The best books about television

3 authors have picked their favorite books about television and why they recommend each book.

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The Twilight Zone Companion

By Marc Scott Zicree,

Book cover of The Twilight Zone Companion

I remember the moment I walked into a bookstore and saw this book sitting face out on the shelf and thought; “Wait, they make books about every episode of a TV show?” Not just that but for the show that to this day I maintain was the greatest TV show ever made: The Twilight Zone. Marc Scott Zicree’s book was my beginner’s guide into the making of a TV production with an emphasis on my greatest love: the writers. From the day I bought this, I never sat down to watch the show again without it beside me for reference. My copy is worn and tattered but eternally loved. This was the book that made me want to work for and write about television.


Who am I?

In a life that has thus far led from reader and fan to writers’ assistant to author and journalist to television story writer to editor, these are the books that helped define my passions for storytelling worlds as well as the path of my career and informed me along the way. 


I wrote...

Quotable Star Trek

By Jill Sherwin,

Book cover of Quotable Star Trek

What is my book about?

More than any other single aspect, Star Trek is defined by the strength of its ideas. For decades this television and movie phenomenon has reached out to its audience, spanning generations and inspiring them not simply with the power of its voice, but with the meaning behind it.

Quotable Star Trek demonstrates the truly universal appeal of Gene Roddenberry's extraordinary creation. Words of wit, wisdom, and compelling insight applicable to everyday life from The Original Series, Star Trek: The Next Generation®, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine®, Star Trek Voyager®, and eight Star Trek motion pictures have been meticulously researched and collected in one volume. Intensely thought-provoking and thoroughly entertaining, Quotable Star Trek has something for everyone, and is a must-have resource for every devoted fan.

Writing for Television

By Yvonne Grace,

Book cover of Writing for Television: Series, Serials and Soaps

There are numerous books on writing for TV but Yvonne’s book is eminently practical covering the basics and also the more complex and nuanced aspects like the relationship between writers and script editors. Given the importance of the streamers writing for TV is more important than ever.

Who am I?

Julian Friedmann is co-owner of the Blake Friedmann Literary Agency and was the publisher of ScriptWriter magazine. At the agency, he has represented both book and scriptwriters for over 40 years and also acts as Executive Producer for and with clients. Julian is a TEDx speaker and is the author of the Make Money Screenwriting series, co-author of The Insider’s Guide to Writing for Television, and editor of two volumes on Writing Long-Running Television series. He has taught at universities and film schools all over the world. He designed the MA in Television Scriptwriting at De Montfort University, and PILOTS (for developing long-running television series) for the EU MEDIA Programme. 


I wrote...

Make Money Screenwriting Vol 1: Creative Strategies

By Julian Friedmann,

Book cover of Make Money Screenwriting Vol 1: Creative Strategies

What is my book about?

The first volume in the series Make Money Screenwriting, looks at creative strategies, the creative process: how to grab your audience; the physiology and emotion of being the audience; cinema or television - what format is right for you; SVODs, the streamers, and the new world order: writing treatments and step outlines that work; bibles: how TV shows are pitched; adaptation: pros and cons and more pros; writing prose, another string, another bow.

Written by an Agent with 40 years’ experience the book is a practical guide to navigating the creative aspects of developing a professional career. The focus of the series of books is on actually making money from writing.

Horizontal Hold

By Daniel Paisner,

Book cover of Horizontal Hold: The Making and Breaking of a Network Television Pilot

Remember E.O.B., the drama about political speechwriters starring Mary Beth Hurt? Or the speechwriter series called Word of Mouth and starring Gladys Knight? Or the other one, The War Room, starring Brad Hall? Actually, no one saw any of them, because they were all versions of the same failed TV pilot, from St. Elsewhere producers Bruce Paltrow and Tom Fontana. And the story of the series’ saga to not making it to primetime covers more than a year, and highlights all the network, casting, technical, and general TV industry drama that can impact the TV pilot process, a process the networks still use to fill their schedules every year.


Who am I?

Kimberly Potts is a TV and pop culture journalist and author who believes television is not only the ultimate entertainment medium, but is also the ultimate cultural common denominator. She has written for The New York TimesEntertainment Weekly, VultureThe Hollywood ReporterTV GuideThe Los Angeles Times, Yahoo, Variety, People.comUS Weekly, E! Online, Thrillist, Esquire.com, AOL, Movies.com, and The Wrap. Kimberly also co-hosts the Pop Literacy and #Authoring podcasts, and is a member of the Television Critics Association, Critics Choice Association, Authors Guild, and American Society of Journalist and Authors.


I wrote...

The Way We All Became The Brady Bunch: How the Canceled Sitcom Became the Beloved Pop Culture Icon We Are Still Talking about Today

By Kimberly Potts,

Book cover of The Way We All Became The Brady Bunch: How the Canceled Sitcom Became the Beloved Pop Culture Icon We Are Still Talking about Today

What is my book about?

In The Way We All Became the Brady Bunch, TV and pop culture writer Kimberly Potts draws upon her deep knowledge of and appreciation for The Brady Bunch and television and pop culture history to provide an industry insider narrative of the series. With fresh interviews, The Way We All Became the Brady Bunch will examine the show's lasting effects on its audience and take readers behind-the-scenes and into the lives of our most beloved characters, all to document why The Brady Bunch was one of the most groundbreaking shows of its time--and why it remains to this day, unforgettable.

Primetime Blues

By Donald Bogle,

Book cover of Primetime Blues: African Americans on Network Television

Film historian and professor Bogle does a deep dive on the history of Black characters and series on television, from the early days of the medium and stereotyped portrayals on series like Amos ‘n’ Andy through groundbreaking ‘70s shows like Sanford & Son and The Jeffersons, ‘80s juggernaut The Cosby Show, and the sitcoms of UPN and The WB in the mid-1990s. Bogle shares his opinions throughout the compelling chronicle, and does not suffer foolish performances or material gladly, making this a must read for any TV fan seeking a truly comprehensive account of TV history.


Who am I?

Kimberly Potts is a TV and pop culture journalist and author who believes television is not only the ultimate entertainment medium, but is also the ultimate cultural common denominator. She has written for The New York TimesEntertainment Weekly, VultureThe Hollywood ReporterTV GuideThe Los Angeles Times, Yahoo, Variety, People.comUS Weekly, E! Online, Thrillist, Esquire.com, AOL, Movies.com, and The Wrap. Kimberly also co-hosts the Pop Literacy and #Authoring podcasts, and is a member of the Television Critics Association, Critics Choice Association, Authors Guild, and American Society of Journalist and Authors.


I wrote...

The Way We All Became The Brady Bunch: How the Canceled Sitcom Became the Beloved Pop Culture Icon We Are Still Talking about Today

By Kimberly Potts,

Book cover of The Way We All Became The Brady Bunch: How the Canceled Sitcom Became the Beloved Pop Culture Icon We Are Still Talking about Today

What is my book about?

In The Way We All Became the Brady Bunch, TV and pop culture writer Kimberly Potts draws upon her deep knowledge of and appreciation for The Brady Bunch and television and pop culture history to provide an industry insider narrative of the series. With fresh interviews, The Way We All Became the Brady Bunch will examine the show's lasting effects on its audience and take readers behind-the-scenes and into the lives of our most beloved characters, all to document why The Brady Bunch was one of the most groundbreaking shows of its time--and why it remains to this day, unforgettable.

The Official Bewitched Cookbook

By Kasey Rogers, Mark Wood,

Book cover of The Official Bewitched Cookbook: Magic in the Kitchen

I love this cookbook because it is a collectible and a treasure. Kasey Rogers was Louise Tate, the boss's wife from the television show, Bewitched. I was fortunate to have coordinated a book signing at Barnes and Noble in 2005 with Kasey. I got to hear firsthand knowledge of her memories of being on the set of Bewitched. She actually was able to participate in a lot of cast parties and be invited to the star of the show’s home, so the recipes are authentic. Everyone knows that "Samantha Stephens" didn't have to lift a finger in the kitchen... Now, "Bewitched" fans everywhere can share the kitchen with "Louise Tate" (the boss's wife) as she conjures up the magic that turned "Samantha Stephens" into a household name. In The Bewitched Cookbook, you'll discover "Cousin Serena's" "I-don't-cook" quick-fixes, "Dr. Bombay's" exotic banquets, "Maurice's" special drinks and delicacies, "Endora's" wickedly tasty tricks…


Who am I?

Gina Meyers is well known for her popular culture television trivia and cooking expertise books related to Harry Potter, Twilight, and the iconic television show Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie. Gina's Love At First Bite, The Unofficial Twilight Cookbook was featured on the NBC hit show, The Office. Gina's goal is to reignite the spark of imagination and creativity in the kitchen, introducing youth, teens, and fans of magical sitcoms to the culinary arts.


I wrote...

From Muggles to Magic: The Complete Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook

By Gina Meyers,

Book cover of From Muggles to Magic: The Complete Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook

What is my book about?

Smuggle in some muggle magic with The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook: From Cauldron Cakes to Butterbeer And More! Inside this new and improved edition of The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook: From Cauldron Cakes To Butterbeer, you will find all things sugary to satisfy your sweet tooth, including Ron’s Love Spell Sugar Cookies, Butterbeer Cupcakes, Pumpkin Juice, Hermione's Precious Potion, Mulled Mead, Rock Cakes, Treacle Crisp, Pumpkin Fudge, Yorkshire Pudding, Cauldron Cakes, King’s Cross Butterscotch Bars, Harry’s Tea and Get Out Of a Jam Cookies, Cockroach Clusters, and much, much more, if you dare.

Tube

By David E. Fisher, Marshall Jon Fisher,

Book cover of Tube

Most of those curious about the history of television have heard of the boy who invented it: Philo Farnsworth. He was just 14 years old when he conceived the idea that led to the first televised image less than a decade later. Farnsworth died penniless and unwell despite a life spent devoted to what became one of the most influential inventions of his lifetime and ours. That journey is a large part of the story the Tube authors unfold, but there are several additional key players who factor into the medium’s early years, and that, along with what will feel like some prescient thoughts about the current state of the television industry, make for an insightful, delightful read in this 1996 tome.


Who am I?

Kimberly Potts is a TV and pop culture journalist and author who believes television is not only the ultimate entertainment medium, but is also the ultimate cultural common denominator. She has written for The New York TimesEntertainment Weekly, VultureThe Hollywood ReporterTV GuideThe Los Angeles Times, Yahoo, Variety, People.comUS Weekly, E! Online, Thrillist, Esquire.com, AOL, Movies.com, and The Wrap. Kimberly also co-hosts the Pop Literacy and #Authoring podcasts, and is a member of the Television Critics Association, Critics Choice Association, Authors Guild, and American Society of Journalist and Authors.


I wrote...

The Way We All Became The Brady Bunch: How the Canceled Sitcom Became the Beloved Pop Culture Icon We Are Still Talking about Today

By Kimberly Potts,

Book cover of The Way We All Became The Brady Bunch: How the Canceled Sitcom Became the Beloved Pop Culture Icon We Are Still Talking about Today

What is my book about?

In The Way We All Became the Brady Bunch, TV and pop culture writer Kimberly Potts draws upon her deep knowledge of and appreciation for The Brady Bunch and television and pop culture history to provide an industry insider narrative of the series. With fresh interviews, The Way We All Became the Brady Bunch will examine the show's lasting effects on its audience and take readers behind-the-scenes and into the lives of our most beloved characters, all to document why The Brady Bunch was one of the most groundbreaking shows of its time--and why it remains to this day, unforgettable.

Decline and Fall

By Otto Friedrich,

Book cover of Decline and Fall: The struggle for power at a great American magazine: The Saturday Evening Post

Before Life there was the Saturday Evening Post, a roaring success capturing the spirit of Middle America at a time when Middle America defined the cultural ethos of the nation. But by the late 1950s the potent reach of television advertising undermined the general-interest magazine business model, and the Post slipped into an inexorable spiral of decline that its top executives could never quite handle or even understand. There’s plenty of pathos and human drama as they struggle with forces beyond their control. 


Who am I?

From my early teens I aspired to a career in journalism and publishing, manifest in my being editor of my junior high newspaper, my high school paper, and my college paper. After the army and grad school, I pursued my dream, covering Washington, D.C., for the Wall Street Journal for a dozen years and becoming an executive at Congressional Quarterly for 22 years, including 12 years as CEO. The great triumphs and struggles of the news business as it grew and evolved have stirred my consciousness throughout my life, and these five books provide some of the best narrative treatments on the topic that I have encountered throughout a lifetime in the publishing business.


I wrote...

A Country of Vast Designs: James K. Polk, the Mexican War and the Conquest of the American Continent

By Robert W. Merry,

Book cover of A Country of Vast Designs: James K. Polk, the Mexican War and the Conquest of the American Continent

What is my book about?

A Country of Vast Designs is the story of James K. Polk, the 11th U.S. president, and his remarkable one-term presidency, during which he transformed America into a transcontinental nation facing two oceans and poised to dominate global politics in the next century. Polk was in many ways a smaller-than-life figure, but he harbored larger-than-life ambitions. And by dint of his vision, resolve, persistence, wiles, and prodigious work ethic, he accomplished all of the big goals he set for himself, including completing the annexation of Texas and acquiring California, Oregon, and what is now the American Southwest. He also slashed tariff rates (a highly emotional issue in those days) and created what was known as the independent treasury, a forerunner to today’s Federal Reserve. 

A highly controversial president in his own time, he remains controversial in history. But presidential historians consistently rate him a “near great” chief executive in the periodic academic surveys of presidential performance. How did he do all that in the single term he allotted for himself? The answer is grist for what I regard as a compelling human and political story. 

Martha Speaks

By Susan Meddaugh,

Book cover of Martha Speaks

Martha Speaks is a classic for good reason. How can you not get attached to a dog who is fed vegetable soup that goes to her brain, not her stomach, and then is able to speak--incessantly? This fun book is the basis for the Emmy-nominated PBS TV series of the same name. Read and watch away!


Who am I?

Growing up, my brothers and I begged for a dog, but our parents never gave in. Fortunately, when my kids begged for a pup, my husband and I gave in. So, as a children’s book writer, I wanted to give kids a book to help them convince their parents that there’s always room for a pup in the family, and at the same time, subtly emphasize the importance of gratitude and inclusion.  


I wrote...

No Room for a Pup!

By Elizabeth Suneby, Laurel Molk,

Book cover of No Room for a Pup!

What is my book about?

Warning parents, No Room for a Pup! book could convince you to get a dog. Mia wants a dog more than anything. Her mom insists there is no room in their tiny apartment. One day, Mia falls in love with a small pup. With help from Grandma --- and her pet-owning friends --- can Mia convince her mom they have enough room?

Think “I-want-a-dog” story meets classic Yiddish folk tale about how things could always be worse --- to comic effect! With action-packed narrative and illustrations, this is a terrific read-aloud. The nonpreachy messages about the importance of gratitude, generosity, and the inclusion of others --- “there's always room for one more” --- resonate. 

Obsession

By Amanda Robson,

Book cover of Obsession

The book starts with a wife asking her husband who else he would sleep with, if he could. I loved this hook which any one of us might ask in a casual way, anticipating our partner to say ‘only you, darling!’ When the husband doesn’t give the expected reply, it unsurprisingly opens a can of worms which kept me turning the pages. This compulsive, sexy, roller coaster of a story didn’t disappoint me.


Who am I?

Before becoming a writer I was a divorce lawyer, so I have plenty of personal experience about the dark side of relationships and I admit to a slight obsession with the human psyche, what goes on behind closed doors and beneath people’s façades! Consequently I love to tell stories about relatable characters who get caught up in extraordinary situations, relationships, pressures, dilemmas or crime. I also enjoy performing a literary sleight of hand in my novels and hopefully surprising my readers!


I wrote...

Betray Her

By Caroline England,

Book cover of Betray Her

What is my book about?

Best friends . . . better liars. A dark and addictive psychological thriller about who you can trust, and the damage the past can do. A compelling tale of love, jealousy, betrayal - and a devastating secret at the dark heart of a lifelong friendship.

Whizziwig

By Malorie Blackman,

Book cover of Whizziwig

I loved this book for many reasons growing up but I think first and foremost because it was one of the first books I had ever seen with an illustration of a black child on the front cover aimed at children around my age. It was also turned into a TV series and I remember realising at this point in my early teens that there are so many ways that a book can be interpreted. Not just in the minds of their readers but through different creative mediums and this really excited my imagination as I have been acting since I was small and very involved in many different forms of music. This made Whizziwig, a story about possibility at every turn as the subject matter is also about chancing upon an alien life form in your backyard with whom the protagonist becomes friends. Plus, it was the first…


Who am I?

I have always been a very imaginative individual and even now I think of my imagination as a place I can escape to. I build worlds and dimensions in my head and visit them often especially when I'm writing my own books, poems, or drafting characters. I'm a very visual individual and pay attention to detail so these imagined worlds can become quite complex and intricate. That's why I have always loved adventure, it's such a privilege to be given access to other worlds and minds through the medium of books. You get a chance to wander around someone else's imagination – what a way to escape, what an adventure in and of itself!


I wrote...

The Tunnels Below

By Nadine Wild-Palmer, Ellen Shi (illustrator),

Book cover of The Tunnels Below

What is my book about?

The Tunnels Below is a rite of passage fantasy adventure about growing up and facing up to whatever the world throws at you however weird and wonderful. It follows the story of Cecilia who’s twelfth birthday takes a very unexpected turn when she finds herself at the centre of a plot to save a community from the brutal Corvus rule in an unfamiliar underground world. 

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