100 books like Little Miss Sunshine

By Michael Arndt, Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris

Here are 100 books that Little Miss Sunshine fans have personally recommended if you like Little Miss Sunshine. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Adventures in the Screen Trade: A Personal View of Hollywood and Screenwriting

Carleton Eastlake Author Of Monkey Business

From my list on what Hollywood is really like.

Why am I passionate about this?

Having been a Hollywood writer for thirty years, and now written a novel that although satirical still accurately describes the creation of a TV series, I’ve long been amazed at how many Hollywood stories – including films made in Hollywood – offer fantasies that have even less to do with the reality of love and work in film and television than Game of Thrones does with the real Middle Ages. I’ve written fantasy myself, but for people fascinated by Hollywood, or who want to work in film and TV, there’s a reason too to read books that capture the reality, especially when like the books listed here, they do so astonishingly well.

Carleton's book list on what Hollywood is really like

Carleton Eastlake Why did Carleton love this book?

This book coined the maxim far and away the most quoted in Hollywood to this day: “Nobody knows anything.” I first read it the year before I broke in. My copy is heavily annotated with yellow highlighter and red pen; a black paperclip still marks the second of Goldman’s two capitalized maxims, “Screenplays are structure.” The value of this book to anyone wanting to understand – or survive in – Hollywood is that, ironically, Goldman, one of the most successful screenwriters and novelists in Hollywood history, knew almost everything, not only about screenwriting, but also the psychology, cautious care, and perilous feeding of actors, directors, executives, and the rest of the Hollywood zoo. It’s both a textbook and survival guide, illustrated with a veteran’s vivid stories about life behind the tinsel.

By William Goldman,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Adventures in the Screen Trade as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now available as an ebook for the first time!

No one knows the writer's Hollywood more intimately than William Goldman. Two-time Academy Award-winning screenwriter and the bestselling author of Marathon Man, Tinsel, Boys and Girls Together, and other novels, Goldman now takes you into Hollywood's inner sanctums...on and behind the scenes for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All the President's Men, and other films...into the plush offices of Hollywood producers...into the working lives of acting greats such as Redford, Olivier, Newman, and Hoffman...and into his own professional experiences and creative thought processes in the crafting of screenplays. You get…


Book cover of Tales from the Script: 50 Hollywood Screenwriters Share Their Stories

Alistair Owen Author Of The Art of Screen Adaptation: Top Writers Reveal Their Craft

From my list on writing for the big screen.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am the author of four books of interviews with filmmakers: Smoking in Bed: Conversations with Bruce Robinson (a Guardian Book of the Year), Story and Character: Interviews with British Screenwriters, Hampton on Hampton (an Observer Book of the Year), and The Art of Screen Adaptation: Top Writers Reveal Their Craft. I have written original and adapted screenplays and stageplays, on spec and to commission; contributed film interviews and reviews to UK magazines and newspapers; chaired Q&A events at book and screenwriting festivals; and recently published my first novel, The Vetting Officer. My next nonfiction project is a book of conversations with bestselling author and screenwriter William Boyd, for Penguin.

Alistair's book list on writing for the big screen

Alistair Owen Why did Alistair love this book?

“You never really succeed,” Andrew W. Marlowe tells the editors of Tales from the Script, “You always fail at a higher level.” So: first you can’t finish your script, then you can’t get it read, then you can’t sell it, then you can’t get it made, then it’s made – but badly. Or, in Marlowe’s case, it’s made into Air Force One and you’re asked to repeat the trick. “Even when you get to the top there’s this realization: ‘Okay, the view is great, but tomorrow I gotta get up and start climbing the mountain again.’” If you find that depressing, don’t be a screenwriter. If you see it as a challenge, read on…

By Peter Hanson, Paul Robert Herman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tales from the Script as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Few modern art forms are as misunderstood as the craft of creating movie scripts, but "Tales from the Script" puts readers in the trenches of the Hollywood development process. Readers will revel in the exploits of Shane Black ("Lethal Weapon"), John Carpenter ("Halloween'), Frank Darabont ("The Shawshank Redemption"), Nora Ephron ("When Harry Met Sally"), William Goldman ("The Princess Bride"), David Hayter ("Watchmen"), Bruce Joel Rubin ("Ghost"), Paul Schrader ("Taxi Driver"), Ron Shelton ("Bull Durham"), and dozens of others. They'll learn how these writers surmounted the incredible odds against breaking into Hollywood, transformed their ideas into films that topped the box…


Book cover of Making Movies

Kieron Connolly Author Of Dark History of Hollywood: A century of greed, corruption and scandal behind the movies (Dark Histories)

From my list on moviemaking.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always loved movies. In my 20s, I went to film school – perhaps you can still find a couple of the short films I wrote with animator Matthew Hood on Vimeo (Hourglass and Metalstasis) – and I worked a little in the UK film industry reading scripts for Film4, among others. I’ve also interviewed filmmakers, including Nicolas Winding Refn, Christopher Hampton, Life of Brian producer John Goldstone and editor Anne V. Coates. And I’ve always found a romance, despite the seedy aspects, of Tinseltown being developed out in Hollywoodland, a place of orange groves and pepper trees where people from the Midwest went to retire in the sun.   

Kieron's book list on moviemaking

Kieron Connolly Why did Kieron love this book?

Sidney Lumet directed Twelve Angry Men and The Verdict, among many others, and the beauty of this short book is just how practical he is about his craft. In the magazine interviews and hagiographies about directors, we seldom get a true sense of the working day on a movie set, or what happens long before shooting begins and months after it finishes. But here Lumet reveals why he always tried to schedule a very simple shot for the first set-up on day 1 of production, the value of a rehearsal period (if he was granted one) and that he took a lunchtime nap. From first being offered a script to the final sound mix, this is what a movie director really does.

By Sidney Lumet,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“Invaluable.... I am sometimes asked if there is one book a filmgoer could read to learn more about how movies are made and what to look for while watching them. This is the book.” —Roger Ebert, The New York Times Book Review

Why does a director choose a particular script? What must they do in order to keep actors fresh and truthful through take after take of a single scene? How do you stage a shootout—involving more than one hundred extras and three colliding taxis—in the heart of New York’s diamond district? What does it take to keep the studio…


Book cover of Into The Woods: How Stories Work and Why We Tell Them

Matt Zandstra Author Of PHP 8 Objects, Patterns, and Practice: Mastering OO Enhancements, Design Patterns, and Essential Development Tools

From my list on non-fiction that turn their topics upside down.

Why am I passionate about this?

Software developers love to question the assumptions that underpin their practice. Some of the most exciting phases of my career have come about as a result of such questions. Often they are revolutionary in the literal sense that they ask you to turn your thinking upside down – to design systems from the bottom up rather than the top down, for example, or to write your tests before your components. I may not adopt every practice, but each challenge enriches the conceptual world in which I work. Over the years, I have come to look for similar shifts and inversions across other subject areas. Here are some recommendations from my reading.

Matt's book list on non-fiction that turn their topics upside down

Matt Zandstra Why did Matt love this book?

I must have read a hundred books about story structure over the years. Somehow, perhaps because of some story-related blind spot on my part, none of them ever seemed to stick.

My problem was always the middle. Middles can sag. It seems that a story's interior becomes little more than the wasteland a protagonist must traverse to get from the mystery of a beginning to the ultimate challenge of an ending.

Yorke's Into The Woods celebrates the middle. He reminds us that the essential crux of a story lies in its midpoint. Right at the heart of an effective story, he argues, lies a fundamental transformation, a change so great that the protagonist emerges with new powers into a new world.

Furthermore, by analysing stories in five acts rather than three, he allows for an elegant symmetry in which the first and fifth, second, and fourth acts mirror one another.…

By John Yorke,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Into The Woods as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'The best book on the subject I've read. Quite brilliant' Tony Jordan, creator/writer, Life on Mars, Hustle

We all love stories. But why do we tell them? And why do all stories function in an eerily similar way? John Yorke, creator of the BBC Writers' Academy, has brought a vast array of drama to British screens. Here he takes us on a journey to the heart of storytelling, revealing that there truly is a unifying shape to narrative forms - one that echoes the fairytale journey into the woods and, like any great art, comes from deep within. From ancient…


Book cover of Zeroville

Tyler Schwanke Author Of Breaking In

From my list on movie lovers.

Why am I passionate about this?

Tyler Schwanke is a writer and a filmmaker. He holds an MFA from Hamline University, and his short stories have been widely published in online journals and literary magazines, including Chaotic Merge, Havik, and Fiction Southeast. He is also a graduate of the New York Film Academy and Minnesota State University Moorhead, where he was awarded a Minnesota Film and TV Grant. Several of his award-winning short films have played at festivals across the country. Tyler lives in the Minneapolis with his wife and their dog. Breaking In is his debut novel.

Tyler's book list on movie lovers

Tyler Schwanke Why did Tyler love this book?

Possibly my favorite book ever (only time will tell) this novel is a fever dream of Ike “Vikar” Jerome’s journey into Hollywood starting in 1969 and expanding over a decade.

With a tattoo of Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor from A Place in the Sun on his bald head, this novel reads like Forrest Gump in the way that Vikar shows up at historical moments in Hollywood’s golden age, making friends with thinly veiled Hollywood titans as they get their start in the film industry. 

By Steve Erickson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Book by Erickson, Steve


Book cover of Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War

Brooke L. Blower Author Of Americans in a World at War: Intimate Histories from the Crash of Pan Am's Yankee Clipper

From my list on surprising histories about Americans abroad during WWII.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a history professor at Boston University, where I teach and write about modern American popular thought, political culture, trade, travel, and war especially in urban and transnational contexts. I enjoy histories that are based on deep and creative bodies of research and that push past timeworn myths and clichés about the American past.

Brooke's book list on surprising histories about Americans abroad during WWII

Brooke L. Blower Why did Brooke love this book?

Only a small fraction of the millions of Americans in uniform during World War II were engaged in combat operations. Harris’s well-researched account zeroes in on the service of five Hollywood directors, who, like many other professionals, were asked to adapt their civilian skills to wartime needs.

Tacking back and forth between Washington and other stateside locales and posts far afield—from Midway and the Aleutian Islands to North Africa and Italy—the book’s carefully drawn action conveys the far-flung exploits of filmmakers during the war as well as how those experiences impacted their craft.

By Mark Harris,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“One of the great works of film history of the decade.” —Slate

Now a Netflix original documentary series, also written by Mark Harris: the extraordinary wartime experience of five of Hollywood's most important directors, all of whom put their stamp on World War II and were changed by it forever 

Here is the remarkable, untold story of how five major Hollywood directors—John Ford, George Stevens, John Huston, William Wyler, and Frank Capra—changed World War II, and how, in turn, the war changed them. In a move unheard of at the time, the U.S. government farmed out its war propaganda effort…


Book cover of This Was Hollywood: Forgotten Stars and Stories

Lisa Hall Author Of The Mysterious Double Death of Honey Black

From my list on for fans of Old Hollywood.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always loved stories, whether on the page or on the screen, and after reading Gone with the Wind I immediately watched the movie, feeling the pull of Old Hollywood drawing me in. My grandfather was a big movie fan, and I spent many an afternoon watching old movies with him – Hobson’s Choice was a favourite. As I got older, Gaslight, Ocean’s Eleven, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane… they all had me gripped. Factor in my self-confessed obsession with celebrity gossip and that was me done for – Old Hollywood is rife with scandal and gossip!

Lisa's book list on for fans of Old Hollywood

Lisa Hall Why did Lisa love this book?

I stumbled across this beautiful non-fiction hardback while I was searching for books that would immerse me fully into Honey Black’s world, when I first started writing my novel.

This is an excellent book recounting the scandals of Old Hollywood – Clark Gable and Errol Flynn included – complete with an impressive amount of authentic photographs that bring every story to bright, technicolour life. A lot of the scandals referred to in my novel were discovered through reading this book!

By Carla Valderrama,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked This Was Hollywood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this one-of-a-kind Hollywood history, the creator of Instagram's celebrated @ThisWasHollywood reveals the forgotten past of the film world in a dazzling visual package modeled on the classic fan magazines of yesteryear.

From former screen legends who have faded into obscurity to new revelations about the biggest movie stars, Valderrama unearths the most fascinating little-known tales from the birth of Hollywood through its Golden Age.

The shocking fate of the world's first movie star. Clark Gable's secret love child. The film that nearly ended Paul Newman's career. A former child star who, at ninety-three, reveals her #metoo story for the…


Book cover of Hollywood's Golden Year, 1939: A Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration

Thomas S. Hischak Author Of 1939: Hollywood's Greatest Year

From my list on 1939 Hollywood.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been writing books about film, theatre, and popular music since 1991 but my love of old movies goes back much further. Before VCRs, DVDs, and streaming, one could only catch these old films on television (often cut to allow for commercial time) or revival houses. Today even the more obscure movies from 1939 are attainable. Writing 1939: Hollywood's Greatest Year gave me the opportunity to revisit dozens of old favorites and to see the many also-rans of that remarkable year.

Thomas' book list on 1939 Hollywood

Thomas S. Hischak Why did Thomas love this book?

Ted Sennett is one of the most prolific and widely-read writers about Hollywood and this book on 1939 is one of his very best works. It is filled (one might even say, stuffed) with behind-the-scenes stories. The writing is sometimes critical and analytical rather than gushing as in some of Sennett's many coffee table books. He concentrates on only seventeen 1939 movies so one doesn't get a full picture of that amazing year of movies. It's good to see some lesser-known classics like Midnight and Angels Have Wings included in the seventeen.

By Ted Sennett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hollywood's Golden Year, 1939 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Book on the famous year 1939 an epic year for great classic films.


Book cover of Narration in the Fiction Film

Larry A. Brown Author Of How Films Tell Stories: The Narratology of Cinema

From my list on the art of filmmaking.

Why am I passionate about this?

One reason I became a professor of humanities, teaching subjects like film, theater, and literature, was to share my enthusiasm for the great works of imagination which have inspired people for centuries. Stories shape our lives and pass on our most important values and beliefs to future generations. In my academic career, I have directed plays and have written two novels, but teaching film has been my major passion for the last several years. 

Larry's book list on the art of filmmaking

Larry A. Brown Why did Larry love this book?

This book initiated my interest in narrative film theory back in my graduate school days. It became a crucial source for my dissertation.

Bordwell writes about popular films but with a highly analytical eye. All his books are worth reading for those who want intelligent, in-depth discussion, not just stories about Hollywood culture. 

By David Bordwell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Narration in the Fiction Film as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First Published in 1987. Routledge is an imprint of Taylor & Francis, an informa company.


Book cover of Forbidden Hollywood: The Pre-Code Era (1930-1934): When Sin Ruled the Movies

Robert Matzen Author Of Season of the Gods

From my list on old Hollywood in general (and Warner Brothers in particular).

Why am I passionate about this?

My dad instilled in me a love of, and respect for, history and an avid interest in golden-era Hollywood. In my adult life as a professional writer, that paternal guidance has translated into eight books about various aspects of old Hollywood, with a growing focus on the intersection of Hollywood and World War II. My career to date was punctuated by the international success of Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II, which detailed the future star’s very hard life in the Netherlands under Nazi occupation. Dad didn’t live long enough to know I’d written anything, let alone a number of books he would have enjoyed reading. 

Robert's book list on old Hollywood in general (and Warner Brothers in particular)

Robert Matzen Why did Robert love this book?

The year before Errol Flynn blew into Hollywood, the “pre-Code” era ended. What was the “pre-Code” era? It was the period in the early 1930s when Hollywood rode the cliff, making movies about sensational topics like adultery, pay-for-play, drug use, and more. Many of the pictures included a scene or two with leading ladies scantily clad and even braless. Leading men were often scoundrels.

This book entertainingly details both the point of view of studios struggling to remain relevant in the depths of the Great Depression by creating salacious products and the outcry from alarmed parents who took their kids to the movies only to cover their eyes and rush them back out again.

The author backs up his narrative with eye-popping photos illustrating just what was so shocking about the pre-Code era. This interesting period of Hollywood history ended abruptly and, unfortunately, with the puritanical “Production Code” that ushered…

By Mark Vieira,

Why should I read it?

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


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