First things first: Don’t let this list scare you. Reading can be fun kids, I promise! Every rock star who’s reached AARP benefits age has written an autobiography, but if you’re looking for something a little more relevant to your interests, I recommend you start with these 12 books. It covers all the bases: memoirs by punk’s finest, the history of all your favorite genres and a couple books written by some former AP employees.
Barred For Life: How Black Flag's Iconic Logo Became Punk's Secret Handshake
By Stewart Dean Ebersole
If the prospect of reading a dozen books is giving you horrific flashbacks to high school English, just take a deep breath and start with this one. This photo-heavy book casts its lens on Black Flag’s logo and the people who have permanently marked their skin with it. Bartenders, librarians, musicians, construction workers—they’re all here. They’ve all got the iconic four bars on them, and they’ve all got a story to tell.
Everybody Hurts: An Essential Guide To Emo Culture
By Leslie Simon and Trevor Kelley
Written by two former AP contributors, Everybody Hurts is, well, an essential guide to emo culture—and that includes more than music. Simon and Kelley break down emo and its connections to fashion, the internet and your eating habits. (Yes, you read that last one right.)
Get In The Van: On The Road With Black Flag
By Henry Rollins
Yeah, I know, another Black Flag book. But what kind of list would this be if I didn’t include Get In The Van? Henry Rollins kept diaries (actually let’s say journals, because that sounds more punk rock) of his six years spent fronting Black Flag. He compiled them into this memoir which was originally published in 1994. Ten years later Get In The Van was reissued with more artwork, journal entries and an afterword. Not much for the written word? Rollins also recorded passages from the book for a two-CD set that won the 1994 Grammy for Best Spoken Word.
Girls To The Front: The True Story Of The Riot Grrrl Revolution
By Sara Marcus
Sure, the riot grrrl movement was about much more than music in the grand scheme of things, but no one can deny the influence bands like Bikini Kill and Bratmobile had on women, punk and feminism. Sara Marcus, a politics and music writer who’s contributed to The San Francisco Chronicle, Slate, Salon, Time Out New York and many others, isn’t some outsider looking in. She grew up in Washington, D.C., where she attended riot grrrl meetings, wrote a zine and joined a punk band.
I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp
By Richard Hell
Musician. Punk innovator. Style icon. Writer. This year Richard Hell added to his already impressive list of published work with his autobiography, I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp. Whether you’re familiar with Hell’s musical endeavors (Television, Neon Boys, the Heartbreakers, Richard Hell & The Voidoids) or not, you should still pick up his autobiography and read up on this true punk pioneer.
By Patti Smith
Patti Smith’s 1975 debut album, Horses, was a touchstone of the early punk movement, but if you’ve ever wondered how she got there, give Just Kids a read. The memoir tells the story of how Smith made it out of Jersey, moved to New York, met Robert Mapplethorpe and completely changed her life’s trajectory. The only thing more captivating than Smith’s tales are the backdrop: New York in the early ’70s, when the city was still pretty seedy, but was also thriving with art, music and youth.
Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes From The American Indie Underground 1981-1991
By Michael Azerrad
Let’s get the slightly scary bit out of the way: the page number. Coming in at 528 pages, it’s a bit of a commitment, but think of all the very useful music knowledge you’ll have on completion. If it still seems a bit daunting, the good news is each chapter is about a different band (Fugazi, the Replacements, Sonic Youth, Black Flag, Minor Threat) so you can skip around and just read your favorites. >>>