The Marginalian
The Marginalian

Werner Herzog Recommends Five Books Every Aspiring Filmmaker Should Read

“Filmmaking — like great literature — must have experience of life at its foundation,” Werner Herzog counseled in his no-nonsense advice to aspiring filmmakers. But a robust and wide-ranging foundation of literature is integral to the completeness of that life-experience. Like Hemingway, who once recommended a reading list of books every aspiring writer should read, Herzog offers the five books he considers most essential to the education of young filmmakers, shared in the second installment of his conversation with the New York Public Library’s Paul Holdengräber.


  1. The Peregrine (public library) by J.A. Baker (1967)
  2. [It’s a book] about watching peregrines, but it’s a book that everyone who makes films should read. The kind of immersion into your subject and the passion and the caliber of prose … we haven’t seen anything like this since the short stories of Joseph Conrad.

  3. Georgics (public library | free ebook) by Virgil (29 B.C.)
  4. “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” by Ernest Hemingway (1936), found in The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway (public library)
  5. The Conquest of New Spain (public library) by Bernal Díaz del Castillo (1963)
  6. The Warren Commission Report: The Official Report of the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy (public library) by The United States Warren Commission (1964)
  7. Just a wonderful piece of reading — the best crime story you can ever read and a phenomenal conclusiveness in its logic.

Complement with Herzog on creativity, self-reliance, and how to make a living out of what you love. For other notable reading lists, see those of Oliver Sacks, Patti Smith, Carl Sagan, David Byrne, Joan Didion, Leo Tolstoy, Susan Sontag, Alan Turing, Brian Eno, David Bowie, Stewart Brand, and Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Published August 19, 2016




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