Hardcore legend Henry Rollins is as DIY as they come. At 20, he helmed Black Flag as they took the punk scene by storm – producing and distributing their own records, designing their own merch, and organizing and promoting their own shows. After the band’s breakup in ’86, Rollins established his own record label and book imprint, touring the world as a solo spoken-word artist and self-publishing nearly 30 titles to date on music, travel, politics and human rights issues.

His 1994 memoir Get In The Van offers an honest, unfiltered snapshot of six years on the road with Black Flag – violence, depression, poverty and all. A bonafide classic in the realm of punk rock lit, Rollins’ angry youth has come to represent a time of rage, nihilism and alienation for countless young people.

Discussing his own favorite books with The Reading Lists, Rollins revealed the life-changing impact of writers like Henry Miller, Thomas Wolfe, and Hubert Selby Jr. Find his recommendations below, and dip into the reading lists of other iconic musicians right here.

The Great War for Civilization by Robert Fisk

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (also rec’d by Bob DylanBruce SpringsteenGabriel García MárquezNelson MandelaRay Bradbury & Tom Wolfe)

“One day, I just picked it up and started reading it. Guys at school didn’t believe I was really reading it but I was. I found it hard to put down.” -HR

Black Spring by Henry Miller

“There is a lot of life in that book. He allowed me to think that writing was possible for me. I wish I read him a few years earlier than I did.” -HR

Imperium by Ryszard Kapuscinski

“One of the best books ever written…One line of Kapuscinski is worth ten of anyone else’s.” -HR

Shot In The Heart by Mikal Gilmore

“I don’t really have friends or family but there are some people I keep in touch with and have recommended it to them as well as people if they ask me to recommend a great book. Mikal is an amazing writer.” -HR

Ask the Dust by John Fante

“I recommend Ask the Dust by John Fante to young people. That’s a perfect piece of work.” -HR

In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust (also rec’d by Marina Abramovic)

“Before I die, I am hell bent on getting all the way through In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust. That’s literature I will make time for.” -HR

Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust (also rec’d by Carrie Fisher)

“I have been dragging the Lydia Davis translation of Swann’s Way around with me for a long time, reading it now and then. Incredible.” -HR

The Speed Of Sound by Thomas Dolby

“I thought it was a great read. Smart guy and a good writer with a great story.” -HR

Selected Speeches and Writings by Abraham Lincoln

Letters From the Earth by Mark Twain

Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald (also rec’d by Cate Blanchett)

Mysteries by Knut Hamsun

Ghost Wars by Steve Coll

The Sorrows of Empire by Chalmers Johnson

United States: Essays 1952-1992 by Gore Vidal

The Castle by Franz Kafka

Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche

“The Kauffmann translation wowed me in my early 20’s.” -HR

The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi (also rec’d by Joe Rogan)

Maldoror and Poems by Comte Lautreamont

Howl  by Allen Ginsberg (also rec’d by Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, John Lennon & Patti Smith)

Of Time and the River by Thomas Wolfe

Paris Spleen by Charles Baudelaire

The Fiery Trial by Eric Foner

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (also rec’d by David Bowie & Philip Seymour Hoffman)

Other Voices Other Rooms by Truman Capote

Platform by Michel Houellebecq

Max Perkins: Editor of Genius by A Scott Berg

Somebody In Boots by Nelson Algren

The Fall by Albert Camus

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander (also rec’d by J. Cole)

(via The Reading Lists)

Leave a comment