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The book is always better

This month’s book recommendations are books with success on film. We all know popular book series that spawned movie phenomena, such as Harry Potter, James Bond and The Lord of the Rings. Authors like Stephen King and Michael Crichton have had multiple books turned into movies too. So, if you are looking to read the book instead of or before watching the movie, here are some selections, including several that are recent to the silver screen.

P.S. The book is always better!

The Pelican Brief by John Grisham was published in 1992 and made into a movie starring Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington in 1993. This legal crime thriller has murder, mystery and political intrigue. When a young law student prepares a legal brief that is closer to the truth than anyone wants, she partners with an ambitious reporter to leak the truth while trying to survive.


Erasure by Percival Everett is a 2001 novel that was adapted to the film American Fiction in 2023. The book is social commentary against the criticism of African American literature in the late 1990s. The novel’s structure is complex and deals with various themes of sex, race, class, sexual identity, abortion, family loyalty, the theory of language and canonical western artists. It is a dark comedy that pushes against what it means to be black in the United States and who gets to decide what the authentic voice of Black America sounds like.


Contact by Carl Sagan was written in 1985, set in 1999 and made into a movie of the same name in 1997, starring Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey. This story is the only fully fictional work published by scientist Sagan. Contact was originally written as a screenplay in 1979 but turned into a novel after movie development stalled. It is about human contact with a more technologically advanced life form in deep space.


The Princess Bride by William Goldman was first published in 1973. The film version was released in 1987 and directed by Rob Reiner. Receiving only moderate success at the box office, it has since become a cult classic. The book is about a fairytale of true love and the forces of evil, namely Prince Humperdinck, that tries to keep Princess Buttercup and farm boy Westley apart. Rodents of Unusual Size, giants, Vizzini the Sicilian, miracles, swashbuckling, pirates and a six-fingered man all contribute to the action and magic of the story.


The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by James Thurber is a short story about a “henpecked husband who copes with the frustrations of his dull life by imagining he is a fearless airplane pilot, a brilliant doctor and other dashing figures,” states the book blurb. Published in 1939, this story has timeless appeal – with film adaptations in 1947 and 2013. The second film version was co-produced, directed by, and starred Ben Stiller.


Poor Things by Alasdair Gray was published more than two decades before it was made into a movie in late 2023. Described as a science fiction black comedy, the film stars Emma Stone. The book is a political allegory and a postmodern telling of Frankenstein. Full of humor, love, jealously and scandal, it is a “thought-provoking duel between the desires of men and the independence of women,” states the publisher.


The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes by Suzanne Collins is a prequel to the dystopian Hunger Games series. It was published in 2020 with the film adaptation released in late 2023. The story is set 64 years before the 74th Hunger Games (and the plot of the first Hunger Games book) and ten years after the Rebellion. The Snow family is declining and their fate rests on the shoulders of 18-year-old Coriolanus.


The Color Purple by Alice Walker won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1983. Once banned in the United States, this book “broke the silence around domestic and sexual abuse, narrating the lives of women through their pain and struggle, companionship and growth, resilience and bravery,” states the book blurb. It has been adapted for screen and stage multiple times, most recently a film in late 2023 based on the 2015 stage musical, which was based on Walker’s book.


Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl is the story of poor Charlie Bucket who wins a day inside the fantastical and mysterious chocolate factory. Charlie finds a golden ticket wrapped around a bar of chocolate, which is the ticket for his adventures with Willy Wonka, the eccentric chocolatier. First published in 1964, the book has had several film adaptations including the 1971 Gene Wilder and 2005 Johnny Depp versions. The 2023 film titled Wonka starring Timothee Chalamet is a musical fantasy that is a standalone work, built as a companion to the original Dahl work. It is the origin story of Willy Wonka and features many thematic elements familiar to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory fans.


By Celeste McNeil; courtesy photos




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