Holiday Gift Guide: Must Have Books
01:58 PM
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This list of our favorite tattoo tomes was not easy to compile. A LOT of tattoo books are out there. But this list reflects new gems and some old favorites. All are great gifts or must haves for your own collections.

Tattoo Art Photography Books:

* Lal Hardy's The Mammoth Book of Tattoos is a brilliant paperback featuring the work of today's top tattooists by a prolific artist himself.

* Underway is the Only Way, available on BookMistress, also features spectacular tattoos as well as interviews with many of their creators. The 320-pager is out of print but a second edition is in the works.

* Shige and Pint: two volumes on masters in their own tattoo styles -- one Japanese and one Black & Gray -- by State of Grace Inc. Buy the two along with the Ichibay sketchbook on and save on shipping costs.

* The Leu Family's Family Iron, released in 2004, is a must-have hardcover on a family that revolutionized the art over generations.

* Tattoo in Japan is a monster art book housing gorgeous photography of Irezumi across the country, from traditional tebori work to new school stylings. Normally sold for $150, Amazon has it for $118 from select sellers.

* Black Tattoo Art. Oh yeah, I'm this shameless. But I have to include it because it's the only book ever published -- and as a 9lb massive coffee table book  -- on modern Blackwork tattoos. I'm proud of it so I'm pimpin it. Order it from Last Gasp and put in the code "Needles" at checkout for free shipping.

Tattoo Artist Sketchbooks & Fine Art books:

* Joe Capobianco's Knock Yerself Out, which we reviewed last month, is one of our favorite sketchbooks for fantasy art & delicious cheesecake tattoos. Available at Pulse Tattoo Supply.

* Dragons II by Filip Leu is a gorgeous compilation of signature dragon designs -- 45 large sheets -- created to inspire your next backpiece or bodysuit if you can't get an appointment with the master himself.

* Art By Tattooists: Beyond Flash, which we also reviewed last month, shows the artwork of twenty-six international tattoo artists in a variety of mediums, from watercolors to graffiti.

* Mike Giant's Coup D' Etat was published this past September in conjunction with his show at the Magda Danysz Gallery in Paris and not only includes his drawings, graff and tattoo sketches but his latest foray into photography.

tattoo secrets of a strange art.jpgNon-Fiction Tattoo Books:

* The Tattooed Lady: A History explores the lives of tattooed women who tantalized Americans across the country performing in circuses and carnivals in the early part of the century. I just received my copy and it did not disappoint.

* The precursor to The Tattooed Lady are these books by Margot Mifflin: Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoo and her latest, The Blue Tattoo: The Life of Olive Oatman.

* Albert Parry's Tattoo: Secrets of a Strange Art was originally published in 1933 as an artistic, cultural and psychological look at tattooing. Dover reprinted the book in 2006 and it's amazing how many things have changed and stayed the same since the first edition.

* Bad Boys and Tough Tattoos is one of my all time faves. Published in the 1950s by professor and tattooist Sam Steward, the book looks at the culture of tattooing from its underground roots.

* Vintage Tattoos: The Book of Old School Skin Art also explores old school tattooing but with a heavy focus on the art. I was surprised to see a snippet of my old Needled review on their Amazon page. Here it is again: "Vintage Tattoos is 256 pages of art and anecdotes. Salty stories of tattoo times when shotguns, not art school degrees, hung on the walls behind the parlor counter. When tattooists traveled with the circus, not metal bands. And when the art went underground because of tattoo bans."

* Modern Primitives, published in 1989, remains one of the bibles of body modification, including tattooing. There's intellectual discussion and images of genital mods, suspensions, and other more "extreme" body art so this may not be one for your coffee table but it should be on your shelves.

Tattoo Related Fiction:
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* Until I Find You by John Irving is an 800-page tome that follows the wild life of a tattoo artist's son and their search to find his "ink addict" father. It weirded me out at times because many of the "fictional" characters are real tattooists living today but overall it was a gripping read of a tattoo Odyssey.

* The Tattoo Artist: A Novel by Jill Ciment is another great work of fiction that explores the life of a New York artist who is marooned in the South Pacific and eventually becomes an revered tattooist among the Tu'un'uu people at the turn of the century. It then flashes forward, 30 years later, when she returns as a heavily tattooed woman to New York.

* The Electric Michelangelo by Sarah Hall  follows a young man in the early 1900s as he learns the craft of tattooing in his small English seaside resort town (with a monstruous apprenticeship) and later as makes his way to tattoo Mecca, Coney Island, NY, where he finds love and the canvas of his most bizarre works.

Granted, there are many more tattoo volumes to list but these are guaranteed not to disappoint. If I missed your fave, feel free to list it in the comments section.

Great list! A wonderful and informative book that I've always loved is Customizing The Body: The Art and Culture of Tattooing by sociologist Clinton R. Sanders. The interviews contained may seem a little aged now, but so true in the world of tattooists and tattooees.

Nice, Marisa!

And let's not forget Dorothy Parker's Elbow: Tattoos on Writers, Writers on Tattoos by Kim Addonizio & Cheryl Dumesnil.

Oh, and Ray Bradbury's The Illustrated Man, a classic.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Great list!
Suggested essential additions to that list for any tattoo aficionado:

The Tattoo History Source Book by Steve Gilbert


Tattoos of the Floating World: Ukiyo-E Motifs in Japanese Tattoo
by Takahiro Kitamura and Katie M. Kitamura

Both great sourcebooks for tattoo history... if you don't know where it came from, then you don't really know what it's

All wonderful suggestions! I can't believe I left out The Illustrated Man! doh! My mind was on modern texts.

Keep the suggestions comin.

Studying Horiyoshi
book of 100 Demons
108 heros of the Suikoden
36 ghosts
etc, etc

AHHHH totally forgot Steve Gilbert's Source Book on my own damn list! That's a great one, really fun.

I’ve read about what you said for months. laugh out loud.

I simply dig what you said here!

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