Lists

5 Book To Movie Adaptations That Are Actually Worth Watching

Trying to choose the best book to movie adaptations can be difficult. It can be extremely subjective depending on the criteria a movie is being judged on. Is it a list generated based on movies that are the truest to the books, or are there other factors taken into consideration?

I’ve created my own criteria to judge what makes a book to movie adaptation worth watching. I’m calling on my degree in English to judge how true the movie is to the book, as well as positive changes the movies made to make the narrative work for a visual format.

Let’s get started!

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Plot: Charlie, an awkward high schooler used to living life on the sidelines befriends two free-spirited seniors at his school who teach him about love, friendship, and the value in living your life to the fullest.

Why It Made This List: This is one of those rare occasions (possibly the only occasion) where I enjoyed the book more than the movie. The author of the novel wrote the screenplay for the film, so everything important from the book makes it into the film. The visuals used in the movie are powerful, the acting is excellent, and it actually improves on the story that had already been created.

The Hunger Games

The Plot: In a dystopian world to assert control, every year two tributes are chosen from all 12 districts to participate in the Hunger Games, a brutal reality show where the goal is to be the single player to emerge alive.

Why It Made This List: I was pleasantly surprised at how good the Hunger Games film adaptations were. For the most part, everything important from the three novels made it into the four films, likely because the final book was split into two movies. The film medium also allowed us to get a closer look at the media coverage within the story of Hunger Games, which was extremely interesting.

The Silence of the Lambs

The Plot: As part of the search for a serial murderer nicknamed "Buffalo Bill," FBI trainee Clarice Starling is given an assignment. She must visit a man confined to a high-security facility for the criminally insane and interview him. That man, Dr. Hannibal Lecter, is a former psychiatrist with unusual tastes and an intense curiosity about the darker corners of the mind.

Why It Made This List: This book begs to be a movie, and the movie is beautifully done. Of course, no movie is going to be a perfect representation of a novel, but this one certainly tries. I personally am not a huge fan of politics, so glossing over the FBI politics in the film was actually a bonus for me. The tone of the novel is perfectly suited for the screen. Plus Anthony Hopkins is delightfully disturbing as Hannibal.

The Fault In Our Stars

The Plot: Hazel was diagnosed with cancer from a young age, and her terminal diagnosis has forced her to miss out on many amazing life opportunities. When she meets Gus, a cancer survivor who lives life to the fullest, they fall deeply in love very quickly. But as you can imagine, any story with cancer in it has to end in tragedy.

Why It Made This List: The movie amplified the emotional stakes of the novel in a way I didn’t think was possible. The casting was done very well -- each character displays raw emotion throughout the film that can overwhelm you with grief. The book was hard enough to read, but watching what these characters go through on screen makes it hurt even more.

A Long Way Home (Lion)

The Plot: At only five years old, Saroo Brierley got lost on a train in India. Unable to read or write, he survived alone for weeks before ultimately being transferred to an agency and adopted by a couple in Australia. Despite his gratitude, Brierley always wondered about his origins. Eventually, with the advent of Google Earth, he had the opportunity to pore over satellite images for landmarks of India he might recognize. One day, after years of searching, he miraculously found what he was looking for and set off to find his family.

Why It Made This List: I originally discovered this memoir only because I saw it on Netflix when I was looking for something to watch. And what a breathtaking story it was. As you can imagine, the book goes into a great amount of detail about the author’s life while the film’s focus is on several main events. It’s the visuals and the acting of the film that really makes it stand out. The tale is heartbreaking, inspiring, and uplifting, whether you read it or watch it. I recommend doing both.

What are your favorite book to movie adaptations? Let me know in the comments!

Reading Across Genres

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World Book Day was on Monday, and I’m ashamed to say I almost missed it. To my credit I had just spent the past 3 days at a Writer’s Retreat in Lake Geneva, WI. I did at least do some reading on my lunch break that day.

Thinking about World Book Day did make me think about my favorite books of all time, and made me really understand what a wide scope of genres I read from. I think as both an author and a reader, it is important to explore different genres to improve my writing as well as my view of the world.

So in celebration of World Book Day, I thought I’d list five of my favorite books, each of them from a different genre.

Non-Fiction - Evicted by Matthew Desmond

This book caught my eye for two reasons. First off, I nearly minored in Sociology in college and find the subject fascinating. Two, the research for this book is based in Milwaukee, so I know firsthand about the communities this book discusses.

This book offers deep insight into housing in Milwaukee and how large of an impact the housing market has on poverty and segregation. Something I loved about this book is how unbiased it was. While reading there didn’t seem to be a specific slant. Of course the book talked in great detail about how landlords and the housing system is screwing over people who are already down on their luck, but it also showed you the individual struggles and mistakes renters made that led to some of their problems. The complexities of this topic cannot be covered in just one book, but this one does an excellent job of showing the many issues that perpetuate poverty. If it’s a topic that interests you, it has been the best book I’ve read on the subject by far.

Fantasy - The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

In the woods, a boy with horns sleeps in a glass coffin. Humans and the fae live side-by-side, but the dangers of the fae cannot be ignored. And then one day, the boy in the coffin vanishes.

This is an amazingly surreal fantasy novel. Something it does very well is the world building. This place where the main character lives feels utterly normal, despite how strange it actually is. The high fantasy blends with the modern world in a way that utterly makes sense. And it’s a standalone book! While I understand and love trilogies, it’s so nice to find a fantasy book that stands on its own, while telling a great story with strong characters. It has a slow build but once the drama starts it doesn’t stop.

Literary Fiction - The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

As most literary fiction, this novel is hard to sum up in a couple of sentences, and it’s not for everyone. It’s nonlinear, at times confusing, and mildly disturbing.

I read this book during an English class while attending college and wrote a paper about it, so I won’t go into too much detail about the topics it covers here. It’s a book filled with mystery and the loss of innocence. There are tons of themes to be explored, from how young boys view women, to suicide, to how tragedy shapes us, and plenty more. The writing is beautiful and interesting, and if you’re a writer you’ll love dissecting it. This is not a novel that can be read quickly, or you run the risk of entirely missing the point of the story. You need to take time to think critically about this text to decipher what it means.   

Historical Fiction - Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

With my love affair for Japan, the fact that my historical fiction pick focuses on Japanese culture should not be surprising in the slightest. I actually didn’t pick up this book until after college though, which is a bit surprising considering the mainstream attention it got.

The book is written by a westerner so despite how well-researched it is, a book from Japan would certainly be more accurate. But as someone who didn’t actually know much about the world of the geisha before reading, it was exciting. I learned a lot about parts of Japanese culture and history I’d never known before. The prose is beautiful and the story is compelling. If you want to get a proper look at Japanese culture pass on this one, but it gives you a fairly good starting point.

Thriller - The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

I hate thrillers. I just really, really do. They’ve just never caught my attention and pretty much anytime I see in the summary that the main character is dealing with a murder, I put the book back.

I don’t remember why I picked up this book, but it broke every notion I had about the thriller genre. The main character was pathetic (in a good way), the plot was intriguing, and the setting was unique. The characters are terrible people who can’t be trusted and the book actually manages to make you feel creeped out. Don’t bother with the movie though, it wasn’t true enough to the book and was a disappointment.

My Top Five Books Featuring LGBTQ+ Characters

Recently I wrote a blog post about how queerbaiting got me a wife. I discussed how some of my biggest fandoms perpetuated queerbaiting, and how the fandom and community that grew around that queerbaiting is how I met my wife.

As a bisexual woman though, I’m always excited to see proper queer representation across all forms of media, whether this is in movies, TV shows, or video games. And as an author and avid reader, I’m always looking for amazing books with LGBTQ+ characters.

Today I want to share with you my top five books that feature LGBTQ+ characters (as of March 2018). Some of these titles feature a queer protagonist, while some of my selections showcase side characters or couples.

1. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

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Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here—it's their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon's infuriating nemesis didn't even bother to show up. Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, and a mystery. It has just as much kissing and talking as you'd expect from a Rainbow Rowell novel.

What can I say about this book? It’s a story you’re either going to love or hate. The Harry Potter parallels hit you over the head constantly, the two main characters are overly indulgent, and to top it all off, the novel is technically the fanfiction written by a character in the novel Fangirl.

Basically, this book is really written for a target audience. If you grew up reading fanfiction, especially Harry Potter fanfiction, then you’ll love it. The book is so fun, and the characters manage to be tropes without adhering to their tropes in an amazing way. Simon and Baz’s love story is silly, romantic, and awkward...everything a teenage love story should be.Plus they’re going to a magical school and dealing with an evil foe who is threatening to wipe magic from the map entirely while they do this.

 2 . Keeping You A Secret by Julie Anne Peters

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Is it worth falling in love if you have to keep it a secret? When Cece Goddard comes to school, everything changes. Cece and Holland have undeniable feelings for each other, but how will others react to their developing relationship?

This book holds a special place in my heart because it’s the first novel I ever read about lesbian characters. I found it when I was first discovering my own confused feelings about women, and so it really struck a chord with me as a confused teenager. I remember hiding this book in my room, scared my parents would find it (as if they’d care).

The romance in this story really expresses the confusing, amazing feeling of falling in love. If you’ve struggled with understanding your feelings for someone of the same sex and coming out, this story will likely resonate with you. The characters feel genuine and the story realistic. It’s not the most original concept for a novel, but it’s a classic YA LGBTQ+ book and a quick, addicting read.

3. The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

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This is the story of what it's like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie's letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares.

This is one of my examples of a book that has a side LGBTQ+ character, Sebastian. He, and everything in this novel, are so realistic that it is both humbling and painful. This story manages to feel hopeless, bleak, inspiring, and empowering, all at the same time.

Sebastian, a friend of the protagonist, faces very real challenges when it comes to his relationships and sexual orientation. His problems illustrate one of the many difficulties of high school, and really life overall. Every word of this book feels like it could’ve been pulled from someone’s diary, and interestingly the movie evoked that exact same feeling. That almost never happens in adaptations!

4. Luna by Julie Anne Peters

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Liam can't stand the person he is during the day. Like the moon from whom Liam has chosen his female namesake, his true self, Luna, only reveals herself at night. In the secrecy of his basement bedroom Liam transforms himself into the beautiful girl he longs to be, with help from his sister's clothes and makeup. Now, everything is about to change.

This is a beautiful book, and I’m so sad that I don’t know anyone else who has read it. While the story is about Luna it is narrated by her little sister, Regan. Regan loves Luna and desperately wants to protect her from the world. But the world is cruel, and life is hard, and this book does a lovely job of showcasing that.

It isn’t a story just about the transgender experience, but about the impact this experience has on the entire family. While I am cis myself I found the story, interactions, and feelings to be very realistic. While Regan loves Luna dearly, she still gets frustrated and she still can’t fully understand what her sibling is going through.

5. Every Day by David Levithan

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A has no friends. No parents. No family. No possessions. No home, even. Because every day, A wakes up in the body of a different person. It's a lonely existence--until, one day, it isn't. A meets a girl named Rhiannon. She becomes A's reason for existing. So every day, in different bodies--of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, and walks of life--A tries to get back to her.

I adore this novel. While it doesn’t technically have LGBTQ+ characters, that’s exactly what the appeal of the book is. A has no gender, no sexual orientation, and no physical body. They’re comfortable being in the bodies of men, women, and any gender in between. A falls for Rihanna because they see something special in her, not because of her gender.

This is not a happy love story. It’s messy and confusing, between two characters that are absolutely lovable but have plenty of flaws of their own. What this book does very well is show you that it doesn’t matter who you love, there are many different ways to love, and that all of us are incredibly different and incredibly similar at the same time.

Have you read any of these books? Do you plan to pick any of them up? If you have any recommendations yourself, please drop them in the comments so I can check them out!