For purist readers, it’s important that books are absorbed in full before one even considers seeing the story unfold on screen. After all, half the fun is comparing and contrasting afterward. Here then, are some book–movie and book–TV show combos to put to the test.
An essential read for anyone seeking to understand Whitey Bulger, Southie, and Boston history in general, Lehr and O’Neill’s bestseller from 2001 is being produced to hit the big screen in 2015. The movie stars Johnny Depp as Whitey and has been filming in the Boston area.
Ann Leary—yes, wife of Denis Leary—debuted this North Shore novel in early 2013. Protagonist Hildy is an aging townie and recovering alcoholic. “Hildy, the novel’s most ingenious creation, is an unsentimental and complicated wiseass,” our arts and research editor noted. Sounds like the perfect character for Meryl Streep to play. Robert De Niro portrays an old flame in the film version of The Good House, still in development.
Nick Flynn’s memoir is about his reunion with his estranged father Jonathan, an alcoholic resident of the homeless shelter Nick worked at in the 1980s. The poignant tale was brought to life on the big screen by Paul Dano and Robert De Niro in the 2012 film Being Flynn.
Books by Tom Perrotta
The Belmont resident’s latest work to hit screens is HBO’s new show The Leftovers, but if the rapture isn’t your thing, then consider other Perrotta pieces that have been adapted for film like the popular movies Election and Little Children. No word as of late on the status of a film based on The Abstinence Teacher.
Books by Dennis Lehane
Dorchester native Lehane is known for writing Boston-set stories. His books are constantly being adapted into movies with Afflecks and DiCaprio. Here are just a few to consider queuing on your reading list, including The Drop, which comes out in August, with a film adaptation slated for September.
Gone Baby Gone: Book (1998) | Movie (2007)
Mystic River: Book (2001) | Movie (2003)
Shutter Island: Book (2003) | Movie (2010)
Live by Night: Book (2012) | Movie (whenever Ben Affleck has time)
The Drop: Book (expected August 2014) | Movie (expected September 12, 2014)
Doug is the ringleader of a group of bank robbers. Claire is the bank manager he traumatizes during a heist. This is not your typical love story. Rather, it’s Chuck Hogan’s take on crime in Boston—they rahb Fenway Pahk, kehd—that was adapted into the 2010 film The Town starring Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, and Jeremy Renner. Gossip Girl Blake Lively has an, um, interesting Boston accent in this movie, which also includes appearancestors by local rap artist Slaine.
Though Boston natives should absolutely read Townie, it’s Andre Dubus III’s House of Sand and Fog that was made into a movie of the same name starring Jennifer Connelly and Ben Kingsley. The dark and tragic story full of desperation was a National Book Award finalist in print, and Connelly and Kingsley were both nominated for Oscars for their performances on screen.
Also by Dubus III is Garden of Last Days, which was almost made into a movie until that curious fellow James Franco dropped out of the project. Darn?
Neuroscientist and writer Lisa Genova self-published Still Alice, which tells the story of Alice Howland, a Harvard professor who suffers from early-onset Alzheimer’s. The story is told from the perspective of the patient, as Alice loses her way running through Harvard Square, shows up to a class she teaches thinking that she is one of her students, and eventually loses grasp of who her own children are. A film adaptation of the bestseller due out next year will star Julianne Moore as Alice.
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Paul Newman stars in the film version of this novel written by Barry Reed—David Mamet wrote the screenplay. Newman plays lawyer Frank Galvin, who tries to save his career by taking a controversial malpractice suit to court, taking on the Catholic Church and city of Boston in the process.
This successful novel by George V. Higgins has several characters who resembled real-life criminals at the time including Whitey and his gang. Supposedly Robert Mitchum, who stars as Eddie Coyle in the film, even wanted to meet with Whitey, and dined with guys like Howie Winter and John Martorano. Take note, Johnny Depp, that’s method.
A Harvard scientist conducts experiments on himself with hallucinogens, certainly not a book-movie combo for everyone. One reviewer on GoodReads labels Altered States as a “book to read because of Fringe,” which, by the way, also starred a group of Feds based in Boston.
John P. Marquand’s Pulitzer-winning satire picks on the Beacon Hill society at the time. For an insightful look, and some digs, at the privileged Bostonians of George Apley’s day, look no further. Published in 1936 by Back Bay Books, of course.
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri follows the life of Gogol, the son of two Bengali immigrants. Raised in Cambridge, where his father studied at MIT, the book and movie assess the cultural divide that immigrants to the U.S. must navigate.
Who knew, four years ago, that this TNT show would still be on? Tess Gerritson’s crime-fighting duo—one Boston police detective, one medical examiner—began with The Surgeon in 2001, and currently has 10 books in the series. The show starring Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander is in season 5.
Ben Richards lives in a dystopian future concocted by author Stephen King. To earn money to pay his daughter’s medical bills, he takes part in a reality game show where the goal is to stay alive. In the movie version, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Katni—er, Richards.
A sensitive portrayal of the human condition, this novel penned by Daniel Keyes—who died on June 15—is told from the first-person perspective of Charlie, a mentally challenged man who, following in the footsteps of a mouse named Algernon, undergoes surgery to increase his IQ. (He desperately wants to be smart, a “jean-ass.”) Charlie chronicles his journey in what begin as “progris riports,” full of misspellings, through his advancement to becoming a certifiable genius. When Algernon’s brain function begins to deteriorate, the question becomes: will the same happen to Charlie?
The movie starring Jim Sturgess and Kevin Spacey as card counters in Vegas was inspired by the nonfiction book Bringing Down the House by Ben Mezrich. Bear in mind, however, that just as the game of blackjack depends on a strong poker face and deception, so does this book. Take its categorization of “nonfiction” lightly.
Here’s another tale by Mezrich. This one was the inspiration for that great David Fincher flick The Social Network. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg wasn’t happy about it either, which isn’t surprising since his ex-best friend Eduardo Saverin was a consultant for the book. Still, the movie gifted us a few gems beyond a good film: The Social Network also gave us Justin Timberlake’s iconic line, “A million dollars isn’t cool, you know what’s cool? … A billion dollars,” as well as Andrew Garfield, Jesse Eisenberg(’s ego), and of course, the Winklevii.
Alternate Harvard book-to-movie pairing: Legally Blonde: Book (2003) | Movie (2001) (The film was based on the manuscript, which was published after the success of the movie starring Reese Witherspoon.)
OK, so maybe the last thing you want to do is read the book that the movie Fever Pitch was loosely based on. But true sports fans will appreciate Nick Hornby’s fanaticism, even if the original story isn’t about the Sox, or even baseball—Hornby’s memoir is about dedication to the home team in British soccer (football).
Hazel Grace Lancaster’s story about young love and cancer may take place in Indiana, but the YA read by John Green was first inspired by a real life girl from Quincy.
Mark Wahlberg starred as Marcus Luttrell in this action film based on Luttrell’s real life experiences. Luttrell’s team of Navy SEALs were surrounded by Taliban forces in Afghanistan, and he was the lone survivor.
Gillian Flynn’s 2012 bestseller about the mysterious disappearance of “Amazing” Amy on her wedding anniversary will be acted out on the big screen later this year. Ben Affleck plays Amy’s suspect husband, Nick. Recent promos for the movie look pretty darn good.
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