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Sheena is a Punk Reader: 10 great must-read punk books!

joey ramone

With COVID-19 offering us plenty of extra time due to the lack of concerts and social interaction, why not sit back and relax with a book that can take you to better times and better days in the land of punk.


Burning Down the Haus, by Tim Mohr

It began with a handful of East Berlin teens who heard the Sex Pistols on a British military radio broadcast to troops in West Berlin, and it ended with the collapse of the East German dictatorship. Punk rock was a life-changing discovery. The buzz-saw guitars, the messed-up clothing and hair, the rejection of society and the DIY approach to building a new one: in their grey surroundings, where everyone’s future was preordained by some communist apparatchik, punk represented a revolutionary philosophy – quite literally, as it turned out – as punk was an indispensable role in the underground movements that helped bring down the Berlin Wall.

This secret history of East German punk rock is not just about the music; it is a story of extraordinary bravery in the face of one of the most oppressive regimes in history. Rollicking, cinematic, deeply researched, highly readable, and thrillingly topical, BurningDown the Haus brings to life the young men and women who successfully fought authoritarianism three chords at a time—and is a fiery testament to the irrepressible spirit of revolution.


Marky Ramone – Punk Rock Blitzkrieg: My Life as a Ramone

If punk had royalty, in 1978 Marky became part of it when he was knighted “Marky Ramone” by Johnny, Joey, and Dee Dee of the iconoclastic Ramones. The band of tough misfits were a natural fit for Marky, who dressed punk before there was punk, and who brought his “blitzkrieg” style of drumming as well as the studio and stage experience the band needed to solidify its lineup. Together, they changed the world.

Covering in unflinching detail the cult film Rock ’N’ Roll High School to “I Wanna Be Sedated” to Marky’s own struggles, Punk Rock Blitzkrieg is an authentic and always honest look at the people who reinvented rock music, and not a moment too soon.



England’s Dreaming: Anarchy, Sex Pistols, Punk Rock, and Beyond by Jon Savage

England’s Dreaming is the ultimate book on punk, its progenitors, the Sex Pistols, and the moment they defined for music fans in England and the United States. Savage brings to life the sensational story of the meteoric rise and rapid implosion of the Pistols through layers of rich detail, exclusive interviews, and rare photographs. This fully revised and updated edition of the book covers the legacy of punk twenty-five years later. It provides an account of the Pistols’ 1996 reunion as well as a freshly updated discography and a completely new introduction.


Dayglo!: The Creative Life of Poly Styrene by Celeste Bell and Zoë Howe

Poly Styrene was a singer-songwriter, an artist, a free-thinker, a post-modern style pioneer and a lifelong spiritual seeker: a true punk icon. But this rebel queen with the cheeky grin was also a latter-day pop artist with a wickedly perceptive gift for satirising the world around her – her brightly coloured, playful aesthetic sharply at odds with the stark monochrome style and nihilism of punk.

Here, for the first time, the vibrant jigsaw of Poly s inspiring and often moving story has been lovingly pieced together by her daughter, singer-songwriter Celeste Bell, and writer/artist Zoe Howe (author of the acclaimed Typical Girls? The Story Of The Slits, amongst many others). From growing up mixed-race in Brixton in the 1960s to being at the forefront of the emerging punk scene with X-Ray Spex in the 1970s to finding faith with the Hare Krishna movement, to balancing single motherhood with a solo music career and often debilitating mental health issues, the book honestly and openly explores Poly s exceptional life, up until her untimely passing in 2011.



Viv Albertine – Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys

Selected by the New York Times as one of the 50 Best Memoirs of the Past 50 Years – Viv Albertine is a pioneer. As lead guitarist and songwriter for the seminal band The Slits, she influenced a future generation of artists including Kurt Cobain and Carrie Brownstein. She formed a band with Sid Vicious and was there the night he met Nancy Spungeon. She tempted Johnny Thunders…toured America with the Clash…dated Mick Jones…and inspired the classic Clash anthem Train in Vain. But Albertine was no mere muse. In Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys, Albertine delivers a unique and unfiltered look at a traditionally male-dominated scene.

A feminist musician icon, Viv Albertine reveals the rocking, uncompromising story of her life on the front lines at the birth of the British punk movement and beyond in this exciting, humorous, and inspiring memoir.


From the Velvets to the Voidoids: A Pre-Punk History for a Post-Punk World by Clinton Heylin

This book chronicles the American punk music scene, from its roots in the 1960s, including The Velvet Underground and Heylin Asserts – still the most influential American band, through two “waves” of bands in the mid 1970s. Among the first wave, Patti Smith and the Ramones were prominent and among the second, Suicide, the Voidoids, and Pere Ubu, and subsequently bands like Talking Heads.



John Lydon – Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs

Punk has been romanticised and embalmed in various media. It has been portrayed as an English class revolt and a reckless diversion that became a marketing dream. But there is no disputing its starting point. Every story of punk starts with its idols, the Sex Pistols, and its sneering hero was Johnny Rotten.

In Rotten, Lydon looks back at himself, the Sex Pistols, and the “no future” disaffection of the time. Much more than just a music book, Rotten is an oral history of punk: angry, witty, honest, poignant, and crackling with energy.


Girls to The Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution by Sara Marcus

“For a Second Wave feminist like myself, Girls to the Front evokes wonderfully the way the generation after mine soaked up the promise and the punishment of feminist consciousness… A richly moving story.” -Village Voice writer Vivian Gornick.

Girls to the Front is the epic, definitive history of the Riot Grrrl movement-the radical feminist punk uprising that exploded into the public eye in the 1990s, altering America’s gender landscape forever. Author Sara Marcus, a music and politics writer for Time Out New York, Slate.com, Pos, and Heeb magazine, interweaves research, interviews, and her own memories as a Riot Grrrl front-liner. Her passionate, sophisticated narrative brilliantly conveys the story of punk bands like Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, Heavens to Betsy-as well as successors like Sleater-Kinney, Partyline, and Kathleen Hanna’s Le Tigre-and their effect on today’s culture.



Keith Morris – My Damage: The Story of a Punk Rock Survivor

Over the course of his forty-year career with Black Flag, the Circle Jerks, and OFF!, he’s battled diabetes, drug and alcohol addiction, and the record industry…and he’s still going strong.

My Damage is more than a book about the highs and lows of a punk rock legend. It’s a story from the perspective of someone who has shared the stage with just about every major figure in the music industry and has appeared in cult films like The Decline of Western Civilization and Repo Man. A true Hollywood tale from an L.A. native, My Damage reveals the story of Morris’s streets, his scene, and his music-as only he can tell it.


Jack Grisham – An American Demon: A Memoir

An American Demon is Jack Grisham’s story of depravity and redemption, terror and spiritual deliverance. While Grisham is best known as the raucous and provocative frontman of the pioneer hardcore punk band TSOL (True Sounds of Liberty), his writing and true-life experiences are physically and psychologically complex, unsettling and violent.

An American Demon conveys anger and truth within the perfect setting, using a youth rebellion that changed the world to open doors for this level of brash destruction. Told from the point of view of a seminal member of the American Punk movement ― doused in violence, rebellion, alcoholism, drug abuse, and ending with beautiful lessons of sobriety and absolution ― this book is as harrowing and life-affirming as anything you’re ever going to read.


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