When it comes to novel-to-film adaptations, of course the book will usually be leagues better than the film (I’m sure we can all agree with that) but in the case of these titles, their silver screen versions turned out to be surprisingly enjoyable on their own (if not exactly faithful to their origins, but what film ever is). Having a preference for certain books and films is of course subjective and a matter of personal taste but these are titles that I think most people would enjoy in both formats.
Stardust, by Neil Gaiman, (and make sure it is the original Stardust novel and not the film novelization) is a lovely, whimsical fantasy that is distinctly Gaiman in that it is derivative (in the best way) of familiar classics (in this case fairytales) and yet is original in its visualization of these things. Tristran Thorn, a half-Faerie foundling living in the human village of Wall, promises a girl that he will retrieve a fallen star to prove his love for her, sending him into the realm of Faerie where stars are human, witches are queens, and kingdoms can be won or lost in the definitely-not-normal Faerie market. Click here for the film.
Sideways, by Rex Pickett, is a hilarious novel and is just as funny and thoughtful as a film. Jack and Miles are longtime friends who decide to go on one last outing, young-single-guy style, on a tour through Santa Ynez filled with wine, women (well, for one of them anyway… maybe) and a seven-day countdown to Jack’s last day of freedom – his wedding day. Click here for the film
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, by Winifred Watson, is both delightful in novel form as well as in cinematic form. First published in 1938, it certainly has the feel of that era, starring sultry singers with simple pasts, dapper gentleman with diabolical agendas, and smoky nightclubs filled with crooning brass instruments and shadowy corners. Somewhat of a Cinderella-story, it follows the exploits of an unfortunately plain governess and her escapades (all in one day) filled with mistaken-identity, transformation, glamor and, eventually, love. Click here for the film.
The Hours, by Michael Cunningham, is one of my favorite contemporary novels not only because it is a homage to Virginia Woolf (who is one of my absolute favorite writers) but because it’s just so well-written. Sad, beautiful, touching, thoughtful, I don’t know, pile on the adjectives and sprinkle it with emotion and there would still be more to say. It weaves the story of three different women, one of them Woolf, tied together by Woolf’s novel Mrs. Dalloway (my favorite of hers). The film was also a lovely adaptation that captured the important, subtle nuances of the novel. Click here for the film.
The Minority Report, by the amazing Philip K. Dick, is actually a short story, not a book (okay, I cheated, how about we just pretend it’s a really, really, really short book). Although the film took many liberties, the basics that made the film so good are the same. Precrime, a new form of crime prevention/law enforcement, utilizes precognitives (people who can see the future) to stop crime before it happens (with the people who would have committed the crimes being charged anyway). Chief of Police, John Anderton, receives a predictive report that he is going to commit murder and so he must somehow prevent this from happening while avoiding capture by his own police force. Dealing with issues of predestination and free will, it’s definitely thought-provoking and suspenseful. Click here for the film.
And if you didn’t know, several other novels and stories by Philip K. Dick adapted (sometimes very loosely) into films include: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep ("Blade Runner"), We Can Remember It For You Wholesale ("Total Recall"), The Adjustment Team ("The Adjustment Bureau"), Paycheck, A Scanner Darkly, and The Golden Man ("Next").
Click on any of the titles to visit the OC Public Libraries website and reserve a copy of the book today (and search our catalog for the corresponding DVD title).
Other notable books that made successful film adaptations:
Harry Potter, by J.K. Rowling (you were expecting this one)
Lord of the Rings trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien (and this one)
Silence of the Lambs, by Thomas Harris (but not this one)
The Witches, by Roald Dahl (Anjelica Huston is fantastically evil)
The Devil Wears Prada, by Lauren Weisberger (Meryl Streep is evilly fabulous).