Books Go to the Movies: A Reading List from Open Book Night
Recently, out of curiosity, I looked online to see if I could find the number of books that have been made into movies. The best guess, based on a sampling of websites, is well into the thousands. And why not? The story has already been written. Once a story is written and a visual imprint has been made by story well told in a book, then the leap can be made to the silver screen.
If only it were that easy. Books made into films are problematic for obvious reasons. If a reader has really enjoyed a book, that book is unlikely to be equally enjoyed as a film. Rhythm, visual narration, development, complexity, characters, and story are vastly different in the two mediums—as they should be.
Our discussion in our March Open Book Night: Books Go to the Movies covered a lot of ground. Movies and books strike a chord with everyone and we all had something to say. We talked about successful and unsuccessful character adaptations, successful and unsuccessful storylines, good books that became good movies, good books that became bad movies, and books that should become movies!
May 12 is the next Open Book Night. Please come and share a title. Let's talk about books!
Michael really enjoyed Lottery by Patricia Wood—a rags to riches story about an underdog who, despite challenging odds, triumphantly overcomes and survives. The protagonist of Wood’s Lottery is Perry. He's a man with a low IQ and he knows it. He perseveres nonetheless. His grandmother, who deeply cares for him, realizes she will eventually not be around to take care of him. And that is where the trouble begins. She leaves him an inheritance and, through the greed of others, Perry loses the gift his grandmother bequeathed to him. Perry miraculously rallies by sheer luck, winning a 12 million dollar lottery. Perry's challenges are great with his second windfall. What ensues would make for a great film, according to Michael. Michael felt the characters so compelling and the story so strong that the book should be a movie. The book takes place in the state of Oregon and Wood does such a good job of creating a sense of place that Mike decided to take a trip there.
(As a coda, one of readers returned to the following Open Book Night to tell Michael she gave her husband Wood's Lottery based on his description and feelings about the book. There are similarities between her husband's background and the circumstances in Wood's book. The reader's husband truly enjoyed the book and she wanted to thank Michael for the suggestion.)
Colm Tobin’s Brooklyn is the story a young Irish woman who comes to America. It is the classic immigrant story. Eilis Lacey is forced to travel to America in the 1940's when she is unable to find work in Ireland. With the help of her sister and a priest, she has a place to stay and has work. Eilis has a room in a respectable boarding house for women and she works in a department store. She is a resilient woman and weathers the difficult challenges faced by many immigrants, who must leave their home. Joan enjoyed the book, but she preferred the film's lush adaptation.
Regina chose to talk about Lord of the Flies by William Golding. It's a dark tale about boys left stranded on a deserted island after the plane they are traveling in is accidently shot down. The boys must make a life of their own on the island and create a rudimentary society so as to survive. In a disturbing set of circumstances, the society the boys created disintegrates into cruel barbarity where one of the weaker boys is set upon and murdered. Joan saw the film but much preferred the book. She felt that the film cleaned up many of the difficult situations of the book to make them more palatable for a general audience. Lord of the Flies is required reading for most school age children, so most of us have either read the book or seen the film. I read the book in junior high school and saw the film back in the 70's. At that time I enjoyed film, not having the sophistication to completely understand the book.
Here is New York by E.B. White is not a movie, but should be according to Annette. White brings New York City to life in such an endearing and appealing manner. All the different people intermingling on the streets, on the trains, and at work touched Annette. For her reading, Here is New York began a love affair with the city that she still has today. At the time she read the book, it brought New York to life for her. Like Michael who took a trip to Oregon after reading Lottery, Annette began to visit New York City because of White’s wonderful illuminations of the city. White's words touched an emotional rung for Annette. After a few visits, she decided to make New York City her home. Annette continues to hope Here is New York will become a movie. She is certain of its ability to become a beautiful film.
I knew of the biography of Srinivasa Ramanujan. When I discovered there was a going to be a 2016 film version of the book, though, I had not read it yet. Kanigel's book was recommended to me years ago and I was motivated to read it before seeing the movie. The book was very good. It is the story of the famous Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan and his work done at Cambridge University under guidance of mathematician G.H. Hardy. The book covers the history of mathematics from the eastern and western traditions. It provides great detail on how mathematicians work within these traditions and discusses the contributions of Ramanujan, Hardy, and others. The movie though very good, was not nearly as enjoyable as the book. A movie on this subject could only cover the surface. Nonetheless, experiencing both was a real treat.
The artwork—straight out of a film noir—first attracted Elizabeth to the graphic novel The Fade Out by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips with colors by Elizabeth Breitweiser. She enjoyed the twisty, atmospheric murder mystery set in a post-WW II Hollywood with characters plagued by McCarthyism, alcoholism, and of course, dark pasts.
The Lovings: An Intimate Portrait photographs by Greg Villet; text by Barbara Villet
The Lovings: An Intimate Portrait is a photo essay by a Life magazine photojournalist Grey Villet on Richard and Mildred Loving from 1965. When the Lovings married in 1958, Virginia state law said that interracial marriage was illegal. The couple held their family together in spite of the opposition until they were finally justified in their right to love by the Supreme Court. Their story was the subject of a movie, Loving, in 2016.
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs was made into a film by Tim Burton in 2016. This mysterious novel follows Jacob, a sixteen year old boy, who tries to understand his family history after the horrific death of his grandfather. On an island off the coast of Wales, Jacob finds a ruined orphanage whose children share a troubling secret.
Thank you to our readers for the wonderful recommendations. Those who come to listen and hear recommendations for books they might enjoy are also welcome at Open Book Night. Check out these other reading lists for books recommended at past Open Book Night Sessions.