14 Essential Books For Seattle Music Fans
The Seattle music scene is one of the most talked about movements in music history, but there are few grunge books out there for fans to educate themselves with.
In preparing for my book, This All Encompassing Trip, I tried to read quite a few books to familiarize myself with writing styles and layouts. And naturally, I would turn my interest towards books about the Seattle music scene.
Nirvana and Pearl Jam both have many book options available. But I also found some books about the other bands that were the building blocks to the 90s explosion in Seattle. And recently, there have been a few more grunge books being released to include on this list.
So here are 14 books on the Seattle music that are essential to your collection.
1. Before Seattle Rocked: A City and Its Music
by Kurt E. Armbruster (2011)
Published by the University of Washington Press, Before Seattle Rocked tells the story about all the lesser known music coming from the region. It mainly fills that gap from the 1890s to the 1960s. So this is a great read to familiarize yourself on the history of Seattle music before it became grunge and what it has been known for today.
2. The Strangest Tribe: How A Group of Seattle Rock Bands Invented Grunge
by Stephen Tow (2011)
Stephen Tow tells the story of how Seattle music developed into what it became in the early 90s. He talks to individuals from the 70s and 80s with lesser known musicians such as Kurt Bloch, Scott McCaughey, Conrad Uno, Chris Eckman and Leighton Beezer, and also to the likes of Jack Endino, Tad Doyle and Stone Gossard as well. This is a great book to learn about how the seeds were planted before Nirvana.
3. Grunge is Dead: The Oral History of Seattle Rock Music
by Greg Prato (2009)
This is the definitive story on the grunge era. Prato is a writer familiar with the scene and puts together an oral history based on hundreds of interviews conducted with Eddie Vedder, Jerry Cantrell, Kim Thayil, Mark Arm, Slim Moon, Art Chantry, Jack Endino, and more. The book covers the acts that made it big, the Riot Grrrl movement, and overlooked bands such as Mudhoney, Truly, The Melvins, TAD, and The Screaming Trees.
4. Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge
by Mark Yarm (2011)
Inspired by a piece he put together on Sub Pop Records, Yarm covers the grunge history in great detail. The over 500 page book recounts Seattle music’s biggest moments through interviews with Mark Arm, Kathleen Hanna, Eddie Vedder, Megan Jasper and more.
5. Sing Backwards and Weep
by Mark Lanegan (2020)
Read about the Seattle music scene from a musician who was in the middle of it all. Lanegan tells about his personal experiences in this memoir that starts from his childhood up until the death of his friend Layne Staley.
6. Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana
by Michael Azerrad (1993)
A favorite for Nirvana fans, Come As You Are is one of the most accurate representation of Nirvana’s story. Azerrad interviewed all members from the band who helped contribute to the book. As this was released prior to Cobain’s death, the second edition includes an extra chapter briefly covering this. There are many choices out there for Nirvana books, but this is the one to have.
7. Not For You: Pearl Jam and The Present Tense
by Ronen Givony (2020)
Givony gives us the first book to cover the entire history of Pearl Jam up to 2020. He is a fan of the band and does a great job of diving into the details that make up the history of Pearl Jam. Get this book if you are a fan or want to learn more about the band. Or you can also have a look at the other Pearl Jam books I recommend.
8. Alice in Chains: Untold Story
by David De Sola (2015)
This is the definite biography of one of grunge’s biggest bands. Sola’s extensive research is evident as he tells the story of Alice in Chains and brings the band and its enigmatic members to life. His information is based on interviews conducted with pretty much everyone involved with the band. So it’s pretty accurate.
9. Dark Black and Blue: The Soundgarden Story
by Greg Prato (2019)
There are not many books out there about the mighty Soundgarden. But Prato changes this by releasing Dark Black and Blue. The book tells the entire history of Soundgarden from it’s early years and formation all the way through to Chris Cornell’s tragic death. If you’re a fan of Soundgarden or Seattle music, this is a must read.
10. Mudhoney: The Sound and the Fury from Seattle
by Keith Cameron (2014)
Some would consider Mudhoney to be the inventors of grunge because of their raw sound and attitude towards staying underground. Read about their complete story in this book, released on their 25th anniversary.
11. Sub Pop USA: The Subterranean Pop Music Anthology, 1980-1988
by Bruce Pavitt (2014)
Pavitt chronicles the first eight years of Sub Pop Records, which he founded in this anthology that includes his fanzines and monthly news column during this time. There is also art by Charles Burn, Lynda Barry, and Charles Peterson. This is the ultimate Sub Pop book for any Seattle music fan.
12. Kurt Cobain: The Last Session
by Jesse Frohman (2014)
Frohman’s photo book features over 100 stunning images taken from 1993 in New York. And with the inclusion of text by Jon Savage, this book is a must for any Nirvana fan to display on their coffee table.
13. Touch Me I’m Sick
by Jennie Boddy (2003)
As a follow up to the book Screaming Life, Charles Peterson showcases his photos again in Touch Me I’m Sick. Peterson is known as the grunge photographer simple because he was there from the beginning snapping away and documenting it all. With an introduction written by Eddie Vedder, how can you go wrong?
by Michael Lavine (2009)
Lavine’s work gives another visual interpretation of the scene that has been mostly covered by Peterson. This beautifully put together book features shots of Nirvana, Screaming Trees, Mudhoney, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Love Battery and Skin Yard, among others. A truly great photo book on the Seattle grunge movement.
If you want to dive more into books specifically about Pearl Jam, I’ve got you covered. Check out my article about Which Pearl Jam books you should have.
You have a lot of reading to do now.