Being an exploitation film fan is a calling. You have to have the guts and the nerves to sit through some of the raunchiest, wrongest, most awful movies ever made.

But more than that there’s a desire in all true exploitation fans to devour as much info about their favorite movies, genres and filmmakers as possible. There’s a burning need to not just see the movies but to know the stories behind them, to be initiated into the world of directors with dozens of aliases, films released in varying cuts under different titles and to be exposed to little known and impossible to find gems. To be a true exploitation guru you have to bury your nose in books almost as often as you feast your eyes on movies.

There are a ton of great books out there that will expand your library and blow your mind. Here are a few must-own tomes.

Cinema Sewer Vols 1 & 2 edited by Robin Bougie

Robin Bougie’s Cinema Sewer zine has been published out of Vancouver Canada for years and years now, and he’s collected two volumes of some of the best (and sickest) stuff to grace the mag’s pages. Bougie hand letters each issue in old school zine style, and the books are stuffed with his own artwork rendering scenes and stars from sleaze cinema. Bougie (and his contributors) focus perhaps a touch too heavily on porn, but he has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of grindhouse film. And he’s great at tracking down little known actors and directors and doing in-depth, fascinating interviews. Every page of these books contains some information I didn’t know, and each of them are vital additions to your bookshelf.

While Amazon seems to think the first volume is out of print (and has it for three hundred fucking dollars), you can still order it straight from Bougie by clicking here. You can order Volume 2 from Amazon (and kick back money to CHUD!) by clicking here. I think Volume 1 may be a stronger book overall, but there’s enough gold in Volume 2 – including a fascinating article about the exploitation poster work of comic artist and suicide Gray Morrow – to easily recommend that one as well.

Warning: these books contain really, really sexually graphic images. I recommend reading them at restaurants and bars like I do.

Profoundly Disturbing: The Shocking Movies that Changed Cinema by Joe Bob Briggs

What I love about this book is that while its contents aren’t the edgiest movies ever made – The Exorcist, Reservoir Dogs and The Wild Bunch are covered – Profoundly Disturbing puts each movie into serious context, giving you not just an understanding of the film but also why it was so shocking when it was released. And on top of that it’s written by Joe Bob Briggs. If you only know Joe Bob from his semi-schticky cable TV show, you’re missing out – this guy is not just one of the single best film writers I’ve ever had the pleasure to read, he’s also one of the funniest and smartest out there. Every chapter of this book is a joy, even when the films are over-familiar, and Briggs always manages to find interesting angles on even the most well-worn subjects. And I think that his chapter on Ilsa: She-Wolf of the SS is one of the best things ever written about that movie.

Click here to order this book from Amazon (and give a kickback to CHUD!).

Sleazoid Express by Bill Landis and Michelle Clifford

This is probably my favorite grindhouse book. While some of Landis’ facts are questionable, his hardboiled writing style, matched with his experience as a guy who went to Times Square’s sleaziest grindhouses during their heyday, makes this book unmatched in atmosphere and depth. Landis organizes the book by theaters on the Deuce, giving some history to each movie palace and then covering the kinds of movies they tended to specialize in. Landis mixes movie reviews with personal recollections of the filmmakers with street level epiphanies about who these films appeal to and why. It’s a book that I check religiously, underlining the names of obscure movies I must see and even more obscure filmmakers whose lives I must learn more about. While I can’t recommend this book highly enough I must warn you: only begin reading Sleazoid Express when you’re ready to add about a hundred films to your must-see list.

Click here to order this book from Amazon (and give a kickback to CHUD!).