Waltzing to the Top – Ten Books That Made Great Movies

Everywhere you turn, there’s a top ten list of best movies that were adapted from books. The Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay is one of the highest honours a writer can dream of, and every time readers fall in love with a book, they expect to see it made into a movie. Below is my absolutely personal top ten books that were turned into movies that were (almost) just as good as the original work.

The Hours

the hoursThis is one of those rare instances where I don’t know whether I liked the book or the movie more. Nicole Kidman is magnificent as the tormented Virginia Woolf, while Julianne Moore brings Laura Brown to life in a manner that is simply exquisite. All topped by Meryl Streep, of course. The movie managed to capture the essence of a book in a way I couldn’t believe possible, particularly because the novel doesn’t feel too cinematographic, given its structure.

Pride and Prejudice

prideReleased in 2005, this is my favorite cinematographic version of Jane Austen’s novel. I like Keira Knightley in almost anything, but I do believe this is the movie where she truly shone. Matthew Macfadyen is great as Mr. Darcy, but I couldn’t help but feel Colin Firth should have been in this, just to make things truly perfect.

Gone With the Wind

goen with the windWhile I’m not the biggest fan of romance books, I make an exception for “Gone With the Wind,” mostly because it was one of the first novels I read as a child (maybe not the best read for a six-year-old, but anyway). This was almost three decades ago and I remember how fascinated I was by Scarlet O’Hara and her fiery personality. A couple of years after I read the book, I found out about the existence of the movie, and I watched it probably 20 times. While many people wouldn’t find a movie from 1939 too tempting, I still believe it’s a great adaptation of an iconic book.

Hidden Figures

hidden figuresBlack female mathematicians who work for NASA in the ’60 is not your regular theme for a movie. I found “Hidden Figures” a mesmerizing story about racial and gender segregation. Based on a real story, the book/movie tells the story of Katherine Goble Johnson, who worked as a human computer together with other brilliant African American women. Her skills in analytical geometry made her the first woman to be on a team that sent a rocket into space. Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer are stunning, and it was strange to see Jim Parsons as a totally unlikeable character.

The Silence of the Lambs

The_Silence_of_the_Lambs_posterAnother title that in retrospective I believe it’s not entirely appropriate for an eight-year-old, “The Silence of the Lambs” was a book I “borrowed” from my mother’s room and read in one sitting. I still remember the mix of curiosity and terror vividly. Years later, I saw the movie and fell in love with Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of Hannibal Lecter. Even though I haven’t reread the book, I do believe that in this case, the movie was better than the original work.

Trainspotting

trainspottingAn iconic book that made a cult movie, “Trainspotting” is my favorite book about people involved in a drug scene. Maybe it’s because of the entire Edinburgh setting, but I liked the book better than “Junkie” by William S. Burroughs or “Requiem for a Dream” by Hubert Selby. The film is the extraordinary result of a terrific book, and Ewan McGregor shines in it.

The Remains of the Day

Remains_of_the_dayKazuo Ishiguro is one of my favorite writers, and Anthony Hopkins one of my favorite actors, so, obviously, “The Remains of the Day” is a film I watched at least 10 times. This is one of those situations you can’t possibly imagine someone else for the role. Hopkins IS Stevens, and he is magnificent as the loyal butler who sacrifices everything for his master only to discover in the end that wasn’t actually the best idea.

No Country for Old Men

no-country-for-old-men-movie-poster-2007-1020402476The Coen brothers did justice to Cormac McCarthy’s book, and Javier Bardem entered history with his brutal portrayal of Anton Chigurh. I think Chigurh is one of the best-portrayed psychopaths ever to grace a film, and Bardem’s haircut was truly something else.

Brokeback Mountain

brokeback mountainI read Annie Proulx’s story after I watched the movie, and loved them both equally. “Brokeback Mountain” is a story about two gay men, Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist, beautifully portrayed by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, who struggle to come to terms with their sexuality in the American West of the ’60s. Moving and memorable, the film also stars Anne Hathaway and Michelle Williams, and was done such a terrible injustice at the 2006 Oscars, where it lost “Best Picture” to “Crash.”

The Pianist

the pianistA dark movie about a dark period, “The Pianist” is, in my opinion, the best film about the Holocaust there is. While not as popular as “Schindler’s List,” the adaptation of Wladyslaw Szpilman’s autobiography, “The Pianist: The Extraordinary True Story of One Man’s Survival in Warsaw, 1939-1945” is directed by controversial Roman Polanski, but this doesn’t stop the movie to be truly remarkable. Adrien Brody is stunning as Szpilman, and I don’t think he’ll ever be able to top that performance.

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Waltzing to the Top – 10 Books I Regret I Read

There comes a moment in the life of every reader when you pick up a book because of the hype or simply as a spur-of-the-moment thing and you end up thinking “why have I started reading this?” If you’re like me and can’t stand to leave books unfinished, I sense trouble.

I should first say that my obsession to finish every book I start unless it’s so bad it’s unreadable has a good side, and that’s the fact I do a bit of research about a book before starting it. This happens most of the time, but I’ve had my lapses in judgment. These are ten books I read, but I wish I hadn’t wasted my time with them.

Alain de Botton – The Romantic Movement: Sex, Shopping, and the Novel

botton

I picked up this book because I’ve heard good things about Alain de Botton from people I follow on Goodreads. Maybe it’s just a matter of taste, but I believe this was full of pretentious, pompous writing that’s also patronizing. This book has it all. It’s like a bad case of mansplaining on 300 pages. Drawings to summarize the pseudo-philosophical explanations of why things go wrong in a relationship? You can’t make this up. It’s also a book I couldn’t finish. I gave up after about 150 pages. Yes, it was that bad. Suffice to say I’m never reading de Botton again.

Suzanne Collins – The Hunger Games

hunger games

The Hunger Games is one of the books I was pushed to read by the hype. I made it to the end of the first part and hadn’t felt the need to read more. Maybe I was too old for this kind of thing, but while the idea behind it was rather interesting, the writing was so, so bad.

Liane Moriarty – The Husband’s Secret

liane moriarty

This appeared on my recommendations list on Goodreads a couple of times and I thought I should give it a try. Bad move. It’s a shallow book with a childish style and I was quite astonished by what can pass as a bestseller these days. It’s more like a teenagers’ attempt at a novel, a bad one at that.

Paolo Coehlo – Veronika Decides to Die

coehlo

About 10 years ago, I wanted to see what the Coehlo hype was all about. Twenty pages into Veronika Decides to Die I decided that I don’t care about hypes after all. It’s so badly written, that it makes you wonder how someone who writes this way can be a bestselling author like Coehlo is. The book landed into the “never touch again” pile.

Paula Hawkins – Girl on the Train

girl on the train

Again with the hype. (In my defense, I do believe that as a rule of thumb, if a book is glorified too much, it’s not worth it. But sometimes I’m mistaken and find that I actually enjoy a hyped book very much. This is how I discovered A Man Called Ove and Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, to name a couple of recent ones.) With Girl on the Train, I knew I was taking the risk of wasting 4-5 hours of my life from the beginning. My instinct was right – so not worth it. The characters were very poorly built, and don’t get me started on the actual plot. Bonus points for setting the story on a UK train – I think catching the actual feeling of travelling on one was the best thing about this book.

Helen Fielding – Bridget Jones Mad About the Boy

mad about the boy

Bridget Jones’ Diary was published in 1999 when I was a teenager. I remember being captivated by the witty writing and I devoured the book at a time I should have been studying instead. (Yeah, I know, but who can say they didn’t read fiction just to postpone studying just for a little bit?). So when I heard that Mad About the Boy was published after all those years, I jumped at the occasion to read it. The disappointment was as massive as the initial excitement, unfortunately. While Helen Fielding’s voice is still funny, the plot was uninspired and downright infuriating sometimes. (SPOILER ALERT) What has Mark Darcy ever done to you, Helen? Was it really necessary to kill him?

B.A. Paris – Behind Closed Doors

behind closed doors

The plot of Behind Closed Doors is implausible and the entire construction of the book was just poor. We read about a 21st-century woman who is locked in a room by her husband for years and no one knows about it because he somehow forces her to act normal with friends? And she accepts the abuse because she’s scared he’ll send her to an asylum? The 19 century called – they want their plot back. One of those books I kept reading because I couldn’t believe how bad it was.

Gillian Flynn – Gone Girl 

Gone-Girl

Boring and predictable are the adjectives that would best describe Gone Girl. The characters are awful and the plot goes nowhere. The woman is whiny and the man is a misogynist pig. I can’t be bothered to go back and look up their names. If that is “Thriller of the Year”, I feel bad for thrillers.

A.S.A. Harrison – The Silent Wife

the silent wife

I really can’t remember why I decided that this book was worth reading, but it doesn’t matter because it was a bad one indeed. One of those stories that try too much to hook the reader and end up with characters you don’t give a flying f*** about.

Jodi Picoult – Handle with Care

jodi picoult handle with care

I made the mistake to pick this up after I read Small Great Things. Terrible characters and an ending that was really amateurish. Suing a doctor because they didn’t inform you that your unborn child would be disabled because you can’t cope with said child is not my idea of a good premise for a novel.

Christie Watson – Where Women Are Kings

where women are kings christie watson

This wasn’t a very bad book per se, but I still regret the time I spent reading it. Maybe because it reads too much as a lesson in child abuse. Or maybe because of the ending, which was unnecessary and disappointing.

 

Waltzing to the Top – 10 Books I Read More Than Once

With so many great books piling up on my TBR list, who has time to re-read things? Am I right? But somehow, I sometimes find myself perusing through one of the books I enjoyed a lot, and by the time I close it, I’ve read 100 pages. Might as well finish it, then.

When I was a kid, re-reading was a big part of my bookish routine. Whenever I found a book I liked, I showed it a good time – which translates into reading it so many times I knew entire paragraphs by heart. Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo and Karl May’s Winnetou are two titles that immediately come to my mind when I think about those years. I read both those books so many times, that at some point they started to lose pages.

Since I’ve become an adult, I don’t re-read as much, but I sometimes lapse and find myself emersed again in a book that was already marked as finished. I also like to revisit some of the books that had an impact on me, but I read them 15 years ago, so I want to see how they sound in the present. Here are 10 of the books I read more than once in the past years (as an adult, that is.)

1. Michael Cunningham – The Hours 

the hours

I first read The Hours in 2003 and then twice after that. The last time was in 2014 and I already feel the urge to revisit it again. This is, of course, one of my favorite books of all time, and I don’t know what I like more about it – its magnificent construction or the actual impeccable story. The Hours is one of the most profound books I have ever encountered, and Laura Brown is still one of my favorite (and relatable) characters ever. Oh, and the movie adaptation was terrific – what more could I possibly ask for?

2. Kazuo Ishiguro – The Remains of the Day

the remains of the day

Another book with a movie adaptation that truly did it justice, The Remains of the Day will forever have a special place in my heart, mostly because it was one of the great reads that helped me get over a very difficult period in my life. But also because it’s awesome 🙂 It’s a story that’s immersing and deep in a way that few other books are. To say that Stevens is an unforgettable character is to state the obvious. When Ishiguro got his Nobel prize this year, I was thrilled, because let’s face it, how many times did your favorite author get the prize?

3. Sylvia Plath – The Bell Jar

the bell jar

I first read The Bell Jar when I was 17, and it was a bit of a shock to me to see that it is actually possible to write about mental breakdown and spiraling into insanity with such force and frankness. At the time, I became a bit obsessed with Plath and her life, which led me to read everything she wrote plus a couple of biographies. This is a haunting book that I read again with the eyes of an adult at 32 and I found it just as mesmerizing as I did the first time.

4. Elfriede Jelinek – The Piano Teacher

the piano teacher

The Piano Teacher is a book that hurts when you read, in a rather physical way. Whenever I think about this book, I remember the feelings I experienced when I read it for the first time in 2005. I felt punched and abused, almost in a torturous way. The novel is shocking, and the character of Erica is developed masterfully as she is caught between her darkest desires and social conventions. I read the book again in 2016 and I found it even more disturbing and touched by genius.

5. Simone de Beauvoir – The Second Sex

the second sex

Simone de Beauvoir is the woman who taught me that I’m not less than because I lack a penis. Before reading The Second Sex for the first time at about 15, I had this idea that my gender is somehow the sole decisive factor of my destiny, which caused me years of dark depressions. De Beauvoir kindly let me know that’s not the case, even though most of the people around me thought that being a feminist equals being a frigid child-hating lesbian. Thank you, Simone! I promise to revisit this book again, and if I ever have a child (girl or not), put it on their mandatory reading list.

6. Gabriel Garcia Marquez – Love in the Time of Cholera

love in the time of cholera

Whenever I think about Love in the Time of Cholera, I get that warm-inside feeling that accompanies a good story that is written so very beautifully. With this book, I experienced something unique – taking a break from the story every couple of pages just to admire just how marvelous the writing is. I somehow feel that I miss a lot by reading the English translation, and if I ever learn to read an entire book in Spanish, Marquez will have had something to do with it.

7. Henryk Sienkiewicz – Quo Vadis

quo vadis

There was a time in my life when I was smitten with this book. Since then, I read it a couple more times, last time in 2009, and the story still seemed perfect to me. It may have something to do with the fact that I read Classics in school and I’m fascinated by ancient cultures, but anyhow, Quo Vadis and I had some pretty good times together.

8. Irving Stone – The Agony and the Ecstasy

the agony and the ecstasy

The Agony and the Ecstasy is responsible for the development of my love for art and later obsession with museums. I read this book for the second time in 2016 while living in Florence for a month (no, not a coincidence, it was deliberate) and couldn’t believe just how much the story shaped my admiration for all things Renaissance. It’s also one of the very, very few books that made me cry at the end (actual tears).

9. Tracy Chevalier – Girl with a Pearl Earring

girl with a pearl earring

Another book about art, Girl with a Pearl Earring is a page-turner that’s memorable and so well-written it deserved a second read. With this book, you can actually visualise the colors and smells of medieval Delft and picture yourself in Vermeer’s studio. The painting that inspired the book is the number one reason I want to travel to the Hague.

10. Caitlin Moran – How to Be a Woman

how to be a woman

A very modern approach to feminism, How to Be a Woman tackles all the major themes that make a woman what she is, from the society’s obsession with breasts to the expectation that every woman should have children, even if she doesn’t have the desire to be a mother. I love Moran’s witty writing, and I also enjoyed How to Build a Girl tremendously.