Books That Embody The Punk Ethos ‹ Literary Hub

When kids tag “PUNKS DEAD” on a wall, they’re contradicting themselves because defacing public property is punk. Punk rock, on the other hand, is deceased. It was a one-time cultural movement that has gone through so many revivals and nostalgic facelifts that we can’t even recognize this bitch anymore. Sick new bands (Amyl and the Sniffers, Destroy Boys, NIIS) are killing it, and they’re making punk music, but they deserve their own legacy. Does that make sense? It’s not necessary, I know I’m right.

So even though punk rock is six feet under, punk is forever. Punk existed before the term was around to describe it. (T-Rex was punk). The punk spirit lives on long after you’ve turned to dust. (To die is punk). Punk is freedom, rebellion, the ultimate FUCK YOU. Some books have that punk vibe (reading can be punk, depending on the book). please kill me was a great read on punk, but not punk per se. (History is not punk).

Here are my favorite punk books that aren’t about punk music. (Writing lists isn’t punk, but sometimes we do it to promote our own punk novels). Keep reading unless you’re a poser…


Megahex by Simon Hanselman

This comic has it all: a cat-loving witch, a perverted werewolf, an owl in existential crisis, and every drug imaginable. Your life is over? Might as well shit in bed and get by tomorrow. The most beautiful, tragic and hilarious graphic novel ever. Reading it, I laughed, I cried, I shared.

I am with the group by Pamela Des Barres

Who’s tougher than a badass? The girl lying under him. Groupies are a criminally misunderstood and undeniably vital part of every music scene. Pamela cooks up all the juiciest gossip while teaching a lesson or two. This book looks like this photograph of Kate Moss hanging upside down in a window with Pete Doherty.

I am not ashamed by Barbara Payton

I found this book near a trash can on the Bowery in New York. What’s more punk than that? The crude story of a fallen woman with no regrets reads like a sordid fairy tale. In short: humans are the enemy and cockroaches are your friends. It’s not a lifestyle unless it kills you, honey.

Miles: the autobiography by Miles Davis

My piano teacher gave me this book when I was fifteen because I guess he could tell it was going to save my life. This memoir moved me. I’d skip school to read it in the cafes around town and feel like the baddest bitch. Punk rock wouldn’t exist without rock n’ roll and it wouldn’t exist without jazz. Miles was the original bad boy. A feminist, heroin-hungry heartbreaker. His stories make Richard Hell look like a Boy Scout.

High school blood and guts by Kathy Acker

This should be required reading for high school students. Acker serves up psychotic, dangerous, devastating writing. His style is experimental and hypnotic. Each sentence breathes destruction and debauchery. Reading it will make you want to burn the world down or at least steal a Victoria’s Secret thong.

Bobby Boys by Alex Schubert

Alex illustrates in a way I’ve never seen. It is completely original and avant-garde. Its storytelling is Oscar-worthy and its characters are iconic. The Blobby Boys are roommates, they’re best friends, they’re drug dealers, they’re criminals, they’re part of a group, they might be aliens, they’re the perfect boyfriends.


A lit cigarette upside down by Tea Hacic-Vlahovic is available from The Overlook Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.

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