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8 new(ish) books for classic movie fans to add to summer reading lists

Who needs fictional beach reads when you can get your fill of murder, romance, drama and more from books about Hollywood’s history and stars?

Here’s a round-up of a few new(ish) books from the last few years to get you through the dog days of summer. 

‘Elizabeth Taylor: The Grit & Glamour of an Icon’

Author Kate Andersen Brower’s access to Elizabeth Taylor’s unpublished letters, diaries and off-the-record interviews results in a full story of Taylor’s life from her perspective. The 2022 biography, authorized by Taylor’s family, goes deep into Taylor’s personal and professional life – not just the tabloid headlines of the day. Instead, it’s an inside look at one of the last major stars of the studio system who became one of the most recognizable faces for decades. 

Available via Amazon

‘Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood’

Murder mystery: check. Big stars: check. Hollywood scandals: check. “Tinseltown,” author William J. Mann’s look at the unsolved 1922 murder of director William Desmond Taylor, has a bit of everything. This well-researched 2014 book gives a fast-paced account not just of the crime, but of the pre-code era of Hollywood and what was at stake for the industry. Of all the books on the Taylor murder through the decades, this one is by far the most transparent and thorough with its sources. The book also fuels the “Murder in Hollywoodland” podcast from 2020.

Available via Amazon

Paul Newman’s memoir ‘The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man’

Published posthumously in 2022, “The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man” consists of Paul Newman’s oral history of his life he made in the 1980s that was never published. He embarked on a series of interviews with a close friend to look back candidly at his life and career, and the transcripts of those frank stories fuel the book. If you’ve ever wondered if some of the most talented and beautiful people have insecurities and troubles, Newman bares all in this insightful memoir. (Note: If you can listen to this one on audiobook, do. While Newman died in 2008, actor Jeff Daniels reads Newman’s words to really make the listener feel like they have a peek inside Newman’s head.)

Available via Amazon

‘Camera Man: Buster Keaton, the Dawn of Cinema, and the Invention of the Twentieth Century’

This 2022 book by Dana Stevens examines Buster Keaton and his life in parallel to what was happening in movie history. From Keaton’s birth in 1895 that coincided with the emergence of movies to the rocky midlife of the comedian and the industry’s identity crisis, “Camera Man” puts the biography of Keaton in context so it’s almost a biography of cinema itself.

Available via Amazon

‘Visual History of Silent Movies’

"Visual History of Silent Movies" is a 2023 reissue of the 1927 illustrated history book of movies, “Masters and Masterpieces of the Screen.” Originally published at a pivotal point in movie history, the book includes rarely seen promotional and behind-the-scene photos, short biographical sketches, essays on filmmaking, new introduction and, today, serves as both a survey of Hollywood history as well as a snapshot in time of what Hollywood thought of itself as the Roaring Twenties were eyeing the end. (For transparency: re-issued the public domain work so that a physical copy would be available to leaf through.)

Available via Amazon

‘Home Work’ by Julie Andrews

Julie Andrews wrote about her childhood challenges and the start of her performing career in the best-seller “Home” in 2008. She continues her story in 2019’s “Home Work,” pulling the curtain back on her Hollywood start and rise to fame in such movies as “Mary Poppins” and “The Sound of Music.” (Bonus: both audio versions of the book are read by Andrews herself)

Available via Amazon

‘Hollywood Black: The Stars, the Films, the Filmmakers’

Film historian Donald Bogle traces black history in the movies, from the silent era to today in “Hollywood Black: The Stars, the Films, the Filmmakers.” The 2019 book takes a look at the stereotypes and challenges that existed for decades (and still do), but also the successes some found despite the barriers. In addition to all the unique archival photos, what sets this book apart are the numerous untold or little-known stories.

Available via Amazon

‘Fay Wray and Robert Riskin: A Hollywood Memoir’

The story of actress and “scream queen” Fay Wray and her husband screenwriter Robert Riskin would be at home on the silver screen. Written by their daughter, the 2019 memoir/biography goes inside the rocky road of relationships and Hollywood life before the “King Kong” actress and the “It Happened One Night” screenwriter would find each other and the still difficult road they faced together. It’s part biography of the two figures, part biography of the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Available via Amazon


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