Top Ten Books to Read Before Heading to the Theatre

I’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed lately by the amount of books I want need to read. And there is one specific culprit- Hollywood! This book-to-movie standard has blown up in the last decade and now, on the cusp of some great-looking movie releases, I’m desperately playing catch-up in order to read these great novels before they come to life on the silver screen. Luckily I’ve already read about half of the books that make my list, but many will still need a good re-read before I head down to the theatre.

The growing list of book-to-movies is incredibly large, but after some careful research and some blatant front-runners, I have compiled my top ten. So here goes!

10. On the Road by Jack Kerouac (1976, 307 pgs) On the Road

The synopsis of this book really appealed to me: traveling America and letting life just happen. New experiences and stepping away from the confines of a life you may find yourself unhappily trapped in. Then I read a whole bunch of reviews on it and my opinion changed. Apparently this is one of those polarizing novels you either hate or love- love because of the message that speaks to you, but hate because it’s pretentious and self-indulgent. I think this might be one I let come out on DVD first.

9. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare (2007, 485 pgs) City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments, #1)

This was honestly not one of my favourite young adult books, but sucker that I am, I still bought it enough to read the whole five-book series. In it fifteen-year-old Clary Fray discovers the Shawdowhunters, a race of people that devote their lives to protect humankind from the demons that we have no idea plague our world. But (surprise!) she becomes a bigger part of this world than anyone imagined. The ‘world’ Clare creates is a bit too complex, but she does a mean love triangle that I look forward to seeing in film. The cast looks intriguing as well.

8. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1922, 180 pgs) The Great Gatsby

The first time I read this all-American novella I wasn’t the greatest fan. But I was also probably a fifteen-year-old twit back then which is why I’m definitely going to give this book a second chance. Set in the Jazz Age, Fitzgerald uses his characters to expound American values, namely wealth and beauty. The novel revolves around Jay Gatsby, a self-made man intent on getting back his long-lost love Daisy Buchanan, as well as her spouse Tom and distant relative, Nick Carraway who provides the narrative for the novella. This being a Leonardo DiCaprio film alone would have qualified it for box-office splurging.

7. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (1877, 976 pgs)

Anna Karenina is the unhappily married, young wife of an older government official in Russia, whose love affair with Count Vronsky derails her once-secure life. The tragedy has been described as a dance of seven characters, whom Tolstoy allows us to feel directly involved with, through the power of his storytelling.  Almost every review I’ve read on this behemoth includes this great, unsourced (I suspect it originated on Goodreads) quote: ‘Anna Karenina is a masterpiece not only because of the unforgettable woman at its core and the stark drama of her fate, but also because it explores and illuminates the deepest questions about how to live a fulfilled life.’ Well that’ll put any book on my to-be-read list. The movie looks enchanting, but it might have to wait until the new year by the looks of the brick of a book it is.

6. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (2004, 509 pgs) Cloud Atlas

This seems like some sort of crazy-epic book I’m just itching to get into. The problem is my not-so-smooth Dad brought it for me while I was out shopping with him and it is currently sitting in my parents’ closet and I am left fervently resisting the ruination of Christmas morning. It’s described as six novellas which are great in their own right, but amazing once intertwined in the centuries-spanning tale. The tone and language all adapt for the different settings of each story, which readers felt either detracted from the story and confused them, or greatly enhanced it. I’m leaning towards the greatly enhancing, but only time will tell! This is definitely one movie experience that seems like it will benefit those who have read the book first, so patience it is. I do have a few books I can read in the meantime. 🙂

5. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (1976, 324 pgs) Ender's Game (Ender's Saga, #1)

One of the few Science Fiction novels I have read, this is a great one for those looking for a taste of sci-fi in their reading repertoire. Set in the future (obviously), the government is breeding child-geniuses whom they train as soldiers for their war against an invading alien force whose superior technology is a major threat to the future of mankind. In comes Ender, who at age six is drafted into years of training where he excels, despite missing his sister and suffering from bullying. This was a great read: straight-forward, intriguing and thought provoking, and though I don’t know much about the movie beside some of the cast (Harrison Ford!), I’ll be lining up for this one too.

4. Life of Pi by Yann Martel (2006, 356 pgs) Life of Pi

I wrote a review about this great novel a while back which you can read here. The movie looks amazing and I’m so glad I reread the book. The second time through was as fresh as the first, and I’ll push it on anyone who even mentions the word ‘book’ to me.

3. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein (1937, 351 pgs) The Hobbit

After the masterpiece of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films, this book had a sure spot on this list. The novel was great, but the promise of three more Middle Earth films from Jackson is incredibly exciting. How they will make three movies from 351 pages of book only a true LOTR fan can tell you (*cough* by using the appendices, adding characters, and of course the attempt to do the book proper justice *coughcough*). Those daunted by the great and powerful LOTR trilogy might want to pick up this read and see if Tolkein is up your alley. Bilbo is a great character with whom we take a journey of a lifetime and meet some unforgettable creatures on the way.

2. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (1999, 213 pgs) The Perks of Being a Wallflower

I’ve heard only good things about this cult classic (which you can read Deborah’s review of here) and am desperately hoping to get it for Christmas. Let me explain, I usually have incredibly low self-control when it comes to literature, meaning if I want to read it, it’s pretty easy for me to find an excuse to go to the nearest bookstore. And the cost of this usually doesn’t bug me once compared to the great entertainment these books afford me, but something about this tiny book costing $16 at my local bookstores really rubs me the wrong way. If you work it out its 7.5 cents per page, which is a little ridiculous, so I’m redeeming all my lost self-control and striking until Christmas morning. Oh by the way this is a coming-of-age novel detailing some difficult high school years written in a series of letters. The movie looks AWESOME!

1. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (1862, 896 pgs in teeny tiny print)

This book sounds like it’ll be such a great read, but I’m almost nervous about picking it up. Not because it weighs so much and I’m going to have to pump some iron as prep, but I’m kind of scared I won’t like it. It’s one of those wonderful stories that could probably lose a few hundred pages in edits, but any fan of this book would poke your eyes out before allowing that to happen. However I won’t be deterred and the movie looks so great that I know that book will be read one way or another. But what a compelling plot: characters from the darkest depths of French society who vow to reform themselves into better people and all the struggles and successes this desire entails. Hugo may stray away from the narrative more than anyone really likes, but he wrote about what he hoped for- a world people improve each day they live in it- and therein formed a piece of writing that can mean something to anyone. Or so I’m told.

The Ones That Didn’t Make the Cut

Divergent: This was one of my favourite YA books, but the movie is set to come out in 2014, which is such a tease.

Heist Society: I haven’t read it, but it seems to be a pretty popular YA novel about a teen who’s really good at stealing things, but trying to live a different life.

Beautiful Creatures: Another YA novel (yes I do see the pattern here, and I’m sorry). When I started the book I thought it was excellent, but by the end I was less enthusiastic. Still, the movie looks pretty good so we’ll have to see.

A Confederacy of Dunces: This book would have definitely made the list if it’s movie production was a sure thing. It’s been on hold for awhile, but Zach Galifianakis is currently in talks to play the lead, Ignatius. I should mention, this not YA!

The Maze Runner: Something about this book is turning me off and I’m not sure why. Maybe I’ll go against my grain and see the movie first. For more info, see Natasha’s review here!

Carrie: Not a big Stephen King fan, but I shouldn’t judge him purely on Pet Semetary. I’m usually up for a good horror flick until I’m actually in the theatre, yet I’m looking forward to going with my sister-in-law who is very excited.

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4 responses

  1. Ha ha! Your “not so smooth Dad” is going to run out and buy “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” now! Nice and subtle!! I loved reading this, Kaite, and I also hate seeing a movie if I haven’t read the book. I better get to it!

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