Book #47 The Godfather by Mario Puzo
There's really not much to say about this. It's an outstanding book, and if you love the movie then you will definitely love the book. There are some extra subplots, involving Johnny Fontane, which are entertaining but not really an integral part of the book. It's really the examination of the Corleone family that makes this book so gripping and fascinating; not just the inner workings of a Mafia crime family, but the relationships between the members of this incredibly proud, incredibly strong group of people who'll do anything to survive in the world they've created. It's really simple, almost stark writing, and really allows you to understand the film a little better, particularly when it comes to the character of Michael Corleone. Definitely a recommended read, and a good companion to the movie. Needless to say it has to be one of the best book-to-film adaptations of all time (some elements of Godfather 2 appear in the book, such as Vito Corleone's backstory) and just a great read.
#50 The Godfather Returns by Mark Winegardner
This one's definitely weaker, though it's understandable. It was written 35 years after The Godfather, by a different writer in a vastly different era. The "golden years" of the Mafia are far in the past, and most of our knowledge of it seems to come from...The Godfather. So it's no real surprise that the book reads almost like a fanfic piece written by a really huge fan of the movies. It's a decent read, but has none of the heart or excitement or grittiness of the original book. Plus, it's just very, very confusing to anyone who hasn't memorized the two original films line for line. It's really a bunch of little stories of what was happening in the background of the films--how Fredo came to betray Michael, for example, or how Michael came to the height of his power. But it's just a very confusing timeline, and again, unless you know the movies by heart I think you'd be completely confused. It's a book for the die-hard fans, I suppose, but not really worth the read. The writing is clunkier and doesn't have Puzo's polished, flowing style and none of the character development. There's a lot of useless filler that never goes anywhere, and I was constantly wondering why I was reading. Really, was this book even necessary? Seems to me like it was just someone trying to milk The Godfather cow for profit, and unfortunately it was just a weak effort.