Obviously, I love tattoos. I mean, come on—I write for tattoo.com, after all. Tattoos dominate my life. In addition to my own work writing about tattoos, researching tattoos, and interviewing amazing tattoo artists from all over the world, my other half is a professional tattoo artist. Needless to say, our house is a bit tattoo-dedicated.
Given that I’m an author/journalist/blogger/publisher/editor (jack of all trades in the literary industry), books tend to be the other obsession in my household. I’m constantly on the lookout for must-have books to adorn my bookshelves, countertops, and coffee tables with. Given that tattooing is such a crucial part of my life, it should come as no surprise to you that I’m all-too-familiar with books regarding the subject matter.
For those of you who are getting involved in tattoo collecting or perhaps for those of you who are already avid collectors but are looking to expand your collection to off-skin, or even for those of you who are just interested in art, history, and culture—tattoo books are a must-have. If you are interested in grabbing a few for your shelves but don’t know where to start, don’t worry. I’ve made a list of the best tattoo books available on the internet!
1. Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoos
I’ve written about women and tattoos in so many different manners. I’ve also written multiple researched articles regarding the history of tattoos. This book makes the top of my list because it combines the two subjects—showing the complicated love affair that the tattoo industry has had with women over the years. The book was first released in 1997, but has since been updated to include the latest in the feminine tattoo culture. The book chronicles the history of both tattooed women and women tattoo artists, making it a must-have for anyone interested in the female perspective of the industry. Amazon, $14.97 (paperback)
2. Tattoo World
Tattoo World features over 1,000 illustrations from over 125 of the world’s top artists in the industry. If the name isn’t a big enough giveaway, the book is a compilation of styles from around the globe, including Japanese and East Asian iconography, classic Americana, and photorealism, and more. Amazon, $26.80 (hardcover)
3. Vintage Tattoos: The Book of Old-School Skin Art
Obvious by the title, this book discusses the vintage tattoo industry. It covers everything from the typical vintage tattoos—broken hearts, pin-up girls, floral motifs, and sailor-inspired themes—to the most influential artists during the vintage time period, like Sailor Jerry Collins, Don Ed Hardy, Mike “Rollo Banks” Malone, Bert Grimm, Japan’s Horiyoshi III, and Shanghai’s Pinky Yun. Amazon, $29.95 (paperback)
4. Sailor Jerry Collins: American Tattoo Master
For lovers of American history, this is a must-have. It chronicles the life and times of Sailor Jerry, the greatest practitioner of American Traditional tattoo art and the master of the tattoo industry from 1940-1973. Amazon, $74.50 (hardcover)
5. The Tattoo History Source Book
If you’re looking to uncover all there is to know about the history and times of tattooing, this is the book you want. This copiously illustrated book contains the most exhaustive collection of historical tattoo records from across the world. Included at the end of the book are essays written by top tattoo artists: Tricia Allen, Chuck Eldridge, Lyle Tuttle, and Don Ed Hardy. Amazon, $22.96 (paperback)
6. Superior Tattoo Bible
The Superior Tattoo Bible is the perfect coffee table book. You know, the type of book you leave out when you have company that helps with conversation starters or to pass the time during those awkward silent moments. This impeccably illustrated book provides the reader with over 500 pieces of indelible flash art pieces in all manners of tattoo categories. Amazon, $20.38 (paperback)
7. The World Atlas of Tattoo
Another stunning collection of tattoos, this book features over 700 vivid illustrations covering the historical and contemporary tattooing from across the globe. The book is divided into sections, each focusing on a specific region of the world, and has text written by tattoo experts explaining the history, culture, and traditions of each style and region. Amazon, $22.87 (hardcover)
8. High Voltage Tattoo
I’m a personal fan of this tattooed beauty, so naturally, I gravitated toward this book when I first saw it on a Barnes & Nobles shelf. However, the book is a detailed and graphic look at the modern tattoo culture written by the tattoo queen herself, Kat Von D. The design of the book marvels the content, with gothic fonts and ornate details, and even features a trip down the life and times of one of the most recognizable faces in the industry. Amazon, $18.96 (hardcover)