Top 5 Books About Roller Derby

12th Oct 2012


Hopefully by now you know all about the roller derby anthology we’re putting together with the London Rollergirls. We want your derby-themed short stories of up to 5,000 words, and you’ve got just over two weeks left to send ’em our way.

We can’t wait to get stuck into all the submissions you’ve sent us, and to get cracking on editing the collection ready for publication early next year.

But if you just can’t wait that long, here’s five other books about roller derby to keep your wheels spinning until then. And we’ve not even included Derby Girl, the Shauna Cross novel on which Whip It! was based.

We hope these track-side tales will get you all inspired to do some derby-themed scribbling of your own, and to submit your stories to us by Sunday 28th October. You can find all the details about our upcoming anthology here.

Roller Derby: The History and All-girl Revival of the Greatest Sport on Wheels by Catherine Mabe

Want to know about roller derby’s origins and various other incarnations? Then get your grubby mitts on this comprehensive collection from fanatic Catherine Mabe.

Charting the beginning of the sport as a Depression-era danceathon-style endurance test via its televised 70s renaissance to its current explosion, the book includes photos galore from past to present, alongside rundowns of the rules, player bios and interviews, and lots more.

Whether you’re already obsessed or just want to know more, this is the perfect introduction to the sport, and encapsulates why so many skaters and spectators across the globe are head over wheels in love with it.

Down and Derby by Jennifer Barbee and Alex Cohen

Another, more up-to-date guide to the past and present of roller derby, Down and Derby was published only last year by Soft Skull Press, and is history, how-to and manifesto combined.

Compiled by two long-time derby veterans, Down and Derby will inform, educate and entertain with its brash, no-nonsense, conversational style and in-depth exploration of what roller derby involves (aside from the expected blood, sweat and tears).

Exciting as it is useful with its dictionary of derby terms, player interviews and advice, it is colourful, candid and comprehensive; definitely required reading.

Hell on Wheels: The Incredible Story of Rookie Roller Derby Queen Cindy McCoy by Karen Mueller Bryson

For a true story of the ups and downs of what being a roller derby queen was like for former star Cindy McCoy, Hell on Wheels is a fast-paced and emotive rollercoaster ride, meticulously researched and told with warmth, humour and sensitivity.

Although times have definitely changed since Cindy McCoy’s day, her story remains an inspirational account of strength, resilience and triumph against the odds, and a fascinating read for anyone wanting to know more about an original roller derby superstar.

Rollergirl: Totally True Tales from the Track by Melissa Joulwan

Based in Austin and a founding member of the Texas Rock’n’Rollergirls, Melissa Joulwan is perhaps better known as Melicious of the Hotrod Honeys.

Her book, Rollergirl, is told from the perspective of one person, but covers all sorts of derby doings, from gruesome accounts of injuries to gossip galore about the ins and outs of trying to run a roller derby league.

Charting the heroine’s personal and athletic evolution as she joins the Texas rollergirls and transitions from geek to glamazon, this tongue-in-cheek collection is sure to prompt some wry smiles of recognition from those who’ve been there.

Going in Circles by Pamela Ribbon

Maybe we’re cheating by including Going in Circles, because this novel by popular blogger and Emmy-winning screenwriter Pamela Ribbon isn’t entirely about roller derby.

But the author is a self-confessed ‘derby dork’, and the book’s heroine, Charlotte Goodman, soon becomes one too when her marriage comes to an abrupt end. When Charlotte’s new friend Francesca introduces her to the sport, she uses it to help mend her broken heart, by replacing her emotional hurt with all manner of derby bumps and bruises.

Although reviews of Going in Circles are polarised, the novel has had rave reviews for its depiction of sport, subculture, support and solidarity of roller derby, and the impact it has on Charlotte’s character. Ideal for chick-lit lovers tired of tales of sap and shopping.

Know a book about roller derby you reckon we’d love? Tell us in the comments which ones we’ve missed. Obviously, once it’s out, ours will be your favourite. But until then… 

Jane Bradley

(Image via vanlaar)


  • Kevin Blicker says:

    You should check out Suzanne Samples’ Pivot. It’s a great derby read.

  • John Doe says:

    What about Bane-ana’s ‘Roller Derby: The Sensation That Caused a Book!

  • Jules Doyle says:

    Don’t forget about photo-based books like “No Mercy”

    • joe says:

      Jules – because this is a popularity contest, not a “who wrote/compiled a better book” contest.

      • Jane Bradley says:

        Not true Joe – No Mercy got a mention in our podcast about this topic! I’m afraid I wasn’t aware of it when I put this initial feature together, but since Jules’ comment brought it to my attention I made sure it got a name-check in the subsequent podcast show.

  • Alex Herod says:

    Brilliant, thanks for the recommendations everyone!