There is an incredibly wide selection of great Disney books available on every aspect of the The Walt Disney Company. This article highlights my favorite Disney books that feature Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Disney Studios, and general Disney Company. Over time I will continue to update this page, but for now I present to you my favorite Disney books, plus new books that were released this year.
There are a whole lot of great Disney books out there and some that are just not worth it. I have curated a list of only the best Disney books that I believe are a great addition to your collection because they share interesting stories, include beautiful photos, or capture the essence of Disney.
Each of these great Disney books are presented with a brief description and link to their page where you can find them on Amazon with their current price. Most of the books are currently available and in print, but some are out of print and may have to be purchased through a third party.
Best Disney Book List 2020: For the Disney Fan
The books are separated into categories based on the style. The categories include: historical reading, coffee table books, and in the park reading.
Historical Disney Book Reading
Disney's Land is a new addition to this list. At this point, based on all the books on Disneyland and Walt Disney I have read, it doesn't feel like there should be any new book on Disneyland I should enjoy. Somehow, author Richard Snow shares new information from a different perspective while capturing the essence of Disney in a whole new way. I would recommend this book for the casual fan and for the person who has read everything.
The Disneyland Story by Sam Gennawey is the closest thing that Disneyland has to an historical textbook. This book is constructed as the biography of Disneyland. Not only does this book provide hundreds of quotes and stories, but it provides a thorough bibliography for each chapter that provides much more thorough reading. When you are ready to go on a deep dive into the history of Disneyland, this is the book for you.
The Unofficial Disneyland Encyclopedia contains references for almost everything, every person, and place in Disneyland past and present. With explanations for items ranging from the now defunct Crocodile Mercantile store to the area previously known as Magnolia Park. Each time that you open up the book, some new tidbit will jump off the page.
The Unauthorized Story of Walt Disney's Haunted Mansion walks readers through the twisted story leading up to the creation of Disneyland's Haunted Mansion. This fascinating story could be the most unique back story to any Disneyland attraction because Walt Disney passed away and left no heir apparent for who would be the leader making the final decisions on the project. Each scene of the attraction is highlighted and dissected piece by piece. A fun read.
Before Ever After: The Lost Lectures of Walt Disney's Animation Studio consists of the manuscripts of the lectures given to the Disney Animators as the studio was transitioning from creating short films (Silly Symphonies) to their first feature film (Snow White). The book was partly compiled by legendary Disney producer Don Hahn. You can hear more about the book and Don's work at Disney in our podcast interview.
Eat Like Walt: The Wonderful World of Disney Food traces the food history that is intertwined with Walt Disney and Disneyland. The author uses an exploration of the food and restaurants in each of Disneyland's original six lands to share stories of the food of Walt Disney. The book not only dives into the food, but gives a great take on the personal life of Walt Disney the man. I flew through the stories in this book and now treasure it as a great Disney coffee table addition. This really is a must have!
Mouse Tales: A Behind-The-Ears Look at Disneyland was the first popular non-Disney approved book to appear on the market. The book is filled with stories collected from ex-Cast Member interviews. This book is lighthearted and really dishes on the past of the Disney company. Watch out if you don't want to have any of the secrets of the park divulged. This book reveals the early not-so-politically correct backstage happenings in Disneyland.
Ink & Paint: The Women of Walt Disney's Animation is a MASSIVE book covering the wide variety of roles that women played in developing early Disney Animation. The book tells incredible stories from strong females that helped to revolutionize animation film making. Through extensive interviews and behind the scenes photos, this book is equal parts text and photos. I can't decide whether to classify it as a Disney coffee table book because of its size or as a historical piece because of the incredible information offered up.
Incredible Stories Direct From Disney Cast Members
In Service to the Mouse: My Unexpected Journey to Becoming Disneyland's First President is my top recommendation for anyone who is even slightly interested in Disney history or business. This book written by Jack Lindquist, the first president of Disneyland, offers a behind the scenes look at all of the fun he had while working for the company. The book is a light read–separated into chapters by story. If you are anything like me, you will laugh out loud and finish the book the same day you pick it up.
Dream It! Do It!: My Half-Century Creating Disney's Magic Kingdoms is the memoir of Disney Legend Marty Sklar, who served as head of Walt Disney Imagineering for quite awhile. The book is written in a similar style to In Service to the Mouse, however this book focuses on the history and facts while In Service highlights the emotional situations.
The Ride of a Lifetime by Former Disney CEO Bob Iger is a fantastic read that follows his 15 year reign as the Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company. More than just a memoir, the book imparts business wisdom on how he was able to negotiate the biggest acquisitions in entertainment acquiring Pixar, Star Wars, Marvel, and 20th Century Fox. The book is surprisingly candid while easy to read. A must read for the modern Disney fan!
Windows on Main Street: 35 Years of Creating Magic at Disneyland Park is the memoir of Van Arsdale France, the man who created the world class concept of “Cast Member” training and the Disney University program. The book not only provides incredible lessons learned from his work creating the Disney training programs, but also stories ranging from the construction of Disneyland to the tough managerial style of Walt Disney. This book has been out of print of years, and was only just republished. This masterpiece is a vital addition to your Disney library.
Magic Journey: My Fantastical Walt Disney Imagineering Career is an autobiographical look back at a forty year career designing Disney's theme parks by Imagineer Kevin Rafferty. The book follows Kevin's journey from dish room attendant at Disneyland to his current position as a creative executive designing some of Disney's most impressive attractions. He worked with Jim Henson on the development of MuppetVision 3D, created the concept, story, and name for The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, led the creation of Cars Land, and led the team responsible for Toy Story Mania. There are lots of fun stories in here and examples of Kevin's great writing.
Books About Walt Disney World Fiction
The Kingdom Keepers series are perfect books for anyone eight and up who wants a fiction book. This is a Young Adult series written by Ridley Pearson that tells the story of what happens at the Disney theme parks when the guests go home.
Disney Coffee Table Books
Walt Disney Imagineering: A Behind the Dreams Look at Making Magic Real is perhaps my favorite book in my entire Disney library. The book walks the reader through the creative process that the Disney Imagineers use while creating each new attraction, restaurant, hotel, or entire theme park. The book is filled with glossy photos and insightful information.
Walt Disney Imagineering: A Behind the Dreams Look at Making MORE Magic Real was written as a follow up to the Imagineering book I mentioned above. This book reveals even more information and updated stories based on the projects developed since the release of the first book. Once again, this is one of my favorite books in my library.
The Posters of the Disney Parks provides a unique look into the changing process of creating the masterful Disney parks posters. Also inside is a beautiful gallery highlighting the most unique Disney parks posters from around the world. This book is a great piece to leave out on the coffee table for people to flick through.
Disney Movie Posters: From Steamboat Willie to Inside Out was produced as a follow up to the successful Disney Parks Posters book explained above. The book contains every Disney movie poster from “Snow White” all the way up to “Inside Out.” The book is a fun visual addition to your collection, but if I had to choose between this book and the Disney Parks Poster book, I would choose the Disney Parks book.
Designing Disney by John Hench was recently described by Disney Imagineer Kim Irvine as the book you need to read if you have any interest in Disney history, working for the company, or design. The book highlights Imagineer John Hench's life of work and advice.
The Haunted Mansion: Imagineering a Disney Classic was recently updated to highlight new changes and stories from the Haunted Mansion attraction. This book traces the creation of the attraction through stories and photos from the first conception of a haunted house in Disneyland through the completion of the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland and of the other Disney Parks around the world.
Pirates of the Caribbean: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies is written in a similar style to the Haunted Mansion book mentioned above. The book follows the creation of the attraction through it's inspiration of the block buster Pirates of the Caribbean films. These glossy books tell the story through rare photos and stories and are great additions to your library.
Decorative Art of Victoria’s Era is the original book from which Walt Disney Imagineer’s drew inspiration to create the Haunted Mansion. The original concept drawing for the mansion was traced straight from pages of this book. While it was published in 1950, the price is still relatively low considering the mark that it had on Disney history.
The Art of Disneyland is one of my favorite Disneyland coffee table books as it shares incredible concept art from the over sixty years of attraction development at Disneyland. The book is now out of print and goes for crazy prices on Amazon, but is worth keeping an eye on just in case the price drops. I hope Disney circles back to this title with an update in the coming years.
Books to Pass the Time in Disneyland or Walt Disney World
These books are filled with information and written in a way that is perfect to read at home or to take with you into Disneyland. These books help to enhance the magic in the parks or bring the magic home with you.
Steven Barret has written Hidden Mickey guides for each Disney theme park around the world: Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Disney Cruise Line. These books identify the hidden Mickeys that Imagineers often incorporate into the various new attractions. Bringing this book along on your vacation turns your trip into a special scavenger hunt.
Seen, Unseen Disneyland is a photo guide to the unique design elements of Disneyland. This book will surely reveal something new to you during your next visit to Disneyland. Filled with fun photos and details from Disneyland park, this is a great way to visualize hidden details from Disneyland at home.
Lots to Do In Line, a sort of multiple choice test for the small details hidden in the queues for attractions around you, is a nice way to pass the time spent waiting in line. The questions range from recounting specific details on a sign to locating items on a scavenger hunt list. The book is great for families with young children. There are versions for both Disneyland and Walt Disney World.
The Imagineering Field Guide series is a fun pocket sized book that provides insightful tidbits of information about the history and surroundings in Disneyland and Walt Disney World. The book series includes rare concept art, interesting facts and figures, glossy photos, and incredible stories. Click here to see all of the Imagineering Field guides created for each park.
Don't Forget Disneyland Secrets!
I would be remiss if I didn't mention my new book, Disneyland Secrets: A Grand Tour of Disneyland's Hidden Details. The book is filled to the brim with secrets, each developed into a brief story that illuminates a forgotten moment in Disney history, sheds light on a neglected area of the park, or reveals something new about an iconic attraction, such as:
- Why is the address of Disneyland 1313 Harbor Boulevard?
- What’s up with the Jewish menorah on Main Street?
- Why is there a fake book called “Walt & You” at City Hall?
- Where can you find Sherlock Holmes at Disneyland?
- Is there really a pet cemetery at the Haunted Mansion?
Shhh! I don't want to give it away. The answers are secret, until you read this book.
The book is now available on Amazon in both print and Kindle editions.
What are your top Disney books? COMMENT below.
These are all great Disney books to add to your collection. I also wanted to recommend some of the best stuff to watch on Disney Plus.