Reading the 2021 Golden Globes Nominations

By Carrie McBride, Communications
February 3, 2021
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The announcement of the nominees for the 2021 Golden Globe awards this morning—bestowed by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association to recognize excellence in film and television—was met with the usual excitement and buzz. As in years past, many of the nominated films and television series began as literary works: novels, memoirs and—unusually this year—plays (four of the recognized works began as stage plays:The Father, One Night in Miami, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, and Pieces of a Woman.)

Whether or not you pay much attention to Hollywood awards, you may enjoy reading some of the works that these films and television series were adapted from. Many of these titles were big hits in the literary world while others flew more under the radar. We hope you'll enjoy checking them out as companions to a show or film you've enjoyed or on their own worthy merits.

Film: The Father (Nominated for Best Picture Drama, Best Actor, Drama: Anthony Hopkins)

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Based on the play: Le Père/The Father: A Tragic Farce by Florian Zeller; translated into English by Christopher Hampton

Now 80 years old, André was once a tap dancer. He lives with his daughter, Anne, and her husband, Antoine. Or was André an engineer, whose daughter Anne lives in London with her new lover, Pierre? The thing is, he is still wearing his pyjamas, and he can’t find his watch. He is starting to wonder if he’s losing control.

Film: Nomadland (Nominated for Best Picture Drama, Best Actress, Drama: Frances McDormand)

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Based on the nonfiction book: Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder

The author chronicles her time embedded in a pool of transient older Americans who have taken to the road in late-model RVs, travel trailers, and vans, forming a growing community of nomads, migrant laborers who call themselves "workampers."

Film: One Night in Miami (Nominated for Best Director of Motion Picture: Regina King, Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture: Leslie Odom, Jr.)

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Based on the play: One Night in Miami by Kemp Powers (non circulating) 

A fictional account of the night Muhammad Ali. then Cassius Clay, celebrated his world heavyweight title victory with Malcolm X, singer Sam Cooke and footballer Jim Brown. A powerful, funny play taking us to the heart of a pivotal moment in the history of a nation.

Film: Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (Nominated for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Drama: Viola Davis, Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama: Chadwick Boseman)

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Based on the play: Ma Rainey's Black Bottom by August Wilson 

The time is 1927. The place is a run-down recording studio in Chicago. Ma Rainey, the legendary blues singer, is due to arrive with her entourage to cut new sides of old favorites. Waiting for her are her black musician sidemen, the white owner of the record company, and her white manager. What goes down in the session to come is more than music. It is a riveting portrayal of black rage, of racism, of the self-hate that racism breeds, and of racial exploitation.

Film: The United States vs. Billie Holiday (Nominated for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Drama: Andra Day)

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Based on the nonfiction book: Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs by Johann Hari

One of Johann Hari’s earliest memories is of trying to wake up one of his relatives and not being able to. As he grew older, he realized he had addiction in his family. Confused, not knowing what to do, he set out and traveled over 30,000 miles over three years to discover what really causes addiction--and what really solves it. He uncovered a range of remarkable human stories--of how the war on drugs began with Billie Holiday, the great jazz singer, being stalked and killed by a racist policeman; of the scientist who discovered the surprising key to addiction; and of the countries that ended their own war on drugs—with extraordinary results. Chasing the Scream is the story of a life-changing journey that transformed the addiction debate internationally and showed the world that the opposite of addiction is connection.


Film: Pieces of a Woman (Nominated for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Drama: Vanessa Kirby)

Based on the play: Pieces of a Woman by  Kornél Mundruczó and Kata Wéber(not in NYPL collection) 

A feminist family drama set in present day Warsaw, powered by the strength and determination of female characters. A family get-together shows, as if through a lens, the problems and internal conflicts of Polish society. 


Film: The Personal History of David Copperfield (Nominated for Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy: Dev Patel)

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Based on the novel: David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

A young boy endures hardships as a child laborer in this partly autobiographical classic reflecting social conditions in nineteenth-century England.

Film: French Exit (Nominated for Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy Nominee: Michelle Pfeiffer)

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Based on the novel: French Exit by Patrick deWitt

Bankrupted by her infamous litigator husband's tabloid death, a scandal-fearing widow flees New York for Paris, where she her deadbeat son navigate near-comic self-destructive choices.

Film: Hillbilly Elegy (Nominated for Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture: Glenn Close)

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Based on the memoir: Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance

Shares the story of the author's family and upbringing, describing how they moved from poverty to an upwardly mobile clan that included the author, a Yale Law School graduate, while navigating the demands of middle class life and the collective demons of the past.

Television series: The Flight Attendant (Nominated for Best TV Series Comedy and Best Actress in a TV Series Comedy: Kaley Cuoco)

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Based on the novel: The Flight Attendant by Christopher Bohjalian

A binge-drinking flight attendant wakes up in an unfamiliar hotel room beside a dead body and sneaks back to her work, telling a series of lies that complicate her ability to figure out what really happened. 

Television series: Lovecraft Country (Nominated for Best TV Series Drama)

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Based on the novel: Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff

In 1954, young Army veteran Atticus Turner travels to New England with his uncle and childhood friend to search for his missing father, only to encounter human and supernatural terrors at the estate of a descendant of slave owners.

See also: TV's 'Lovecraft Country' and Its Literary GoodiesWhat Are You Reading: Matt Ruff Edition

Television series: The Comey Rule (Nominated for Best Actor in a Series, Limited-Series, or TV Movie: Jeff Daniels, Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Limited Series or TV Movie: Brendan Gleeson)

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Based on the memoir: A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadershipby James B. Comey

The former FBI director shares previously undisclosed experiences from some of the highest-stakes situations of his career, from Mafia prosecutions and the Martha Stewart scandal to the Bush administration's electronic surveillance and the Clinton email investigation.

Television series: The Undoing (Nominated for Best TV Movie or Limited-Series, Best Actress in a Series, Limited-Series, or TV Movie: Nicole Kidman, Best Actor in a Series, Limited-Series, or TV Movie: Hugh Grant, Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Limited-Series or TV Movie: Donald Sutherland)

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Based on the novel: You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz

A successful New York City oncologist with the perfect family she always wanted has her life turned upside down after her husband goes missing and a chain of horrible revelations send her reeling.

Television miniseries: I Know This Much Is True (Nominated for Best Actor in a Series, Limited-Series, or TV Movie: Mark Ruffalo)

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Based on the novel: I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb

Dominick Birdsey, a forty-year-old housepainter living in Three Rivers, Connecticut, finds his life greatly disturbed when his identical twin brother Thomas, a paranoid schizophrenic, commits a shocking act of self-mutilation.

Television minseries: The Good Lord Bird (Nominated for Best Actor in a Series, Limited-Series, or TV Movie: Ethan Hawke)

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Based on the novel: The Good Lord Bird by James McBride

Fleeing his violent master at the side of abolitionist John Brown at the height of the slavery debate in mid-nineteenth-century Kansas Territory, Henry pretends to be a girl to hide his identity throughout the raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859.

Television miniseries: Normal People (Nominated for Best TV Movie or Limited-Series, Best Actress in an Anthology Series, Limited Series, or TV Movie: Daisy Edgar-Jones)

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Based on the novel: Normal People by Sally Rooney

The unconventional secret childhood bond between a popular boy and a lonely, intensely private girl is tested by character reversals in their first year at a Dublin college that render one introspective and the other social, but self-destructive.

Television miniseries: Unorthodox (Nominated for Best TV Movie or Limited-Series, Best Actress in an Anthology Series, Limited Series, or TV Movie: Shira Haas)

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Based on the memoir: Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman

Traces the author's upbringing in the Hasidic community of Satmar in Brooklyn's Williamsburg, describing the strict rules that governed every aspect of her life, denial of a traditional education and arranged marriage at 17 to a stranger before the birth of her son led to her plan to escape her cloistered world.

Television miniseries: The Queen's Gambit (Nominated for Best TV Movie or Limited-Series, Best Actress in a Series, Limited-Series, or TV Movie: Anya Taylor-Joy)

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Based on the novel: The Queen's Gambit by Walter S. Tevis

Orphan Beth Harmon overcomes her fears and shyness by learning to play chess and, over the years, improves her game to become a national champion and to play the world grandmasters.

See also: 22 Books for Fans of The Queen's Gambit

Have trouble reading standard print? Many of these titles are available in formats for patrons with print disabilities.

Summaries provided via NYPL’s catalog, which draws from multiple sources. Click through to each book’s title for more.