The Story of Film
The latest recommendation is a rather ambitious undertaking well met. The Story of Film: An Odyssey lives up to its title and then some. Beginning at the beginning and following through to the present the author explores where film has come from, been, and is going, all within the confines of a single book. And he succeeds in a manner that is comprehensive yet easy to understand even for the uninitiated.
Since being published the book has been adapted into a film. That’s right, a film which is a bit intimidating in length (at fifteen hours), but considered highly successful in its goal of giving the viewer a complete and satisfying overview of the history of the great American art form: the cinema.
I recommend tackling the book first. It will serve as a type of primer, let a lone stand as a resource you can turn to time and time again for reference. Then you can watch the film (in stages, of course) and viscerally fill in the bits and pieces in between the lines.
No one source can provide everything there is to know about any subject. However, The Story of Film comes just about as close as any book on any subject ever has. Truly, it’s one for the dedicated cinephile, but I believe the casual fan will find it immensely enjoyable as well. Not all in one sitting, but in time and eventually. I think I like it like that.