Staff Picks: Best Books Turned into Movies

bag of spilled popcorn and red movie tickets

Welcome to another month of Staff Picks! With the 2019 Academy Awards® happening at the end of the month, San José Public Library bloggers have nominated their favorite books turned into movies for you to discover. Grab some popcorn and check out this shortlist of books (and their DVD/Blu-Ray adaptations) at your local library branch!


The English Patient by Michael OndaatjeCover of the novel "The English Patient"

My favorite book turned into a movie is The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje. I loved the movie and went looking for the book. I always have an expectation that movie adaptations won’t do justice to the book. In this case, the movie does capture the spirit of the book, while still being its own piece of art.

At the end of the Second World War, four very different people come together at an abandoned Italian villa. The pasts of each unfold over the course of the story, and at the center is the English patient, a horribly burned, mysterious stranger.

Read the book and then check out the movie at Hoopla! - Stacy T.

The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure, Cover of "The Princess Bride""abridged" by William Goldman

My favorite book turned to movie is The Princess Bride by S. Morgenstern (abridged by William Goldman). The story of Buttercup, her beloved Wesley and the cast of pirates, princes, heroes and villains they encounter on their adventure appeals to readers of any age. In the story, Buttercup falls in love with a young farm hand, Wesley. Wesley sets off to earn his fortune on the high seas promising to return to his true love, Buttercup.

When Buttercup learns Wesley's ship has been overrun by pirates, her life is turned upside down. The book and movie are full of adventure, humor and, yes, some kissing.
- Dana L.

Hellboy by Mike MignolaCover of the graphic novel Hellboy

One of my favorite graphic novels to movie adaptions isn't 100% accurate to the source material, but takes some fun liberties! The comic series follows Hellboy, a demon who was summoned as child by Nazi occultists in World War II. He is shorty discovered by Allied Forces who dub him "Hellboy" and raise him as a normal child. Hellboy grows up to a big-hearted paranormal investigator who battles dark forces for Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (B.P.R.D.). He's a walking oxymoron, a demon with a prophetic destiny who shirks that expectation off and uses his powers for good instead. He can often be found making wise-cracks while shooting or punching Lovecraftian horrors in the face with his colossal right hand. He also really loves pancakes. The art is iconic, and Mike's minimalistic style with blocks of color and shadow make many of the panels look like a stained-glass window. Fun fact: author/illustrator Mike Mignola loathes drawing feet and will go at great lengths to avoid doing this. I find it amusing to lookout for all the clever (and sometimes lazy) ways Mike has evaded drawing feet, his endless solutions to this problem are hilarious. If you want to start from the very beginning, check out Hellboy: Vol. 1, Seed of Destruction.

As for the Hellboy movies, Guillermo Del Toro's adaptations are such a fun trip. While Hellboy makes sarcastic quips in the comics (and often works alone), the movie ramps up his sass level and gives him more supporting characters to banter with. Del Toro, known for being the "King of Monsters," ensures the practical effects and costumes in these films are amazing. And Hellboy (Ron Perlman) and Abe Sapien (Doug Jones) solemnly singing "Can't Smile Without You" in Hellboy II is one of my favorite movie scenes of all time. While Del Toro's planned trilogy won't have an ending (which I'm still bitter about) there is a new Hellboy reboot around the corner, proving you can't keep a good demon down. - Jessica N.

Bird Box by Josh MalermanCover of the novel "Bird Box"

This book is available as an eBook and eAudiobook that was turned into a Netflix original movie.

The book itself is a gripping novel that focuses on an American nation fighting for survival. In this debut by author, Josh Malerman we see inside a world that is no longer safe to "see".

Written in the third person, the reader lives with a group of survivors of an apocalyptic situation in America. The female protagonist is pregnant and must ensure her safety and her children in a world gone mad. Be warned, your imagination may get the best of you. - David F.

Vampire Academy by Richelle MeadCover of "Vampire Academy"

Vampire Academy is what wizards are to Hogwarts, but with vampires and their bodyguards, known as dhampir. When Vampire princess Lissa and her dhampir Rose are sent to St. Vladimir's Academy, they struggle to balance school work with high school hijinks.

Vampire Academy is one of those rare book-to-movie adaptations where the movie follows the book EXACTLY, which a minor change in the end. Rose is a super heroine who kicks butt and takes names later, and Lissa is her calm and collected best friend. I've watched this movie many times over and it's a die-hard favorite. - Alyssa M.

If Beale Street Could Talk by James BaldwinCover of novel "If Beale Street Could Talk"

If Beale Street Could Talk is set in 1970s Harlem and chronicles the love story of Tish and Fonny. Tish is pregnant and everyone is happy, except Fonny’s mother and sisters. Unfortunately, that’s not the biggest obstacle facing the young couple: Fonny is in jail, having been falsely accused of rape. As Fonny awaits trial, Tish and her family hope to find some evidence that will prove his innocence before the baby is born. This slim volume is deeply affecting. It is at times despairing yet, ultimately, hopeful and just as beautifully written as you’d expect a James Baldwin book to be. Bonus: the film adaptation is great! - Viewers Advisory

Pride and Prejudice by Jane AustenCover of Pride and Prejudice

Elizabeth Bennet and her four sisters live happily with their parents on the Longbourn estate. With five daughters, Mrs. Bennet is eager to them marry off to wealthy gentlemen. When Mr. Bingley arrives at the neighboring estate, Netherfield, with his sister and friend, Mr. Darcy, it causes quite an excitement among the Bennet family as Mrs. Bennet see him as the ideal wealthy gentleman for one of her daughters to marry. Bingley is friendly and well-received in the community, while Darcy comes off as smug and proud. Bingley and Jane quickly grow close despite Mrs. Bennet’s embarrassing interference and the opposition of Bingley’s sister, who considers Jane socially inferior. Elizabeth is stung by Darcy’s haughty rejection of her at a local dance and decides to match his coldness with her own wit.

No book turned into a movie list would be complete without Pride and Prejudice. This book is one of the greatest book of all time! I absolutely love the romance between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy; it is just perfect and swoon-worthy. Also, my favorite adaption of this book is the 2005 version directed by Joe Wright and starring Keira Knightley (don't @ me). - Marian N.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky AlbertalliCover of the novel "Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda"

Simon Spier, a 16-year old gay teen who is not openly gay, has been sharing email anonymously with another gay teen at his school who goes by the codename Blue. Simon forgets to log off of his school computer one day with one of his emails still on the screen. Martin, the next student who uses the computer, copies the emails and blackmails Simon to convince Abby to date him. Simon has to navigate this blackmail scenario (by agreeing to what Martin wants), complicated teenage friendships, high school drama club, and the mystery of who is Blue with not much grace but a lot of heart in this ultimately feel-good, hopeful YA novel.

The book was turned into the hit film Love, Simon in 2018, which kept the great characters, mystery, and humor along with some great acting and had a few minor changes. Simon makes even more of a mess of just about everything involving his friends and relationships, but you can't help but root for him to find happiness in the end. - Megan H.

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