The most recommended punk rock books

Who picked these books? Meet our 39 experts.

39 authors created a book list connected to punk rock, and here are their favorite punk rock books.
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Book cover of Strange Cures

Mike Hipple Author Of Lived Through That: '90s Musicians Today

From my list on music memoirs that aren't necessarily about music.

Who am I?

Sadly, I was born without an ounce of musical talent. After realizing I was never going to effortlessly play the guitar or sing in tune, I focused a lot of my energies on listening to music. I came of age in the 80s and the rise of MTV brought loads of fantastic music to explore: punk, new-wave, post-punk, pop. My love for music grew and expanded as I grew up in the 90s. It was those I reached back to musical memories in creating my books, 80s Redux and Lived Through That. I also host a popular podcast called Lived Through That that combines my love of music and storytelling.  

Mike's book list on music memoirs that aren't necessarily about music

Mike Hipple Why did Mike love this book?

Before taking a darker turn in the second half, this book almost reads like a Steven Spielberg movie: wise grandmother advises her young grandson to stick his hands in cow patties out in the field to rid himself of warts. After this hilarious beginning, the book goes into detail on Zabrecky’s rise through the Los Angeles music scene of the early 90s, finding some success with his band Possum Dixon, the inevitable lure of drugs, and a surprising third act. This book reads almost like fiction and you’ll likely read it in a sitting or two, it’s well-paced and well-written.

By Rob Zabrecky,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Strange Cures is a turbulent, against-all odds memoir of self-discovery, success, failure, and reinvention, told by one of LA's most interesting natives. With an unflinching gaze, musician/magician/actor Zabrecky recounts his bizarre coming-of-age tale and his quest to find a place in the arts--and the world.

The author reveals a young life filled with both physical miracles and subversive role models, including an uncle who impersonated an FBI agent and, in a drunken delusion, shot and nearly killed him. He takes readers on a roller coaster ride through the nascent days of Silver Lake's music and art community, as seen through…


Book cover of Head-On

Who am I?

I was born in 1954, the same year as rock and roll. I am a product of the era that spawned me. I was that kid at school who would rather read his music mags than his school books. Over a rich and varied career, I have turned those passions into my profession. I have been a singer in a band, a music journalist, a broadcaster with the BBC national radio network, and have had several music related books published by major publishers. I have also been an academic specialist in my field and have managed to turn all those lifelong interests into a Ph.D. and an M.Phil.

Rob's book list on music books that will make you think differently about music and the people who make it

Rob Chapman Why did Rob love this book?

Julian Cope writes like a fan. He doesn’t write like a musician or a music journalist. That’s why I like his books so much.

I find his views refreshing on everything from glam rock to living in Liverpool in the late 1970s. He may be best known for his music with The Teardrop Explodes and as a solo artist, but he doesn’t serve up a boring discography or describe what life was like on the road. He lets you into his head, and best of all, he doesn’t follow any party line. 

By Julian Cope,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Head-On as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Julian Cope's highly acclaimed autobiography and its long-awaited sequel in one extraordinary volume.

Julian Cope shot to fame with eighties band 'Teardrop Explodes' during the Punk era. Hailed as a visionary by those people who recognise his genius and a madman by those who find him perplexing, he has become a cult figure in the music world.

Head-On/Repossessed is written in Cope's own inimitable style and follows his journey through a time of incredible change within the music industry.
Head-on is the highly acclaimed autobiography that The Observer viewed as "book of the year" when it was first released. Repossesed…


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

Amanda Schuster Author Of Signature Cocktails

From my list on making it there from anywhere in New York City.

Who am I?

As a lifelong New Yorker and author of two books about drinking in the city—New York Cocktails and Drink Like a Local New York—these are the books about bygone days of city living that I would tell you to read if we met in a bar. You already know the ones by E.B. White, Patti Smith, Lou Reed, or possibly Pete Hamill or Walt Winchell. Those books are fantastic, but these are some “deep cuts” New York City appreciation books that you should also get to know.  

Amanda's book list on making it there from anywhere in New York City

Amanda Schuster Why did Amanda love this book?

Although the book discusses the punk scene in other cities, most of it takes place in NYC’s East Village.

CBGBs, Blondie, the New York Dolls, Ramones, Patti Smith, Bebe Buell, Iggy Pop, the MC5, Andy Warhol, Lou Reed—their stories, their words, no safety pin out of place. So many of the people and places are gone now. The book serves as the greatest time capsule of a lost city culture.

The book is simultaneously horrifying and beautiful, and often just dang funny. 

By Legs McNeil, Gillian McCain,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Please Kill Me as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is the true story of a misunderstood culture phenomenon, one embracing Andy Warhol, Jim Morrison, Lou Reed, David Bowie, Patti Smith, The Sex Pistols, Iggy Pop, The New York Dolls, The Clash and The Damned. It is a story of sex, drugs and rock and roll, documenting a time of glorious self-destruction and perverse innocence - punk was possibly the last time so many people will have had so much fun killing themselves. Legs McNeil, founder of "Punk" magazine has interviewed those who were members of the punk scene, from the brightest stars to the most observant groupies.


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.

Who am I?

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 The First Rule of Punk

Tim Cummings Author Of Alice the Cat

From my list on kids with smart, strong female protagonists.

Who am I?

I earned my Master’s in Writing For Young People, or ‘Bildungsromans’ a few years back, and subsequently published my debut novel, a coming-of-age adventure about a girl who goes on a quest to save her suicidal cat. I headed back to school to honor that long-alive love for kid lit. When I was a kid, I devoured books that irrevocably inspired, changed, and moved me: I voraciously consumed every book by E.B. White, Robert O’Brien, Madeleine L’Engle, Beverly Cleary, Ruth Chew, Mildred Taylor, Richard Adams, Roald Dahl, Lowis Lowrey, Gary Paulsen…every other major kid lit classic out there, really. 

Tim's book list on kids with smart, strong female protagonists

Tim Cummings Why did Tim love this book?

Malú ((María Luisa O’Neill-Morales) is a tween punker who moves across the country with her ‘Super Mexican’ mom who will do anything to make her daughter into more of a respected senorita who embraces her heritage.

But Malú needs to find out who she is in her own way—a very punk way to do things. And her father reminds her of the most important part of being punk, (or not being punk at all for that matter) and it is this: be yourself. Malú finds her true self in creating a punk band with her newfound friends and defying the school administration who doesn’t want her to be who she truly is.

It’s a kick-ass book. And includes all the awesome visuals of Malú’s favorite pastime: making zines. 

By Celia C. Pérez,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The First Rule of Punk as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

There are no shortcuts to surviving your first day at a new school - you can't fix it with duct tape like you would your Chuck Taylors. On Day One, twelve-year-old Malu inadvertently upsets Posada Middle School's queen bee, violates the school's dress code with her punk-rock look, and disappoints her college-professor mum in the process. Her dad, who now lives a thousand miles away, says things will get better as long as she remembers the first rule of punk: be yourself. The real Malu loves rock music, skateboarding, zines, and Soyrizo (hold the cilantro, please). And when she assembles…


Book cover of A Visit from the Goon Squad

Joshua David Bellin Author Of Myriad

From Joshua's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Teacher Science fiction fan

Joshua's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Joshua David Bellin Why did Joshua love this book?

A novel about the music industry might seem a strange choice for me. Though I love music, I've never played an instrument (except air guitar), and I find stories of rock stars' misbehavior tedious at best. But a friend urged me to read this book, and I'm glad I listened.

Yes, it's about the music industry, with a varied cast of characters (artists, producers, and more). But it's also about issues I connected with instantly: pursuing one's dreams, finding one's voice, making one's way in life, work, and love.

Creative language use matters to me, and Egan's prose knocked me out, as when she describes lifelong friends "staring at each other's new faces, our familiar features rinsed in weird adulthood." Who would think to use "rinsed" here? Genius!

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 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.

Who am I?

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 Typical Girls: The Story of "The Slits"

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

From my list on revealing untold stories in music.

Who am I?

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?

As far as I know, this is the first biography of an all-female or female-fronted band. When I saw it come out, I was thrilled but also thought: how in the world has it taken this long for someone to write a book about The Slits?!

Lucky for me (and for all of you), Zoe Howe was the one to do it because this book taught me that it’s more than possible to write about women in music (even when male journalists and music writers omit women altogether, marginalize them in print, or criticize their work). 

By Zoe Howe,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Wild, defiant and startlingly inventive, The Slits were ahead of their time. Although they created some unique hybrids - dub reggae and pop-punk, African rhythms, funk and free jazz - they were dismissed as being unable to play. Their lyrics were witty and perceptive while their influential first album challenged perceptions of punk and of girl bands - but they were still misunderstood. And that infamous debut album cover, with the band appearing topless and mud-daubed, prompted further misreadings of the first ladies of punk. Author Zoe Street Howe speaks to The Slits themselves, to former manager Don Letts, mentor…


Book cover of The Littlest Viking

Charlotte Offsay Author Of How to Return a Monster

From my list on picture books for expanding families.

Who am I?

I am a picture book author living in Los Angeles with my husband and two small children. Through my work, I hope to make children laugh, to inspire curiosity, and to create a magical world readers can lose themselves in time and time again.

Charlotte's book list on picture books for expanding families

Charlotte Offsay Why did Charlotte love this book?

Sven is the littlest and loudest attention-demanding Viking until a new warrior princess arrives. Sven’s baby sister is even louder and more attention-demanding than Sven and no one has time for his stories anymore… that is until Sven dreams up the perfect solution for all. Filled with heart and humor this book celebrates imagination, Vikings, storytelling, and new siblings.

By Alexandra Penfold, Isabel Roxas (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Littlest Viking as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

A hilarious story about what happens to the littlest and loudest Viking when an even littler and louder Viking arrives, perfect for fans of The Princess and the Pony and I Don't Want to Be a Frog.

Sven might be the littlest Viking, but he has no trouble making himself known. He has the loudest warrior cry and the fiercest set of teeth. He loves to pillage and plunder. But there's a new kid in town--a warrior princess, who is smaller than Sven and even louder. What's a little Viking to do?

"Penfold folds in fun ancient analogues to tried-and-true…


Book cover of Old Dogs: Are the Best Dogs

Laura T. Coffey Author Of My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts

From my list on people who love sweet old dogs.

Who am I?

I’m a dog nut who loves reflecting on the powerful life lessons we can learn as we watch our furry best friends age happily and gratefully by our sides. I’ve also been working as a journalist for more than 30 years now — so that makes me one of the oldest dogs in my own newsroom. I’m a senior writer and editor for the website of NBC’s TODAY show, and the My Old Dog book stemmed from a viral TODAY.com story I wrote about photographer Lori Fusaro’s efforts to change people’s perceptions of older shelter animals. Writing that story was one of the best things that ever happened to me!

Laura's book list on people who love sweet old dogs

Laura T. Coffey Why did Laura love this book?

The author’s bio in Old Dogs: Are the Best Dogs says this of Gene Weingarten: “He wants his tombstone to read only: ‘Gene Weingarten, a funny man who loved dogs,’ and to be carved in the shape of a fire hydrant.” This gives you a sense of why Old Dogs has been one of my favorite books for years. It’s masterfully written by Weingarten, winner of two Pulitzer Prizes for feature writing and former humor columnist for The Washington Post. (Fun side note: Weingarten is the editor who discovered Dave Barry years ago at the Miami Herald!) Old Dogs is a collection of profiles of sweet senior dogs — and you’ll love every pooch you meet in these pages. (I have a special soft spot for Harry and Honey!) 

By Gene Weingarten, Michael S. Williamson (photographer),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The memories that people have of dogs they have loved and lost are almost always of the animal in his final years; somehow, those are the images we treasure most. There is a reason. Old dogs can be rheumy-eyed and grump, gray of muzzle, graceless of gait, eccentric of habit, pimply, wheezy, lazy, lumpy. But that is not the whole of him. The old dog is resolute. He is canny. He is noble. She is funny, and seems to know it. She is sweetly vulnerable. He has character and dignity and an elegance of bearing that belies his circumstances, and…