- Les Miserables is of course based on the stage musical, which was itself an adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic novel (CADL staff member John T. recommends the Julie Rose translation in particular).
- Ang Lee’s The Life of Pi is based on Yann Martel’s Booker Prize-winning novel, and The Silver Linings Playbook is based on Matthew Quick’s novel by the same name.
Several of the other Best Picture nominees are based more loosely on books. Argo was not actually based on Antonio Mendez’s book Argo, but on his earlier-written article which was then expanded into the book. Lincoln was loosely based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s historical portrait of Abraham Lincoln and his cabinet, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, and the tremendous screenplay was written by Tony Kushner, whose play Angels in America won a Pulitzer Prize and was adapted into a terrific HBO miniseries.
The remaining nominees aren’t based on books, but I’ve come up with some reading recommendations for them nevertheless. Amour’s portrait of aging and death in a marriage is echoed in Rafael Yglesias’ A Happy Marriage, which tells the story of a 30-year marriage in its bittersweet years of decline.
Beasts of the Southern Wild reminded many fans of Bonnie Jo Campbell’s novel Once Upon a River. The latter is set on the Kalamazoo River, rather than the Louisiana bayou, but both are about a feral and isolated girl’s battle against the twinned forces of nature and the law, and both are highly recommended.
It’s no surprise to Quentin Tarantino fans that there isn’t an obvious read-alike for Django Unchained. Tarantino’s films, for the most part, are steeped in the language and heritage of cinema, not literature. But for an appropriately cinematic, madcap, gruesome Western, you’d be well advised to pick up The Sisters Brothers, about a pair of assassins, one psychotic and one warily reforming, on their way to a mining prospect in 1850s California.
-Sara D., Public Services Librarian at CADL Downtown Lansing