Reel Good Reads: From Print to Film

The Commitments

By Roddy Doyle

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This funky, rude, unpretentious first novel traces the short, funny, and furious career of a group of working-class Irish kids who form a band, The Commitments. Their mission: to bring soul to Dublin!

On Film:
Watch the popular film adaptation. Music from the film is available on CD: The Commitments: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack and The Commitments Volume 2.

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The English Patient

By Michael Ondaatje

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"With ravishing beauty and unsettling intelligence, Michael Ondaatje's Booker Prize-winning novel traces the intersection of four damaged lives in an Italian villa at the end of World War II. Hana, the exhausted nurse; the maimed thief, Caravaggio; the wary sapper, Kip: each is haunted by the riddle of the English patient, the nameless, burned man who lies in an upstairs room and whose memories of passion, betrayal, and rescue illuminates this book like flashes of heat lightning."

Also available on audio and as an Academy Award-winning video.

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The Firm

By John Grisham

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Mitchell Y. McDeere has worked hard to get where he is: third in his class at Harvard Law. Aggressively recruited by all the top firms, and initially headed for Wall Street, Mitch surprised everyone by joining Bendini, Lambert and Locke, a very private, very rich tax firm in Memphis.

On Film:
The 1996 film, starring Tom Cruise, Gene Hackman, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Ed Harris, Holly Hunter, is a great companion to Grisham's thrilling novel. You can also check out The Pelican Brief and A Time to Kill.

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The Green Mile

By Stephen King

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At Cold Mountain Penitentiary, along the lonely stretch of cells known as the Green Mile, killers as depraved as the psychopathic "Billy the Kid" Wharton and the possessed Eduard Delacroix await death strapped in "Old Sparky". Here guards as decent as Paul Edgecombe and as sadistic as Percy Wetmore watch over them. But good or evil, innocent or guilty, none have ever seen the brutal likes of the new prisoner, John Coffey, sentenced to death for raping and murdering two young girls. Is Coffey a devil in human form? Or is he a far, far different kind of being?

On Film:
A stellar cast including Tom Hanks, David Morse, Bonnie Hunt, Michael Clarke Duncan, Sam Rockwell, and Harry Dean Stanton makes this 1999 movie a must see.

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The Hours

By Michael Cunningham

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On a gray suburban London morning in 1923, Virginia Woolf awakens from a dream that will soon lead to Mrs. Dalloway. In the present, on a beautiful June day in Greenwich Village, 52-year-old Clarissa Vaughan is planning a party for her oldest love, a poet dying of AIDS. And in Los Angeles in 1949, Laura Brown, pregnant and unsettled, does her best to prepare for her husband's birthday, but can't seem to stop reading Woolf. In 1999, Cunningham was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for this novel.

On Film:
Nicole Kidman won the Best Actress Oscar for her role in the 2002 film adaptation of Cunningham's novel. Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore also star in this movie.

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The House of Eliott

By Jean Marsh

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Two genteel sisters in 1920s London, finding that they are suddenly destitute, defy societal norms by seeking work. They build a fashionable dressmaking business against the backdrop of a ritzy, jazzy, high society London.  Also available as a BBC production.

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The Jewel in the Crown

By Paul Scott

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The first volume in Paul Scott's historical tour-de-force, the Raj Quartet, opens in 1942 as the British fear both Japanese invasion and Indian demands for self-rule. In the Mayapore gardens, Daphne Manners, daughter of the provincial governor, leaves her Indian lover, who will soon be arrested for her alleged rape.
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The Joy Luck Club

By Amy Tan

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In 1949 four Chinese women drawn together by the shadow of their past begin meeting in San Francisco to play mah jong, invest in stocks, eat dim sum, and 'say' stories. They call their gathering the Joy Luck Club.

On Film:
Originally released in 1993,this film adaptation is full of vibrant characters.

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The King's Speech

By Mark Logue and Peter Conradi

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Albert, Duke of York began to see speech therapist Lionel Logue in a desperate bid to cure his lifelong stammer. Little did the two men know that this unlikely friendship would ultimately save the House of Windsor from collapse. The amiable Logue gave the shy young Duke the skills and the confidence to stand and deliver before a crowd. And when his elder brother, Edward VIII, abdicated the throne to marry for love, 'Bertie' was able to assume the reins of power as King George VI.

The Oscar-winning movie of the same title is available on DVD, and the book is also available on audio.

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The Orchid Thief

By Susan Orlean

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John Laroche is a renegade plant dealer and sharply handsome guy, in spite of the fact that he is missing his front teeth and has the posture of al dente spaghetti. In 1994, Laroche and three Seminole Indians were arrested with rare orchids they had stolen from a wild swamp in south Florida that is filled with some of the world's most extraordinary plants and trees. Laroche had planned to clone the orchids and then sell them for a small fortune to impassioned collectors. After he was caught in the act, Laroche set off one of the oddest legal controversies in recent memory, which brought together environmentalists, Native American activists, and devoted orchid collectors. The result is a true tale that is strange, compelling, and hilarious.
Later made into the movie, Adaptation, starring Nicolas Cage and Meryl Streep.

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