For the hardcore Jaws fan, this is fun and certainly worth a read. However, after finishing this I watched the two hour documentary featured on the Jaws BluRay and essentially most of the same stories surrounding the production are told there as well, and more colorfully.
Gottlieb is an okay writer, but he tends to go off on small tangents throughout the book that are not directly relevant to the making of Jaws. Granted, he wasn't shooting for some grand literary feat with this small volume, and basically the book consists of nothing more than collected stories and interviews from before, during, and after production. The whole book has a somewhat cutesy, lighthearted quality, full of all the fish, bite, and water puns one might expect. Part of this, I suppose, is a product of it being a book from 1975; there is a playful tongue-in-cheek vibe about it, reminiscent of “simpler” times.
Reading this gave me a whole new appreciation for Jaws as a film (even with it already being one of my favorites) because the making of it was truly a disaster. One key reason for this is that filming a giant mechanical shark that was painstakingly made to look real had simply never been done before. Pair that with Spielberg's perfectionist approach and the fact that they filmed 12 miles from shore in order to appear being far out into the sea, and you've got a perfect storm of things that can go wrong—and they did. Admittedly, a book could probably be written about the making of nearly any major budget movie and the slew of obstacles that come up during production of a film, but what makes the story of Jaws remarkable is that somehow Spielberg and his editor, an industry veteran named Verna Fields, were able to scrounge together reels and reels of footage from a disastrous shoot and turn it into one of the most beloved films of all time.
There were a few things mentioned that would certainly not fly by today's standards. For example, the crew members were actively killing sharks for sport in between shots while out on the water. The author mentions this with an air that communicates he actually found it humorous, and says that it was the crew's way of taking revenge on the fact that they were miserable, homesick, and far over schedule. Not cool. Additionally, there were passing comments about crew members drinking beer throughout the shooting days. I'm fairly certain that alcohol is strictly off-limits on set these days, at least for crew (the talent may be another story).
Anyhow, I came away from this with a greater fondness for Spielberg and the passion with which he approaches his work (plus the fact that he was twenty-seven when he finished this film; my current age, by the way). On the contrary, my perception of a few of the film's stars was tarnished, but not greatly. They're actors, they live in their own world and sometimes they're divas, and there is nothing we lowly common folk can do about it.
Film buffs or avid fans of the movie will probably enjoy this. It was a quick and entertaining read with some interesting behind the scenes stories.