By now, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Hollywood looks to the bookshelf when it comes to generating content for the big screen. While some adaptations receive praise from critics, moviegoers, and readers across the board, fans of the source material can often feel disappointed by sloppy film versions that change major plot points and delete entire characters.
There’s an image that has circulated English classrooms for years and is now making the rounds on Pinterest: An iceberg bobbing in the ocean, with about 90% below the surface. The tiny bit hovering above the water is labeled “A Film” and the large portion floating below is “The Book.” The message: a film can barely scratch the surface when it comes to conveying the depths of a well-written book.
Listed below are some recent book-to-movie adaptations. Several are still in theaters, others are forthcoming, and for some you may have to wait for the DVD to become available. I have only included movies released in 2014, though I know there are plenty of adaptations hitting theaters in the new year. Also, please feel free to leave comments on the subject or to let us know if there are any recent 2014 book-to-movie picks not included here.
There are several, such as Gone Girl and Wild, that have been on my personal Must-See list because I enjoyed the books so much. (On a side note, I have seen Gone Girl twice in theaters. In my opinion, it’s a very worthy adaptation of a book I loved).
You can check our catalog for availability or call the Reference Desk at 516-731-5728.
My challenge to you is this: Make time to read at least one of the following books before you see the film version. In fact, I’ll make it even easier: read any movie. It could have come out last month, last year, or twenty years ago. Give us a call if you would like suggestions. There is truth to that iceberg analogy: you just can’t get the full experience unless you read the book. And let us know what you think! Be part of the conversation and answer the age-old question of which is better, the book or the movie? I am challenging myself to read Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand before it is released on Christmas Day. Let’s keep each other updated as we read our movies this season!
A Walk Among the Tombstones
*No longer in theaters. DVD to TBD*
What kind of roles did Liam Neeson play before he started throwing punches and staring down bad guys? If you can’t remember or don’t want to, be sure to check out this adaptation of Lawrence Block’s 1992 crime thriller. Neeson is Matthew Scudder, a P.I. who stars in several Block novels. Here, Scudder is hired by a big time drug dealer to find those responsible for the abduction and murder of his wife.
*Limited release. DVD TBD*
In 1980, Robyn Davidson published a memoir detailing her 1,700 mile journey across the Australian Outback with only four camels and a dog to keep her company (and the occasional visit from a National Geographic photographer along the way). At its heart, Davidson’s memoir is a story of self-discovery and perseverance.
Here’s a fact: Joe Hill (the author of Horns) is Stephen King’s son. Another fact: The King/Hill family business is thriving. Horns tells the supernatural story of Ig, the main suspect in the murder of his girlfriend. One morning, Ig wakes up to discover that he has horns growing from his head and a supernatural ability that he plans to use to snare the true killer. Oh, and some British actor named Daniel Radcliffe is the star. Wonder what else he’s been in? Horns is in theaters and available as an Instant Video.
If I Stay
Gayle Forman wrote this terrific YA novel, as well as its sequel, Where She Went. The story is about teenager and accomplished cellist Mia Hall as she struggles to decide whether she should live or die when a horrific car crash leaves her in a coma. If you missed this one in theaters (like I did, unfortunately), you won’t have to wait long for the DVD: the release date is scheduled for November 18th.
Life of Crime
This one could be a hit or miss. On the one hand, it stars accomplished actors (Jennifer Aniston and Tim Robbins) and is based on acclaimed author Elmore Leonard’s novel The Switch. On the other hand, Life of Crime had a very limited theatrical release before going to Video On Demand and DVD. You decide if this is a See It or Skip It.
Lois Lowry’s dystopian YA novel was recently turned into a feature film starring Jeff Bridges, Brenton Thwaites, and Meryl Streep. It received mixed reviews from critics and some major backlash from fans of the novel. You can see it for yourself when the DVD becomes available November 25th.
This is Where I Leave You
Jonathan Tropper’s uproarious novel about a dysfunctional family that sits Shiva in honor of its patriarch was one of the funniest non-essays, non-humor books I have read in quite a while. Even more impressive: the humor does not take away from the heart of the story and the integrity of the characters. There’s an all-star cast for this one, led by Tina Fey, Jason Bateman, and Jane Fonda. Read the book and see if the filmmakers hit the mark when it came to casting. If you hurry, you might still be able to catch it in theaters.
The Maze Runner
YA adaptations are all the rage these days (there are four on this little list alone), and The Maze Runner is the latest to carry the torch. Based on a trilogy by James Dashner, this is the story of a group of imprisoned boys who must complete a concrete maze in order to escape. Other titles in the series include The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure. The Maze Runner is still playing in select theaters.
The Two Faces of January
A psychological thriller based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel of the same name. Like The Talented Mr. Ripley (another Highsmith adaptation), this story focuses on Americans abroad. Kirsten Dunst and Viggo Mortensen star as a less-than-scrupulous married couple who find trouble in Greece.
Ben Affleck stars as a man who falls under suspicion when his picture perfect wife goes missing on their anniversary. Do yourself a favor and read Gillian Flynn’s compulsively readable novel before you see the movie; rumor has it that director David Fincher and Flynn (who adapted her novel for the screen) have changed some of the signature twists and turns. Flynn’s other two novels, Dark Places and Sharp Objects, are currently being adapted into a film and television series, respectively.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
A childhood favorite of many (including this lady right here!), Judith Viorst’s 1972 picture book has been expanded into a full-length feature film starring Jennifer Garner and Steve Carell. Although poor Alexander is the only one to have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day in the original, the film version seems to be more equal opportunity, with the whole harried family being forced to overcome one obstacle after the next.
You’re Not You
Hilary Swank stars in and produces this version based on Michelle Wildgen’s debut novel. Bec is a college student living in Wisconsin when she takes a job as a caregiver to Kate, a thirty-something married woman with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). Fans of Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You might enjoy this one, too.
The Best of Me
Nicholas Sparks is one of the current kings of romance. The Best of Me is just the latest in a long line of Sparks’ novels to make it to the big screen. Here, Dawson and Amanda are high school sweethearts who fall back in love with one another twenty-five years after graduation. Could The Best of Me be this decade’s The Notebook?
Before I Go To Sleep
Fans of the film Memento may want to check out this adaptation of S.J. Watson’s novel. In it, Nicole Kidman plays an amnesiac that wakes up each morning with no recollection of the prior days. With no memories, whom can she trust? Can she even trust her husband (Colin Firth)?
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 (11/21)
This is the second to last chance for fans to watch Katniss Everdeen fight corruption in Panem. I won’t reveal too much for those who have not yet caught up with the Hunger Games trilogy. As Katniss becomes a symbol for rebellion in her world, let’s hope the odds are ever in her favor.
Cheryl’s Strayed’s 2012 memoir, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, was so well-received that it was chosen as the first pick for Oprah’s re-launched book club, thus driving sales even higher. Now, Reese Witherspoon stars in and produces Strayed’s tale of the 1,100 mile hike she made across the Pacific Crest trail through California, Oregon, and Washington. The hike came on the heels of her mother’s death, her own divorce, and a burgeoning heroin habit. If the movie is able to capture the trials, triumphs, and complexities of self-discovery that come alive on the page, this should be a powerful cinematic experience.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (12/17)
This is director Peter Jackson’s sixth adaption from a J.R.R. Tolkien work. The final installment of his filmic Hobbit trilogy finds hero Bilbo finally reaching Smaug. Will he and his cohorts be able to capture and keep the treasure they seek?
Inherent Vice (12/12)
You might need to keep your thinking caps on for this one. Writer Thomas Pynchon is known for his labyrinthine plots, and this mystery should be no exception. Adapted by writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood), Inherent Vice stars Joaquin Phoenix as a 1970’s P.I. investigating the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend’s current paramour.
Laura Hillenbrand’s meticulously researched non-fiction narrative was released to rave reviews in 2010. Now, actress Angelina Jolie has taken on the challenge of directing a feature film version of this incredible true story. Unbroken is about Louie Zamperini. Zamperini was an Olympic track star in the 1930s and later an American soldier during WWII, surviving both a harrowing plane crash in the Pacific and a lengthy imprisonment in a Japanese internment camp. This is one of the most anticipated releases of the holiday season.
Well, there you have it. I hope that these nineteen films inspire each and every one of you to read at least one of the original sources. Accomplish this before the end of the year, and you’ll have one less New Year’s Resolution to worry about.
Happy Reading and Watching,