100 books like Hollywood Babylon

By Kenneth Anger,

Here are 100 books that Hollywood Babylon fans have personally recommended if you like Hollywood Babylon. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Book cover of Out With the Stars: Hollywood Nightlife in the Golden Era

Shawn Levy Author Of The Castle on Sunset: Life, Death, Love, Art, and Scandal at Hollywood's Chateau Marmont

From my list on Hollywood glamour and sleaze.

Why am I passionate about this?

Shawn Levy is the author of 11 books of biography and pop culture history, including The Castle on Sunset: Life, Death, Love, Art, and Scandal at Hollywood's Chateau Marmont, Paul Newman: A Life, Rat Pack Confidential, and Ready, Steady, Go! The Smashing Rise and Giddy Fall of Swinging London. He was the longtime film critic of The Oregonian newspaper and KGW-TV in his beloved home city of Portland. He has written a history of the women pioneers of standup comedy which will be published by Doubleday in 2022 and at work on a podcast about the dark connections of politics and show business.

Shawn's book list on Hollywood glamour and sleaze

Shawn Levy Why did Shawn love this book?

It doesn't matter that it was patently phony: The glamour that was Tinseltown in Hollywood's golden age was impossibly romantic and utterly irresistible. Much of it had to do with the social lives of movie stars, and in particular the shenanigans they got up to in swanky nightclubs where they danced, courted, and made merry. Jim Heimann is a superb chronicler of Los Angeles's architectural and cultural past, and this beautifully illustrated book is crammed with images of the likes of Clark Gable, Marlene Dietrich, Charlie Chaplin, Lucille Ball, Humphrey Bogart, and Lauren Bacall patronizing such swell spots as Mocambo, the Trocadero, Ciro's, the Coconut Grove, the Player's Club, and many others. They're all gone now, but this collection of hundreds of photos of the clubs, inside and out, and the patrons, dressed as if for a royal wedding, brings them back to vibrant life.

By Jim Heimann,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Out With the Stars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Describes the Hollywood bars, restaurants, and nightclubs frequented by celebrities and movie stars from the 1920s to the 1940s.


Book cover of The Way We Lived Then: Recollections of a Well-Known Name Dropper

Shawn Levy Author Of The Castle on Sunset: Life, Death, Love, Art, and Scandal at Hollywood's Chateau Marmont

From my list on Hollywood glamour and sleaze.

Why am I passionate about this?

Shawn Levy is the author of 11 books of biography and pop culture history, including The Castle on Sunset: Life, Death, Love, Art, and Scandal at Hollywood's Chateau Marmont, Paul Newman: A Life, Rat Pack Confidential, and Ready, Steady, Go! The Smashing Rise and Giddy Fall of Swinging London. He was the longtime film critic of The Oregonian newspaper and KGW-TV in his beloved home city of Portland. He has written a history of the women pioneers of standup comedy which will be published by Doubleday in 2022 and at work on a podcast about the dark connections of politics and show business.

Shawn's book list on Hollywood glamour and sleaze

Shawn Levy Why did Shawn love this book?

Before he became a writer of potboiler novels and true-crime journalism, Dominick Dunne was a film and television producer and a social butterfly who also happened also to be an avid amateur photographer. This memoir of his Hollywood days, which resulted in a crash-and-burn from which he emerged as a writer, is filled with intimate, candid images of such friends (not all faithful) as Jane Fonda, Elizabeth Taylor, Natalie Wood, Paul Newman, and Frank Sinatra, as well, of course, as Dunne and his family. There are dreamy and even eye-popping tales throughout, and if you're at all familiar with Dunne's books or magazine writing, you'll marvel at how so much of it so neatly dovetails with the life he actually lived and, thankfully, captured on film and in these frank and candid pages.

By Dominick Dunne,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Way We Lived Then as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Mesmerizing, revelatory text combines with more than two hundred photographs -- most of them taken by the author -- in a startling illustrated memoir that will both astonish and move you.

When Dominick Dunne lived and worked in Hollywood, he had it all: a beautiful family, a glamorous career, and the friendship of the talented and powerful. He also had a camera and loved to take pictures. These photographs, which Dunne carefully preserved in more than a dozen leatherbound scrapbooks -- along with invitations, telegrams, personal notes, and other memorabilia -- record the parties, the glittering receptions, the society weddings,…


Book cover of Masters of Starlight: Photographers in Hollywood

Shawn Levy Author Of The Castle on Sunset: Life, Death, Love, Art, and Scandal at Hollywood's Chateau Marmont

From my list on Hollywood glamour and sleaze.

Why am I passionate about this?

Shawn Levy is the author of 11 books of biography and pop culture history, including The Castle on Sunset: Life, Death, Love, Art, and Scandal at Hollywood's Chateau Marmont, Paul Newman: A Life, Rat Pack Confidential, and Ready, Steady, Go! The Smashing Rise and Giddy Fall of Swinging London. He was the longtime film critic of The Oregonian newspaper and KGW-TV in his beloved home city of Portland. He has written a history of the women pioneers of standup comedy which will be published by Doubleday in 2022 and at work on a podcast about the dark connections of politics and show business.

Shawn's book list on Hollywood glamour and sleaze

Shawn Levy Why did Shawn love this book?

We call them 'movies' as a nickname for 'moving pictures,' and the immense importance of the 'pictures' part of that phrase is underscored by this lavish and gorgeous book celebrating the work of Hollywood's classic glamour photographers. In brief lives and portfolios of the likes of George Hurrell, Peter Stackpole, Phil Stern, Sid Avery, and Ruth Orkin, we see hundreds of photos of such icons as Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, James Dean, Judy Garland, Marlon Brando, and Shirley MacLaine on the set and off, posed for sumptuous portraits or grabbing coffee and a smoke between takes, in iconic images and remarkable candids. David Fahey and Linda Rich, important photographers themselves, are ideal guides to this gallery, pointing out aspects of the photographers' technique and craft without losing sight of the remarkable subjects of these memorable shots.

By David Fahey, Linda Rich,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Brings together the work of 44 Hollywood photographers.


Book cover of Easy Riders Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-And Rock 'n Roll Generation Saved Hollywood

Nathan Abrams Author Of Kubrick: An Odyssey

From my list on fiction and nonfiction books about movie directors.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was old (or young) enough to have only seen two Kubrick films in the cinema: Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut. I began teaching film studies and Hollywood in 1998, and I have been teaching and researching Kubrick intensively since 2007, visiting his archive in London on numerous occasions. At one point, I held the record for the researcher who had spent the most hours in the Archive. I also met Christiane and Jan and spoke to many others who knew and worked with Kubrick. Having been familiar with Robert Kolker’s work, it became clear that collaborating with an international authority on film was a necessity as well as a pleasure.

Nathan's book list on fiction and nonfiction books about movie directors

Nathan Abrams Why did Nathan love this book?

Peter Biskind chronicles the rise of New Hollywood in the 1970s, featuring such "movie brat" directors as Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, and Steven Spielberg. But he also refers to such older directors as Stanley Kubrick.

It’s written in a chatty and easy-to-read style and is full of useful tidbits of information about Kubrick and especially his new backers at Warner Brothers.

By Peter Biskind,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Easy Riders Raging Bulls as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When the low-budget biker movie Easy Rider shocked Hollywood with its success in 1969, a new Hollywood era was born. This was an age when talented young filmmakers such as Scorsese, Coppola, and Spielberg, along with a new breed of actors, including De Niro, Pacino, and Nicholson, became the powerful figures who would make such modern classics as The Godfather, Chinatown, Taxi Driver, and Jaws. Easy Riders, Raging Bulls follows the wild ride that was Hollywood in the '70s -- an unabashed celebration of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll (both onscreen and off) and a climate where innovation and…


Book cover of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Daniel Weizmann Author Of Cinnamon Girl

From my list on the dark side of show biz.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up blocks from Hollywood Boulevard in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s and had something like a front-row seat to the greatest pop culture five-car pile-up in American history. At the Canteen on Hollywood and Vine, where my aunt would take me on summer weekdays for the “Extras for Extras Smorgasbord,” you’d rub shoulders with aging starlets, cowpokes, starry-eyed young hopefuls, and “leading men” in five-and-dime ascots who never had a leading role. Even Billy Barty, always of good cheer, would make the scene—he was so nice to me, and I had no idea he played my hero, Sigmund the Sea Monster!

Daniel's book list on the dark side of show biz

Daniel Weizmann Why did Daniel love this book?

Woody made fun of movie novelizations in Manhattan, but they have a special charm, especially when written by the director.* Tarantino’s gripping novel captures the changing of the guard in Hollywood ’69 as only a native son could, with special attention paid to Manson’s floppo music career.

The book also features some intense scenes that aren’t in the flick. For instance, in one chapter, Manson Family acolyte “Pussycat” creepy crawls into an elderly couple’s home at midnight and strips naked in their bedroom while they sleep and then…yeah, well, try not turning the pages, I dare ya. 

*(Another fine example is The Last Days of Disco, With Cocktails at Petrossian Afterward by Whit Stillman.)

By Quentin Tarantino,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Once Upon a Time in Hollywood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE DELUXE HARDBACK EDITION FEATURING NEVER-BEFORE-SEEN PHOTOS, BONUS MATERIAL & AN EXCLUSIVE BOUNTY LAW SCRIPT BY QUENTIN TARANTINO

Quentin Tarantino's long-awaited first work of fiction - at once hilarious, delicious, and brutal - is the always surprising, sometimes shocking new novel based on his Academy Award-winning film.

The sunlit studio back lots and the dark watering holes of Hollywood are the setting for this audacious, hilarious, disturbing novel about life in the movie colony, circa 1969.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood tells the story of washed-up actor Rick Dalton. Once Rick had his own television series, a famous western…


Book cover of Seize the Day

Daniel Weizmann Author Of Cinnamon Girl

From my list on the dark side of show biz.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up blocks from Hollywood Boulevard in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s and had something like a front-row seat to the greatest pop culture five-car pile-up in American history. At the Canteen on Hollywood and Vine, where my aunt would take me on summer weekdays for the “Extras for Extras Smorgasbord,” you’d rub shoulders with aging starlets, cowpokes, starry-eyed young hopefuls, and “leading men” in five-and-dime ascots who never had a leading role. Even Billy Barty, always of good cheer, would make the scene—he was so nice to me, and I had no idea he played my hero, Sigmund the Sea Monster!

Daniel's book list on the dark side of show biz

Daniel Weizmann Why did Daniel love this book?

Not usually considered a Hollywood novella per se, Bellow’s “small grey masterpiece” (V.S. Pritchett) tracks failed actor Tommy Wilhelm on a dark Manhattan day when his luck and his money run out.

This book is at once a tender portrait of failure and a searing indictment of the false promises America makes to the gullible. Along the way, Tommy recalls his one and only screen role—as a Hollywood extra, he briefly appeared barelegged in a kilt, pretending to blow bagpipes—just one more humiliation in a string of let-downs. By day’s end, Tommy goes face to face with humanity in a subway station and spirals toward “the heart’s ultimate need”—tears. 

By Saul Bellow,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Seize the Day as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“What makes all of this so remarkable is not merely Bellow’s eye and ear for vital detail. Nor is it his talent for exposing the innards of character in a paragraph, a sentence, a phrase. It is Bellow’s vision, his uncanny ability to seize the moment and to see beyond it.” –Chicago Sun-Times

A Penguin Classic

Fading charmer Tommy Wilhelm has reached his day of reckoning and is scared. In his forties, he still retains a boyish impetuousness that has brought him to the brink of chaos: He is separated from his wife and children, at odds with his vain,…


Book cover of Hit Men: Power Brokers and Fast Money Inside the Music Business

Daniel Weizmann Author Of Cinnamon Girl

From my list on the dark side of show biz.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up blocks from Hollywood Boulevard in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s and had something like a front-row seat to the greatest pop culture five-car pile-up in American history. At the Canteen on Hollywood and Vine, where my aunt would take me on summer weekdays for the “Extras for Extras Smorgasbord,” you’d rub shoulders with aging starlets, cowpokes, starry-eyed young hopefuls, and “leading men” in five-and-dime ascots who never had a leading role. Even Billy Barty, always of good cheer, would make the scene—he was so nice to me, and I had no idea he played my hero, Sigmund the Sea Monster!

Daniel's book list on the dark side of show biz

Daniel Weizmann Why did Daniel love this book?

Wanna know what happens when you don’t pay off the mobbed-up indie record promo guys, fellas like Joe Isgro and Fred DiSipio? I’ll tell you what—your record doesn’t get played on the radio, shmuck.

This killer history of the mavens and crooks who made the record business spin is enlightening, chilling, and hilarious at turns. Some radio programmers, once paid off, will take a record they have never heard, shake it by their ears, and say, “Sounds good; I like it!” 

By Fredric Dannen,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Hit Men as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Copiously researched and documented, Hit Men is the highly controversial portrait of the pop music industry in all its wild, ruthless glory: the insatiable greed and ambition; the enormous egos; the fierce struggles for profits and power; the vendettas, rivalries, shakedowns, and payoffs. Chronicling the evolution of America's largest music labels from the Tin Pan Alley days to the present day, Fredric Dannen examines in depth the often venal, sometimes illegal dealings among the assorted hustlers and kingpins who rule over this multi-billion-dollar business.


Book cover of The Habit of Loving

Daniel Weizmann Author Of Cinnamon Girl

From my list on the dark side of show biz.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up blocks from Hollywood Boulevard in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s and had something like a front-row seat to the greatest pop culture five-car pile-up in American history. At the Canteen on Hollywood and Vine, where my aunt would take me on summer weekdays for the “Extras for Extras Smorgasbord,” you’d rub shoulders with aging starlets, cowpokes, starry-eyed young hopefuls, and “leading men” in five-and-dime ascots who never had a leading role. Even Billy Barty, always of good cheer, would make the scene—he was so nice to me, and I had no idea he played my hero, Sigmund the Sea Monster!

Daniel's book list on the dark side of show biz

Daniel Weizmann Why did Daniel love this book?

Lessing was the rare woman among Britain’s pack of Angry Young Men in the late Fifties and early Sixties, and, among her primary targets, was Hollywood’s sometimes thin, hyper-sentimental, maudlin version of love.

The centerpiece of this collection is the gut-punching title story, all about an aging theater actor who tries and fails to rekindle an old flame and then ends up with a brash actress half his age.

His new lady’s view of romance is contemporary—which is to say, ice cold. After sleeping with him, she says, “You know what, George? You’ve just got into the habit of loving. You just want something in your arms, that’s all. What do you do when you’re alone? Wrap yourself in a pillow?”  

By Doris Lessing,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Habit of Loving - bk501; Panther Books; Doris Lessing (Literatur-Nobelpreisträgerin 2007); pocket_book; 1981


Book cover of Memoirs and Misinformation

Ryan Uytdewilligen Author Of He's No Angel

From my list on satire and parody on Hollywood to make you laugh.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a classic Hollywood fanatic. I can name you every Best Picture Oscar Winner on command. I’ve written screenplays and seen the industry firsthand, but if I had my choice, I’d go live through the Hollywood Golden Age. I've published numerous non-fiction film history books and have a whole lot more classic-film-inspired novels coming. And I do it all simply for the single reason that writing a book is the closest thing to time travel that I can find. Immersing myself in this world with actors that have lived, and even a few that I’ve made up, is pure heaven that transports me back to the days of the silver screen. 

Ryan's book list on satire and parody on Hollywood to make you laugh

Ryan Uytdewilligen Why did Ryan love this book?

Anything to do with Jim Carrey, I’m in. In fact, when teachers would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d reply “Be Jim Carrey.” As a longtime fan, I was excited to learn that he would finally be charting his life in an autobiography. As it turns out, the book was mostly wild fiction. What’s so engaging about this book is how he blends real-life occurrences like his body of film work and relationship with Renee Zellweger with completely off-the-wall fantasy like mentor Rodney Dangerfield returning as a Rhino, Kelsey Grammar leading a cult, and Carrey struggling with his career as his entire essence goes virtual. It’s extremely experimental, but the inclusion of celebrities will leave you grinning.     

By Jim Carrey, Dana Vachon,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Memoirs and Misinformation as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • "None of this is real and all of it is true." —Jim Carrey

Meet Jim Carrey. Sure, he's an insanely successful and beloved movie star drowning in wealth and privilege—but he's also lonely. Maybe past his prime. Maybe even ... getting fat? He's tried diets, gurus, and cuddling with his military-grade Israeli guard dogs, but nothing seems to lift the cloud of emptiness and ennui. Even the sage advice of his best friend, actor and dinosaur skull collector Nicolas Cage, isn't enough to pull Carrey out of his slump.

But then Jim meets Georgie: ruthless…


Book cover of Hollywood Exiles in Europe: The Blacklist and Cold War Film Culture

Frank Krutnik Author Of 'Un-American' Hollywood: Politics and Film in the Blacklist Era

From my list on the Hollywood blacklist.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a film studies scholar from a working-class background (which is pretty rare in UK academia!), I’ve long been fascinated by the Hollywood Left and the prospect of what they could have achieved had they not been expunged from the scene. Many of the social justice causes they embraced—anti-fascism, anti-racism, workers’ rights, etc.resonate very strongly with contemporary concerns. The persecution of these creative workers also serves as an ever-timely warning from history about the importance of maintaining vigilance in the face of totalitarian thinking and systems of oppression. 

Frank's book list on the Hollywood blacklist

Frank Krutnik Why did Frank love this book?

Rebecca Prime is one of the contributors to my book and her book is a fascinating sequel to that volume. It covers the careers of several blacklisted filmmakers who fled Hollywood and America, seeking to find new work and life opportunities in Europe. Impeccably researched and elegantly written, Prime’s study tells the story of a generation of creative workers that was lost to the USA but which made a vital contribution to European and British cinemas. As she details, many of the exiled filmmakers faced almighty personal and professional struggles to adjust to their new circumstances, and while a few (e.g. Joseph Losey and Jules Dassin) would eventually achieve fabulous success, many other exiles found it difficult to secure regular and fulfilling work opportunities or personal happiness.

By Rebecca Prime,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hollywood Exiles in Europe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Rebecca Prime documents the untold story of the American directors, screenwriters, and actors who exiled themselves to Europe as a result of the Hollywood blacklist. During the 1950s and 1960s, these Hollywood emigres directed, wrote, or starred in almost one hundred European productions, their contributions ranging from crime film masterpieces like Du rififi chez les hommes (1955, Jules Dassin, director) to international blockbusters like The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957, Carl Foreman and Michael Wilson, screenwriters) and acclaimed art films like The Servant (1963, Joseph Losey, director).
At once a lively portrait of a lesser-known American "lost generation" and…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in movie stars, the film industry, and Los Angeles?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about movie stars, the film industry, and Los Angeles.

Movie Stars Explore 48 books about movie stars
The Film Industry Explore 49 books about the film industry
Los Angeles Explore 331 books about Los Angeles