analyzes how zines measure up to their utopian and escapist outlook in achieving fundamental social change. Packed with extracts and illustrations, he provides a useful overview of the…


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

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

From my list on the history of punk rock.

Why am I passionate about this?

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.

Frank's book list on the history of punk rock

Frank Turner Why did Frank love 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.

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.


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

Kevin Mattson Author Of We're Not Here to Entertain: Punk Rock, Ronald Reagan, and the Real Culture War of 1980s America

From my list on 1980s punk and politics.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was a participant in the D.C. punk scene during the 1980s and helped start an organization known as Positive Force. I remember hearing about the group “Parents of Punkers,” the head of which compared punk to a violent cult. They would go on television and scare watchers about what their kids might be doing. I remember at the time that this missed the realities of my own experiences and made me want to protest this moral panic. But I knew this required some distance from the “punk rock world” I had inhabited. I kept thinking about writing this book and the timing was right.

Kevin's book list on 1980s punk and politics

Kevin Mattson Why did Kevin love this book?

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…

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…


Book cover of Fire in the Night Sky

AM Scott Author Of Lift Off

From my list on sci-fi adventures with strong teen heroines.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve published eleven classic-style space opera novels, a novella, and many short stories. Before becoming a writer, I spent twenty years in US Air Force in space operations; even though my books are light on science, I really was a rocket scientist! Plus, I’ve read science fiction since I was barely a teen, starting with Heinlein and McCaffery, and am always looking for my next favorite author!

AM's book list on sci-fi adventures with strong teen heroines

AM Scott Why did AM love this book?

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!

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…


Book cover of A Visit from the Goon Squad

Kevin Clouther Author Of Maximum Speed

From my list on literary fiction about the passage of time.

Why am I passionate about this?

I live in the past, even as the wellness industry tells me to be present. I try to be present! Of course, I also worry about the future. Time for me, inexorably, moves both backward and forward. I’m always writing things down, scared of forgetting. How do other people do it? That’s why I read fiction (or one of the reasons). As Philip Roth said of his father in Patrimony, “To be alive, to him, is to be made of memory—to him if a man’s not made of memory, he’s made of nothing.”

Kevin's book list on literary fiction about the passage of time

Kevin Clouther Why did Kevin love this book?

When Jennifer Egan published “Found Objects” “Safari,” and “Ask Me If I Care” in The New Yorker I knew she was onto something, but I wasn’t prepared for the cumulative effect of A Visit from the Good Squad, which bounces between past and present (and, occasionally, into the future).

One character asks, “Time’s a goon, right?” Time is, though I hadn’t considered how until surrendering to Egan’s vision, which spans from NYC to Africa to PowerPoint. Whether this is a collection of linked stories or novel or some other hybrid form is irrelevant; the book is pure sorcery.

It was one of the thrills of my career to bring Egan to Omaha in 2019 to lecture to the University of Nebraska MFA in Writing.

By Jennifer Egan,

Why should I read it?

4 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…


Book cover of The Gospel According to St. Rage

Adam Oster Author Of The Agora Files - Part 1

From my list on independent books you’ve never heard of.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an independent author, I’ve been lucky enough to find a wealth of other independent authors out there. People who are doing things that aren’t quite mainstream. Artists who are experimenting with the written word and doing truly unique things. Where the world is filled with books made for the sole purpose of being turned into movies, these authors are creating works of fiction that are suited for the written word. Masterpieces that will make you think and want to find even more new forms of fiction. Simply put, independent authors are pushing books into new realms that you simply can’t find in the mainstream market.

Adam's book list on independent books you’ve never heard of

Adam Oster Why did Adam love this book?

Loser girl turned punk rock superhero... Those six words should sell you on The Gospel According to St. Rage alone. But that still doesn't do this book any sort of justice because this isn't really a superhero book. Sure, Barbara may have the powers to cause flocks of birds to release their...um...payload onto her enemies with the simple flick of a finger, but she's not out to save the world, she's just out to finally live the life she's been hiding from.

Eisenbrey brought me back to my own high school days with this book that feels like a punk rock song. To those days of trying to make friends, of trying to define who I am. And she does so with rock star class.

By Karen Eisenbrey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Gospel According to St. Rage as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

Meet Barbara Bernsen, Former Invisible Girl.

Barbara isn't your typical high school junior. She's been invisible since the third grade. But when a magic hat brings her back into the light, Barbara is ready to take on the world. First priority? Start an all-girl garage band. Miraculous super powers were never in her plan, but sometimes you get what you need. Bullies and school shooters don't stand a chance.

Yes, we all love Wonder Woman, Black Widow, and Jessica Jones, but Barbara is the hero her high school deserves.

Truth. Justice. Rock & Roll.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in punk rock, counterculture, and rock music?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about punk rock, counterculture, and rock music.

Punk Rock Explore 44 books about punk rock
Counterculture Explore 31 books about counterculture
Rock Music Explore 223 books about rock music