‘The Godfather’ at 50: A Booklist No Fan Can Refuse

It’s been 50 years since the release of The Godfather. To mark the occasion, LJ has curated a list of titles that are musts for fans.

It’s been 50 years since the release of The Godfather, the movie that created the template for the modern gangster film, resurrected Marlon Brando’s flagging career and set Al Pacino on the path to stardom, and generated countless unforgettable quotes. To mark the occasion, LJ has curated a list of titles that are musts for fans.

Book covers of books related to The Godfather

Biskind, Peter. Easy Riders and Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-Rock ’N’ Roll Generation Saved Hollywood. S. & S. 1999. 512p. ISBN 9780684809960. pap. $22.

The Godfather was just one of many films that revolutionized Hollywood in the Seventies. Author and cultural critic Biskind illustrates how young filmmakers such as Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, and George Lucas created raw, innovative films that have since become iconic.

De Stefano, George. An Offer We Can’t Refuse: The Mafia in the Mind of America. Faber & Faber. 2007. 448p. ISBN 9780571211579. pap. $36.

“Why do stories about Italian American organized crime continue to fascinate so many Americans?” asks journalist De Stefano. In this thoughtful work, he analyzes media depictions of the mob—including The Godfather, which he dubs the Torah of mafia movies—and muses on the forging of Italian American cultural identity.

Puzo, Mario. The Godfather. Berkley. 2019. 610p. ISBN 9780451205766. pap. $17.

The book that started it all. Puzo’s novel was an instant best seller when first published in 1969. This 50th anniversary edition, released in 2019, features a foreword by Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola. A sequel, The Sicilian, was published in 1984, a decade after the release of The Godfather, Part II. Three other novels in the series have been published (written by other authors): The Godfather Returns and The Godfather’s Revenge, by Mark Winegardner, and Ed Falco’s The Family Corleone, based on an unpublished screenplay by Puzo.

Raab, Selwyn. Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America’s Most Powerful Mafia Empires. Thomas Dunne. 2016. 816p. ISBN 9780312300944. pap. $25.

Many characters and events in The Godfather are inspired by real life—after all, watching Joseph Valachi, a member of the Genovese crime family, testify in 1963 before a U.S. Senate committee is part of what motivated novelist Mario Puzo to write a mafia story. Fans eager to learn more will appreciate journalist Raab’s rich, sweeping history of the mob in America, with profiles of everyone from Lucky Luciano to Carlo Gambino to John Gotti.

Russo, Gianni with Patrick Picciarelli. Hollywood Godfather: My Life in the Movies and the Mob. 2019. 320p. ISBN 9781250181398. $29.99.

Russo may have had limited acting experience when he landed the role of the treacherous Carlo Rizzi in The Godfather, but his mob connections were robust. In this vivid memoir, cowritten by Picciarelli (Jimmy the Wags), he describes an impoverished childhood in Little Italy, his career, his encounters with celebrities, and his time working for mob boss Frank Costello.

Seal, Mark. Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli: The Epic Story of the Making of The Godfather. Gallery. 2021. 448p. ISBN 9781982158590. $28.99.

The journey to create what eventually became one of the world’s most beloved films was a rocky one. In this page-turner, Vanity Fair writer Seal adeptly captures it all: Godfather novelist Mario Puzo’s path from failed author to literary superstar, then–novice director Francis Ford Coppola’s battles with Paramount executives, and the interference of real-life mafioso Joe Colombo, who eventually got the words “mafia” and “Cosa Nostra” stricken from the script.

Shnayerson, Michael. Bugsy Siegel: The Dark Side of the American Dream. Yale Univ. (Jewish Lives). 2021. 248p. ISBN 9780300226195. $26.

Readers fascinated by the character Moe Greene (who in the film’s climax famously meets his end with a bullet through the eye) will want to pick up Shnayerson’s (Boom: Mad Money) impeccably researched biography of Bugsy Siegel, the inspiration for Vegas gangster Greene.

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Mahnaz Dar

Mahnaz Dar (mdar@mediasourceinc.com) is an Associate Editor for Library Journal, and can be found on Twitter @DibblyFresh.

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