15 books to read this Oscar season before you see the movie
The Books Adapted Into This Year's Oscar Contenders
Every year, a slew of great novels and nonfiction titles are turned into prestige movies, backed up by glitzy Oscar campaigns. 2017 is no different, with acclaimed adaptations including Call Me by Your Name, Mudbound, and more generating serious awards chatter. Which other Oscar players have been adapted and how do they compare to the books on which they're based? Read on to find out.
Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty by John Pearson
John Pearson’s expansive, disturbing exploration of J. Paul Getty’s $4 billion fortune and the way it was determined to be passed down is given a more specific focus in Ridley Scott’s new film All the Money in the World, which traces the man’s reluctance to pay the ransom to save his kidnapped grandson. How it works as an adaptation is presently unclear, of course, because the movie has yet to be screened — infamously, Kevin Spacey has been replaced at the final hour by Christopher Plummer in the role. Purchase the book here.
The Beguiled by Thomas P. Cullinan
Sofia Coppola’s not the first director to take on Thomas P. Cullinan’s Civil War novel — Clint Eastwood’s successful adaptation was released way back in ‘71 — but she brings a completely new vibe to it, offering a chilly and feminine aesthetic with an impressively gradual tension build. More controversially, Coppola omitted the novel and original film’s slave character, eliciting accusations of erasure. Purchase the book here.
Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman
Luca Guadagnino’s sumptuous gay romance is a magnificent take on André Aciman’s 2007 novel of the same name, as we argue in great detail here. It’s a case study in how to do a great adaptation, honoring the material’s spirit while also pushing it in exciting new cinematic directions. The film has already won Best Picture prizes from multiple organizations, positioning it as one of the year’s top Oscar contenders. Purchase the book here.
The Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero
Actor Greg Sestero turned his experiences on the set of The Room, widely considered the worst movie ever made, into a raucous behind-the-scenes book that had all of the insane yet poignant details of any fan’s dreams. The cult classic has now been adapted by James Franco, in what many consider his finest directorial effort to date. More notably, he’s inhabited the role of actor-director Tommy Wiseau, bizarre accent and all. And he’s already winning Best Actor prizes for it. Purchase the book here.
Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool by Peter Turner
Sony Classics scooped up this adaptation of Peter Turner’s 1987 memoir once word got out that Annette Bening was a prime Best Actress contender for her turn as Gloria Grahame. The movie itself has received mixed reviews, but the book — in which Turner deftly captures Grahame’s last days while also recounting their whirlwind love affair — is both a surprisingly affecting romance and an illuminating Hollywood portrait. Purchase it here.
First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung
This year's harrowing take on Loung Ung’s memoir has stoked a fair amount of controversy, mainly for director Angelina Jolie’s casting process and the involvement of the Cambodian Army, but don’t let that steer you away from Ung’s striking achievement. She recounts her survival of the Cambodian genocide and her front-row seat to horrific war crimes and desperate actions. Purchase the book here.
Last Flag Flying by Darryl Ponicsan
Darryl Ponicsan followed up on his beloved ‘70s novel The Last Detail with this unexpected, post-9/11 sequel. The book explores the invasion of Iraq and the experience of veterans on an intimate scale, through the frame of male bonding. Richard Linklater’s adaptation has earned relatively mixed reviews — especially compared to Hal Ashby’s take on The Last Detail — but could get attention in the Adapted Screenplay race, as well as for Steve Carell’s mournfully affecting performance. Purchase the book here.
Molly's Game by Molly Bloom
Molly Bloom’s delectable exposé of the star-studded underground poker game she built from the ground up is the stuff adaptations were made of. Fortunately, the author couldn’t find a more distinguished screenwriter to take the challenge on. In his directorial debut, Aaron Sorkin makes good on the exciting story’s cinematic potential, as it turns out to be the perfect milieu for his rapid-fire dialogue. Sorkin’s a sure Oscar contender for his screenplay, and Jessica Chastain is receiving raves for her lead performance. Purchase the book here.
Mudbound by Hillary Jordan
Dee Rees’ acclaimed post-WWII epic is a smart, careful adaptation of Hillary Jordan’s celebrated 2006 debut novel of the same name. The film maintains the book’s approach, in which members of two families bound by circumstance each narrate their perspective on events and tragedies, by giving the story an impressionistic feel. It’s already netted prestigious ensemble acting prizes from the Independent Spirit Awards and Gotham Awards. The book, meanwhile, won the Bellwether Prize for literature of social responsibility. Purchase it here.
Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
Netflix has yet to figure out the Oscar game, but the streaming service could scarcely have a better chance of making some noise than with Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. The two Oscar winners star in this low-key romantic drama, which has been favorably received. Kent Haruf’s original novel was widely acclaimed, and named among the Best Book of the Year by several critics. Purchase it here.
Stronger by Jeff Bauman
Jeff Bauman’s harrowing, inspiring first-person account of the bombings at the Boston Marathon has been turned into a movie that effortlessly translates its heart and passion. Jake Gyllenhaal is getting career-best reviews for his performance as Bauman, and the movie itself is a bit of a sleeper, earning great reviews and commanding attention on the awards circuit. Purchase the book here.
Thank You for Your Service by David Finkel
Jason Hall’s directorial debut has been praised for its emotionally authentic take on the experience of veterans as they adjust to civilian life while wrestling with PTSD. Starring Miles Teller, it was adapted from a book by David Finkel which was named a finalist for the National Book Award. Purchase it here.
Victoria & Abdul by Shrabani Basu
The true story of the close friendship between Queen Victoria and Abdul Karim, a 24-year-old clerk from Agra who became a personal attendant to the Empress of India in England, was documented in Shrabani Basu’s well-received nonfiction book. It’s been adapted into a handsome biopic by The Crown’s Stephen Frears, with Dame Judi Dench a bubble contender for another Best Actress nomination. Purchase the book here.
Wonder by R. J. Palacio
This feel-good adaptation starring Julia Roberts wasn’t initially positioned as an awards player, as its release was merely timed to coincide with holiday season moviegoing. But after strong reviews and unexpectedly robust box office, Lionsgate is shifting its strategy, per Deadline’s Pete Hammond. Now they’re seeing real opportunities to connect with voters — and at the very least, an adapted screenplay nom could be in the cards. Purchase the book here.
Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
Hugo author Brian Selznick’s stunningly compiled children’s book Wonderstruck, which follows two young people’s unconventional journeys to the Museum of Natural History, might have been difficult to adapt in the wrong hands. It features multiple time periods, and is thick with both atmosphere and story. But Todd Haynes was the perfect director to take it on. The master period filmmaker brings an artful vision, and while his adaptation has proven a little elusive for some, its exceptional craft merits serious consideration. Purchase the book here.