Which Was Better: The Movie Or The Book? A Debate For The Ages. Here’s TPM’s June Reading Recs

27 May 2020, Saxony, Dresden: View into the library of the Hannah Arendt Institute for Research on Totalitarianism at the TU Dresden. Photo: Robert Michael/dpa-Zentralbild/ZB (Photo by Robert Michael/picture alliance... 27 May 2020, Saxony, Dresden: View into the library of the Hannah Arendt Institute for Research on Totalitarianism at the TU Dresden. Photo: Robert Michael/dpa-Zentralbild/ZB (Photo by Robert Michael/picture alliance via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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June 1, 2020 10:00 a.m.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the outside is overrated. There, I said it. I know it’s June and I know summer is just getting started, but why spend your days sweating it out in the humid, hazy outdoors when you can be inside with the A/C pumping? I’m a homebody, so maybe that’s what’s underlying my opinion here.

Like I said, it’s June, and despite my love of cool, filtered air, I do hate that we’re still in the same place as we were last month. Silver lining: we do have a new book list for you, and this one comes with a bonus. Movies.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a reader. But what’s more fun than learning your favorite book is being adapted for the big screen, small screen or stage? Well, maybe rereading the book. In my experience, the screen adaptation never seems to live up to the source material.

This month we asked the TPM staff about their favorite book-to-movie adaptations. This innocent question quickly dissolved into a heated debate about which of the Harry Potter films was the best. Things were said, stances were taken, but let’s be honest, I didn’t pay any attention to what my coworkers were saying because I didn’t read the books like everyone else I knew growing up. (Again, feel free to roast me.)

After a passionate Slack back-and-forth, we came up with the list below. Be sure to check it out and comment with some of your favorite book adaptations — the good, the bad and the deeply messy. We’re doing these monthly, so check back soon for more of our sophisticated recommendations. If you like what you see here you can always purchase any of the books below by visiting our TPM Bookshop profile page. Happy reading!

Tierney Sneed, Investigative Reporter

Gone Girl: Gillian Flynn

Watch it on: Hulu

The consensus: Movie is better.

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media — as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents — the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter — but is he really a killer?

David Taintor, Senior Editor

Fight Club: Chuck Palahniuk

Watch it on: Hulu, HBO Now

The consensus: Movie is better.

Chuck Palahniuk showed himself to be his generation’s most visionary satirist in this, his first book. Fight Club’s estranged narrator leaves his lackluster job when he comes under the thrall of Tyler Durden, an enigmatic young man who holds secret after-hours boxing matches in the basements of bars. There, two men fight “as long as they have to.” This is a gloriously original work that exposes the darkness at the core of our modern world.

Jackie Wilhelm, Associate Publisher

Pride and Prejudice: Jane Austen

Watch it on: Hulu (2005 – Kiera Kightley, Matthew MacFayden), Amazon Prime Video (1995 -Jennifer Ehle, Colin Firth)

The consensus: Book is better.

Few have failed to be charmed by the witty and independent spirit of Elizabeth Bennet in Austen’s beloved classic Pride and Prejudice. When Elizabeth Bennet first meets eligible bachelor Fitzwilliam Darcy, she thinks him arrogant and conceited; he is indifferent to her good looks and lively mind. When she later discovers that Darcy has involved himself in the troubled relationship between his friend Bingley and her beloved sister Jane, she is determined to dislike him more than ever. In the sparkling comedy of manners that follows, Jane Austen shows us the folly of judging by first impressions and superbly evokes the friendships, gossip and snobberies of provincial middle-class life.

Christine Frapech, Senior Designer

The Outsider: Stephen King

Watch it on: HBO

The consensus: TV show is better.

An eleven-year-old boy’s violated corpse is discovered in a town park. Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens — Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon have DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems ironclad. As the investigation expands and horrifying details begin to emerge, King’s story kicks into high gear, generating strong tension and almost unbearable suspense. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing another face? When the answer comes, it will shock you as only Stephen King can.

Joe Ragazzo, Publisher

The Godfather: Mario Puzo

Watch it on: Amazon Prime Video

The consensus: The first and the second Godfather movies are the only good ones.

With its brilliant and brutal portrayal of the Corleone family, The Godfather burned its way into our national consciousness. This unforgettable saga of crime and corruption, passion and loyalty continues to stand the test of time, as the definitive novel of the Mafia underworld. A #1 New York Times bestseller in 1969, Mario Puzo’s epic was turned into the incomparable film of the same name, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture. It is the original classic that has been often imitated, but never matched. A tale of family and society, law and order, obedience and rebellion, it reveals the dark passions of human nature played out against a backdrop of the American dream.

Joe Ragazzo, Publisher

A Room with a View: E.M. Forester

Watch it on: Hulu

The consensus: Anything that stars Dame Maggie Smith is a win.

Visiting Florence with her prim and proper cousin Charlotte as a chaperone, Lucy Honeychurch meets the unconventional, lower-class Mr. Emerson and his son, George. Upon her return to England, Lucy becomes engaged to the supercilious Cecil Vyse, but she finds herself increasingly torn between the expectations of the world in which she moves and the passionate yearnings of her heart. More than a love story, A Room with a View (1908) is a penetrating social comedy and a brilliant study of contrasts – in values, social class, and cultural perspectives – and the ingenuity of fate. In her illuminating introduction, Forster biographer Wendy Moffat delves into the little-known details of his life before and during the writing of A Room with a View, and explores the way the enigmatic author’s queer eye found comedy in the clash between English manners and the unsettling modern world, encouraging his reader to recognize and overcome their prejudice through humor. This edition also contains new suggestions for further reading by Moffat and explanatory notes by Malcolm Bradbury.

Joe Ragazzo, Publisher

Doctor Zhivago: Richard Pevear

Watch it on: iTunes, Amazon Prime Video

The consensus: They’re both great.

First published in Italy in 1957 amid international controversy, Doctor Zhivago is the story of the life and loves of a poet/physician during the turmoil of the Russian Revolution. Taking his family from Moscow to what he hopes will be shelter in the Ural Mountains, Zhivago finds himself instead embroiled in the battle between the Whites and the Reds. Set against this backdrop of cruelty and strife is Zhivago’s love for the tender and beautiful Lara, the very embodiment of the pain and chaos of those cataclysmic times. Pevear and Volokhonsky masterfully restore the spirit of Pasternak’s original — his style, rhythms, voicings, and tone — in this beautiful translation of a classic of world literature.

Joe Ragazzo, Publisher

Alexander Hamilton: Ron Chernow

Watch it on: Disney+ (Available July 4, 2020)

The consensus: None of us have the cash to go see the show so … book?

In the first full-length biography of Alexander Hamilton in decades, Ron Chernow tells the riveting story of a man who overcame all odds to shape, inspire, and scandalize the newborn America. According to historian Joseph Ellis, Alexander Hamilton is “a robust full-length portrait, in my view the best ever written, of the most brilliant, charismatic and dangerous founder of them all.” Few figures in American history have been more hotly debated or more grossly misunderstood than Alexander Hamilton. Chernow’s biography gives Hamilton his due and sets the record straight, deftly illustrating that the political and economic greatness of today’s America is the result of Hamilton’s countless sacrifices to champion ideas that were often wildly disputed during his time. “To repudiate his legacy,” Chernow writes, “is, in many ways, to repudiate the modern world.”

Derick Dirmaier, Head of Product

Inherent Vice: Thomas Pynchon

Watch it on: iTunes, Amazon Prime Video

The consensus: Not the best from Pynchon or Paul Thomas Anderson, but definitely their most fun.

In this lively yarn, Thomas Pynchon, working in an unaccustomed genre that is at once exciting and accessible, provides a classic illustration of the principle that if you can remember the sixties, you weren’t there. It’s been a while since Doc Sportello has seen his ex- girlfriend. Suddenly she shows up with a story about a plot to kidnap a billionaire land developer whom she just happens to be in love with. It’s the tail end of the psychedelic sixties in L.A., and Doc knows that “love” is another of those words going around at the moment, like “trip” or “groovy,” except that this one usually leads to trouble. Undeniably one of the most influential writers at work today, Pynchon has penned another unforgettable book.

Derick Dirmaier, Head of Product

Jurassic Park: Michael Crichton

Watch it on: iTunes

The consensus: 10-year-old Derick really loved the movie, but both are good.

“[Michael] Crichton’s dinosaurs are genuinely frightening.” — Chicago Sun-Times
An astonishing technique for recovering and cloning dinosaur DNA has been discovered. Now humankind’s most thrilling fantasies have come true. Creatures extinct for eons roam Jurassic Park with their awesome presence and profound mystery, and all the world can visit them — for a price. Until something goes wrong. . . . In Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton taps all his mesmerizing talent and scientific brilliance to create his most electrifying technothriller.

David Kurtz, Executive Editor

A River Runs Through It and Other Stories: Norman MacLean and Robert Redford

Watch it on: Hulu, Showtime

The consensus: Book is better.

When Norman Maclean sent the manuscript of A River Runs through It and Other Stories to New York publishers, he received a slew of rejections. One editor, so the story goes, replied, “it has trees in it.” Forty years later, the title novella is recognized as one of the great American tales of the twentieth century, and Maclean as one of the most beloved writers of our time. The finely distilled product of a long life of often surprising rapture — for fly-fishing, for the woods, for the interlocked beauty of life and art — A River Runs through It has established itself as a classic of the American West.

Nicole Lafond, Special Projects Editor

The Circle: Dave Eggers

Watch it on: iTunes, Amazon Prime Video

The consensus: The book is better … by a mile. Sorry, Tom Hanks.

When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Circle, run out of a sprawling California campus, links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency. As Mae tours the open-plan office spaces, the towering glass dining facilities, the cozy dorms for those who spend nights at work, she is thrilled with the company’s modernity and activity. There are parties that last through the night, there are famous musicians playing on the lawn, there are athletic activities and clubs and brunches, and even an aquarium of rare fish retrieved from the Marianas Trench by the CEO. Mae can’t believe her luck, her great fortune to work for the most influential company in the world — even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public. What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge.

Jackie Wilhelm, Associate Publisher

Little Women: Louisa May Alcott

Watch it on: Amazon Prime Video (2019 and 1994 film)

The consensus: Greta Gerwig was robbed.

Grown-up Meg, tomboyish Jo, timid Beth, and precocious Amy. The four March sisters couldn’t be more different. But with their father away at war, and their mother working to support the family, they have to rely on one another. Whether they’re putting on a play, forming a secret society, or celebrating Christmas, there’s one thing they can’t help wondering: Will Father return home safely?

Joe Ragazzo, Publisher

The Golden Compass: Phillip Pullman

Watch it on: HBO (2019 miniseries), Amazon Prime Video (2007 Film)

The consensus: The books are better, but the first season of the new miniseries is great.

Lyra is rushing to the cold, far North, where witch clans and armored bears rule. North, where the Gobblers take the children they steal — including her friend Roger. North, where her fearsome uncle Asriel is trying to build a bridge to a parallel world.
Can one small girl make a difference in such great and terrible endeavors? This is Lyra a savage, a schemer, a liar, and as fierce and true a champion as Roger or Asriel could want. But what Lyra doesn’t know is that to help one of them will be to betray the other… A masterwork of storytelling and suspense, Philip Pullman’s award-winning The Golden Compass is the first in the His Dark Materials series, which continues with The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass.

TPM Staff

Harry Potter: J.K. Rowling

Watch it on: iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, **Freeform just about every other weekend it seems (check your local listings)

The consensus: I abstain from judgment, but apparently the fourth movie is the worst of the bunch.

Harry Potter has never been the star of a Quidditch team, scoring points while riding a broom far above the ground. He knows no spells, has never helped to hatch a dragon and has never worn a cloak of invisibility. All he knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley — a great big swollen spoiled bully. Harry’s room is a tiny closet at the foot of the stairs, and he hasn’t had a birthday party in eleven years. But all that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to an incredible place that Harry — and anyone who reads about him — will find unforgettable.


 

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