This week, I’m looking at the top ten books I’d recommend for people who seen the TV show or movie.
1. Book You Should Read Before It Becomes a TV Show: The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick. Amazon has produced a pilot for this alternate history novel from the Phillip K. Dick. It’s a mind-bender where the Axis powers won World War II and have divided up what used to be the United States among themselves. Full of the PKD themes of paranoia and questions of identity, this is one of the more straightforward PKD books out there and one of his best. I haven’t seen the pilot yet but hopefully this one will become a series.
2. Book That Isn’t As Good As the Movie: Forrest Gump by Winston Groom. During the height of Forrest Gump‘s popularity, I picked up and read the novel by Winston Groom that served as the basis for the movie. It’s VERY different and while the germ of the movie is there, the novel goes into an entirely different tangent — and it’s not necessarily for the better. Jenny loves Forrest mainly for his sexual prowess and large endowment and at one point Forrest is part of the space program. The sweetness of the Tom Hanks portrayal isn’t necessarily in evidence as much either. Most of the time, the book is better than the movie. This is one case where that isn’t the case.
3. Stephen King Novel That Was Made Into a Bad Movie: Pet Semetary. This is one that could cover a lot of Stephen King’s prolific career. But I think the movie version that disappointed me the most has to be Pet Semetary. The book is one of the darkest, creepiest and most compelling books of his career. And I’m not talking about the scary stuff about raising pets and loved one from the dead! I’m talking about the vivid scene where the family’s young child is killed and the funeral afterward. Some of the most vivid writing that King has ever done and it just doesn’t translate at all onto the screen. Oh and the novel is scary as hell and the movie — yeah, not so much. Read it. Trust me.
4. Classic Comics That Became a Movie: Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man, Volumes 1-4. These four volumes collect the entire run of the Stan Lee/Steve Ditko era of the Spider-Man and are some of my favorite issues of the entire run. A lot of what’s in here has served as the basis for all five Spider-Man movies and it’s a lot of fun to revisit the original teen-angst filled world of Peter Parker aka Spider-Man. Re-reading these recently reminded me of the biggest flaw in the new two new Spidey movies: the downplaying of Uncle Ben’s importance to the Spider-Man saga. If you’re a big fan of Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 as I am, you may want to push onto volume 5 which includes the Spider-Man No More storyline that was part of that movie.
5. Graphic Novel That Became a Movie: Watchmen. Zach Snyder did a good job of adapting the comic for the silver screen — well, at least until he created a different ending for the movie from the graphic novel. As with most literary works adapted for the silver screen, there are things that had to be jettisoned for running time. Reading this will help you appreciate the movie a bit more, but also get you into one of the definitive graphic novels of all-time.
6. Book That Wouldn’t Exist Without the Movie: Fantastic Voyage by Issac Asimov. Asimov adapted the screenplay into a novel — and one that I’d argue is a better take on the material. It keep the elements of the movie that worked and tries to make a premise that isn’t necessarily going to be supportable scientifically a big more supportable.
7. Book and Movie Are Both Great (But Very Different Experiences): To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I love the book the movie. But each version is a different experience on the same material and I think they compliment each other well.
8. Book and TV Show Are Both Great (But Very Different Experiences): A Song of Fire and Ice/Game of Thrones. The TV show has veered off a bit from some of the plotlines in the novels and I expect them to continue to do so as the show evolves. Given that Martin is involved in the books and the shows, we have to assume that he is giving his blessing to these changes.
9. Many Versions of the Same Story: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. The good thing about Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide is that no two versions are exactly the same. And the one you prefer may be the one you read, heard or saw first. They all start from a similar point but there are variations and nuances to the radio show, the TV show, the movie and the books that will keep you entertained and possibly confusing which plot point happens in which version. I’d recommend at least the original radio show and novels if you only want to do two of the four versions .
And with that, I’m going to stop at nine.
EDIT: After more pondering, I came up with another addition to my list.
10. Book You Should Read Before It Becomes A Movie: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Packed to the gills with references, homages and appearances by some of the greatest geeky properties, I find it hard to believe that the movie will secure the rights to all of them. So don’t miss out on your favorite being there and read the book!