May Reading Challenge: Read a book that was adapted into a movie or TV series.
When I’ve just finished reading a really dramatic, or emotional, or action-packed novel, I often think to myself… but what would it look like on screen? And clearly I’m not the only one who has this instinct! There’s an entire Oscar category for Best Adapted Screenplay, which doesn’t always been adapted from a book… but often does. When you really love a book, there’s something magical about hearing your favourite quote being recited by a famous actor, or seeing a larger-than-life action scene projected onto the big screen.
This challenge will have us take a step back and read the book that was the inspiration and source material for a book or movie adaptation. They say the book is always better, and this is your chance to find out! Here is a list of recommended reads in this category – although, of course, there are hundreds of books that would meet this criteria and you are more than welcome to read something not on this list, too!
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee: The novel Pachinko received rave reviews ever since being published in 2017, and has now been adapted into a critically acclaimed miniseries as well. This is a historical saga that follows the life of one Korean family living in Japan throughout several generations, covering most of the 20th century. It starts off in the early 1900s where Sunja, a young woman living in Korea, falls for a mysterious wealthy man. She discovers she is pregnant and that her lover is married, and flees to Japan with a kind minister who offers to take her away. And you later see how the choices of earlier generations affect later ones. Min Jin Lee effortlessly intertwines compelling character development with the political turmoil of the country, and how the two impact each other.
Dune by Frank Herbert: Read the book that inspired one of the top-grossing films of 2021. Dune is a book that has been said to be ‘unadaptable’ – as several more-or-less failed adaptations had previously shown. While the 2021 adaptation by Denis Villeneuve received favourable reviews, it had to omit several scenes from the book – and it remains to be seen how Dune: Part Two will fare. If you’re curious to know how the movie will end, what Zendaya’s character has in store, or how faithful Dune: Part One was to the source material – the book is just one hold away.
Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson: Although the television adaptation of the Trickster series has been cancelled by the CBC, you can always find out how it ends by reading the books. In Son of a Trickster, which was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, Jared is a sixteen-year-old pot dealer with a heart of gold – always looking out for his friends and family, but doesn’t exactly have anyone he can lean on. Things get more complicated when he starts blacking out at inopportune times, ravens start talking to him, and his grandmother is convinced that he’s actually the son of a trickster. This novel interweaves Indigenous beliefs with a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and is continued in Trickster Drift and Return of the Trickster. (This novel also counts towards our March challenge, to read a book that was nominated for Canada Reads 2020!)
The White Tiger by Aravind Araga: This Booker Prize winning novel was adapted into a movie for Netflix and was also nominated for the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay (an honour it also shares with the aforementioned Dune). Aravind Araga is one of the youngest novelists to ever receive the Booker Prize, as well as one of the only debut novelists. This is a darkly humourous story about India’s class struggle, and specifically about issues like caste, corruption, and poverty in India.
Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie: Agatha Christie’s novels have been subject to many film adaptations, including novels featuring one of the most famous literary detectives, Hercule Poirot. And to add yet another adaptation to the list, 2022 saw the release of the film Death on the Nile, starring and directed by Kenneth Branagh. This novel features one of Christie’s classic, practically unsolvable mysteries, and will give you great pleasure to try to solve before Poirot does (if possible!). And while Death on the Nile is a later Poirot novel, it is also one of the most critically acclaimed in the series – so feel free to pick it up even if you haven’t read the earlier ones.
The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin: The New York Times Bestselling novel The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is currently in the process of being adapted into a movie – so if you haven’t read it yet, be sure to pick it up before the hold list grows. This novel follows A. J. Fikry, a bookstore owner grieving the sudden passing of his wife. He begins to withdraw from the people in his community who only want the best for him, until a mysterious package shows up with the capacity to change his life. And as a bonus, this novel also fits the criteria for our April challenge (Read a book that takes place in a bookstore or other literary setting), so consider this a two-for-one choice!