Books of the Year 2017

Each year we pick our top 20 Books Of The Year - a reflection of the Rough Trade team's favourite reads, what our customers talk to us about and what’s been in most demand across our shops. Plus, we've managed to get our hands on a limited number of signed copies for many of the titles in this year's list. Enjoy!


1. Mute: A Visual Document by Terry Burrows & Daniel Miller

The definitive history of the influential label that brought us Throbbing Gristle, The Birthday Party, Depeche Mode and so much more. A vibrant 40-year archive of album artwork, insider interviews and unseen photographs. Beautifully bound, this book is as iconic and dynamic as Mute’s musical past.

2. Art Sex Music by Cosey Fanni Tutti

From Throbbing Gristle to the art world, Cosey Fanni Tutti has always been an influencer and risk taker. Art Sex Music charts her creative life: the provocative performances with COUM, as a ‘wrecker of civilisation’ with TG, Chris & Cosey and beyond. An intimate account of a career of controversy.

3. Roots, Radicals and Rockers: How Skiffle Changed the World by Billy Bragg

In the beginning, there was Skiffle. When British teens picked up guitars to create an alternative to 1950’s crooners. With extensive research and passion, Bragg details the new working class planting the seeds of pop culture. The first cultural history of this DIY movement by a great wordsmith and enthusiast.

4. Grant & I: Inside and Outside The Go-Betweens by Robert Forster

One of the finest music memoirs out there. With touching detail, Forster has crafted an honest history of The Go-Betweens and an intensely moving tribute to his bandmate Grant McLennan. From endearing beginnings to early farewells, there’s emotion in these pages only a lyricist like Forster can create.

5. Meet Me in the Bathroom by Lizzy Goodman

Under the mournful gaze of Lady Liberty, New York was generating a rejuvenated Rock ‘N’ Roll scene with Yeah Yeah Yeahs, LCD Soundsystem, The Strokes and many more. Through comprehensive interviews, Lizzy Goodman charts the movement New York, and beyond, was hungry for post 9/11.

6. Talking to My Daughter About the Economy by Yanis Varoufakis

'Why is there so much inequality?' Yanis Varoufakis’ daughter asked. This is the economist’s reply. Drawing from personal stories, timeless mythology and popular culture, Varoufakis explains economics and all its formidable power. Simple and jargon-free with an optimism for the future we can all understand.

7. Sound System: The Political Power of Music by Dave Randall

Music’s age-old bond with politics and protest exposed. Guitarist Dave Randall examines the power of music from Glastonbury to the Arab Spring. An extensive insight into commodity and culture and music’s power to manipulate. A staggering, gripping history of impassioned musicians and the industry underbelly.

8. 2023: a trilogy by The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu

23 years after burning a grand and leaving music, KLF have returned with a curious tale of an all-too-plausible dystopian future. Caricatures of Cauty and Drummond appear in a world under the command of terrifying corporations ‘GoogleByte’ and ‘Wikitube’. The provocateurs have upheld the level of lunacy and humour we’ve been missing.

9. The Gritterman by Orlando Weeks

A wintery, wholesome tribute to family. The Maccabees’ singer pays homage to his grandfather in this tender picture book. The Gritterman sells ice cream in the summer, but much prefers the solitude of gritting roads. With a style reminiscent of Raymond Briggs, Weeks’ delicate illustrations feel timeless. A seasonable tale of aging and acceptance.

10. This Memorial Device by David Keenan

A truly original novel chronicling the fictional Scottish band, This Memorial Device. A collection of interviews, diary entries and email exchanges so vivid and bursting with sound you can almost hear it. Keenan’s Airdrie is a capsule of rich characters and the alternative 80s you can completely lose yourself in.

11. Women and Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard

A succinct and persuasive manifesto from a voice of academic authority. The Classics professor draws on a breadth of evidence to argue the definition of power. From the roots of misogyny in Rome to the abuse she endures online, this small book is strong on content. Less pages, more power.

12. Hold Tight: Black Masculinity, Millennials & the Meaning of Grime by Jeffrey Boakye

An energetic analysis of black masculinity through Grime. By lovingly examining the first steps into the genre, Boakye has explored its lyrics and the depiction of youth and gender. Hold Tight examines the social and political beginnings of the most important culture of our time with wit and personality.

13. Memphis 68: The Tragedy of Southern Soul by Stuart Cosgrove

A powerful, moving account of a turbulent America and the music at its heart. Intertwining politics and pop culture, Cosgrove writes the realities of segregation and soul. Memphis was the energetic hub of Stax Records but the county was in turmoil, still adjusting to the civil rights movement and racial integration.

14. Nasty Women by 404 Ink

A stark insight that is sure to be regarded as a historical reference in years to come. 404 Ink have compiled a deeply candid collection of voices summing up life for modern women. From Brexit and identity to role models and contraception, Nasty Women is humorous, confrontational and altogether mighty.

15. Untypical Girls by Sam Knee

The king of the counterculture archive is back with a striking visual history of indie women. A trove of alternative fashion from Punk to Riot Grrrl. Using unseen photographs and interviews, it’s a true celebration of thrift store chic and DIY couture from the women who led the charge.

16. No Is Not Enough by Naomi Klein

Klein is an essential voice for our time. No is Not Enough is her reaction to the Trump presidency and her cry to oppose it. Drawing on her own personal experiences, Klein encourages resistance, not just refusal. An intense, probing analysis that asks how we got here, and now what?

17. The Story of The Face: The Magazine That Changed Culture by Paul Gorman

The revered oracle of music and style returns with a complete visual history. The Story of the Face captures its statement graphic design, pioneering photography and resilient journalism. An icon of print encapsulated, from the leaders of youth culture to life after libel. A vibrant piece of pop culture history.

18. My Life in Reggae by David Rodigan

The revealing story of Reggae’s unlikely champion. Rodigan taught the world about a genre, with such deep history and proud roots, through an unmovable spirit and respect. It’s why, decades on, he’s still the spokesman in the field. Rodigan is the story of the DJ’s resilient passion for the music that transcends generations.

19. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli & Francesca Cavallo

Bedtime just got empowered! A modern fairytale of a hundred real-life heroines beautifully presented. Beside a stunning full-page illustration, Favilli and Cavallo pay homage to influential women from politics, literature, sport, and beyond. Bursting with positivity. No sleeping princesses here, just independence and pure inspiration.

20. Plum by Hollie McNish

Utterly relatable, McNish perfectly sums up modern life in just a few gloriously honest stanzas. In amongst her recent poems are past works from her younger self. Plum is a salute to finding your voice, to making mistakes, and loving life.