My silent cinema shelfie

When I am not watching silent movies, I’m often reading about them. Or writing about them. Or dancing in my kitchen to Taylor Swift, but that’s another matter entirely.

The point is that there are a lot of great and not-so great silent cinema books out there. And I have a few of both. Recently the frequently hilarious Movies Silently blog posted a list of silent film books perfect for beginners, and on the BFI website, Geoff Andrew listed the cinema books he truly loves. Inspired by both those posts, here is my silent cinema “shelfie”. It’s not my full collection, but an edit – a representative selection of the silent film books I have loved, or leaned on. 

A couple of these are books I don’t entirely love (can you guess?), one infuriates me, and many of them I worship wholeheartedly. A few are highfalutin texts I used as a student – and still dip into now. Those are for theory, history and analysis – which are essential. Some satisfy my greed for gossip and glamour – ditto.

You’ll spot a classic picture book, and a new one too. There’s a novel in there, because silent cinema inspires fiction as well as fact, and a list book, although I claim to dislike lists. There’s an autobiography and two biographies, which are all more entertaining than any novel. 

There are two books here by Kevin Brownlow. And the other obvious bias is towards writing by and about women. I wouldn’t have it any other way

The Giornate catalogue stands in for all its erudite siblings, of course. And there’s a recent favourite in there too – which I am evangelical about.


Here’s the full list:

  • Still: American Silent Motion Picture Photography by David S Shields
  • A Pictorial History of the Silent Screen, by Daniel Blum
  • Memoirs of a Star, by Pola Negri
  • The Parade’s Gone By, by Kevin Brownlow
  • Lulu in Hollywood, by Louise Brooks
  • Shakespeare on Silent Film, by Roger Hamilton Ball
  • Napoléon: Abel Gance’s Classic Film, by Kevin Brownlow
  • Anita Loos Rediscovered, edited by Cari Beauchamp and Mary Anita Loos
  • The Silent Cinema Reader, edited by Lee Grieveson and Peter Krämer
  • Le Giornate del Cinema Muto 2012, edited by Catherine A Surowiec
  • The Film Sense, by Sergei Eisenstein
  • Film as Art, by Rudolf Arnheim
  • The New Confessions, by William Boyd
  • What is Cinema? Volume II, by Andre Bazin
  • Lois Weber in Early Hollywood, by Shelley Stamp
  • Clara Bow: Runnin’ Wild, by David Stenn
  • Chaplin: His Life and Art, by David Robinson
  • 100 Silent Films, by Bryony Dixon

Now you have seen my silent cinema shelfie, why not show me yours? 

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