10 must-read books on reality TV

The reach and impact of reality TV has grown over the past few decades. Audiences are drawn to all kinds of reality TV shows, ranging from singing programs to survival adventures. But that leads to the question, “How real are reality TV shows?”

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Books covering behind the scenes of reality shows or the memoirs of former contestants offer a more nuanced look at the myths and realities of showbiz. Aside from the debates and discussions, such non-fictional literary works are also a delight for fans who want to learn more about the history, the making or even the gossip of a particular reality TV show.

ten Most Talkative: Stories from the Frontlines of Pop Culture (2012)

Cover of Andy Cohen's Most Talkative

The most talkative is an account by Andy Cohen of how his obsessive love of television drove him to become an executive producer for shows like Excellent chef and the Real housewives franchise. Cohen’s honest writing style brings out his childhood as a “nerd” who only wanted to climb the ranks of the TV industry by any means possible.

With his first fights as a reporter for CBS News and true stories behind Real housewives, Cohen fondly remembers the ups and downs of his career.

9 Reality Matters: 19 Writers Are Clearly Talking About The Shows We Can’t Stop Watching (2010)

Reality Matters cover featuring an image of writer Anna David

Reality matters is a compilation of essays, curated by writer Anna David. Each essay brings out the perspective of a particular journalist or novelist, but the book’s laid-back tone certainly tries to bring in a more audience-focused voice.

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With sufficient conscious humor, the writers acknowledge that many reality TV shows like Big Brother or Survivor can serve them as sinful pleasures, but that’s what makes them all the more addicting. In a sense, Reality matters brings out a collective attitude of the American public towards the senseless enjoyment of a “manufactured reality”.

8 Bachelor Nation: Inside America’s Greatest Guilty Pleasure (2018)

Cover for Bachelor Nation

Since his first season in 2002, The single person rekindled the fascination with a fairytale romance that millions of loyal and devoted viewers share. Los Angeles Times Journalist Amy Kaufman is a committed fan as well as a critic in her analysis of the show via this well-researched guide to the secrets behind Single.

Based on interviews with contestants and producers, she offers insight into the internal conflicts and overblown antics that take place in the show’s mansion. At the same time, she is also trying to figure out what makes the series so popular with audiences, even after 36 seasons.

7 Housewives: The Real Story Behind Housewives (2021)

Blanket for Housewives

Starting with The Real Housewives of Orange CountyBrian Moylan has been the writer and creative brain behind many episodes of the series and its multiple spinoffs. In Housewives, Moylan looks back on the series’ legacy and its impact not only on him, but also on the actual characters who played it.

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If the reader is to believe this book, then most housewives lead equally loud and dramatic lives, even off-camera. As well as addressing their personalities, the screenwriter also offers more scoop on the business side of the franchise and the lavish lifestyles of its stars.

6 Legendary Children: The First Decade of RuPaul’s Drag Race and the Last Century of Queer History (2020)

Legendary Children book cover

Legendary Children isn’t just another fluff book on reality TV. Rather, it simultaneously functions as a tribute to RuPaul’s Drag Race as well as a social history of queer movements of the 20th century. Tom Fitzgerald takes an in-depth approach to understand how years of struggle ultimately led to limited normalization of queer identities on the television screen.

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As the title of the show shows, the book also includes significant sections devoted to the art and history of drag culture, building on its timeless legacy.

5 American Idol: The Untold Story (2011)

American Idol The Untold Story Book Cover, The Original American Idol Judges

American IdolThe success of in the musical reality TV space is unprecedented, having preceded competitors like The voice and The X factor. Richard Rushfield’s book covers the first few seasons to understand the concept of driving behind the show. Each season not only chose a talented singer as the winner, but also a dreamer. Almost all of the contestants had an outsider history that mattered as much as their musical talents.

This insightful book is aptly named as it attempts to understand how American Idol single-handedly redefined the notion of being a celebrity, turning nobodies into Broadway stars and Grammy winners.

4 Chicken Soup for the American Soul Idol (2007)

Cover of Chicken Soup for the American Idol Soul and a photo of the American Idol contestants on stage

Yes American Idol: The Untold Story gets a bit cynical for readers, they can always switch to lighter reading like Chicken soup for the American Idol Soul. An episode of the hit anthology series Chicken soup, this book brings together testimonials from different contestants and winners as they remember their favorite moments from the show.

From Kelly Clarkson to Jordin Sparks, every anecdote shows how these singers believed in their dreams and worked hard to make them come true. Apart from these celebrities, there are also stories that focus on the perspectives of the producers and fans who play a major role in American IdolSuccess.

3 Shark Tales: How I Turned $ 1,000 into a Billion Dollar Business (2011)

Shark Tales Book Cover

Popular Shark aquarium investor Barbara corcoran always gets straight to the point when it comes to advising budding entrepreneurs. But before the ABC show turned her into a popular figure, she was just another struggling businesswoman.

In Shark tales, it allows readers to get closer to its humble origins. In addition to offering business advice and general wisdom, she also hints at what makes for success. Shark aquarium competitor. Therefore, it is a must read for followers of the series as well as for people who harbor entrepreneurial dreams.

2 Unique Mindset (2018)

Blanket for the unique state of mind

Andi Dorfman is a lawyer who rose to prominence as a contestant and as the protagonist of Season 8 of The single person and the tenth season of The bachelorette. Unique state of mind serves as a peek in her mind after her newfound fame, as she readjusts to a new reality. As you might expect, Dorfman isn’t shy about revealing that his life has been filled with privilege ever since. Still, the book, just like a reality TV episode, allows for a good escape.

While the book contains a lot of Single romantic gossip and mishaps, a particular chapter interestingly focuses on her feelings when she saw her ex-fiance propose to a new partner in Singles in Heaven.

1 Gunn’s Golden Rules: Life’s Little Lessons to Make it Work (2010)


Written by Project track mentor Tim Gunn, Gunn’s Golden Rules serves as an insider archive for the Fashion Reality series as well as a self-help book with rules guiding a fashion designer on the path to success.

Gunn draws on several real-life case studies from the show’s designers to formulate his set of life lessons. And then, of course, there are mentions of his illustrious career in the last century. But in each case, the veteran designer doesn’t seem to have a patronizing tone. On the contrary, the interactive style of the dissertation would only reassure its readers to live fully.

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