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Film: best books for Christmas

Anjelica Huston has known all the advantages and burdens of being considered acting royalty.

The third generation of a Hollywood dynasty, she has faced triumph and disaster on the journey from insecure catwalk model to Oscar-winning actress. In A Story Lately Told (Simon & Schuster, £16.99), she vividly evokes a seemingly idyllic childhood in a vast Irish estate that reads like a mixture of Downton Abbey and The Secret Garden. John Steinbeck plays Santa one Christmas, Peter O'Toole watches her first acting attempts and the stream of visitors includes Carson McCullers, Robert Capa and Marlon Brando.

The giddy glamour of it all is poignantly undercut by the intimidating figure of her frequently absent, larger than life father John and the haunting sense that her parents' love affair was over almost as soon as she was born.

There is a Proustian elegance to Huston's writing as she recalls the bustle of family meals with her mother Enrica, picking hazelnuts on the estate, breakfast at the Shelbourne hotel in Dublin, a schoolgirl passion for Cadbury's Flakes, the scents of London in the 1960s. Beautifully written and filled with an aching tenderness for all the friendly ghosts of her past, it is a book that leaves a warm glow and a sense of keen anticipation for her second volume of memoirs, Watch Me, to be published in 2014.

Some of the year's best film books have distilled an authentic sense of the author's personality rather than the bland, official version of an authorised tome. Ava Gardner: The Secret Conversations (Simon & Schuster, £20) captures the screen legend in boozy, confessional, after-hours mood towards the end of her life. In need of cash she agreed to let Peter Evans pen her memoirs. "It's either write the book or sell the jewels and I'm kinda fond of the jewels," she remarked. Evans recounts how difficult his task became, with Gardner frequently calling him in the wee small hours, garrulous and indiscreet as alcohol fuelled her recollections of Hollywood days, husbands and lovers. Second thoughts in the cold light of day meant the book was never completed. Gardner later collaborated with another writer on a less candid life story. Evans's book preserves all the wicked wit and withering judgments of Gardner at her most unguarded.

Danny Boyle has described Nicolas Roeg as "British film's Picasso". In The World Is Ever Changing (Faber & Faber, £25), Roeg reflects on a 50-year career in which he worked as a cinematographer for David Lean and Francois Truffaut and directed such landmark British films as Performance, Don't Look Now and The Man Who Fell To Earth. Roeg's films are marked by fractured, playful narratives and a fascination with time. His breezy autobiography is typically idiosyncratic and whimsical in places, but filled with real insight into his work and valuable advice for aspiring filmmakers.

It often feels that film book publishers have run out of ideas. Does the world really need another Audrey Hepburn photo album or a biography of Marilyn Monroe? The Collaboration (Harvard University Press, £19.95) felt genuinely original and eye-opening as Ben Urwand systematically revealed the way major Hollywood studios were willing to protect their financial interest in the German market of the 1930s by appeasing the Nazi regime. The road to hell was paved by a thousand concessions.

Fans awaiting the spring release of The Grand Budapest Hotel should welcome The Wes Anderson Collection (Abrams, £21.99), a rambling, but insightful "book-length conversation" covering the director's influences, interests and the way he seems to create films in the manner of Joseph Cornell boxes. Film buffs will also find lots to enjoy in the bite-sized stories in The Greatest Movies You'll Never See (Aurum Press, £20) as Simon Braund recounts tantalising details of Casablanca sequel Brazzaville, Alfred Hitchcock's Kaleidoscope, Stanley Kubrick's Napoleon and other intriguing projects that never saw the light of day.

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