Books to read before their film versions arrive

Books continue to be a reliable source of inspiration for film studios. The film adaptations of these well-loved stories are arriving over the next two months.   It is always fun (and a great conversation starter) to compare books to their film versions, regardless of which you experience first.  Hopefully this advance warning will help you finish the original book before heading to the cinemas this time (finally!).

Paper Towns by John Green
(Released July/August 2015)

Although the film has already screened in the US, it was only released in Australia and New Zealand in late July, and the UK release will be in mid August – so there is still time to read the original before heading to the cinema.

Paper Towns is a coming-of-age story about Quentin (“Q”) and Margo, his neighbour and childhood crush.  A month before high school graduation, Margo re-enters Q’s life by inviting him to help her exact revenge on several people; they spend one heady night completing their mission.  Then Margo disappears; Q is convinced Margo is waiting for him to find her, and becomes obsessed with identifying clues to her whereabouts.  Q and his friends eventually find Margo in New York state after a frantic road trip, but…

The Paper Towns movie draws on the star power of Cara Delevigne, a British supermodel in her first lead role; and also of author John Green, who achieved enormous success with both the book- and film-versions of The Fault in Our Stars.
Paper Towns is the latest example of Young Adult (YA) fiction gaining prominence in mainstream popular culture  – following blockbusters such as Fault in Our Stars, Twilight and Hunger Games.

Holding the Man by Timothy Conigrave
(Expected release August 2015)

Fourteen reprints, an award-winning stage adaptation and now a film version are testament to the continuing high regard for Holding the Man.  This is a tender, honest, raw memoir about Conigrave’s first love – the Captain of their school football team – and their 15-year relationship.  It charts the highs and lows of their experiences as young gay men in the 70s and 80s – coming out, the hedonistic gay scene, the scourge of AIDS.  It is also distinctly Australian, set in Melbourne and Sydney, with Aussie Rules Football integral to the story.  Holding the Man is particularly poignant because it, Conigrave’s “big break”, came several months after his death due to AIDS-related illness.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
(Expected release September 2015)

Bill Bryson’s gentle humour and child-like curiosity has been charming readers for decades, on topics as diverse as roadside diners, the history of the sewing machine and even Vegemite.  In A Walk in the Woods, Bryson documents his attempt to walk the Appalachian Trail with a friend.  There are plenty of trials and tribulations; the Trail is long (around 3500 kilometres) and challenging, and the two men soon find they are ill-prepared for the task.  Despite these difficulties, Bryson remains upbeat and is able to muse on the history and ecology of this scenic route as they go for their little “walk in the woods”.
The film version stars Robert Redford as Bill Bryson (I wonder if he’s flattered – who would you choose to play you on the big screen?) and Nick Nolte as Bryson’s friend.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
(Expected release September 2015)

The “Me” in this novel is Greg, an awkward highschooler who avoids becoming a social outcast by drifting over all the tribes at school.  His only close friend is Earl, a fellow cinephile; for years they have been making quirky film parodies together.  Greg’s and Earl’s lives change when they are guilt-tripped into spending time with Rachel, Greg’s childhood friend who has terminal cancer.
This, Jesse Andrews’ first novel, is a fresh, funny story with an authentic teen voice; it is uplifting without being sentimental, and deserves the wider attention that its film adaptation will surely bring.  The film received a standing ovation (and won the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award) at this year’s Sundance Festival, and has become a commercial success in the US.  Coming to the rest of the world in September.

About Karen Seligman

Karen Seligman is a librarian working in public libraries. As a lifelong booklover, she loves having access to a library’s worth of books! As a librarian, an important (and fun) part of her work is about connecting people to new ideas and new books. Karen is a literary magpie who can't settle on a single favourite genre – she loves narrative nonfiction, historical fantasies and food writing.