The best books on Hollywood 📚

Browse the best books on Hollywood as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood

The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood

By Sam Wasson

Why this book?

Sam Wasson is simply a good writer, crafting tight narratives that help this book read like a novel. The best part of this book is its examination of the creative process: in order for Chinatown to get made the way it did, a million (maybe two million) things needed to align in just the right way. The movie easily could have failed, but Wasson shows how the contributions of its many collaborators saved it.

From the list:

The best books on Hollywood history

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Book cover of Get Shorty

Get Shorty

By Elmore Leonard

Why this book?

Nobody wrote dialogue better than Elmore Leonard and nowhere did he write it better than in his 1990 Hollywood caper novel Get Shorty. The gangster patter. The Hollywood schmooze. The schmoozers’ strained imitations of gangster patter. The novel sends Miami shylock (and unabashed movie fan) Chili Palmer to Vegas to collect a debt, and thence to L.A. where he enters the demimonde of low-budget film production in hopes of parlaying his chutzpa and street smarts into a bona fide Hollywood production. Leonard certainly knew Hollywood, and Hollywood loved Elmore Leonard, adapting his novels and short stories into such outsized…

From the list:

The best crime fiction with a droll sense of humor

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Book cover of Majestic Hollywood: The Greatest Films of 1939

Majestic Hollywood: The Greatest Films of 1939

By Mark A. Vieira

Why this book?

It might seem presumptuous to call 50 films from 1939 "classics" but I agree with Vieira that these 50 movies deserve that distinction. This book is filled with all the pertinent information, fun facts, and great visuals. Movie stills, behind-the-scenes candid photos, portraits, and poster art make this a memorable volume to treasure. I particularly like the attention Vieira gives to the many outstanding movie directors working in 1939.

From the list:

The best books about 1939 Hollywood

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

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

By Ted Sennett

Why 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.

From the list:

The best books about 1939 Hollywood

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Book cover of The Making of the Wizard of Oz

The Making of the Wizard of Oz

By Aljean Harmetz

Why this book?

Released for the 75th anniversary of another 1939 classic, this book about the beloved favorite The Wizard of Oz is probably the best of the handful written over the years. All the familiar stories are here, a few myths are debunked, and some new information is brought to light. The story of the making of this classic is as engaging as fiction. In addition to interviews with surviving production crew personnel, the book also has some rarely seen photos. 

From the list:

The best books about 1939 Hollywood

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Book cover of Another Side of Paradise

Another Side of Paradise

By Sally Koslow

Why this book?

So many Hollywood novels focus primarily on the marquee names—the movie stars. This one explores the tortured romantic relationship between gossip columnist Sheilah Graham and author F. Scott Fitzgerald, whose stint as a scriptwriter was financially sustaining and artistically demoralizing, deepening his descent into alcoholism and despair over his failing marriage to Zelda. Sheilah could have been his creation, with her Gatsby-esque concealment of her background and reinvention of herself. Though this is a work of fiction, it results from meticulous research into the lives and careers of its fascinating and legendary main characters. As a writer myself, who has…

From the list:

The best novels set in Golden Age Hollywood

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