8 Best Books About Tattoos  (2024)

“The tattoo attracts and also repels precisely because it is different.”

When it comes to body art and tattoos, there is so much more than what meets the eye. Stretching back over 5,000 years, tattooing has a long history that encompasses all manner of cultures, traditions, techniques and societies across all four corners of the globe. From its beginnings in the Neolithic period as a ritualistic act, across Ancient Egypt as a showcase of status to contemporary designs and styles used to demonstrate self-expression, tattoos have always meant a lot to people. Join us here at What We Reading for the best books about tattoos for those looking to become artists, find their next design or just learn more about their history!

Tattoo: 1730s – 1870s – Henk Schiffmacher

Kicking off our list of the best books about tattoos is Henk Schiffmacher’s look at how humanity’s love for ink has evolved over the course of history. Schiffmacher, a renowned historian and tattoo artist himself, whisks readers through two centuries’ worth of tattoo artistry, inspiring readers with 440 pages and 700 high-quality images.

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The World Atlas Of Tattoo – Alice Felicity Friedman

Alice Felicity Friedman offers readers an engaging and interesting take on the histories and cultures behind tattoos in her book, The World Atlas of Tattoo. The book aims to present how the meanings and inspirations behind tattoo artistry vary depending on where in the world you find them. For example, in some regions, tattoos are seen as a form of self-expression, whereas in other parts they serve as marks of status, position or power. Featuring works from 100 different tattoo artists, The World Atlas of Tattoo is a great resource for those looking for inspiration, as well as gaining a better appreciation for the history behind the art.

The Tattoo Dictionary – Trent Aitken Smith

Looking to learn more about the ins and outs of tattoo culture? Trent Aitken Smith’s The Tattoo Dictionary is the comprehensive guidebook you’ve been waiting for! This complete guide comes with everything from the long history of tattooing to all the contemporary trends sweeping the scene. Featuring a stunning gallery of high-quality tattoo imagery as well as interviews with some of the leading names in the practice, The Tattoo Dictionary is the perfect guide for those looking to learn more about tattooing before diving in with their first design.

1000 Tattoos: The Most Creative New Designs From The World’s Leading And Up-And-Coming Tattoo Artists – Frederic Claquin

Another one of the best tattoo books for identifying the latest trends from the bodywork world, Frederic Claquin’s 1000 Tattoos combines designs from established and up-and-coming artists with insights and commentary from the author himself. From traditional Japanese to new alternatives, Claquin’s book features work from artists including Scott Campbell, Sasha Unisex, Tea Leigh, Johnny Gloom, Tati Compton (a.k.a. Tati Fox), Georgia Grey, Lauren Winzer, Peter Aurisch, Jon Boy, Susanne König, Dr Woo, Super Timor and so many others. Whether you are looking for your latest design or aiming to become an artist yourself, 1000 Tattoos is sure to provide inspiration.

Ink – The Art Of Tattoo: Contemporary Designs And Stories Told By Tattoo Experts – Victorian Workshop

For a tattoo book that covers the meanings behind body art as well as its long history, Ink – The Art of Tattoo makes for an enthralling read. Featuring compelling interviews from some of the leading lights in the business, the book offers a fresh perspective on how tattooing slots in the contemporary world. The designs covered encompass both modern and traditional, taking readers through the inspirations behind the wide array of art styles involved with body art. Slick and stylish, it is a must-have for any tattoo parlour!

Ancient Ink: The Archaeology Of Tattooing – Lars Krutak And Aaron Deter-Wolf

The history of body ink is a diverse and expansive one. With evidence tracing the roots of tattooing all the way back as far as 5,000 years to 3,200 BCE, Ancient Ink: The Archaeology Of Tattooing is Lars Krutak And Aaron Deter-Wolf’s remarkable attempt at bringing this history back to life. Utilising the latest archaeological research, Ancient Ink covers the origins of tattooing, the means by which humans have carved art onto our skins and how tattoos have conveyed meaning and purpose to indigenous peoples for thousands of years. Eye-opening and insightful, it is a tattoo book that is sure to broaden your perspective on the power body art has on communities around the world.

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Bodies Of Subversion: A Secret History Of Women And Tattoo – Margot Mifflin

Margot Mifflin’s Bodies of Subversion offers an intriguing look across history at the women who have challenged societal norms by getting tattooed. Often seen as a taboo act, Mifflin offers an explanation as to how tattoos have often acted as powerful signs of self-expression for those who have been otherwise constrained by norms and standards.

Bodies of Subversion guides readers through the women who have been tattooed, exploring how their motivations have varied from religious practice, expressing their identities to simply rebelling against expectations.

Basic Fundamentals Of Modern Tattoo – C.R. Jordan

For one of the best books for tattoo artists, look no further than C.R. Jordan’s Basic Fundamentals of Modern Tattoo. From choosing the right equipment to the necessities of proper sterilisation and after-care, this is one of the quintessential guidebooks for those looking to practice body art safely and properly.

With clear, concise and easy-to-follow instructions, Jordan guides readers through the most common mistakes made by tattoo artists and comes complete with helpful illustrations to visualise what’s being described.

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Part-time reader, part-time rambler, and full-time Horror enthusiast, James has been writing for What We Reading since 2022. His earliest reading memories involved Historical Fiction, Fantasy and Horror tales, which he has continued to take with him to this day. James’ favourite books include The Last (Hanna Jameson), The Troop (Nick Cutter) and Chasing The Boogeyman (Richard Chizmar).


8 Best Books About Tattoos  (2024)


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