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Art & Culture

10 Of The Best Books That Have Been Adapted Into Films And TV Shows

By Laura Rogan March 31, 2020

Self-isolation never looked so cultured.

Making your way through Netflix? Some of our favourite films and TV shows were adapted from best-selling books, many of which are acclaimed classics. Reduce your screen time and explore some of your favourite stories as they were originally intended. After all, we’ve got time to pass.

1. The Handmaid’s Tale

Credit: Hulu

Hulu’s big hitter The Handmaid’s Tale, starring Elisabeth Moss, has been shocking the world since 2017, but the book was actually published way back in 1985. Written by Margaret Atwood, the novel of the same title is considered a classic in the literary world. Following the same premise in a dystopian future, the story follows Offred as she’s forced to become a handmaid and live by super strict conditions in Gilead. While the show remains pretty faithful to the book, there are of course some differences given the changes in lifestyles and technology since the 80s.

2. On The Road

Credit: MK2 Productions

Another classic novel that should be on anyone’s ‘book bucket list’, On The Road was adapted for the big screen in 2012, featuring a fresh-from-Twilight Kristen Stewart shedding an otherwise pristine image. Based on the travels of author Jack Kerouac in the 40s, On The Road follows Sal (presumed to be Kerouac himself) as he hits the American road with his friends, documenting the ups, downs and realities of life on the road. It’s the epitome of Beat culture, glamorising jazz, poetry and partying.

3. Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas

Credit: Universal Pictures

The movie starred Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro in 1998, but the novel was published in 1971 by Hunter S. Thompson. The psychedelic journey that is Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas features autobiographical moments that Thompson actually experienced, and it follows Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo as they chase the American Dream (in a drug-fuelled haze, may I add). The book has become an important piece of American literature, giving a first-hand account of early 60s culture.

4. A Clockwork Orange

Credit: Warner Bros.

A Kubrick classic known for its slightly disturbing and violent scenes, Malcolm McDowell portrayed psychopathic delinquent Alex way back in ’72 in A Clockwork Orange, based on the novel of the same name which was published in 1962. The book is considered a masterpiece and an absolute must-read, just probably not if you’re easily shaken. The book may not be a horror, but it sure features some pretty terrifying crimes.

5. Big Little Lies

Credit: HBO

Big Little Lies made quite the splash when it premiered on HBO in 2017, but did you know that it’s based on the best selling book of the same name by Liane Moriarty? The show follows the same story, however, there are a number of differences between the characters that are different in the book. Big Little Lies is well worth a read if you fancy revisiting the gripping story in a whole new form.

6. The Godfather

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Francis Ford Coppola’s trilogy may be highly regarded as cinematic art, but the story of The Godfather goes beyond Marlon Brando and Al Pacino’s iconic performances. The movies are based on Mario Puzo’s best-selling book series, and Puzo himself was involved in the big-screen adaptations. Naturally, the books feature heavier character arcs to get stuck into, which can sometimes be difficult to reflect on the big screen, particularly with movies of this length. Some supporting characters in the movies have much more limelight in the books, so it’s a great way to experience the story of the Corleone’s in a different light.

7. Room

Credit: Element Pictures

Brie Larson’s academy award-winning performance in Room is just one of the reasons to watch the movie, but the story is actually adapted from 2010 novel of the same name by Emma Donoghue. There are a few changes in the movie that fans of the book will have noticed, however. The book is actually written from the perspective of a five-year-old boy, who is held captive in a small room with his mum. Both the award-winning novel and the movie received critical and audience acclaim and are fairly fitting given we’re all currently confined to our own rooms.

8. You

Credit: Netflix

You’ve probably heard of You by now, Netflix’s culturally relevant but creepy psychological thriller, which has had social media audiences absolutely hooked. The series may give off ‘one-more-episode’ fever, but it’s actually based on the 2014 novel by Caroline Kepnes. The novel and the show follow Joe Goldberg as he falls pretty hard for student writer Beck, but his dangerous obsession has deadly consequences for the pair. Both the book and the series are pretty creepy, but there are a number of differences between the two which make You an interesting read, even if you’re all caught up on Netflix.

9. His Dark Materials

HBO/BBC

Philip Pullman’s famous trilogy, His Dark Materials, was recently adapted into a TV series (after the film The Golden Compass completely flopped) – and it was a huge hit with an incredible cast. While the books are arguably more famous than the TV show – if you haven’t read them yet, they’re an absolute dream for those who love getting their teeth into an adventure. There’s plenty to get through too, with the first part of the story featuring three books. Fans can also continue the story with The Book Of Dust, a trilogy which currently consists of two books, the final book in the trilogy currently being written.

10. Orange Is The New Black

Credit: Netflix

It may come as a surprise for those who know and love Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black, but the series is based on a true story which is detailed in Piper Kerman’s book of the same name. The book is a memoir about Kerman’s year in a women’s prison, and while the show is based on the real-life story (and Kerman really did get prosecuted for money laundering), it’s also been pretty heavily fictionalised – hence how it managed to go on for so many seasons.

[Featured image: Hulu]