Once again, you’ve reached the end of a great book, a page-turner that has had you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. As you read the final few sentences, you breath a sigh of relief at the sense of closure you feel, but as you flip through the pages one last time before you put the book away you’re also struck by a sudden sense of loss. The characters, people, places, and moments you’ve experienced through the author’s words have been an investment, and since you’ve read through to the end, that investment has felt worthwhile.
Now, as you remove your bookmark and close the book for good, the thought occurs to you that it would make a great movie. We all visualize the scenarios and people we read about in a great book, and while we often have a kind of movie running in our heads as we turn from one page to the next, it’s not uncommon to wonder just what kind of a movie that last great book you read would make.
The truth is that some books are better suited to the big screen than others. Recent history is full of examples of stories from all kinds of genres and themes that have made a successful transition from the written word to moving image. From epic romances to historical biographies, from real accounts of war to fantasies for children, many of the most popular films around the world began as successful books. Indeed, many times the movies themselves prove to be so successful and have such a lasting impact on popular culture, that it overshadows the books upon which they were based.
While there will always be debate about which story-telling medium is innately superior, or the degree to which a movie can ever really capture the essence of a great book, there are plenty that would be interesting to see adapted nevertheless. Here are three excellent books that are well-suited for adaptation to film. If you’ve read them, you’ll no doubt know why they would make great movies. If you haven’t read them, look for these gems online and start reading!
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
This incredibly unique and original work of fiction is entirely different and unusual in a way that’s almost shockingly so. Hold a copy of the book in your hands and rummage through the pages at your local bookstore, and you’ll be immediately stricken by the oddly arranged pages, sections of bizarrely oriented words, crossed out sentences, and more. The plot could be described as labyrinthine which is appropriate given that it centers around a kind of labyrinth. The new owners of a home stumble initially stumble onto a dark hallway that seems to be bigger than possible given the exterior dimensions of the house.
The book is a kind of record of other records detailing investigations into the hallway which is eventually found to be a labyrinth of apparently infinite size. Since House of Leaves is comprised of collection of fictional first and second hand accounts, which include video recordings made during explorations of the labyrinth, it would fit perfectly with documentary-style horror films like The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity. Unlike those films however, none of the scares are cheap, and without giving too much away, the only supernatural element in the story is the labyrinth itself, though the sense of fear it evokes is unforgettable. David Lynch would be the perfect choice to direct a film version.
The Forgotten Soldier by Guy Sajer
One of the preeminent World War II autobiographies ever written, according to David Douglas Duncan it “May well be accorded equal respect with War and Peace as the masterpiece reporting war’s reality.” The Library Journal exclaimed that “Few memoirs can compare with this work in range of feeling, depths of self-analysis, or vivid recounting of combat.” These words of high praise should indicate the real quality of the true story told here by Guy Sajer, a French-born veteran of the German Wehrmacht who fought on the Eastern Front in World War II.
Films inspired by mankind’s bloodiest war have been a staple of American and global cinema for decades. From the horrors of the Holocaust, to big budget, battle-focused epics, to stories of personal romance, World War II remains a rich and fertile setting for story-telling in movies. The Forgotten Soldier might well make one of the best, most exciting, most dramatic World War II films ever made if a director like Paul Greengrass’s cinema verite style were used to recreate its amazing scenes. As the film’s focus should be a realistic depiction of the story, an authentic European cast would be most faithful to the book.
Ghost Soldiers by Hampton Sides
This fantastic work of non-fiction recounts the liberation of 513 prisoners from a Japanese POW camp in the Philippines. As said in Esquire magazine, it’s “The greatest World War II story never told.” A group of a little over a hundred elite US soldiers volunteered to go deep behind enemy lines to assault the prison camp head-on, without any additional support from Allied forces beyond the Philippine guerillas they would work with.
Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks would bring their experience with Band of Brothers and The Pacific, and would fit perfectly with a project to make this into a feature-length film of miniseries. A cast of young unknowns, as was used in both of those miniseries, would best suit the material and would serve to keep the focus on the harrowing mission itself rather than big celebrity talent.