all the books you need to read before they become movies and tv shows in 2019
With Barry Jenkins’ adaptation of James Baldwin classic 'If Beale Street Could Talk' about to hit cinemas, we round up every other book you need to read to get ahead of the curve.
'If Beale Street Could Talk' Dir.
Even before the magic of sound, movie studios kept entire departments of readers whose only jobs were to track down the most unique or commercially-friendly books for adaptation. In cinema’s earliest days, producers sought to bring a level of class and literary legitimacy to a young and unserious art-form. It was from this that the book-to-screen literary adaptation was born.
Since then, adaptations have remained a staple not only in cinemas but on TV too. Orange is the New Black, one of the major early Netflix hits, was based on Piper Kerman’s memoir of the same name. More recent output has included well-regarded adaptations of Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects on HBO, and of non-fiction tomes such as Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit on Netflix.
With a host of adaptations set for big and small screens alike in 2019, here’s a quick rundown on the books you might want to pick up in preparation.
For the classic re-read!
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Whether it’s a familiar revisit or a first time sitting with the Alcott classic, it will stand you in good stead to to ready yourself for Ladybird director Greta Gerwig’s upcoming adaptation. Since this is only Gerwig’s second feature film, it should be exciting to see a younger take on this old story. Laura Dern, Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan, Timothee Chalamet, and Florence Pugh are set to star.
For page-turning entertainment!
The Sisters’ Brothers by Patrick DeWitt
This bestselling western novel from DeWitt, first published in 2011, is the story of two ornery outlaw brothers on a bounty hunting mission. In Palme D’Or winning director Jacques Audiard’s film version, set to hit UK cinemas on 5 April, odd couple Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly star as the cowboy siblings. With an excellent supporting cast including Riz Ahmed and Jake Gyllenhaal, the film was a critical hit at last year’s Toronto Film Festival. If you’re after an equally entertaining piece of fiction, DeWitt’s novel is ideal.
For the reader of literary fiction!
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is getting its hotly-anticipated screen debut this year, in what seems to be the able hands of director John Crowley. Crowley was responsible for another beautifully-executed literary adaptation back in 2015 with Colm Tóibín’s bittersweet immigrant romance Brooklyn, starring Saoirse Ronan. The Goldfinch is a contemporary story about a 13-year-old boy named Theo who is relocated to New York City under tragic circumstances, and finds himself caught in a complex criminal underworld lurking beneath a genteel surface of antiques and art. Crowley’s film will star Nicole Kidman and Sarah Paulson, among others.
For the horror fan!
Shirley by Susan Scarf Merrell
Merrell’s biting 2015 novel is set to be adapted this year by indie director Josephine Decker, whose last movie Madeline’s Madeline was a festival-circuit favourite. The ‘Shirley’ in question is that of the late Shirley Jackson (author of The Haunting of Hill House) and within, Merrell imagines the famous writer as a potential murderess. With the astronomically talented Elisabeth Moss starring as Shirley Jackson, the film should be a fascinating offshoot of the literary thriller.
For the fantasy lover!
Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
2019 will see a long-awaited six-part BBC adaptation of Pratchett and Gaiman’s beloved Good Omens, in which an angel and a demon work together to prevent the oncoming apocalypse. Gaiman himself is penning the screenplay, while Michael Sheen and David Tennant are set to star. Best to catch up to this one now so you can judge the BBC2 mini-series accordingly.
For the history buff!
Letters and Writings from Prison: Franz Jagerstatter by Erna Putz
An insightful look into the personal letters of Austrian war hero Franz Jagerstatter, whose refusal to join the Nazis led to his eventual execution. While no direct adaptation has been mentioned, Tree of Life and Badlands director Terrence Malick’s upcoming film, Radegund, will be a biopic of Jagerstatter. That means that any book on the man’s life will give necessary context. Jagerstatter was in fact a conscientious objector for religious reasons, in much the same vein as the protagonist of Mel Gibson’s 2016 WWII film Hacksaw Ridge -- but it’s clear we may expect a completely different perspective and style from the philosophical Malick.
For the diehard cinephile!
Immodest Acts: the Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy by Judith C. Brown
The cult of brilliant genre filmmaker Paul Verhoeven is strong among cinephiles and in film twitter circles. His provocative, thoughtful drama Elle (2016), starring Isabelle Huppert, circled around ideas about mature female sexuality, consent, and trauma. His follow-up film, Benedetta, is the story of a real 17th century woman taken from the radical research of academic Judith C. Brown. Brown’s book tells the true story of a Renaissance-era Catholic nun who was secretly a lesbian and driven to overwhelming erotic and religious hallucinations. With the same set of interests in female sexuality, repression, and hysteria, this material will provide the backbone for Verhoeven’s film. For those who really want the inside-track on Verhoeven’s filmmaking preoccupations, the book is a must-read.
For the true-crime junkie!
I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt
Martin Scorsese’s latest -- The Irishman -- is queued up for a Netflix release in the latter half of this year, bringing together a who’s who of gangster movie cast in the form of Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, and Harvey Keitel. The story it’s based on is that of Brandt’s best-selling true crime story, telling the incredible and violent tale of union gangster Jimmy Hoffa’s favourite hitman. Brandt’s book shares how Frank Sheeran became one of the FBI’s most-wanted -- not to mention one of the most prominent non-Italian criminals in mob history. Bonus hint: the title of the book was a secret euphemism for knocking people off.