Did anyone watch the Academy Awards on Sunday? I’ve usually only taken a mild interest in the 4-hour Hollywood production, but because of my growing interest in stories (as well as major television deprivation) I watched almost all of it this time and even enjoyed it. I’m still hopelessly behind in my movie watching, having seen only Gravity and August: Osage County from 2013, but I was quite curious about the films that had been nominated.
Anyway, this post is not about the Oscars. Rather, I felt inspired to think about all the books I’ve read that have been turned into movies. As much as possible I always try to read the book first, in large part because the book is almost always better, and I would probably not bother with the book if I don’t like the movie. I also like being able to imagine the characters and scenes without the influence of a movie studio, and then later comparing my own visuals against those on the big screen. So below is a list of all the book and movie pairings that I can recall experiencing, in no particular order:The DaVinci Code (Dan Brown) I loved the book but the movie was even worse than my already low expectations. I just couldn’t see how all the details could have translated well on to the big screen. The Hunger Games, Catching Fire (Suzanne Collins) I enjoyed both, but in this case I may have actually liked the movies better because of the visual and sound effects (more entertaining than anything I could have conjured up in my head). The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Stieg Larsson) I saw the US adaptation. I think the movie would have been difficult to follow if I hadn’t read the book first. I liked Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig but I’m told the Swedish version is better. Eat, Pray, Love (Elizabeth Gilbert) I fell asleep during the movie though while I was awake I did like the visuals and the scenes of Italy and all the food that Julia Roberts was eating. Gone with the Wind (Margaret Mitchell) I loved both. I read the book after having seen the movie multiple times. Reading the book was an equally but differently satisfying experience. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini) I have vague memories of the movie though I think I enjoyed it enough. The book was definitely more powerful. The Namesake (Jhumpa Lahiri) Same here. I read the book and then was curious to see the characters on screen. Wuthering Heights (Emily Brontë) I read and watched both so long ago that I don’t remember much about the film. But I love Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche so I am pretty sure I liked it if just for the two actors alone. The Joy Luck Club (Amy Tan) I remembered enjoying the movie better. A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens) I am dating myself here but I believe it was the 1980 miniseries that I saw…and I found it gripping. I had just read the book and I was still young so it was quite something to see all of Dickens’ dense text translated into actual people and sights and sounds. Moll Flanders (Daniel Defoe) Same here. I don’t remember so much about my reading experience but I do remember the colors and sounds of the PBS miniseries. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje) I had a better experience with the movie as I found the book a bit challenging to read. The film was such a feast for the senses, between the beauty of Ralph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas, the cinematography, the dialogue, and the music. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt) The book was far more intense and satisfying (of course), though it was fun to actually see the movie after reading the book. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (Lisa See) I enjoyed this historical fiction set in 19th century China but the movie adaptation was truly awful – they actually added an entirely new and modern-day storyline (to alternate with the original story) that was not part of the book. The Lover (Marguerite Duras) I only have vague memories of both…of both being slow, like the lazy humid days depicted in the movie. But I read and saw this years and years ago…I might appreciate the story better now. The Ice Storm (Rick Moody) I’m not sure how many people read this book or saw the movie, but I enjoyed both. It’s the story of two unhappy and unfulfilled suburban families in the early 1970s.
And of course, there are many books that I’ve read for which I would now like to see the movies, and vice versa (e.g., Life of Pi, The Painted Veil, Jane Eyre, A Beautiful Mind, etc.).
Otherwise, here is my partial to read and watch list:
The Remains of the Day
Never Let Me Go
Of Human Bondage
A Passage to India
The Age of Innocence
Anna Karenina (with Vivien Leigh)
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
The Color Purple
The Silver Linings Playbook
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
And on and on and on…
What are some of your favorite book/movie pairings? What do you recommend?