In Depth

Eight books to read before you see the film adaptation

From Hidden Figures to Fences, lose yourself in the stories that will soon be hitting the big screens


This year will see some beloved books getting the big-screen treatment - and some possible accolades to match.

Upcoming biopic Hidden Figures, based on Margot Lee Shetterly's bestseller, and the adaptation of August Wilsons' Fences, starring Viola Davis and Denzel Washington, have seven Oscar nominations between them.

Meanwhile, Idris Elba, Kate Winslet and several other heavyweight actors will be taking on some highly anticipated reworkings in the coming months. 

With this in mind, now seems as good a time as any to explore their paperback counterparts. Here are some of the top books to read before their stories hit cinemas.

Hidden Figures, Margot Lee Shetterly
Hidden Figures

Shetterly's biography focuses on the untold stories of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, three African-American mathematicians whose work at Nasa helped launch John Glenn into orbit.

Spanning from World War II up to the Civil Rights movement, Shetterly details the struggles each woman faced in a time when their race and gender might have stopped them from prospering at all, let alone in the field of rocket science. 

"There's something irresistible about Hidden Figures," says The Guardian, referring to the big-screen adaptation, which stars award-winning actresses Taraji P Henson (Empire, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) and Octavia Spencer (The Help), alongside Janelle Monae (Moonlight). The film, which premiered days before Glenn's death at the age of 95, is said to be a bouncy, feel-good flick, with its prime asset lying in its ability not to take itself too seriously.  

Out February 2017

The Circle, Dave Eggers 

In this sci-fi thriller, Eggers explores the notion of maintaining privacy in an era of online sharing. His story centres on young graduate Mae Holland, who scores a role at an infamous tech company called The Circle. While the job seems like a dream come true, the company's commitment to total transparency soon begins to border on a sinister surveillance of Orwellian proportions. Soon, the world that Mae was so desperate to enter becomes the one she needs to escape.

The trailer makes The Circle look like a "super charged episode of Black Mirror", says the Mary Sue. Emma Watson (Harry Potter) stars as Mae, while John Boyega (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) plays a fellow employee. Tom Hanks features as one of the company's founders in the second Eggers adaptation he has taken on - A Hologram for the King was released last year.

Out April 2017

The Mountain Between us, Charles Martin 

Successful writer Ashley Knox and Dr Ben Payne, a skilful surgeon, are left stranded in the mountains after surviving a plane crash. Broken ribs and leg fractures between them, the two strangers find a way to survive in the wilderness, developing a dependency on one another that eventually grows into a long-sustaining love.

The film adaptation sees Winslet and Elba take on the roles of Ashley and Ben, while Hany Abu-Assad, director of the critically acclaimed Palestine thriller Omar, is at the helm and Rogue One: A Star Wars writer Chris Weitz has penned the screenplay. 

Out October 2017

Fences: A Play, August Wilson 

Set in the 1950s, this classic stage-piece by award-winning playwright Wilson focuses on the life of a 53-year-old African-American named Troy, who struggles to provide for his family. Delving deep into subjects surrounding race relations and masculinity, Wilson's 105-page play has won the Pulitzer Prize for drama and a Tony Award for best play.

The film version reunites Antwone Fisher stars Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, and could be their ticket to the Oscars. 

Out now

Wonder, RJ Palacio 

"I know I'm not an ordinary ten-year-old..." begins RJ Palacio's best-selling novel Wonder, "a book that has made grown men weep", says the Daily Telegraph. It features August Pullman, who was born with a craniofacial abnormality that has previously prevented him from attending mainstream school. Now, as he begins his first day in the fifth grade, he wants nothing more than to be treated like an ordinary student. Palacio creates a stirring amalgam of narrative voices, with the perspectives switching between August and his family, as well as his classmates. With lines such as: "Why do I have to be so ugly, Mommy?" and: "I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse", the book explores ideas of empathy, compassion and acceptance. 

Initial stills from the film adaptation show a totally transformed Jacob Tremblay (Room) as August, with Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson as his parents. Stephen Chbosky (Perks of a Wallflower) directs. 

Out April 2017

Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer

In what The Verge calls "an entirely new level of science fiction", Annihilation tells the story of a toxic ecosystem that doesn't take kindly to visitors.

Area X is an uninhabited stretch of coastline cut off from the world for decades. Every attempt to explore the mysterious terrain has resulted in tragedy - members of one team committed suicide, another brutally murdered one another and one group were ravaged by a sudden, aggressive cancer.

This time, the 12th attempt to survey the area, a team made up of a biologist, an anthropologist, a surveyor and a psychologist will encounter the land's most dangerous defence yet: a deadly fungus set on infecting them one by one.

Natalie Portman (Jackie), Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin), Tessa Thompson (Westworld) and Oscar Isaac (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) are all confirmed to star in the film adaptation, which will be directed and penned by Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Never Let Me Go).

Producers Scott Rudin and Eli Bush have already picked up the rights to VanderMeer's next sci-fi novel, Borne, which is due to be published later this year.

Out late 2017

My Cousin Rachel, Daphne du Maurier 

A young Englishman, Philip, arrives at the Cornish estate he inherited from his godfather, where he meets the widow, Rachel, who also happens to be his cousin. Tensions rise when he begins to suspect she may have had some involvement in her husband's death - but Philip also can't help falling into a passionate love affair with her. Suspicion turns to obsession as their relationship becomes a dangerous game of surrender and seduction.

Penned in 1951 by Daphne du Maurier, the esteemed author of Rebecca, this Gothic romance has been adapted several times before. But, as Slate says, never so explicitly as director Roger Michell's version, due out this summer.

In his steamy take, Rachel Weisz (Denial) takes on the title role, while Sam Claflin (Me before You) stars as Philip.

The Borgias star Holliday Grainger also features as Rachel's step-daughter Louise.

Out June 2017

The Beguiled, Thomas P Cullinan

Cullinan tells the story of a wounded Union soldier discovered outside an all-girl's school in 19th-century America. His arrival arouses the girls' curiosity - they have all lived a sheltered life away from the Civil War – and soon, students and teachers become obsessed. But as their lust grows, so does their jealousy and eventually they are left with two options: continue to fight each other for the soldier's affections or sacrifice him for the greater good.

The first film adaptation of this Southern gothic thriller, starring Clint Eastwood, was described by the New York Times as a "sensational misogynistic nightmare" in 1971, with original director Don Siegel saying it was largely based around "the basic desire of women to castrate men".

Now, award-winning director Sofia Coppola (The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation) is putting a feminist spin on the story for a 2017 adaptation, which features Colin Farrell as the soldier, alongside Kirsten Dunst, Nicole Kidman and Elle Fanning.

Out June 2017


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