8 Books You Should Read Before Watching The Movies/Shows
James Bond. Harry Potter. Katniss Everdeen. Elizabeth Bennet. There is a high chance that we have probably watched at least one of the media adaptations featuring these four iconic literary characters.
Filmmakers are particularly fond of making movies based on books because they tend to earn more at box offices as well as act as boost sales in the publishing industry. Personally, I prefer to read books before watching movies or shows due to a few reasons. Firstly, the description is richer and more personal. Secondly, I get to imagine the characters as they are before someone famous plays them.
Here are 8 books of various genres that I have enjoyed reading before watching their respective film and television adaptations.
1. Lion: A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley
At the age of 5, Saroo Brierley was tragically separated from his family in Khandwa, India when he was lost in a train station. He was later taken to an orphanage in Calcutta and ended up being adopted by John and Sue Brierley, a couple from Australia.
Though Saroo appears to have “moved on” twenty years later, he still finds it difficult to not think about what truly happened in the past. Faced with only his memory, he decided to use Google Earth to track down his real hometown and his family members. Upon confirming the location, he decided to return to India.
I cried when I finished reading the book. It was particularly eye-opening to read about his childhood in India. Moreover, how he coped with his second chapter in Australia. I highly recommend you to read the book first before watching the movie starring Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman.
2. Sully: My Search for What Really Matters by Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow
On January 15, 2009, pilot captain Sully Sullenberger and his first officer, Jeffrey Skiles miraculously landed US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River after the plane suffered from engine failure following a bird strike. All 155 people on board survived the emergency water landing.
Written through the lens of Captain Sully, this is an inspiring autobiography that allows us to see both the professional (his career in the military and aviation industry) and personal side (his role as a son, husband, and father) of a national hero. You also get to read what truly happened during that fateful day and how those who were on the plane (including himself) cope with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Reading the book first will certainly set you in the right mood to watch the movie starring Tom Hanks and Aaron Eckhart. You will be letting out a sigh of relief knowing that everyone survived eventually.
Genre: Fantasy fiction
3. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Get ready to be transported to the land of Middle Earth! You will be joined by Bilbo Baggins, a timid hobbit alongside Thorin Oakenshield, and a group of dwarfs. Moreover, Gandalf, the wizard to retrieve the stolen treasure from the dragon, Smaug in the Lonely Mountain.
Equally packed with action, character growth, and peculiar characters, The Hobbit will bewitch you as you read through the chapters. If you have watched The Lord of The Rings, you might want to check out this book. This is the prequel to the amazing saga. The Hobbit is where the One Ring first appeared and (minor spoiler alert), one of the characters gained the power of invisibility by wearing it.
As the movies are filmed in a trilogy, it would be great to read this book first (it has only 310 pages) before you binge-watch the movies (featuring Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins)!
4. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Road Dahl
Imaginative, creative, poignant, this story is a treat for chocolate lovers! The story centers on Charlie Bucket, a poor eleven-year-old who lives with his big family, and Willy Wonka, an eccentric inventor who owns a chocolate factory.
After years of closing the chocolate factory from the public, Wonka decided to invite 5 kids who have won the Golden Tickets in five Wonka Chocolate Bars to his factory. After a dramatic opportunity to buy a chocolate bar, Charlie became the last winner of the Golden Ticket! Together with his Granpa Joe, they joined the remaining winners of the Golden Ticket- Augustus Gloop, Veruca Salt, Violet Beauregarde, Mike Teavee to embark on a magical adventure!
This is a light-hearted and humorous underdog story. Plus Point: The book includes beautiful illustrations by Quentin Blake. Apart from the 2005 movie adaptation, a new movie adaptation starring Timothee Chalamet as Willy Wonka will be out soon, so now it is the perfect time to start reading!
Genre: Detective fiction
5. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Penned by the Queen of Mystery, Agatha Christie takes us on a railway mystery featuring Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot. Poirot was boarding the luxurious Orient Express to return to London when one of the passengers in the same train, Edward Ratchett was murdered.
The story is divided into 3 parts where you can immerse yourself in the back-and-forth conversations between Poirot and the passengers before he eventually reveals who is the murderer. It is fun to guess who the murderer is by looking for loopholes in between. You cannot help but admire Poirot’s great questioning technique and keen observation.
Warning: Prepare for the ultimate plot twist and unexpected ending! Discover who is the murderer before watching the movie starring Kenneth Branagh and Johnny Depp.
6. A Study in Scarlet and The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conon Doyle
The iconic Sherlock Holmes first appeared in A Study in Scarlet where medical doctor, Dr. John Watson became his housemate and joined him to solve a mystery. This case involved a dead body found in a locked room.
This account is written from Watson’s perspective and includes vivid descriptions of Holmes’ methods and his admiration towards Holmes’s ability. After the success of their first partnership, the pair continued to work together in many cases. Later on, they are recorded in novels and short stories such as The Sign of Four and The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes.
If you watch the modern adaptation series by BBC – Sherlock (starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman), you will be pleasantly surprised that the adaptation follows some of the elements in the original story. Don’t believe me? Finish this story and compare it with the first episode – A Study in Pink of Season 1 of Sherlock.
Genre: Historical fiction
7. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Aibleen Clark and Minny Jackson are black maids raising white children in Jackson, Mississippi. The area where racial tensions were high in the early 1960s. Together, they (plus other exploited coloured maids) work with Skeeter Phelan, an aspiring white writer to write a book entitled “Help” to reveal deep and dark secrets of how their white employers treat them.
The book is written from the first-person perspectives of Aibleen, Minny, and Skeeter. It is interesting because the three of them have distinct characteristics and voices. You get to view the story through multiple lenses. The author did a great job inserting humour (watch out for the parts of pies and toilets!) despite some heavy topics in between.
Having watched the movie after reading the book, I would say it is worth the wait. It was an amazing cast (Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, and Emma Stone) play out this bittersweet story on screen!
8. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Anne Barrows
Set in the 1940s, the story follows Juliet Ashton is an author in London. One day receives a letter from Dawsey Adams, a stranger from Guernsey Island upon discovering her address in a book.
Soon, Juliet found herself writing regularly to Dawsey as well as the community on the island after learning that they are part of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Personal stories and secrets were shared. Eventually, Juliet decided to visit Guernsey to meet them in person. Then, she writes about their experiences on the island during the Second World War.
This is an epistolary novel, consisting of letters exchanged between various characters. The writing is lively, witty, warm, and moving! The characters will certainly grow on you! Read the story before you enjoy the film adaptation starring Lily James as Juliet Ashton!
I hope you will enjoy the above book recommendations and have a wonderful spoiler-free movie-watching session!