Some people are completely rejuvenated by reading a good book. For me, recreating is about stopping, at least for a while, the tapes that want to endlessly play through my brain, and literature is a great way for me to do that. But I much prefer watching a great movie that has been made of literature–as opposed to merely reading it. On the third Friday of each month, I lead a Book & Movie club at my local library. The idea is to find good books that have been captured as good movies, and in this post, I want to share my favorite book-movie combinations.
2005 Pride and Prejudice
For many years, it was a bit of a habit to dismiss books made into movies, saying: “But the book is better,” and I have found that some people hold on to what may have been a truth at one time. In recent years, however, there have been some excellent movie interpretations of books: i.e. The Lord of the Rings, Out of Africa, Pride & Prejudice, and I can earnestly say that in many cases, I prefer watching good movies to reading. I am a visual person, and I love the outstanding, panoramic photography that becomes part of the movie’s total experience.
In a great movie, the music becomes part of your total experience, too. I never shall forget the first time that I watched The Lord of the Rings. As soon as the music of the Shire began, I was totally enamored by everything Lord of the Rings. I loved the setting. I loved the characters. I loved the cinematography, and I loved the story. I learned to love Tolkien through film and not through his books; and I believe that it is okay to admit that we find movies to be literature, on their own terms.
When I watch a movie, the actors and actresses become the actual characters of the book. Don’t ever try to convince me that Ian McKellen is not the one, true Gandalf the Grey.
Before I watched Selma Hayek play Frida Kahlo on the screen, I had seen Frida Kahlo paintings for decades. Yet, after watching Frida, Selma Hayek has become Frida Kahlo, in my mind.
Because of the movie Out of Africa, Meryl Streep has become Isak Dinesen to me.
And because of her portrayal in the 2005 movie Pride & Prejudice, Kiera Knightley has become all of Jane Austen for me.
At times, a movie may not be absolutely true to an author’s intent. Truman Capote had wanted Marilyn Monroe to play the part of Holly Golightly in the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s. In the book, Capote describes Holly as having albino blonde hair. Because I am responsible for picking the book-movie selections for my club, I watch every movie-book combo that I can find, and in most cases, I watch the movie before I read the book. That was the order with my experiencing Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I was stunned to read that Holly Golightly was supposed to have blonde hair. In my opinion, Audrey Hepburn is the quintessential Holly Golightly, and in my opinion, the movie would have been less effective with Marilyn Monroe.
“It was a warm evening, nearly summer, and she wore a slim cool black dress, black sandals, a pearl choker. For all her thinness, she had an almost breakfast-cereal air of health, a soap and lemon cleanness, a rough pink darkening in the cheeks. Her mouth was large, her nose upturned. A pair of dark glasses blotted out her eyes. It was a face beyond childhood…. I thought her anywhere between sixteen and thirty, as it turned out, she was shy two months of her nineteenth birthday.” p. 12
“She was never without dark glasses, she was always well-groomed, there was a consequential good taste in the plainness of her clothes….One might have thought her a photographer’s model, perhaps a young actress….” p. 14
“I discovered, from observing the trash-basket outside her door, that her regular reading consisted of tabloids and travel folders and astrological charts; that she smoked an esoteric cigarette called Picayunes; survived on cottage cheese and melba toast….” p. 15
In some measure, recreation is about escape, but for me, recreating is more about stepping into something larger that I was before, and when I move into another person’s mind and see the world in a new and enlarged way, I am recreated. Enjoy my list of books that have been turned into movies. I recommend every title that I have listed.
Jacki Kellum List of Good Books That Have Been Turned into Great Movies
A Time to Kill by John Grisham – 4.5 Stars
The life of a ten-year-old girl is shattered by two drunken and remorseless young men. The mostly white town of Clanton in Ford County, Mississippi, reacts with shock and horror at the inhuman crime. Until her black father acquires an assault rifle and takes justice into his own outraged hands.
For ten days, as burning crosses and the crack of sniper fire spread through the streets of Clanton, the nation sits spellbound as young defense attorney Jake Brigance struggles to save his client’s life–and then his own.” Amazon 7.4 Stars
Atonement – 4 Stars
Ian McEwan’s symphonic novel of love and war, childhood and class, guilt and forgiveness provides all the satisfaction of a brilliant narrative and the provocation we have come to expect from this master of English prose.
On a hot summer day in 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses a moment’s flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant and Cecilia’s childhood friend. But Briony’ s incomplete grasp of adult motives–together with her precocious literary gifts–brings about a crime that will change all their lives. As it follows that crime’s repercussions through the chaos and carnage of World War II and into the close of the twentieth century, Atonement engages the reader on every conceivable level, with an ease and authority that mark it as a genuine masterpiece.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote – 4.5 Stars
“The movie has been one of my favorites for decades, but I’d never read the book. It’s no surprise to say that the book is better than the movie, but it really does a great job of pulling us into a somewhat seedier version of NYC than shown in the movie. I fell in love with poor lost Holly all over again, but got a much better feel for the time and the story. Capote does a great job of pulling us into the late war and post-war years, and we’re left genuinely wondering whether Holly ever found peace and home.” Amazon
The Client by John Grisham 4.5 Stars
Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier – 4 Stars
New York Times Best Seller for 62 Weeks
“Sorely wounded and fatally disillusioned in the fighting at Petersburg, a Confederate soldier named Inman decides to walk back to his home in the Blue Ridge mountains to Ada, the woman he loves. His trek across the disintegrating South brings him into intimate and sometimes lethal converse with slaves and marauders, bounty hunters and witches, both helpful and malign. At the same time, the intrepid Ada is trying to revive her father’s derelict farm and learning to survive in a world where the old certainties have been swept away. As it interweaves their stories, Cold Mountain asserts itself as an authentic odyssey, hugely powerful, majestically lovely, and keenly moving.”
IMBd Rating 7.2/10
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown – 4.5 Stars
With The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown masterfully concocts an intelligent and lucid thriller that marries the gusto of an international murder mystery with a collection of fascinating esoteria culled from 2,000 years of Western history.
A murder in the silent after-hour halls of the Louvre museum reveals a sinister plot to uncover a secret that has been protected by a clandestine society since the days of Christ. The victim is a high-ranking agent of this ancient society who, in the moments before his death, manages to leave gruesome clues at the scene that only his granddaughter, noted cryptographer Sophie Neveu, and Robert Langdon, a famed symbologist, can untangle. The duo become both suspects and detectives searching for not only Neveu’s grandfather’s murderer but also the stunning secret of the ages he was charged to protect. Mere steps ahead of the authorities and the deadly competition, the mystery leads Neveu and Langdon on a breathless flight through France, England, and history itself. Brown (Angels and Demons) has created a page-turning thriller that also provides an amazing interpretation of Western history. Brown’s hero and heroine embark on a lofty and intriguing exploration of some of Western culture’s greatest mysteries–from the nature of the Mona Lisa’s smile to the secret of the Holy Grail. Though some will quibble with the veracity of Brown’s conjectures, therein lies the fun. The Da Vinci Code is an enthralling read that provides rich food for thought.” Amazon’
Elmer Gantry by Sinclair Lewis – 4.5 Stars
IMBd Rating 7.9/10
“Elmer Gantry is a 1960 drama film about a con man and a female evangelist selling religion to small town America. Adapted by director Richard Brooks, the film is based on the 1927 novel of the same name by Sinclair Lewis and stars Burt Lancaster, Jean Simmons, Arthur Kennedy and Shirley Jones and Patti Page.
“Elmer Gantry was nominated for five Academy Awards in 1961, including Best Picture and Best Score. It won Best Actor for Lancaster, Best Supporting Actress for Jones, and Best Adapted Screenplay.
“The movie presents fewer than 100 pages of the novel Elmer Gantry, deleting many characters and fundamentally changing the character and actions of female evangelist, Sister Sharon Falconer, as played by Simmons. The character of Sharon Falconer was loosely based on elements in the career of the Canadian-born American radio evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, who founded the Pentecostal Christian denomination known as the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel in 1927.” Wikipedia
The Giver 4.5 Stars
The Giver, the 1994 Newbery Medal winner, has become one of the most influential novels of our time. The haunting story centers on twelve-year-old Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community. Lois Lowry has written three companion novels to The Giver, including Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son.” Amazon
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – 4 Stars
Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable.
Offred can remember the days before, when she lived and made love with her husband Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now….
Funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing, The Handmaid’s Tale is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and literary tour de force.
The Handmaid’s Tale Series IMBd 8.7/10
Heidi by Johanna Spyri 4.5 Stars
Heidi is a work of fiction written in 1880 by Swiss author Johanna Spyri, originally published in two parts as Heidi’s years of learning and travel (German: Heidis Lehr- und Wanderjahre) and Heidi makes use of what she has learned. It is a novel about the events in the life of a young girl in her grandfather’s care, in the Swiss Alps. It was written as a book “for children and those who love children.” Heidi is one of the best-selling books ever written and is among the best-known works of Swiss literature.
The Help by Kathryn Stocett – 4.5 Stars
Aibileen is a black maid in 1962 Jackson, Mississippi, who’s always taken orders quietly, but lately she’s unable to hold her bitterness back. Her friend Minny has never held her tongue but now must somehow keep secrets about her employer that leave her speechless. White socialite Skeeter just graduated college. She’s full of ambition, but without a husband, she’s considered a failure. Together, these seemingly different women join together to write a tell-all book about work as a black maid in the South, that could forever alter their destinies and the life of a small town…
The Invention of Hugo Cabaret – 5 Stars
“Orphan, clock keeper, and thief, Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity. But when his world suddenly interlocks with an eccentric, bookish girl and a bitter old man who runs a toy booth in the station, Hugo’s undercover life, and his most precious secret, are put in jeopardy. A cryptic drawing, a treasured notebook, a stolen key, a mechanical man, and a hidden message from Hugo’s dead father form the backbone of this intricate, tender, and spellbinding mystery.”
It by Stephen King – 4.5 Stars
Stephen King’s terrifying, classic #1 New York Times bestseller, “a landmark in American literature” (Chicago Sun-Times)—about seven adults who return to their hometown to confront a nightmare they had first stumbled on as teenagers…an evil without a name: It.
Welcome to Derry, Maine. It’s a small city, a place as hauntingly familiar as your own hometown. Only in Derry the haunting is real.
They were seven teenagers when they first stumbled upon the horror. Now they are grown-up men and women who have gone out into the big world to gain success and happiness. But the promise they made twenty-eight years ago calls them reunite in the same place where, as teenagers, they battled an evil creature that preyed on the city’s children. Now, children are being murdered again and their repressed memories of that terrifying summer return as they prepare to once again battle the monster lurking in Derry’s sewers.
Readers of Stephen King know that Derry, Maine, is a place with a deep, dark hold on the author. It reappears in many of his books, including Bag of Bones, Hearts in Atlantis, and 11/22/63. But it all starts with It.
“Stephen King’s most mature work” (St. Petersburg Times), “It will overwhelm you… to be read in a well-lit room only” (Los Angeles Times).
It  IMBd 8.1/10
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – 4.5 Stars
Louisa May Alcott was both an abolitionist and a feminist. She is best known for Little Women (1868), a semi-autobiographical account of her childhood years with her sisters in Concord, Massachusetts. Alcott, unlike Jo, never married: “… because I have fallen in love with so many pretty girls and never once the least bit with any man.” She was an advocate of women’s suffrage and was the first woman to register to vote in Concord, Massachusetts.
Misery by Stephen King – 4.5 Stars
The #1 national bestseller about a famous novelist held hostage by his “number one fan” and suffering a frightening case of writer’s block—that could prove fatal. One of “Stephen King’s best…genuinely scary” (USA TODAY).
Paul Sheldon is a bestselling novelist who has finally met his number one fan. Her name is Annie Wilkes, and she is more than a rabid reader—she is Paul’s nurse, tending his shattered body after an automobile accident. But she is also furious that the author has killed off her favorite character in his latest book. Annie becomes his captor, keeping him prisoner in her isolated house.
Annie wants Paul to write a book that brings Misery back to life—just for her. She has a lot of ways to spur him on. One is a needle. Another is an axe. And if they don’t work, she can get really nasty.
“Terrifying” (San Francisco Chronicle), “dazzlingly well-written” (The Indianapolis Star), and “truly gripping” (Publishers Weekly), Misery is “classic Stephen King…full of twists and turns and mounting suspense” (The Boston Globe).
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
THE MOST WIDELY READ MYSTERY OF ALL TIME—NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE DIRECTED BY KENNETH BRANAGH AND PRODUCED BY RIDLEY SCOTT!
“The murderer is with us—on the train now . . .”
“Just after midnight, the famous Orient Express is stopped in its tracks by a snowdrift. By morning, the millionaire Samuel Edward Ratchett lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside. Without a shred of doubt, one of his fellow passengers is the murderer.
“Isolated by the storm, detective Hercule Poirot must find the killer among a dozen of the dead man’s enemies, before the murderer decides to strike again.” Amazon
Mystic River by Dennis Lehane – 4.5 Stars
The New York Times bestselling novel from Dennis Lehane is a gripping, unnerving psychological thriller about the effects of a savage killing on three former friends in a tightly knit, blue-collar Boston neighborhood.
When they were children, Sean Devine, Jimmy Marcus, and Dave Boyle were friends. But then a strange car pulled up to their street. One boy got into the car, two did not, and something terrible happened — something that ended their friendship and changed all three boys forever.
Twenty-five years later, Sean is a homicide detective. Jimmy is an ex-con who owns a corner store. And Dave is trying to hold his marriage together and keep his demons at bay — demons that urge him to do terrible things. When Jimmy’s daughter is found murdered, Sean is assigned to the case. His investigation brings him into conflict with Jimmy, who finds his old criminal impulses tempt him to solve the crime with brutal justice. And then there is Dave, who came home the night Jimmy’s daughter died covered in someone else’s blood.
A tense and unnerving psychological thriller, Mystic River is also an epic novel of love and loyalty, faith and family, in which people irrevocably marked by the past find themselves on a collision course with the darkest truths of their own hidden selves.
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck 4.5 Stars
“They are an unlikely pair: George is “small and quick and dark of face”; Lennie, a man of tremendous size, has the mind of a young child. Yet they have formed a “family,” clinging together in the face of loneliness and alienation.
“Laborers in California’s dusty vegetable fields, they hustle work when they can, living a hand-to-mouth existence. For George and Lennie have a plan: to own an acre of land and a shack they can call their own. When they land jobs on a ranch in the Salinas Valley, the fulfillment of their dream seems to be within their grasp. But even George cannot guard Lennie from the provocations of a flirtatious woman, nor predict the consequences of Lennie’s unswerving obedience to the things George taught him.” Amazon – 112 pages
“A thriller, a gripping tale . . . that you will not set down until it is finished. Steinbeck has touched the quick.” —The New York Times
Several film versions for Of Mice and Men have been made.
Oil by Sinclair Lewis -Basis for Movie There Will Be Blood – 4 Stars
There Will Be Blood wins two 2008 Academy Awards.
Oil!, the classic 1927 novel by Upton Sinclair. After writing The Jungle, his scathing indictment of the meatpacking industry, Sinclair turned his sights on the early days of the California oil industry in a highly entertaining story featuring a cavalcade of characters including senators, oil magnets, Hollywood film starlets, and a crusading evangelist.
This lively and panoramic book, which was recently cited by David Denby in the New Yorker as being Sinclair’s “most readable” novel, is now the inspiration for the Paramount Vantage major motion picture, There Will Be Blood. It is the long-awaited film from Paul Thomas Anderson, one of the most admired filmmakers working today whose previous movies….The movie stars Oscar-winner Daniel Day-Lewis (Gangs of New York, My Left Foot) and Paul Dano (Little Miss Sunshine).
There Will Be Blood IMBd 8.1/10
Pelican Brief by John Grisham – 4.5 Stars
In suburban Georgetown, a killer’s Reeboks whisper on the floor of a posh home. In a seedy D.C. porno house, a patron is swiftly garroted to death. The next day America learns that two of its Supreme Court justices have been assassinated. And in New Orleans, a young law student prepares a legal brief.
To Darby Shaw it was no more than a legal shot in the dark, a brilliant guess. To the Washington establishment it’s political dynamite. Suddenly Darby is witness to a murder–a murder intended for her. Going underground, she finds that there is only one person–an ambitious reporter after a newsbreak hotter than Watergate–she can trust to help her piece together the deadly puzzle. Somewhere between the bayous of Louisiana and the White House’s inner sanctums, a violent cover-up is being engineered. For someone has read Darby’s brief–someone who will stop at nothing to destroy the evidence of an unthinkable crime.” Amazon
IMBd 6.6 Stars
Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen – 4.5 Stars
“In this book, the author of Seven Gothic Tales gives a true account of her life on her plantation in Kenya. She tells with classic simplicity of the ways of the country and the natives: of the beauty of the Ngong Hills and coffee trees in blossom: of her guests, from the Prince of Wales to Knudsen, the old charcoal burner, who visited her: of primitive festivals: of big game that were her near neighbors–lions, rhinos, elephants, zebras, buffaloes–and of Lulu, the little gazelle who came to live with her, unbelievably ladylike and beautiful.” Amazon
IMBd 7.2/10 – I rate this movie much, muc higher
Pride and Prejudice – 4.5 Stars
“Jane Austen is arguably the finest female novelist who ever lived and Pride and Prejudice is arguably the finest, and is certainly the most popular, of her novels. An undoubted classic of world literature, its profound Christian morality is all too often missed or wilfully overlooked by today’s (post)modern critics. Yet Austen saw the follies and foibles of human nature, and the frictions and fidelities of family life, with an incisive eye that penetrates to the very heart of the human condition. ” – Amazon
2005 Pride and Prejudice
IMBd 7.8/10 I rate this movie much higher.
Several film versions of Pride and Prejudice are available. My favorite stars Keira Knightley
The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy – 4.5 Stars
“A big, sprawling saga of a novel” (San Francisco Chronicle), this epic family drama is a masterwork by the revered author of The Great Santini.
Pat Conroy’s classic novel stings with honesty and resounds with drama. Spanning forty years, it’s the story of turbulent Tom Wingo, his gifted and troubled twin sister, Savannah, and their struggle to triumph over the dark and tragic legacy of the extraordinary family into which they were born. Filled with the vanishing beauty of the South Carolina Low Country as well as the dusty glitter of New York City, The Prince of Tides showcases an American original at his very best.
Praise for The Prince of Tides
“This is a powerful book. . . . [Pat] Conroy is a master of language.”—The Atlanta Journal
IMBd 6.7/10 – I rate this movie much, much higher
Psycho by Robert Bloch – Basis fr Hitchcock Film – 4.5 Stars
The story was all too real-indeed this classic was inspired by the real-life story of Ed Gein, a psychotic murderer who led a dual life. Alfred Hitchcock too was captivated, and turned the book into one of the most-loved classic films of all time the year after it was released.
Norman Bates loves his Mother. She has been dead for the past twenty years, or so people think. Norman knows better though. He has lived with Mother ever since leaving the hospital in the old house up on the hill above the Bates motel. One night Norman spies on a beautiful woman that checks into the hotel as she undresses. Norman can’t help but spy on her. Mother is there though. She is there to protect Norman from his filthy thoughts. She is there to protect him with her butcher knife.
Shoeless Joe by W. P. Kinsella – 4.5 Stars
More than the inspiration for the beloved film Field of Dreams, Shoeless Joe is a mythical novel about dreams, magic, life, and what is quintessentially American; (Philadelphia Inquirer).
If you build it, he will come.These mysterious words, spoken by an Iowa baseball announcer, inspire Ray Kinsella to carve a baseball diamond in his cornfield in honor of his hero, the baseball legend Shoeless Joe Jackson. What follows is both a rich, nostalgic look at one of our most cherished national pastimes and a remarkable story about fathers and sons, love and family, and the inimitable joy of finding your way home.
Field of Dreams – IMBd 7.5/10
Silence by Shusaku Endo – 4.5 Stars
Shusaku Endo’s classic novel of enduring faith in dangerous times, soon to be a major motion picture directed by Martin Scorsese, starring Andrew Garfield, Liam Neeson, and Adam Driver
“Silence I regard as a masterpiece, a lucid and elegant drama.”-The New York Review of Books
Seventeenth-century Japan: Two Portuguese Jesuit priests travel to a country hostile to their religion, where feudal lords force the faithful to publicly renounce their beliefs. Eventually captured and forced to watch their Japanese Christian brothers lay down their lives for their faith, the priests bear witness to unimaginable cruelties that test their own beliefs. Shusaku Endo is one of the most celebrated and well-known Japanese fiction writers of the twentieth century, and Silence is widely considered to be his great masterpiece.
Silence – IMBd 7.2/10
Something Wicked This Way Comes – 4 Stars
[Because of Bradbury’s excellent use of desriptive language, I rate this book higher. This is a great Halloween read].
“The carnival rolls in sometime after midnight, ushering in Halloween a week early. The shrill siren song of a calliope beckons to all with a seductive promise of dreams and youth regained. In this season of dying, Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show has come to Green Town, Illinois, to destroy every life touched by its strange and sinister mystery. And two boys will discover the secret of its smoke, mazes, and mirrors; two friends who will soon know all too well the heavy cost of wishes. . .and the stuff of nightmare.
Few American novels written this century have endured in the heart and memory as has Ray Bradbury’s unparalleled literary classic SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES. For those who still dream and remember, for those yet to experience the hypnotic power of its dark poetry, step inside. The show is about to begin.The carnival rolls in sometime after midnight, ushering in Halloween a week early. The shrill siren song of a calliope beckons to all with a seductive promise of dreams and youth regained. In this season of dying, Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show has come to Green Town, Illinois, to destroy every life touched by its strange and sinister mystery. And two boys will discover the secret of its smoke, mazes, and mirrors; two friends who will soon know all too well the heavy cost of wishes. . .and the stuff of nightmare.” Amazon
IMBd 6.8/10 – I rate this movie much, much higher
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen – 4.5 Stars – 352 Pages
Though he may not speak of them, the memories still dwell inside Jacob Jankowski’s ninety-something-year-old mind. Memories of himself as a young man, tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Memories of a world filled with freaks and clowns, with wonder and pain and anger and passion; a world with its own narrow, irrational rules, its own way of life, and its own way of death. The world of the circus: to Jacob it was both salvation and a living hell. Jacob was there because his luck had run out-orphaned and penniless, he had no direction until he landed on this locomotive “ship of fools.” It was the early part of the Great Depression, and everyone in this third-rate circus was lucky to have any job at all. Marlena, the star of the equestrian act, was there because she fell in love with the wrong man, a handsome circus boss with a wide mean streak. And Rosie the elephant was there because she was the great gray hope, the new act that was going to be the salvation of the circus; the only problem was, Rosie didn’t have an act-in fact, she couldn’t even follow instructions. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and ultimately, it was their only hope for survival. Surprising, poignant, and funny, Water for Elephants is that rare novel with a story so engrossing, one is reluctant to put it down; with characters so engaging, they continue to live long after the last page has been turned; with a world built of wonder, a world so real, one starts to breathe its air.” Amazon