Books Features

Feature: Five must-buy books on mod

Mods and Absolute Beginners
Mods and Absolute Beginners
Note that I independently write and research everything in this article. But it may contain affiliate links.

There’s no shortage of books on the market with a direct of indirect link to the world of mod. But which ones are actually worth buying? Here’s five mod books that are certainly worthy of your cash – and if you like these, there are plenty more to choose from in the Modculture books section.

Richard Barnes: Mods

Often referred to as ‘the bible’, Mods is the obvious starting point. A largely pictorial take on the 60s mod scene, it’s packed with genuine photos of faces of the day, along with the odd quirky advert, newspaper cuttings, even some dance steps. And just enough text to hold things together. Nothing more to say, except this is an essential purchase.

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2. Paolo Hewitt (editor): The Sharper Word

I’m not a big fan of Paolo Hewitt’s work, but I do think The Sharper Word is one of the best mod books on the market. Hewitt takes a step back from writing, instead taking the key sections from a variety of previously printed works (including some out-of-print pieces and obscure magazine articles) to create a very readable collection. Buy it, then seek out the full versions of the ones you are taken with. Although please note, the section from Tony Parsons’ Limelight Blues is the only part of that book worth reading!

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3. Colin MacInnes: Absolute Beginners

The word ‘mod’ is never mentioned in Absolute Beginners and author Colin MacInnes was well past his youth when he wrote the novel. Yet Absolute Beginners remains the definitive piece of mod fiction. MacInnes was a people watcher, picking up on the growth of the teenager in the late 50s, in particular, the rise of the modernist – and the central (and unnamed) lead character in the book personifies the early mod – with style, arrogance and and an obsession with modern jazz. Everyone should read this at least once – or perhaps once a year.

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4. Enamel Verguren: This Is A Modern Life

Most books on mod focus on the 1960s, but today’s mod scene has much of its roots in the revival of the late 70s and early 1980s. This Is A Modern Life looks at that scene, specifically London in the 80s, reading like a scrapbook with authentic photos, cuttings, flyers, comment from those who were part of the scene, as well as a look at the bands of the era. Reaction to the book was mixed on its release, but for anyone with an interest in the second generation of mod, this is as good as it gets.

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5. Charles Hamblett and Jane Deverson: Generation X

I thought the final selection should be an obscure one – and Generation X is certainly one you wlll have to search hard for. Deverson was commissioned by Woman’s Own to find out the thoughts of the youth of 1963/64. Sadly for the magazine, the thoughts of the teens (many of them mods – this was the scene’s peak) were a little too racy and anti-establishment. So instead, she compiled then in a book with the help of Charles Hamblett. Interesting (albeit serious) stuff, especially if you’re one of the many people doing a thesis on the era. And as the book becomes harder to find, it should prove a good investment too.

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