When it comes to storytelling, books are my first love. That said, if I do fall in love with a TV series, I will rewatch it as many times as I reread my favorite books — and I’ll want to know everything about it. How did the idea for the show come about? What did they talk about in the writer’s room? How did the acting talent win over the casting director? What was it really like on set? These are the questions I had in my mind back in the early 2000s, when I was getting really into Sex and The City. So, when I spotted Sex and the City: Kiss and Tell — a book that promised to take me behind the scenes of the show — at a bookstore, I knew I’d found the best of both storytelling worlds.
While books about TV shows have become more popular over the years, there are still plenty of TV series that don’t have companion books. When I recently went on a hunt for a book about one of my favorite shows, Insecure, I wasn’t able to find anything. Then again, the series only ended a couple of months ago, so I’m hopeful one will eventually be published. In the meantime, I bought The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, a memoir by the show’s creator, Issa Rae.
Based on the writing of Insecure, I knew I’d love reading her memoir, but when it came to getting insights about the series itself, I didn’t think it would be quite the same as reading books about TV shows. It’s true — it wasn’t quite the same, but I quickly realized it was just as rewarding. Within a few pages of reading about Rae’s own life experiences, I began recognizing situations, characters, and thoughts that are echoed in Insecure. Not only was it fun to spot them, but it also didn’t take anything away from the pleasure of reading her memoir for what it is.
So, if you like the idea of mixing your favorite storytelling mediums through books about TV shows, I’ve put together a list of titles that will take you behind the scenes in some capacity, whether it’s a book dedicated to the creation of the series or a memoir that reveals more about the creator — and in turn, about the work.
Books About TV Shows: Stories From the Set
All the Pieces Matter: The Inside Story of The Wire® by Jonathan Abrams
Everything about The Wire® — from its writing to its acting to its timeless themes — has been extensively talked about, written about, and even studied in university courses. But some of us die-hard fans want to know what was happening behind the scenes with the writers, producers, and creative talent on set. Fortunately, author Jonathan Abrams, a dedicated fan himself, got us the answers by going straight to the source. All the insights and anecdotes in this book come directly from the mouths of the key actors and creators themselves. Each chapter tackles a single topic and features the perspectives of multiple people, so that readers get a complete, intimate, and satisfying account of how The Wire® came to be.
If you’re looking for another book about this show, The Wire: Truth Be Told offers, in addition to summaries of each episode, additional essays and insights from the perspectives of people that were on and off set.
Answers in the Form of Questions: A Definitive History and Insider’s Guide to Jeopardy! by Claire McNear
One of the most celebrated game shows in America, Jeopardy! has challenged minds and entertained generations of viewers for decades. This title goes behind the stage’s game-time answers and questions to seek the answers to viewers’ questions about the show itself. Featuring interviews with its writers, producers, and host Alex Trebek, this book gives readers a glimpse of what it’s like behind the scenes as the daily shows are planned. Former and hopeful contestants’ experiences — from bar trivia showdowns to intense training sessions with experts — are also revealed. Through learning more about the show’s past and future, fans will appreciate all the ways in which Jeopardy! has established itself as a game show tradition.
Best Wishes, Warmest Regards: The Story of Schitt’s Creek by Daniel Levy and Eugene Levy
Fans of Emmy® Award–winning Schitt’s Creek won’t be surprised that the show’s official tell-all book doubles as a beautifully illustrated coffee table book. Written from none other than the series creators themselves, the book delves into character profiles, significant plot moments, costume catalogs, brilliant fan art, and behind-the-scenes stories of casting, shooting, and everything else. But none of it would be complete without brilliant photos that represent the show’s own attention to visual details. In addition to Daniel and Eugene Levy, all of the key actors wrote their own sections on what the show meant to them. And for all my fellow nerds out there who take notice of books used as props, there’s also an illustration chronicling the entire selection of fictional books that appeared on the show.
Frasier by Jefferson Graham
Although this companion book only covers the first three seasons of Emmy® Award–winning Frasier, fans will still appreciate the extensive behind-the-scenes information in the pages of this book. Readers will find the story behind how the show was conceived and cast, insider facts and trivia, character profiles, exclusive cast interviews, photos, episode guides, a list of the celebrity guests who called into Frasier’s radio show, anecdotes from the set, and more. A complete script for the pilot episode rounds out the exclusive content that was compiled by the first journalist who was allowed to sit in the writer’s room.
Inside Black Mirror by Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones
The companion book for UK-produced Black Mirror is a bit of a mix between the aforementioned books about TV shows, Best Wishes, Warmest Regards and All the Pieces Matter. Filled with gorgeous photos from the visually stunning sets, Inside Black Mirror is told through conversations between the creators, producers, actors and other talent who work behind the scenes. Executive producers, Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones discuss the inspiration, conception, and thought process for each episode while actors, directors, and other creatives enhance the stories with their experiences and perspectives.
Seinfeldia: How a Show About Nothing Changed Everything by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong
For anyone who’s ever wondered what really happened in the writer’s room of the iconic ’90s sitcom Seinfeld, Jennifer Keishin Armstrong takes readers into that very place and into the backstory of the conception of the show. The book also provides interviews, trivia, insights behind each episode, photographs, and juicy, tell-all details. Armstrong, an experienced pop culture writer, also discusses the phenomenon of the show’s influence on culture decades later and provides a glimpse into the world of fans who are just as devoted to the show now as they were when it was on the air.
Sex and the City: Kiss and Tell by Amy Sohn
Everything fans of Sex and the City love — the dating scenarios, the wardrobe, the actresses themselves, the relatable terms coined by the show — has a story behind it. And this is the book that tells them all. Its pages are filled with interviews, anecdotes, dating timelines, key quotes from the script, trivia, a glossary of terms, full-color photographs of wardrobe changes, scenes from the show and set, and more. Readers will learn the backstory about how the show was conceived and also find a section dedicated to each of the four key actresses, so they can get to know the women who brought their favorite characters to life.
For an even more updated book on the show, check out Sex and the City and Us: How Four Single Women Changed the Way We Think, Live, and Love, which features exclusive interviews, insights from the writer’s room, and commentary on the show’s lasting effects.
Books About TV Shows: Stories From the Creative Talent
If you’ve ever wondered what goes on in the brain of the stand-up comedians you see on TV, reading their memoirs is an excellent way to get a glimpse. Ali Wong, creator and star of the Netflix comedy special Baby Cobra, reveals what makes her tick in her memoir Dear Girls. Told through letters written to her daughters, Wong shares her take carving a space for herself in a male-dominated industry, living as a single person in New York, reconnecting with her roots in Vietnam, and more.
Maybe You Never Cry Again by Bernie Mac
Penned by the late Bernie Mac, Maybe You Never Cry Again is a memoir that sheds light on the star and co-creator behind The Bernie Mac Show. While fans of the show have detected tenderness shining through the show’s typically comedic moments, Mac’s memoir reveals even more poignant and humorous details from his life off set. In addition to writing about how he recognized his calling to make others laugh, Mac also takes readers through the heartbreaks, triumphs, and interactions that lead him to his career as a successful Hollywood creative. Much like it does in the TV series, the positive power of a parent’s love plays a significant and compelling role in the memoir.
The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae
In her bestselling collection of personal essays, Issa Rae, creator of Insecure and the award-winning YouTube series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, brings readers along for a ride through her world. With her signature humor and self-deprecating voice, Rae writes about what it was like growing up with a name no one could pronounce, not being able to dance when everyone else assumed she could, learning to embrace her natural hair, and more. Fans of her work will especially appreciate her recounting of how the moment she realized, “I’m awkward. And Black.” was a catalyst to creating her YouTube show.
Miss Me With That: Hot Takes, Helpful Tidbits, and a Few Hard Truths by Rachel Lindsay
In Miss Me with That, The Bachelorette’s Rachel Lindsay shows the world there’s more to her than meets the eye. In addition to opening up about how she decided to become a reality show contestant and what it was like on set, she also writes about growing up in Texas as the daughter of a U.S. district judge, her time practicing law, and her dating adventures before The Bachelorette. Lindsay also offers her perspective on reality TV’s lack of diversity as well as the impact political engagement, protest, and the Black Lives Matter movement can have in everyone’s life.
Nothing Like I Imagined by Mindy Kaling
Actress, writer, and creator Mindy Kaling has written a couple of traditional memoirs, but her latest collection of true-life essays comes in the form of an Amazon Original Story collection. Kaling writes about a variety of topics, from what she has in common with her character on The Office to a wild encounter she and co-star B.J. Novak had when they ran into a superfan of the show. In her final essay, “Big Shot,” Kaling gets brutally honest about what it’s really like to be a celebrity in Hollywood. Each essay is designed to be read in a single setting, but together they tell the overarching story of Kaling’s life as the creative force behind her fan’s favorite shows and characters.
Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls (and Everything in Between) by Lauren Graham
Although this title wasn’t written by the show creator, fans of Gilmore Girls will be eager to read the memoir of one of its lead actresses. While she shares plenty about her life off set, Graham also dives deep into her experiences on the show. Graham writes about how it felt to be cast as Lorelai Gilmore, what it was like to resume the role again later, and how all of it continues to influence her life. Also included in the memoir is a collection of photos and excerpts from the diary Graham kept while she was filming the original series’ sequel, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.
In her memoir, Shonda Rhimes, the creative force behind numerous shows including Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder, reveals that for most of her life, she wasn’t nearly as bold as the characters in her shows are. When Rhimes had an epiphany that her introversion and fear of saying “yes” to things that scared her might be holding her back, she decided to dedicate a year of her life to saying “yes.” Rhimes shares experiences from her life before, during, and after her year of yes — an experiment that finally allowed her to embrace her truest self and to let it be seen by the rest of the world, too.
The next time you’re in the mood for some great storytelling and find yourself torn between turning pages and watching a screen, treat yourself to the perfect mix by diving deep into one of these books about TV shows.