Best Book Ever: Book-to-movie Adaptations!

This week on Best Book Ever, we're talking about books, but we're also talking about movies.  That's right, we're talking about our favorite book-to-movie adaptations.  Sometimes, a movie gets it just right, and you feel like it's a perfect tribute to a well-loved book.  Here are some of our favorite adaptations.

Where does a person start with a favorite film adaption? Lord of the Rings? Joe Wright's beautiful, almost melancholy, Pride and Prejudice? Will Smith acting his socks off in the terrifying, heartbreaking, I Am Legend? Gary Oldman seducing me in Coppola's Dracula? And To Kill A Mockingbird. And The Princess Bride. And The Neverending Story. And Blade Runner. And what about film noir? The Big Sleep and Devil In A Blue Dress? And what about King? The Shawshank Redemption and The Shining? Too many, too darn many to choose from...

I thought I would narrow it down and do my favorite animated adaption. But even then, there's Disney's Alice in Wonderland, and Watership Down, and Howl's Moving Castle, and the animated Hobbit--which I saw for the first time at a slumber party, desperately, desperately, wishing the other girls which please pretty please shut up so I could hear every word. But I think the winner here is The Secret of NIMH [movie | book]. The old school animation, the DARK, the great voice-acting, the freakishly scary great horned owl scene, and, of course, Justin, the sweetest, sexiest rat ever drawn...

As far as upcoming book to film that I'm most excited about? The Hobbit, naturally. But also Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby. Holy, holy heck that's going to be good...

April Tucholke, debut author of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (2013, Dial/Penguin)

Being both a book and movie lover, the release of a great adaptation is so exciting. The best kind of adaptations are not only faithful to the heart of a book, but do such a good job lifting it beyond the page that it actually brings in more readers. So, yes, a part of me feels as though I should pick something less obvious, more original and not so much a given. But I really can’t because I absolutely and completely loved Peter Jackson’s adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy [movie | book]. Talk about a crazy and immense task! Tolkien’s world is intricate and complex, sometimes so much so that it feels as though you’re drowning in detail. But Jackson truly does it justice on the big screen. The whole time you’re watching the movies, it never fails to still feel like Tolkien’s creation. THE LORD OF THE RINGS has been a classic in literature for a long time, but it’s the success of the movies that has finally managed to bring it to the mainstream. It’s great to think of newer fans hopefully picking up the books!

Elsie Chapman, debut author of Dualed (2013, Random House)

I think FIGHT CLUB [movie | book] is one of the best book to screen adaptations ever. It kept the gritty feel and unexpected twist of Palahniuk's novel without staying page to page true to the book. Another great example is GONE WITH THE WIND [movie | book]. Moving that mountain of a book onto the screen had to have been quite the undertaking, and the final product doesn't suffer. If anything, the personalities of Scarlett's less entertaining sisters are neatly encapsulated in a few scenes without getting into their rather laborious side plots.

Mindy McGinnis, debut author of Not A Drop To Drink (2013, Katherine Tegen)

I'm feeling nostalgic today, so my choice for best book-to-film adaptation is one of my most beloved stories from childhood, CHARLOTTE'S WEB [movie | book]. (I’m talking about the animated film from 1973, not the live-action version from 2006.) I must have watched that movie two hundred times as a kid, followed by another two hundred times when my sister was a kid. The book is pretty fabulous in and of itself—who’d have thought a story about a friendship between a pig and a spider could be so captivating and poignant? But once you add animation and a slew of ridiculously catchy musical numbers, CHARLOTTE’S WEB approaches perfection. Although I probably haven’t seen this movie since I was ten, I’m pretty confident I could sing you every single one of those songs. (I’m especially partial to the one about how a county fair is a veritable smorgasboard. I find myself singing it all the time.) But perhaps the best thing about this movie is that it’s so true to E. B. White’s characters and themes. Friendship conquers all. We all have lots in common where it really counts. And—a tenet dear to every writer’s heart—a few well placed words can change someone’s fate.

Alison Cherry, debut author of Red (2013, Delacorte Press)

Okay, this week's topic is SO TOUGH! I actually like a lot of book-to-movie adaptations, so narrowing it down to my favorite? Whew...But, I finally came to a conclusion: Anne of Green Gables [movie | book]. Yeah, they tweaked the story a little - but it's near impossible to take a straight novel narrative and turn it into a watchable movie. I love the way they developed Anne's character - and Diana - and Gilbert (oh be still my heart, Gilbert). The costumes, the setting, the screenplay, the music, Peter Sullivan did an excellent job turning a book series into two amazing movies. (There's a third movie, yes, but it deviates a LOT more from the story, and came about twenty years later).

Rebecca @ A Word's Worth

While I’ve seen many good film adaptations of books, there is only one that I believe actually improves in some ways on the source material — so much so that I actually wish I’d seen the movie first, which is the opposite of how I usually approach these things. Christopher Priest’s The Prestige [movie | book] is a fine novel, with elements of science fiction, romance, and of course magic; but director Christopher Nolan, most recently of The Dark Knight Rises fame, pulls the most surprising trick of all by crafting a film that takes the characters and themes to a whole other level, tightens the plot, and delivers an even more surprising ending. If you aren’t familiar with either the book or the film, I won’t spoil them, but they are both twisty, trippy, and mind blowing, well-suited to the talents of the man who gave us Memento and Inception. I certainly recommend you check this story out on the page or the screen, but I suggest that the film is the definitive version. And it doesn’t hurt that the cast includes the likes of Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Michael Caine, and Scarlett Johansson.

E.C. Myers, debut author of Fair Coin (2012, Prometheus Books)

I always feel very bittersweet when I see that one of my favorite books is going to be made into a movie. The movie never seems as good at the way I visualized it in my head--and forever afterward those actors and that setting taint the way I re-read a story. And the reverse is true too. Once I love a movie, I have a hard time motivating myself to read the book (Case in point: THE PRINCESS BRIDE is one of my all-time favorite movies, but I've never read the book).

That being said, the BBC mini-series version of Pride and Prejudice [movie | book] is one that I can watch over and over (picture that scene in Bridget Jones when she's just rewinding the lake scene*). Colin Firth will always be how I picture Mr. Darcy and I'm 100% okay with that (I typically refer to the actor as Mr. Darcy Firth). And no matter how many times I've seen the sixish-hour movie (often in one-sitting) it always makes me want to re-read the book. When I re-read the book, it makes me want to re-watch the series! I'm sensing a dangerous cycle here...

*sidenote: Bridget Jones is another excellent book to movie adaptation. Maybe the secret is just to add Mr. Darcy Firth?

Tiffany Schmidt, debut author of Send Me a Sign (2012, Walker-Bloomsbury)

What about you? What's your favorite adaptaion?

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