Share on Facebook

12 Books You Need to Read Before You Watch Their Movies

Ever leave a blockbuster movie and hear everyone squabbling about whether or not the book was better? Meanwhile, you're wondering, "Wait.. .there was a book?" Stay in the literary loop, thanks to this list of page-turners that have been recently adapted to the big screen.


First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen

Hansen’s book remains the only authorized biography of the first human to set foot on the moon. Ryan Gosling starred in the film adaptation of this in-depth look at the life of Neil Armstrong and the Apollo 11 mission. Damien Chazelle, who won the Best Director Oscar for La La Land, is behind the camera, and the movie debuted October 12, 2018. Here are some more great biographies you should definitely add to your reading list.

Buy now


The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Angie Thomas’s debut novel has been on the New York Times bestseller list for months, thanks to its deft handling of a difficult, relevant subject. Sixteen-year-old Starr witnesses the death of her childhood best friend at the hands of a police officer, and must suddenly decide where she stands on tough issues of social justice. If you’re of the opinion that books aimed at teenagers can’t handle “serious” topics, this novel will change your mind. The film version debuted on October 19, 2018, and stars The Hunger Games breakout star Amandla Stenberg and Insecure‘s Issa Rae. These inventions were predicted in books and movies. 

Buy now


The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

There have been many, many adaptations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s celebrated works, and yet studios are still finding new ways to portray the brilliant detective in the media. The newest of these is a fully comedic adaptation starring Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson respectively. Called Holmes and Watson, the film came out on November 9, 2018. Bonus genius casting move: Holmes’s nefarious nemesis, Moriarty, is played by Lord Voldemort himself, Ralph Fiennes. Count us in!

Buy now


The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz

The saga that began with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo continues with The Girl in the Spider’s Web. This fourth novel in the series, the first penned by David Lagercrantz, found its way to the big screen in November 2018. In this installment, brilliant hacker Lisbeth Salander and editor Mikael Blomkvist team up to investigate the mysterious activities of spies and cybercriminals, which could have repercussions for the entire United States government. The Crown‘s Claire Foy takes on the role of Salander, and Sverrir Gudnason, Sylvia Hoeks, and Lakeith Stanfield also star. Check out our list of the absolute best thriller books of all time.

Buy now

My Heart is my Ownvia

 My Heart is My Own by John Guy

Can’t get enough British royal drama, whether past or present? You need to get your hands on John Guy’s My Heart is My Own: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots. Guy, a renowned historian, takes readers through the life of the notorious sovereign, from her accession to the Scottish throne at only nine months old to her imprisonment and eventual execution. The film adaptation is called Mary Queen of Scots. Three-time Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan took on the role of Mary, and Margot Robbie plays her cousin and rival, Queen Elizabeth I.

Buy now

Mortal Enginesvia

Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

Philip Reeve wrote YA dystopia before it was cool. In Mortal Engines, which was originally published in 2001, a pair of teens struggle to survive in a world that’s been devastated by a “Sixty Minute War.” What were once cities are now massive mobile civilizations, which travel across the wastelands consuming smaller towns and stealing their resources. The film marked the first full-length directorial outing by Lord of the Rings visual effects guru Christian Rivers. These are the YA novels that adults secretly love.

Buy now

The Nightingalevia

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Here’s another one for fans of historical drama. Two sisters living in France find themselves caught up in the tumult of World War II. Vianne struggles to keep her family safe when the Nazis occupy her village, and Isabelle fights with the anti-war resistance. When The Nightingale debuted in 2015, Goodreads named it the Best Historical Novel of the Year. The film adaptation currently has no release date, but Breaking Bad producer Michelle MacLaren is at the helm.

Buy now

Where'd you go Bernadettevia

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Richard Linklater, the director behind 2014’s Boyhood, takes on the film version of this quirky 2012 novel. Fifteen-year-old Bee’s mother disappears right before the family is supposed to leave on a trip to Antarctica. Bee makes it her mission to find her, and begins to uncover surprising truths about her mother’s past. The film adaptation, released in August 2019, stars Cate Blanchett as the titular mother, in addition to Kristen Wiig and Judy Greer. Here are some more of the best books for mothers and daughters to read together.

Buy now


It by Stephen King

Yes, a film adaptation of this all-time horror classic already came out in 2017. But, unless you’ve read the 1986 novel, you may not know that that film didn’t tell the whole story. The novel jumps back and forth between the protagonists’ lives as children and adults. It: Chapter Two, which was released in September 2019, covered the parts of the novel that take place during the characters’ adult lives, which didn’t feature in the 2017 flick. Jessica Chastain and Bill Hader are just a few of the A-listers who took on the roles of the grown-up “Loser’s Club” kids.

Buy now


The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, which debuted in 2015, is finally getting a big-screen adaptation this month. This coming-of-age story focuses on Theo, a young teen who finds himself parentless after a horrifying accident in the Metropolitan Museum of Art kills his mother. He ends up in the care of a wealthy Park Avenue family and must make sense of his new reality. The Fault in Our Stars heartthrob Ansel Elgort took on the role of the grown-up Theo, and Nicole Kidman and Sarah Paulson also star. If you prefer listening over reading, The Goldfinch also happens to be one of our all-time favorite audiobooks.

Buy now

truly madly guiltyvia

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

You’ve probably heard of another Liane Moriarty adaptation: Big Little Lies was a smash hit, raking in Golden Globe and Emmy nominations and wins. If you were a fan, gear up for the next adaptation of one of her works, this one a film rather than a miniseries. In Truly Madly Guilty, six adults, three children, and one dog gather for a barbecue. What starts as an ordinary Sunday afternoon escalates into a mess of unforeseen events and consequences. The film has no scheduled release date at the moment, but Big Little Lies stars Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon have acquired the film rights to the novel. Read some more of the books that inspired your favorite TV series.

Buy now

the war with grandpavia

The War with Grandpa by Robert Kimmel Smith

When his grandfather comes to live with his family, Peter is forced to give up his room to the kindly patriarch. But he won’t let his beloved bedroom go without a fight. Peter begins plotting a series of pranks to play on his grandfather in hopes of winning his digs back—only to learn that Grandpa is tougher than he looks! This hilarious YA romp has been adapted into a family film, which doesn’t have a set release date yet. But with Robert De Niro playing Grandpa Ed, you know you’re in for a good time! Better get to reading, so that you won’t have to lie about having read any of these books when you go see the movie! Speaking of, have you read the top 10 books everyone lies about reading?

Buy now

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by Reader’s Digest editors, who aim to highlight products and services you might find interesting. If you buy them, we may get a small share of revenue from our partners, such as Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. We frequently receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. We welcome your feedback. Have something you think we should know about? Email us at [email protected] 

Meghan Jones
Meghan Jones is a Staff Writer for who has been writing since before she could write. She graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor of Arts in English and has been writing for Reader's Digest since 2017. In spring 2017, her creative nonfiction piece "Anticipation" was published in Angles literary magazine. She is a proud Hufflepuff and member of Team Cap.

Newsletter Unit

CMU Unit

Subscribe & SAVE Save Up To 84%!