Happy Hitchcock-tober: 10 Books Celebrating the Master of Suspense

It’s October, which means a lot of things to a lot of people. For some, it’s pumpkin spice everything; for others, it’s the joy of falling leaves and sweater weather. For me, October means a yearly re-acquaintance with the work of Alfred Hitchcock, the Master of Suspense and my favorite director. For nearly a decade, my friends and I have used Hitchcocktober as an occasion to celebrate some of film’s greatest thrills with movies like Psycho, The Birds, Dial ‘M’ for Murder, and Rear Window.

But, for we bookish types, appreciation for Hitchcock extends well beyond the screen. Writers have spilled a whole lot of ink exploring the legendary director’s life and work, and I’ve taken the liberty of compiling this list of books to keep you engrossed all Hitchcocktober long.

The Biographical

Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light by Patrick McGilligan

What it is: A doorstop of a biography that’s what we in the business like to call “definitive.”

Who it’s for: The die-hard Hitchcock fan who wants the warts an’ all examination of his life, from his youth in England to his conquest of Hollywood to his obsessive personality and domineering approach to his female stars.

 

It’s Only a Movie: Alfred Hitchcock, a Personal Biography by Charlotte Chandler

What it is: A shorter, less incisive biography featuring plenty of material from interviews with Hitchcock’s biggest stars, including Jimmy Stewart, Janet Leigh, and Cary Grant.

Who it’s for: The person who’s seen and enjoyed their fair share of Hitchcock movies and wants to continue being able to watch them without thinking constantly about what a terrible person the director could sometimes be.

The Movies

Hitchcock by Francois Truffaut

What it is: A book-length interview with Hitchcock conducted by French New Wave director Francois Truffaut, during which the Master of Suspense discusses his work—film by film —as thoroughly and personally as possible.

Who it’s for: Fans with a deep appreciation of Hitchcock, yes, but given the sometimes shot-by-shot breakdowns of some of the director’s most iconic scenes, anybody with an interest in how movies are made will find a lot to love in this incredibly detailed book.

The Moment of Psycho: How Hitchcock Taught America to Love Murder by David Thomson

What it is: An in-depth look at the context of Hitchcock’s most famous and enduring film and the ways in which it permanently reshaped both the movie industry and the American filmgoer’s psyche.

Who it’s for: Horror movie fans, film history buffs, and people who have been at least a little scared to take a shower since the first time they witnessed Janet Leigh’s untimely demise, accompanied by Bernard Herrmann’s iconic strings.

Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho by Stephen Rebello

What it is: Another in depth look at Psycho, but far more concerned with the audacious approach Alfred Hitchcock took when making the film than with its effects on the culture. It’s the basis for the 2012 film Hitchcock, starring Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren.

Who it’s for: Anybody who loves Psycho but doesn’t know how many unprecedented steps its director had to take and how many rules he had to break to actually get it onto the big screen.

Hitchcock and Philosophy: Dial M for Metaphysics by William A. Drumin and David Baggett

What it is: A collection of essays that examine Hitchcock’s films through a philosophical lens, written in language that won’t cause flashbacks to that ill-advised Kant class you took in college.

Who it’s for: Readers seeking a slightly more academic (though not stuffy) approach to the themes of Hitchcock’s filmography.  

A Year of Hitchcock: 52 Weeks with the Master of Suspense by Jim McDevitt and Eric San Juan

What it is: A work-by-work assessment of Hitchcock’s film and TV work that traces several of his career-long thematic arcs.

Who it’s for: The completist who wants to go beyond the classics and get intimately acquainted with the entirety of Hitchcock’s work.

 

 

The Inspiration

Psycho: A Novel by Robert Bloch

What it is: The 1959 novel that inspired Hitchcock’s film of the same name.

Who it’s for: Thriller lovers and anyone curious to know where Hitchcock followed Bloch’s lead (Norman and his mother) and where he didn’t (a more complex role for Marion Crane).

 

 

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

What it is: The classic mystery novel upon which Hitchcock based the only one of his films to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Who it’s for: Fans of contemporary psychological thrillers, for which Rebecca undoubtedly provided one of the original blueprints. It’s also worth noting that Du Maurier’s work was adapted by Hitchcock on two other occasions, in the films Jamaica Inn and The Birds.

Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith

What it is: The Talented Mr. Ripley author Patricia Highsmith’s novel about two men whose plan to “swap” murders goes disastrously awry.

Who it’s for: Are you sensing a theme? Readers in search of meticulously plotted and constantly suspenseful page turners are likely to find themselves burning through this one. Just be careful where you’re seen reading it. Who knows what kind of conversations a stranger might start with you.

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