The 14 Best Punk Music Books

8 min read

Punk music has long been a source of energy, rebellion and creativity in our culture. Fans seeking to explore this genre further should consider these books, each offering unique insight into the punk movement. Read on for reviews that will pique your curiosity about punk music’s history and influence!

  1. Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk

    Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk
    Legs McNeil, Gillian McCain
    Published in 2016

    Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk, by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain is an essential read for any music lover. It provides a vivid insight into the turbulent birth of punk rock with riveting interviews from its key players including Iggy Pop, Richard Hell, and the Ramones. This twentieth anniversary edition features new photos and an afterword which adds to this thrilling narrative. Full of sex, drugs, and mayhem – it’s easy to see why this book continues to captivate readers in 2021 as much as when it was first published over two decades ago. Engagingly written with plenty of anecdotes about each artist’s experience during that era- Please Kill Me offers a raw glimpse into one of the most nihilistic musical movements ever seen. An unmissable journey through time that will leave you wishing you were there!

  2. Too Fast to Live Too Young to Die

    Too Fast to Live Too Young to Die
    Andrew Krivine
    Published in 2020

    This book, Too Fast to Live Too Young To Die, is an essential collection of punk and post-punk memorabilia. It features over 650 posters, club flyers, record covers and adverts from Andrew Krivine’s world renowned collection that he started in 1977. Graphic design experts Steven Heller, Dr Russ Bestley and Rick Poynor provide context for the artworks which showcase bands such as The Clash, Patti Smith Talking Heads and Joy Division. Beautifully designed by Malcolm Garrett & Peter Saville with front/back cover artwork this collectable publication will appeal to both music fans & graphic designers alike. An absolute joy!

  3. Sellout

    Sellout
    Dan Ozzi
    Published in 2021

    Sellout by Dan Ozzi is an eye-opening exploration of the 1990’s music industry. It follows eleven prominent punk bands as they grapple with the tension between their indie cred and major label possibilities, tracing a fascinating history of rebellion and authenticity in musical culture. His rigorous research provides insightful looks at how labels targeted specific acts and their struggle to sign them. Through original interviews with band members, personal stories, and analysis of success or failure under mounting pressures this book paints a vivid picture for readers who lived through it all – as well as those looking back from today’s perspective. Punk rock lovers will enjoy reading about classic groups like Green Day, Jawbreaker, Jimmy Eat World, Blink 182, At The Drive In; alongside newer stars such as My Chemical Romance & Against Me! A compelling successor to Michael Azerrad’s 2001 examination Our Band Could Be Your Life – Sellout is essential reading for anyone interested in the tumultuous times when DIY punk became mainstream pop star material.

  4. Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys.

    Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys.
    Viv Albertine
    Published in 2019

    Viv Albertine’s memoir, Clothes Music Boys: The Story of a Punk Rock Survival is an incredibly honest and candid account of her life from 1976 to 1982. As a founding member of the influential female punk band The Slits, she couragefully faced off against the male-dominated music scene and persevered through illness, divorce, and other personal struggles. Writing in short entries that captivate with wry prose, Albertine offers up vivid glimpses into London during the punk era as well as tales of experimenting with fashion at art school and collaborating with musicians such as Sid Vicious. This inspiring read will delight fans looking for insight into this formative period in rock history while providing readers everywhere with valuable lessons on resilience.

  5. The Best of Punk Magazine

    The Best of Punk Magazine
    John Holmstrom
    Published in 2011

    The Best of Punk Magazine is an essential collection for anyone interested in the punk rock movement of the 70s and 80s. Offering a unique look into this era, it includes high-quality reprints from hard-to-find original issues with rare and unseen photos, essays, interviews, and handwritten contributions from figures such as Andy Warhol, Lou Reed, Debbie Harry, The Ramones and more. Editor John Holmstrom provides background information on each issue to put everything into context. This coffee table book also features a Patti Smith Q&A session along with comics strips starring Lester Bangs and even a two page centerfold of Debbie Harry labelled ‘Punk Playmate Of The Month’. It’s sure to please both lifelong punks as well as those just discovering what punk music is all about! Beautifully presented in a sturdy hardcover edition; this anthology packs tighter than CBGB on a Saturday night offering readers entertaining insight written by experienced contributors who lived through these moments.

  6. I’m Not Holding Your Coat

    I'm Not Holding Your Coat
    Nancy Barile
    Published in 2021

    Nancy Barile’s memoir ‘I’m Not Holding Your Coat’ is a powerful and heartfelt account of her involvement in the East Coast punk scene during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Through vivid detail, readers are taken on an exciting wild ride through the backstreets of cities such as New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Harrisburg with Nancy at its helm. This book serves to dispel two major misconstructions about this era: that women were excluded from it, and that violence was rampant within it. It reveals how camaraderie between punks was formed by easygoing conversations had in party places or apartments; plus shows how women contributed hugely towards getting bands booked for gigs despite resistance from venue owners. A must-read for music history buffs and educators alike, this remarkable story expresses what it’s like to navigate life as a woman fighting for fairness while also finding true love when least expected.

  7. Punk Paradox: A Memoir

    Punk Paradox: A Memoir
    Greg Graffin
    Published in 2022

    Punk Paradox: A Memoir, by Bad Religion frontman Greg Graffin is an eye-opening historical memoir and cultural analysis of the evolution of punk rock. The book chronicles Graffin’s Midwestern upbringing before moving to Southern California in the mid 70s and being swept up into the thrilling yet often violent streets of Los Angeles. It documents how he formed his iconic band and built a fanbase while also maintaining a budding academic career that enabled him to reconcile his double life as both an artist and lecturer. This thought-provoking read explores not only the scene at its peak but provides insight on punk’s enduring legacy with commentary on its resistance to traditional narrative perceptions. With stories from behind the scenes tours, recording sessions, songwriting duties, lectureship obligations and more, Punk Paradox serves as a riveting account full of compelling characters showing just what it takes for one person pursue their passions across seemingly contradictory fields while staying true to themselves.

  8. The High Desert: Black. Punk. Nowhere.

    The High Desert: Black. Punk. Nowhere.
    James Spooner
    Published in 2022

    The High Desert: Black. Punk. Nowhere., a graphic memoir by the creator of Afro-Punk, is an immersive coming-of-age story about identity and belonging in an isolated California desert. It follows James Spooner as he discovers punk music and confronts racism, microaggressions and violence on his quest for salvation and community. Readers will appreciate the nuanced writing which captures adolescent awkwardness along with vivid illustrations that transport them back to 1980s DIY culture in New York City’s East Village. The book offers a rewarding journey of discovery into self-determination as it interweaves the Black roots of punk rock into its narrative. A must have for every music fan, this thought provoking work is sure to leave readers wishing there was more!

  9. Point of View

    Point of View
    Chris Stein
    Published in 2018

    Chris Stein’s new book, Point of View: Me, New York City and the Punk Scene is an excellent collection of never-before seen photographs from his time as a student at the School of Visual Arts in 1970s NYC. The images range from intimate self-portraits to candid shots featuring iconic figures such as William Burroughs, Debbie Harry and Andy Warhol among others. Steeped in nostalgia for a city that was chaotic yet creative, this book captures both its romance and dereliction through vivid street photography. It also offers readers an insight into one music icon’s life with his punk heroes during their golden age. An eclectic compilation full of emotion and energy; Chris Stein has created something truly unique here which will transport readers back to another place and time – making it essential reading for anyone interested in the history of punk culture or who simply loves photos that tell stories about people’s lives.

  10. Keep Your Eyes Open

    Keep Your Eyes Open
    Glen E. Friedman, Ian F. Svenonius
    Published in 2019

    Keep Your Eyes Open: The Fugazi Photographs of Glen E. Friedman is a comprehensive and captivating visual chronicle documenting the revolutionary rock band, Fugazi. With almost 200 black-and-white and color images captured onstage and off between 1986 to 2002, this revised edition features an additional interview with both photographer Friedman and singer/guitarist Ian MacKaye. This book is a testament to their music as it captures the raw energy of their performances through intimate photography that won’t distract from its subject matter. The photos present moments dripping in sweat, contorted bodies, flying microphone stands – all brimming with manic yet controlled energy. As punk fans will appreciate these pictures for triggering one’s senses; feeling dry mouths due to lack of hydration or hearing every line being belted out full force – Keep Your Eyes Open provides readers with an absolute treat for the eyes!

  11. Smash!

    Smash!
    Ian Winwood
    Published in 2018

    Smash! is an in-depth exploration of the 90s punk scene from renowned music writer, Ian Winwood. This book provides a detailed look at iconic bands such as Green Day, The Offspring, NOFX, Rancid and more; examining how these groups transformed punk music for generations to come. With exceptional access to all major players of this era provided by Winwood’s impressive research and interviews with band members themselves, readers are given intimate insight into their stories and successes. A must read for any true fan of punk rock or anyone interested in learning about its resurgence during the 1990s; Smash will captivate you through its vivid descriptions while exploring what it meant – culturally, musically and commercially – when ‘the underdogs finally won’.

  12. Spoke

    Spoke
    Scott Crawford
    Published in 2017

    In Scott Crawford’s book Spoke: Images and Stories from the 1980s Washington, DC Punk Scene, readers are taken back to a key moment in American underground music. Featuring over 200 photographs capturing the power and spirit of this politically progressive community as well as stories from influential bands like Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Void, Swiz and Fugazi that emerged during this era. This stunning collection is compiled by Crawford himself who directed Salad Days—a film about D.C.’s punk scene—making it the perfect companion for any rock historian or pop-culture buff looking to relive this vivid time period through first hand accounts and rare images. An exciting read full of surprises on every page with its kaleidoscopic array of characters documenting their experiences within such an electric cultural revolution; Spoke will make a worthy addition to any coffee table while paying homage to one of America’s most dynamic musical movements.

  13. What I See

    What I See
    Glen E. Friedman, Chuck Dukowski
    Published in 2022

    What I See: The Black Flag Photographs of Glen E. Friedman is an essential piece for those passionate about the early punk scene, offering a glimpse into the movement with 256 pages full of over 300 stunning and previously unseen photographs taken by legendary photographer Friedman himself. This book includes a foreword by cofounder and bass player Chuck Dukowski as well as an introduction to the work written by Friedman providing insight into his journey alongside this seminal American band throughout their peak years from 1980-1983. Through these images readers can experience everything from street scenes around their home base/office, rehearsals for their first album, house parties, clubs, to big stages and beaches – all brimming with vigor that only further solidifies what made them so influential in music history. Whether familiar with Black Flag or looking for a new perspective on rock culture What I See offers something captivating for every reader; perfectly encapsulating why this era will always be remembered through its rebellious spirit.

  14. Corporate Rock Sucks: The Rise and Fall of SST Records

    Corporate Rock Sucks: The Rise and Fall of SST Records
    Jim Ruland
    Published in 2022

    Jim Ruland’s Corporate Rock Sucks: The Rise and Fall of SST Records is a comprehensive narrative about the iconic record label that provided us with some of punk rock’s biggest bands. Through insightful interviews, Ruland tells the story of how Greg Ginn transformed his ham radio supply store into an independent powerhouse which gave Black Flag, Minutemen, Hüsker Dü, Bad Brains, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., Screaming Trees and Soundgarden a platform to share their music. This investigation provides readers with unprecedented access to its turbulent history as well as insight into why it eventually suffered downfall due to legal issues and financial struggles. An absolute must-read for those who want to know more about the 80’s alternative scene in all its glory!

Additional resources

If you’re looking for more information about punk music, here are some great resources:

  • Punknews.org is a website that covers punk and alternative music news, reviews, and interviews.
  • Punk Rock Theory provides articles, podcasts, and resources on the history and culture of punk music.
  • The Punk Site has daily news and stories about punk, ska, emo and hardcore music.
  • Punktastic is a UK punk website with news and reviews.
  • Punktuation! magazine contains news, interviews and insider info.
  • Our lists of the best heavy metal books and rock music books have more great stories of iconic bands.

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