Book-to-Screen Adaptations That Are Worth the Read

April 24 2015
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The very best book-to-screen adaptations are those where you can’t tell which you like better—the cinematic version or the literary work that inspired it. I feel that way myself about my own novel Younger and the new television series of the same name, created by Sex and the City’s Darren Star and starring Sutton Foster, Hilary Duff, and Debi Mazar.

I envisioned Younger on the screen almost before I plotted it out as a book, mostly because it’s such a perfect property for a forty-ish actress, letting her look hot and at the same time show off her depth and hard-earned acting prowess. With that starting point, I was extra thrilled when I heard that Star had chosen Sutton Foster to play the lead in the show. A Tony Award–winning Broadway star, Foster brings soul, depth, and glamour to the character.

Here are some of my favorite book-to-screen adaptations:

Sex and the City
by Candace Bushnell

I came to the HBO version of Sex and the City before the Candace Bushnell book, binge-watching the series in my friend Alexa’s barn while drinking frozen margaritas. When I bought the book that had inspired the show, I was surprised that it was a collection of essays rather than a fictional narrative. But rather than diminish my appreciation of either work, that only enhanced it. I admired how Darren Star had created the dramatic arc of the series from Bushnell’s meditations on life in New York, and Bushnell’s essays give depth to the HBO adaptation. Coming at the material from both directions, Sex and the City is more than the sum of its parts.

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Sex and the City
Candace Bushnell

I came to the HBO version of Sex and the City before the Candace Bushnell book, binge-watching the series in my friend Alexa’s barn while drinking frozen margaritas. When I bought the book that had inspired the show, I was surprised that it was a collection of essays rather than a fictional narrative. But rather than diminish my appreciation of either work, that only enhanced it. I admired how Darren Star had created the dramatic arc of the series from Bushnell’s meditations on life in New York, and Bushnell’s essays give depth to the HBO adaptation. Coming at the material from both directions, Sex and the City is more than the sum of its parts.

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Brokeback Mountain
by Annie Proulx

Many of us have seen the ineffably beautiful Ang Lee film starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, but how many have read the Annie Proulx short story that was the basis for it? Originally published in The New Yorker in 1997, this elegant literary work manages to convey the magnitude of the film in very few pages—and is a revelation for those who believe the short story too narrow to contain multitudes. If you love this story, you'll want to read the original story collection, Close Range.

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Brokeback Mountain
Annie Proulx

Many of us have seen the ineffably beautiful Ang Lee film starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, but how many have read the Annie Proulx short story that was the basis for it? Originally published in The New Yorker in 1997, this elegant literary work manages to convey the magnitude of the film in very few pages—and is a revelation for those who believe the short story too narrow to contain multitudes. If you love this story, you'll want to read the original story collection, Close Range.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo Bookshop logo

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Friday Night Lights
by H.G. Bissinger

"Friday Night Lights" sounds like the kind of show that I would hate: small-town Texas (not my turf), all about the guys (not my gender), and football (blech). But once I was hooked, I devoured the series—yeah, I was in love with both Coach AND Tammy—and then went back and ripped through both the book and the very different, but still fascinating, Billy Bob Thornton movie. When the original theme is this rich, it can inspire a number of complementary adaptations.

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Friday Night Lights
H.G. Bissinger

This sports literature classic follows a champion high school football team in a sleepy Texas town divided by class and race.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo

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Gone with the Wind
by Margaret Mitchell

The Game of Thrones and Harry Potter series are both masterworks of imaginative literature that have been thrillingly translated to the screen, but for my taste, I’ll go with Gone with the Wind. Like the Stark family and the residents of Hogwarts, Scarlett and Rhett are such vivid characters on the page that you can’t imagine them being portrayed adequately on film—until suddenly, there they are, each work only enhancing your enjoyment of the other.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo Bookshop logo
Gone with the Wind
Margaret Mitchell

The Game of Thrones and Harry Potter series are both masterworks of imaginative literature that have been thrillingly translated to the screen, but for my taste, I’ll go with Gone with the Wind. Like the Stark family and the residents of Hogwarts, Scarlett and Rhett are such vivid characters on the page that you can’t imagine them being portrayed adequately on film—until suddenly, there they are, each work only enhancing your enjoyment of the other.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo Bookshop logo

MENTIONED IN:

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Orange Is the New Black
by Piper Kerman

I didn’t really get into Orange Is the New Black till the second season when the stories began to feel more like fiction and less like reality. Maybe that’s because I prefer novels over memoirs. But Piper Kerman’s look at her own life behind prison walls has inspired the most diverse, relatable, and compelling cast of women to come along in years.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo
Orange Is the New Black
Piper Kerman

I didn’t really get into Orange Is the New Black till the second season when the stories began to feel more like fiction and less like reality. Maybe that’s because I prefer novels over memoirs. But Piper Kerman’s look at her own life behind prison walls has inspired the most diverse, relatable, and compelling cast of women to come along in years.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo

MENTIONED IN:

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Rebecca
by Daphne Du Maurier

I watched the classic Hitchcock film of Daphne Du Maurier’s gothic masterpiece starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine for the first time in years the other night, and in loving it was reminded of how much I also loved the book. Is there a first line of a novel more evocative than “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again”? Only Hitchcock could do justice to the moodiness and plot twists of Du Maurier’s genius work.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo
Rebecca
Daphne Du Maurier

I watched the classic Hitchcock film of Daphne Du Maurier’s gothic masterpiece starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine for the first time in years the other night, and in loving it was reminded of how much I also loved the book. Is there a first line of a novel more evocative than “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again”? Only Hitchcock could do justice to the moodiness and plot twists of Du Maurier’s genius work.

Amazon logo Audible logo Barnes & Noble logo Books a Million logo Google Play logo iBooks logo Indiebound logo

MENTIONED IN:

10 Lush, Lively Books to Remind You Spring’s Just Around the Corner

By Jennifer Proffitt | March 5, 2021

Masterful Storytelling: 10 Novels Worth Savoring

By Alice Martin | March 4, 2021

10 Absorbing Reads That Bring Real Women of History Back to Life

By Emily Lewis | March 3, 2021

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By Off the Shelf Staff | March 2, 2021

March eBook Deals: 10 Enthralling Reads to Add to Your Digital Library

By Off the Shelf Staff | March 1, 2021

The 10 Most Popular Books of February

By Off the Shelf Staff | February 26, 2021

Close

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