The best books about the best movies (for movie fans)

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historian, with a special interest in the 20th century. I’ve written about Freud’s Vienna, the aftermath of the First World War, strikes in the 1920s and 1930s in America’s cotton South, the plot to assassinate Hitler, and the notorious 1940s gangsters nicknamed “Murder, Inc.”. What intrigues me about the 20th century are the era’s underlying values and the shocking and violent collisions among them. In Casablanca’s Conscience, I use the great film as a lens with which to take another look at the tumultuous times just a generation ago.


I wrote...

Casablanca's Conscience

By Bob Whalen,

Book cover of Casablanca's Conscience

What is my book about?

Casablanca (1943) is one of the world’s most beloved movies. Everyone, it seems, has seen it and everyone knows a line or two from it: “here’s looking at you kid;” “round up the usual suspects;” “we’ll always have Paris.” Everyone knows the heart-breaking but uplifting story of the film’s two star-crossed lovers, Rick and Ilsa.

Why has this old film such a powerful presence? My book argues, as Rick says to Ilsa, “I’m telling you this because it’s true.” The book I have written explores the philosophical themes of this classic film. Casablanca shows viewers the fundamental things of life as time goes by and my book explores these fundamental things–things like exile, death, love, and resistance.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of We'll Always Have Casablanca: The Legend and Afterlife of Hollywood's Most Beloved Film

Bob Whalen Why did I love this book?

Isenberg has explored all the Hollywood archives and has produced a delightful and fascinating story of the actors, the director and producer, the writers, and all the technicians who created the film. A splendid guide to Casablanca and a great example of an in-depth, how-it-was-made history of a single film. 

By Noah Isenberg,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked We'll Always Have Casablanca as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Casablanca is "not one movie," Umberto Eco once quipped; "it is 'movies.'" Film historian Noah Isenberg's We'll Always Have Casablanca offers a rich account of the film's origins, the myths and realities behind its production, and the reasons it remains so revered today, over seventy-five years after its premiere.


Book cover of Afterimage: The Indelible Catholic Imagination of Six American Filmmakers

Bob Whalen Why did I love this book?

Blake’s book explores the way in which a distinctly Catholic sensibility shaped the cinematic imaginations of Alfred Hitchcock, Martin Scorsese, John Ford, Francis Ford Coppola, and Brian De Palma.

Blake’s point is not that these filmmakers were pious or even believers. He does demonstrate, though, that the Catholic cultures in which these filmmakers grew up significantly influenced both the stories they told and the images they created.

By Richard Aloysius Blake,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Afterimage as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Blake, a noted film critic, reveals a Catholic imagination at work in the films of Martin Scorsese, Alfred Hitchcock, Frank Capra, John Ford, Francis Ford Coppola, and Brian De Palma. Their movies are permeated with such Catholic ideas as sacramentality (the sacred is present in the profane things of the world), mediation (God works in our lives through specific people and things), and communion (salvation depends on belonging to a community).


Book cover of From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film

Bob Whalen Why did I love this book?

Kracauer was a German film critic in the Weimar years. This classic text, first published in 1947, relates the crisis of German culture in the 1920s and 1930s–which climaxed in Hitler and Nazism–to famous Weimar films, like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and M. Kracauer’s effort to track Germany’s cultural zeitgeist in the movies. This relation is not without controversy.

His book remains a fine example of the struggle to see mass psychology in the movies and the movies in the context of mass psychology. 

By Siegfried Kracauer,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked From Caligari to Hitler as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An essential work of the cinematic history of the Weimar Republic by a leading figure of film criticism

First published in 1947, From Caligari to Hitler remains an undisputed landmark study of the rich cinematic history of the Weimar Republic. Prominent film critic Siegfried Kracauer examines German society from 1921 to 1933, in light of such movies as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, M, Metropolis, and The Blue Angel. He explores the connections among film aesthetics, the prevailing psychological state of Germans in the Weimar era, and the evolving social and political reality of the time. Kracauer makes a startling…


Book cover of Hollywood Westerns and American Myth: The Importance of Howard Hawks and John Ford for Political Philosophy

Bob Whalen Why did I love this book?

Robert Pippin is a well-respected philosopher who has written on Hegel, Nietzsche, and Heidegger. Here, he writes about westerns: Hawks’ Red River, and Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence and The Searchers.

Pippin is interested in both political psychology and political philosophy within an American context, but there is nothing starchy or narrowly academic about this thoughtful reflection on these films.

Neither Hawks nor Ford was a philosopher, but Pippin shows that their movies are charged with philosophical meaning. 

By Robert B. Pippin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hollywood Westerns and American Myth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this pathbreaking book one of America's most distinguished philosophers brilliantly explores the status and authority of law and the nature of political allegiance through close readings of three classic Hollywood Westerns: Howard Hawks' Red River and John Ford's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and The Searchers.

Robert Pippin treats these films as sophisticated mythic accounts of a key moment in American history: its "second founding," or the western expansion. His central question concerns how these films explore classical problems in political psychology, especially how the virtues of a commercial republic gained some hold on individuals at a time…


Book cover of The Great Movies

Bob Whalen Why did I love this book?

Yes, of course, just about everyone has heard of Roger Ebert (d. 2013), the great film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times and co-host, with Gene Siskel of the PBS program Sneak Previews. But have you ever read any of his reviews? They’re delightful–smart, funny, touching, and thoroughly readable.

Ebert must have seen every film ever made (his reviews are arranged in these collections alphabetically by film title). In each short review he offered, not just his opinion of the film in question, but striking insights into the film’s themes, meanings, symbols, and underlying philosophy.

Any film lover should immediately obtain all four collections. 

By Roger Ebert,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Great Movies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

America’s most trusted and best-known film critic Roger Ebert presents one hundred brilliant essays on some of the best movies ever made. 

Roger Ebert, the famed film writer and critic, wrote biweekly essays for a feature called "The Great Movies," in which he offered a fresh and fervent appreciation of a great film. The Great Movies collects one hundred of these essays, each one of them a gem of critical appreciation and an amalgam of love, analysis, and history that will send readers back to that film with a fresh set of eyes and renewed enthusiasm–or perhaps to an avid…


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Empire in the Sand

By Shane Joseph,

Book cover of Empire in the Sand

Shane Joseph Author Of Empire in the Sand

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been a writer for more than twenty years and have favored pursuing “truth in fiction” rather than “money in formula.” I also spent over thirty years in the corporate world and was exposed to many situations reminiscent of those described in my fiction and in these recommended books. While I support enterprise, “enlightened capitalism” is preferable to the bare-knuckle type we have today, and which seems to resurface whenever regulation weakens. I also find writing novels closer to my lived experience connects me intimately with readers who are looking for socio-political, realist literature.

Shane's book list on exposing corporate, political, and personal corruption

What is my book about?

Avery Mann, a retired pharmaceuticals executive, is in crisis.

His wife dies of cancer, his son’s marriage is on the rocks, his grandson is having a meltdown, and his good friend is a victim of the robocalls scandal that invades the Canadian federal election. Throw in a reckless fling with a former colleague, a fire that destroys his retirement property, and a rumour emerging that the drug he helped bring to market years ago may have been responsible for the death of his wife, and Avery’s life goes into freefall.

Does an octogenarian beekeeper living on Vancouver Island hold the key to Avery’s recovery, a man holding secrets that put lives in jeopardy? Avery races across the country to find out, with crooked bosses, politicians, and assassins on his tail. Joseph spins a cautionary tale of corporate and political greed that is endemic to our times.

Empire in the Sand

By Shane Joseph,

What is this book about?

Avery Mann, a retired pharmaceuticals executive, is in crisis. His wife dies of cancer, his son’s marriage is on the rocks, his grandson is having a meltdown, and his good friend is a victim of the robocalls scandal that invades the Canadian federal election.

Throw in a reckless fling with a former colleague, a fire that destroys his retirement property, and a rumour emerging that the drug he helped bring to market years ago may have been responsible for the death of his wife, and Avery’s life goes into freefall.

Does an octogenarian bee keeper living on Vancouver Island hold…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in film, Germany, and World War 1?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about film, Germany, and World War 1.

Film Explore 231 books about film
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World War 1 Explore 882 books about World War 1