The holidays are here, and it’s the perfect time to curl up with a new book about your favorite movie. Whether shopping for yourself or checking names off your gifting list, for film fans and bibliophiles alike, this year brought a slew of great books.
Here’s a brief gift guide for every kind of movie lover in your life:
For the Auteur-to-Be:
Paul Thomas Anderson: Masterworks by Adam Nayman (Abrams, 288 pp., $40)
Over three decades, Paul Thomas Anderson has brought us unforgettable looks into the lives of fascinating misfits. This career retrospective, full of lavish photographs from his best-loved films, is enough to inspire that budding director in your life, or provide a gateway to revisit old favorites without firing up their Blu-ray player. Author Adam Nayman, whose previous book about the Coen Brothers was a self-aware delight, brings insight and entertaining stories to light in equal measure. With a foreword by the Safdie Brothers (Uncut Gems), this book is a perfect companion piece for anyone who loves Boogie Nights, Phantom Thread and any of Anderson’s films and numerous music videos in between.
For the History Buff:
The Beginning or The End: How Hollywood - and America - Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb by Greg Mitchell (New Press, 304 pp., $28)
This book about the 1947 film The Beginning or the End flew under the radar when it was published in July, but for those interested in history, it offers a deep dive into a strange and little-remembered interlude at the dawn of the nuclear age. What started as a pitch from Donna Reed’s high school chemistry teacher (we’re not joking) ended up as an MGM production involving high-profile figures from Ayn Rand to Albert Einstein. Behind the scenes, studio execs found themselves caught in a tug of war between the scientists, who wanted the film to focus on the horrors of nuclear war, and the military, who wanted to justify the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. The picture, starring the late, great Hume Cronyn as Dr. Robert Oppenheimer, ultimately bombed at the box office but left us with a fascinating historical document about the struggle over the story of the atom bomb and who would get to tell it.
For the True Crime Fan:
The Castle on Sunset: Life, Death. Love, Art, and Scandal at Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont by Shawn Levy (Doubleday, 400 pp., paperback $17)
It’s not every building that warrants a biography, but then not every building is the Chateau Marmont. From its construction in 1926 right up until today, the hotel has kept pace with Hollywood, morphing from glamorous to seedy to elevated luxury. Stars like Bette Davis and Marilyn Monroe lived there, couples like Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski and Anthony Perkins and Tab Hunter loved there, and some tragically died there, including comedy icon John Belushi and fashion photographer Helmut Newton. Film critic Shawn Levy’s book covers the famous and the infamous in prose that manages to be as meticulous as it is juicy.
For the Star Wars Fan:
The Art of Star Wars: The Mandalorian, Season 1 by Phil Szostak (Abrams, 256 pp., $40)
The newest entry into the Star Wars canon feels so fresh and classic at the same time, it may be hard to believe that the film that launched a thousand star destroyers came out 43 years ago. But between “This is the way” and The Child (no spoilers for Season 2!), the Star Wars universe remains as culturally relevant as it was in 1977. This gorgeous coffee table book combines production designs, behind-the-scenes photographs and cast and creator interviews to bring the world of The Mandalorian home. The concept art, featured in the end credits of every episode, is particularly striking and worth poring over with a cup of hot chocolate in your hand. This is a perfect gift for the padawan and Jedi master alike.
For the Design Obsessive:
Accidentally Wes Anderson by Wally Koval (Little, Brown and Company, 368 pp., $17)
Quirky. Idiosyncratic. Pastels and symmetry. Describing the aesthetic of director Wes Anderson doesn’t really do justice to the singular visual style he’s perfected in such films as The Royal Tenenbaums, Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel. But no artist creates in a vacuum, and author Wally Koval has been curating the Instagram account @AccidentallyWesAnderson since 2017 to collect images from around the world that would be at home in Anderson’s films. Now, he has collected 200 of the best examples into a gorgeous art book that pays homage to Anderson and the people who love his movies. While not directly involved, Anderson himself was kind enough to write the foreword.
For the Hopeless Romantic:
More Than Love: An Intimate Portrait of My Mother, Natalie Wood by Natasha Gregson Wagner (Scribner, 304 pp., $28)
Equal parts glamour and heartbreak, love and tragedy, the life and death of Natalie Wood continue to fascinate. She was a luminous talent in films from A Miracle on 34th Street and Rebel Without a Cause to West Side Story and Gypsy until her untimely drowning at 43, which left friends and fans reeling. In this book, part biography and part memoir, Wood’s own daughter Natasha Gregson Wagner writes a candid and touching story of her mother’s life and what it was like to grow up with the loss, as well as the distorting and sometimes painful lens of fame. Wagner addresses her mother’s death and the rumors surrounding it, staunchly defending her stepfather Robert Wagner from decades of suspicion. She clearly adores her mother, while also exploring the all too real woman behind the screen siren, flaws and all.