Box-office smashes also make bookstore registers ring. When a book hits the screen, sales may leap from zero to several thousands for a long-forgotten story.
Be it the televised battles of The Hunger Games, the audacious “Hollywood burglars” in The Bling Ring or the demi-gods duking it out in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, here are 10 books to read before the film adaptations hit the big screen later this year.
1. THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST
By Mohsin Hamid
Movie version: Releases in Singapore on Aug 1.
The film could well be Oscar bait — it is directed by Mira Nair of Monsoon Wedding fame and stars Riz Ahmed, who also played a Muslim fundamendalist in the Bafta Film Award-winning movie Four Lions.
Why read it: This multiple award-winning book by Mohsin Hamid, also shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, is a deceptively simple story which keeps the reader guessing until the very last sentence.
It follows an immigrant Pakistani man in America before and after the 9/11 terror attacks.
2. THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES
By Cassandra Clare
Movie version: Releases here on Aug 22.
Harald Zwart directs and Lily Collins, aka daughter of musician Phil Collins, stars as Clary Fray.
Lily Collins in The Mortal Instruments
Why read it: A night out turns into a nightmare for teen Clary Fray as she discovers her ability to fight demons. This is a fun, fast-paced series that teens are grabbing off the shelves in part because the female heroine and her band of friends rival the iconic Noughties characters from the hit television series Buffy: The Vampire Slayer — an inspiration the author admits to.
3. PERCY JACKSON AND THE SEA OF MONSTERS
By Rick Riordan
Movie version: Percy Jackson: The Sea Of Monsters releases here on Aug 29. Thor Freudenthal directs and Logan Lerman reprises the role of Percy Jackson in this sequel to Percy Jackson And The Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010), which made a reported US$230 million (S$290 million) worldwide at the box office.
Why read it: Rick Riordan’s fun mash-up of Greek mythology and modern-day adventure is easier to untangle and appreciate in book form. In this second book of the five-volume series, teenage Percy, the son of a Greek god and a human woman, has to save his friends when monsters attack their summer camp.
4. THERESE DESQUEYROUX
By Francois Mauriac, translated by Gerard Hopkins
First published 1927, available at public libraries
Movie version: Releases here on Sept 5. Directed by Claude Miller and starring Audrey Tatou.
This French arthouse film closed the 2012 Cannes Film Festival and is releasing in other countries this year. As the last work of the late director Claude Miller, and with the gamine Tatou in the title role, it could soon be vying for an Academy Award.
Why read it: Therese Desqueyroux is a haunting novel, ahead of its time and among the best-known works of Nobel Literature laureate Mauriac. The titular character is trapped in a loveless marriage and takes drastic measures to free herself.
5. THE BLING RING
By Nancy Jo Sales
Movie version: Releases here on Sept 5, directed by Sofia Coppola. Look out for former Harry Potter star Emma Watson as a fame-obsessed teen.
Emma Watson in The Bling Ring
Why read it: What really happened when a bunch of high-school teens decided to rob the homes of celebrities such as Paris Hilton? Truth is stranger than Hollywood and this non-fiction account lays all the dirty details bare.
By Tonino Benacquista (also published under the title Badfellas in 2010)
2013/$17.95 before GST/ Major bookstores
Movie version: Releases here on Sept 19, under the title of Malavita, but is known as The Family overseas. Directed by Luc Besson and starring Robert de Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer (with Dianna Agron and John D’Leo playing their children). The veteran actors should add heft to the lightweight comic gags.
Why read it: A Mafia family in hiding fails to blend into the suburbs — customer feedback at a grocery store ends with it being set on fire, for example. This novel relies on every cliche from the gangster handbook, but it still inspires genuine laughs.
7. ENDER’S GAME
By Orson Scott Card
Movie version: Releases here on Nov 7. Gavin Hood directs and Asa Butterfield plays young soldier Ender Wiggins.
Fans may be more excited by Ender’s mentors: Harrison Ford plays Colonel Hyrum Graff and Ben Kingsley is war hero Mazer Rackham.
Why read it: Set in a world where humans are in a long-running war with an alien species, Ender’s Game follows a child genius sent to military school before he turns 10. This coming-of-age tale cuts deep, as Ender’s intelligence is far ahead of his emotional and physical capabilities, and the price of success at school is a disturbed relationship with his family.
8. CATCHING FIRE
By Suzanne Collins
Movie version: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, a sequel to last year’s The Hunger Games, which made nearly US$700 million (S$890 million) at box offices worldwide, releases here on Nov 21. Francis Lawrence directs while Jennifer Lawrence reprises her breakout role Katniss Everdeen (with Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark).
Why read it: One of the pleasures of reading The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins is being allowed into the head of narrator Everdeen. Catching Fire, the second novel, presents her in a particularly chilling light as a survivor with a killing edge honed in a world where children are sent to murder one another in battles broadcast on live television.
9. THE HOBBIT
By J.R.R. Tolkien
1937/ $17.12/Major bookstores
Movie version: The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug, a sequel to last year’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, releases here on Dec 12. The films are directed by Peter Jackson, with Martin Freeman playing the hobbit, Bilbo Baggins. Critics were not overly impressed with the first movie, but it made a dragon-worthy pile of more than US$1 billion at box offices around the world.
Why read it: Why wait until next year and the final movie in the trilogy to find out how the story ends? The original novel is a tight, comic trip into the world of Middle-Earth created by J.R.R. Tolkien, with upper-class hobbit Baggins completely out of his depth when invited by a human wizard and 13 dwarves to head off and rob a dragon.
10. THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY AND OTHER PIECES
By James Thurber
1964/Available at local libraries and from amazon.com
Movie version: The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty releases here on Dec 24. Ben Stiller directs and stars.
Why read it: Early 20th-century American writer James Thurber was a comic genius and the short story, The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty (1939), is a great introduction to his repertoire. This timeless tale still strikes a chord with its mild-mannered protagonist, who gets through his mundane daily routine by imagining himself in a variety of heroic situations.
This article was first run in The Straits Times newspaper on July 23, 2013. For similar stories, go to sph.straitstimes.com/premium/singapore. You will not be able to access the Premium section of The Straits Times website unless you are already a subscriber.
- 10 books to read before the movies hit the screens
- Audrey Tautou
- Ben Stiller
- bestseller books
- children's fiction
- emma watson
- ender's game
- hunger games catching fire
- jennifer lawrence
- movie adaptation
- percy jackson and the sea of monsters
- The Bling Ring
- the mortal instruments city of bones
- the reluctant fundamentalist
- THERESE DESQUEYROUX