I love movies and miniseries that are based on books, because having an entire book’s worth of detail and drama to pull from usually results in a really compelling film. But let’s be honest – the book is almost always better, right? That’s why I always prefer to read the book before I see the movie. So for this month’s book list I’ve compiled 11 books that are going to be made into movies or miniseries in 2017 or 2018 that I think you’re going to love. Be sure you get your hands on a copy before they hit the screen!
1. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
After a terrorist attack kills the President and most of Congress, an ultra conservative group seizes control of the North East region of the US, renaming it the Republic of Gilead and imposing strict regulations on every aspect of women’s lives, including reproduction. The book is narrated by Offred, a handmaiden, who alternates between describing her bleak present day reality and telling us about her life in “the time before,” before she lost her daughter, her husband, and even her real name. The rules Offred lives under are going to surprise and disturb you, and it’s hard to imagine a future like it ever happening to us. But at the same time the author does an amazing job showing how easily fear can lead people to give up their freedoms (or the freedoms of others) in exchange for perceived safety, which makes it extraordinarily relevant to life today. Fans of novels like The Hunger Games will probably enjoy this classic in the dystopian genre; however I think this book does a better job conveying the gravity of such a future, which makes it feel both more adult and more unsettling. It’s strange and poignant and disturbing and engrossing, and full of lines that have stuck with me, like this one, when Offred is recalling “the time before”: We thought we had such problems. How were we to know we were happy?
I first read this book years ago and recently listened to the audiobook available from Audible. As with many stories, listening to the audiobook makes it feel so much more real. The narration by Claire Danes sucks you right into Offred’s life, making it hard to stop listening because you so very much want to know what’s going to happen next. This version of the audiobook includes extra commentary by Margaret Atwood, the author, that adds to the depth of the story and helps answer some of the questions we’re left with once Offred’s story ends. If you’d like to listen to this audiobook before it hits the screen in a new Hulu series in late April, click here to try Audible for one month and receive your first audiobook free.
Content note: There are two brief scenes that use explicit language to convey the disturbing nature of the situations being described and there is some other explicit language throughout the novel.
2. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Hitting the screen: The movie, directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring Johnny Depp, will hit theaters in November 2017
Reportedly the most widely read mystery of all time, this beloved Agatha Christie book is set on the famous train, the Orient Express. In the middle of the night the train is stopped by a snowdrift, and by morning one of the passengers, a millionaire named Samuel Edward Ratchett, is dead. The murdered man lies in his compartment, the door locked from the inside, and the murderer is almost certainly still on the train. This is a great book, with enough twists and turns that some of the fun will almost certainly get left out in the movie version, so check out the book first!
3. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
4. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Hitting the screen: The movie, titled “Ashes in the Snow” will likely be released in 2017
Lina is a 15-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941 when Soviet officers burst into her home, tear her family apart, and push her onto a crowded train car with her mother and younger brother. As they travel to an unknown fate in Siberia, Lina uses her talents as an artist to draw messages she hopes will get passed to her father, wherever he may be. When they reach Siberia they are forced to do harsh manual labor under cruel circumstances and Lina clings to her art as a way to hold on to her identity. This book highlights the atrocities committed by Stalin during World War 2, which rival those of the Germans towards the Jews during the same time period. Not to be confused with another novel with a similar name, this book is amazing, enriching, and well worth a read.
5. Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
In 1843, 16-year-old Grace Marks was convicted of the double murders of her employer and his housekeeper. During the 30+ years she spent imprisoned as a result, she continued to insist she had no memory of the crimes. Based on these true events, this novel begins with Grace already in prison. An expert in the brand new field of psychology, Dr. Simon Jordan, begins to interview Grace in hopes of determining whether she is, in fact, innocent as she claims. This complex story highlights the experience of immigrants and the way mental illness was viewed and “treated” in this time period. It’s a fascinating book you won’t be able to put down. Content note: a few disturbing scenes.
6. My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier
Hitting the screen: The movie, starring Rachel Weisz, will hit theaters in June 2017.
After the death of his parents, Phillip was raised by his kindly older cousin Ambrose, a single man with a grand house Phillip is set to inherit. But while on a trip to Florence, Ambrose falls in love, is married, and suddenly dies. Phillip is prepared to meet his cousin’s widow, Rachel, with hatred, but he soon finds himself falling under her spell, even as he wonders if she had a hand in his cousin’s death. Daphne Du Maurier is a master of psychological suspense, as anyone who has read Rebecca knows (and if you haven’t read Rebecca yet, find a copy ASAP!).
7. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
If you haven’t read Anne of Green Gables yet, now is the time. Take a break from divisive politics and the outrage that pervades social media and spend a few hours with the people of Avonlea: people who are just as susceptible to human frailties as the rest of us, but who work hard, care for others, and delight in the antics of Anne Shirley. Set in Canada in the early 1800’s, Anne is an orphan who is mistakenly sent to live with childless brother and sister Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert. Though their home is simple and affection is scarce (at least at first), living with the Cuthberts is pure heaven compared to the difficult life Anne has had so far, and she is desperate to stay with them. Unfortunately, her vivid imagination makes it hard for her to stay out of trouble. These books are just as enjoyable to read as an adult as they are for kids. In fact, the entire series would be perfect for listening to in the car with your kids! I know many people consider the Anne series to be “girl books”, but all three of my older boys have read and loved the first few books.
8. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Hitting the screen: The film is currently in development and a release date is not yet been made available.
The Nightingale was published to immediate success in 2015, and if you haven’t read it yet, it’s high time to do so! The book centers around two sisters living in Nazi occupied France during WWII. Once I got past the first 50 pages or so I could not put this book down. I’ve read plenty of books set in this time period, but never one that gives a picture of what life was like for the French citizens during the Nazi Occupation that lasted for much of the war. Both sisters end up fighting the Nazis in their own way, unbeknownst to each other (they’re each trying to protect the other). This is the sort of book that will stay with you for days after you finish. Content note: there is mention of rape, beatings, and concentration camp violence as well as a few strong profanities.
9. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Hitting the screen: The movie, starring Storm Reid, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling, is set to high theaters in spring 2018
This has been one of my favorite books since the fourth grade! Yes, it’s geared toward pre-teens, but this Newbery Award winner is totally worth a read as an adult. Meg already feels like she doesn’t fit in anywhere, and now the only person who understands her, her father, has disappeared while doing secret work for the government. A mysterious stranger appears with information for Meg, and she sets off on a journey to find her father. It’s part fantasy, part coming-of-age, and part commentary on the beauty of uniqueness all in one.
10. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
Hitting the screen: The movie, starring Demian Bichir, Julianne Moore and Ken Watanabe, will likely be released sometime in 2018
In an unnamed South American country, and important Japanese businessman is having an important birthday party at the home of the Vice President. Unfortunately for the 18 terrorists who sneak into the building through the air conditioning ducts, the President has decided to stay home to watch a soap opera. And so instead of capturing him, they take the rest of the partygoers hostage instead. This is a character driven book as opposed to a plot driven one, and it sometimes takes a little bit of work to get through, like most really well written literature. It’s also not a super happy tale; but there’s enough beauty in the writing and relationships of the characters that it’s totally worth a read.
11. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Hitting the screen: The TV movie, starring Oprah Winfrey, will air on HBO in late April 2017
This book made it onto my last book list (books about incredible real life women) but I couldn’t leave it off this month’s list since I’m so excited to watch the TV adaptation.
In 1951 a poor black woman named Henrietta Lacks visits Johns Hopkins hospital, where she is diagnosed with cervical cancer. At this time, doctors were trying, and failing, to create a line of human cells that would regenerate eternally. They knew an immortal cell line would be of invaluable worth to their research and have an incredible impact on medicine in general, but they just couldn’t seem to make it work. Until Henrietta arrived at their hospital, that is. A sample of Henrietta’s cervical tissue begins to grow at an extraordinary rate. While Henrietta gets sicker and sicker, and eventually dies (perhaps as a result of subpar care given to her because she was black) the doctors working with her tissue are making the most extraordinary and impactful discovery in recent medical history, all without Henrietta’s knowledge or consent.
Thirty years later Henrietta’s cells, known as HeLa, had been vital in developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, and more. HeLa cells are being bought and sold across the world, changing the face of medicine and earning huge amounts of money for the scientists that have developed them. All the while Henrietta’s posterity lives in poverty, unable to afford health insurance, while Henrietta’s name has been forgotten. This book is the record of what happens when Rebecca Skloot decides Henrietta’s story needs to be told.
So many books, so little time, right? If you want a way to fit more books into your life, head over to Audible to sign up for a 30-day trial and choose your first audiobook absolutely free. Audiobooks are the perfect way to listen to the books you may not have time to read. I listen to audiobooks while I’m driving around town on never-ending errands or folding never-ending baskets of laundry. I’ve even started listening while I walk on the treadmill – I struggle to convince myself to exercise every day, but I’m always happy to go for a walk while listening to a new book, so audiobooks are a definite win for me.
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Audible. The opinions and text are all mine.