10 books to read before watching the film and TV adaptations
With the release of Where The Crawdads Sing, we dive into the pre-movie must-reads
words Mary Steven
With the rise in popularity of #BookTok, there is a sudden resurgence to get back into reading (if you ever left it). It’s a magical feeling, to make a world out of the words on the pages of books – from Jane Austen’s romantic storms in 19th century Salisbury to the band scene and scuzzy Sunset Strip of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Daisy Jones and the Six. Reading the book then, before watching the film or television adaptation, is a great gateway for your imagination – creating your own ideas of how each character looks and sounds and then comparing it to the big screen.
The most major book to movie adaptation this year has been Where The Crawdads Sing, starring Daisy Edgar-Jones (Normal People) and based on the book by Delia Owens. Soon enough, we’ll be blessed with My Policeman too, starring Harry Styles and Emma Corrin and adapted from Bethan Roberts' tragic tale of thwarted love.
So with all that being said, here are the books you need to read before you watch the adaptation:
Who doesn't wish they knew the intricacies of Fleetwood Mac? Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid is probably the closest we will ever get to knowing what went down. As the book explores the ups and downs of band life and love that echoes the heydays of iconic bands like the Mac. It’s salacious, juicy, and filled with tension. You’ll be dying to see Daisy Jones and the Six perform live, so it only feels right that the new Amazon TV Series adaptation will include an original score.
The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han has already been released on Amazon Prime and yes, it is absolutely heart-wrenching. Hahn, of course, you may know for the hit book series To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before and that culture-shifting Netflix adaptation. TSITP’s second season has already been announced, too – so get turning those pages ASAP to catch up with the trilogy. The show is a pretty loyal adaptation with a couple of interesting differences (and several Taylor Swift bangers on the soundtrack) but keeping the multiple love interests and one lovable protagonist front and centre. Let your imagination run wild with Isabel (Belly), Jeremiah, and Conrad in this stunning coming-of-ager set in the perfect-looking summer on Cousins Beach. It's a beach holiday read and a cool summer's evening binge watch.
The highly anticipated film adaptation of Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens came out just last month, and it’s already been said how much it does the original justice. Delia Owens has a skill when it comes to making the transition between past and present flow seamlessly and the film has taken her skill and made it into magic on the screen – with Normal People’s Daisy Edgar-Jones (another must-do book and TV series) in the starring role.
A glimpse into the Hollywood golden age of lust, love and lies, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid is set to bring this world alive on Netflix! As the book has come to be the go to BookTok recommendation, fans have a lot of opinions about whether or not it should be a film or eight episodes in a limited series. The book makes you love or hate nine different characters with a passion that will make you wish the film to be eight hours long.
Jane Austen may have been the author that made you roll your eyes while you were in an English Literature class, but the older you get, the more you realise the classics are classics for a reason. Austen is the master of finding profound in the mundane, taking the ordinary and making it magic when it comes to tales of love, growing up, and gossip. Persuasion by Jane Austen is like the Gossip Girl of times gone by, and it reminds you that nobody can tell you who is and isn’t worth your time and my take away from that is that Dakota Johnson in the Netflix adaptation of Persuasion is worth my time! Well, opinions are heavily divided on this one, so it’s worth exploring the original texts before making your opinions known on the timeline. AND, there’s a hugely underrated BBC adaptation from 1995 (the same year as the iconic Pride and Prejudice movie) that’s worth a watch too.
Harry Styles and Emma Corrin are both major contributors to why so many people will flock to the cinema to see My Policeman, but the book should inspire droves to dive into the retro tale of a tragic love triangle. Set in the 1950s, My Policeman explores the relationship of two people living through a time where gay relationships are illegal. Bethan Roberts’ words created such in-depth characters with flaws and complexities, and thus, I will not be expecting anything short of an Academy Award-nomination for Styles or Corrin.
While the love triangle between Saoirse Ronan, Timothée Chalamet and Florence Pugh is enough to entice anyone to become Little Women obsessed, in reality the characterisation in the novel is far more juicy. What is it about on-screen romances, no matter how talented the actors are, that can never compare with the chemistry conjured up in your mind when reading? Loosely based on Alcott’s own life, Little Women ended up being far from the “girls’ book” her publishers had asked for, and in turn, has become a timeless tale examining domesticity, gender roles, familial relationships and dissecting what authentic love is.
Set on planet Arrakis where the only valuable thing is a spice called “Melange”, the Dune Saga (there are five books) will take you to a whole new galaxy. While the movie achieved critical acclaim, the novel it’s adapted from is perhaps the most pivotal in sci-fi history, remaining as popular today as it was in 1965. (There’s also the first book-to-movie attempt, by Twin Peaks’ director David Lynch in 1984 – but safe to say he hates it as much as everybody else did at the time). The star-studded cast of Denis Villeneuve’s space epic, including Zendaya and Timothée Chalamet, catapulted the 2021 movie to success, but the story was built on the foundations of a truly great and wonderfully complex book. Expect themes of evolution, ecology, and the intersection of religion, politics, and power, set in a galactic odyssey.
Based on a graphic memoir of the same name, Persepolis tells the true story of Marjane Satrapi, who came of age during the Iranian Revolution. Through using the comic form, Satrapi has made her writing easily accessible to a wider audience. She commented on the chosen medium for her memoir, “Images are a way of writing. When you have the talent to be able to write and to draw, it seems a shame to choose only one. I think it's better to do both”. If you’re looking to educate yourself on the Iranian Revolution and the ripple effect it has had on geopolitics, this is a great place to start. Though, there are graphic images and language used at times, so be weary of potential triggers before reading and watching.
The coming-of-age movie quickly became a cult classic for its banging, and perhaps somewhat softboi, soundtrack (Nick Drake, The Smiths, David Bowie, Dexy’s Midnight Runners). But there is something intimate about reading the narrator speak about these same songs that were put on a mixtape for him, and wacking on spotify to listen to them while you read. It's a deeply affecting, turbulent emotional rollercoaster both on screen and off. The novel was written by Stephen Chbosky, who also wrote and directed the film adaptation – so if you liked the movie, you’re almost guaranteed to love the book.