ByJon Miller, writer at
A caffeinated commentator obsessed with political pop culture and then writing about it. "Don't talk unless you can improve the silence."
Jon Miller

Most of us have our personal favorite books, the ones that we tell people we don’t want to be adapted into a movie, but so secretly do. There are some books that are meant to be untouched by filmmakers’ hands, whether by the author’s intentions or the book being plain unadaptable. “The Catcher in the Rye” and “One Hundred Years of Solitude” are some of the books that should be on every book shelf and should remain so.

However, there are several books that could use a visionary aspect to tell its story. I know, I know — the movie will never be as good as the book — there are certain cases where that is true and there are also certain cases where it is not. Was “There Will Be Blood” not an advancement on its inspired source material “Oil” by Upton Sinclair? Here is a list of books that should be adapted into wondrous features and the directors who could contribute their signature flair to the adaptation.

10. A Brief History of Seven Killings, Marlon James (Kathryn Bigelow)

A very recent outing with a strong probability of being adapted in the near future. A Brief History of Seven Killings has been awarded with all sorts acclaim and prizes including the Man Booker Prize. It is a novel that exercises an epic scope in a historical and period setting as well as intimacy within the characters who inhabit it. Following a rumored assassination attempt on Bob Marley just before his iconic concert in Kingston, Jamaica—this is a decades long tale that mixes music, drugs, politics, corrupt police, C.I.A. and F.B.I. agents, and a slew of gangsters.

Kathryn Bigelow has proven herself to be a director who is more than up to the challenge when tackling societal masculinity, even when it’s a female character. Taking herself not too seriously with the absurd action and youthful recklessness of Point Break, and fusing the tension and the disheartening nature of humanity in The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty. Bigelow, and her writing partner/spouse, Mark Boal, have proven that together there is a sense of accomplishment in conveying rigidness in a small community of chaos and free-spiritual obsession.

9. Hejji, Theodor Geisel (Phil Lord & Chris Miller)

You are forgiven if you are not familiar with this source material. A comic strip published by William Randolph Hearst, which was canceled faster than The Hasselhoffs after only two months. This is Theodor Geisel’s most underrated work and something that should be cherished with its authentic coloring and sincere, if arguably racist, humor. This is clearly Geisel’s personal favorite of all of his work, since many of the characters in this short series have found their way into other works by him. Theodor Geisel’s work has always been a fitting source of reflecting morals and hope, and has reshaped almost everyone’s childhood into seeing a different perspective on matters. You might not have heard of Theodor Geisel, but you’ve certainly heard of him as Dr. Seuss.

Phil Lord and Chris Miller have demonstrated their genius in finding the humor in any situation, both in family and raunchy humor. The set up for improv in 21 Jump Street and their visual design in an adventure setting in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs should be evidence enough in developing some sort of interest in adapting Dr. Seuss’ most undervalued cartoon.

8. An Expensive Education, Nick McDonnell (Ryan Coogler)

I was seriously considering putting Donna Tartt’s The Secret History on here, but I never could understand what all of the recognition was about. To me, it was an interesting premise, but never became more than an episode of How to Get Away with Murder. However, McDonnell’s An Expensive Education has always reminisced with me. I can see the trepidation since the only thing book lovers love more than books, is telling film lovers that the book is better than the film. Which was true in the case of a previous adaption of a McDonnell’s book called Twelve, but there is a strong film presence within this novel. Exploring the determined, but corrupt nature of Harvard and the students who are and have inhabited it. From a transfer student from Somalia, to the professor who arranged the transfer after winning an award for her writing in Africa, to a Harvard graduate working for the government to infiltrate a Somalian gang leader.

The novel balances the privilege college life with the erratic rebel life seamlessly. Ryan Coogler, has proven himself to be a young, up-and-coming director to keep an eye on. Balancing strong character emotion with a feeling of guts and blood. Coogler is a perfect fit in conveying the youthfulness as well as the underprivileged.

7. Nog, Rudolph Wurlitzer (John Hillcoat)

An older novel that is part of a bit series by Rudolph Wurlitzer. We’ve seen an abundant amount of cross country, finding yourself journeys. We’ve seen more than a fair share of cross country, finding yourself journeys set in the 1950’s. This seems to be a breaking point in American history where people began to question their surroundings and what others considered right and wrong. Jack Kerouac is synonymous with creating this genre. Wurlitzer’s novel, however, is so much more than that— reveling in the unreliable narrator trope. The main character could be a man named Nog, or someone else could be a man named Nog. There are situations and perspectives that contradict themselves, there is recreational drug use, a girl named Meredith who represents the new form of youth, and a fake octopus that our “narrator” loves to carry around with.

Reading this several times since my time in college, I still don’t know if this synopsis is accurate because there is so much weirdness going on that I dare any reader to know exactly what is real and who is what. This sounds a lot like a John Hillcoat film. His films are simple in story structure, but peculiar in character. Hillcoat has dealt with the country side and the morals of right and wrong with The Road and Lawless, as well as dealing with a whole cast of characters in the doomed Triple 9.

6. Lost Girls, Alan Moore (Joachim Ronning & Espen Sandberg)

This one is a little more difficult. A matter of an author not liking any attempt to adapt his work at all. Lost Girls certainly would not have Alan Moore on board, but it should have everyone else because who doesn’t want to hear and see Alice, Dorothy, and Wendy sitting around and explicitly talking about their sexual fetishes. Using already established characters from Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, and Peter Pan— Moore, and his artist, Melinda Gebbie, work perfectly in the form of dialogue and images. Definitely a difficult and controversial subject regarding erotica and, you know, the characters not being of age. However, a 1913 setting as well as unlimited visual stylization— and a slight rewrite to make the girls a little bit older.

This is a perfect film for the directors of Kon-Tiki, Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg. Creating a period setting and harmonizing it with the value and affectionate interest of female sexuality, the film will easily stir quite a bit of upset, but the idea of adapting an adult story with childhood characters from Alan Moore should be enough to hold anyone’s intrigue.

5. Toussaint Louverture, C.L.R. James (Ang Lee)

Okay so this is more of a play adapted into a book. And although this has been adapted into a pretty recent mini-series in Africa, there is still a sense of missed opportunity when not taking into consideration the work of C.L.R. James. First off, it must be a wonder why it took so long for Francois Dominque- Toussaint Louverture’s story to be brought to the screen. It has everything that a political and war film needs. Louverture, of course, fought in the Haitian Revolution. Fighting wars first for the Spanish against the French. Than with the French against the Spanish and the British. Than for the city of San Domingue against the French. First as an insurgency than as a political foe and creating a revolution. This has a gritty war and political intrigue drama written all over it.

Ang Lee is one of the most exciting directors of all time. Winning two Academy Awards, Ang Lee is the kind of director who can tackle any kind of material, I mean just think about it— family comedies, period romances, suburban dramas, westerns, martial arts films, superhero films, war movies, spiritual movies. Toussaint’s life and war exploits certainly fall along into several of those characteristics.

4. Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales, Yogo Ogawa (Cary Fukunaga)

As much as I possibly can, I encourage others to read outside of their culture. The biggest, and yet subtle, difference between American and Japanese mysteries are the ramifications of family life. In a typical American mystery—a detective tracks down the killer and finds out that he lives on the other side of town. In a typical Japanese mystery— the detective tracks down the killer, only the killer is his daughter. That sort of shift is a risky one, but when it works, it pays off with flying colors and is an exercise in subtle revelations. Yoko Ogawa’s Revenge, written in 1998, but recently released in the U.S. is a series of stories about grief, murder, torture, family, secrets, and dyslexia.

Cary Fukunaga has shown his talent in subtle revelation with his stern and direct work in True Detective (the first season, please). As well as his good natured eye on family and their secrets in Jane Eyre. What’s good about Ogawa’s novel is that it can take place in Japan or it can shift into U.S. territory since its emotional traits is not immune to certain regions. Fukunaga has proven himself to be a talent worth the time of anyone’s viewing; his handling of these sensitive, yet haunting mysteries are what good storytelling techniques are for.

3. The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien (Steve McQueen)

Sort of adapted into a movie already, at least one of the stories was— Tim O’Brien’s graphic Vietnam book of stories is unsurpassed. Imagine an Altman-esque type of ensemble story that delves into the daily life of the Vietnam War. And

Steve McQueen is the perfect, gifted experimental filmmaker that a war feature needs to lead on. If 12 Years a Slave has proven anything, it is that Steve McQueen is the type of fearless filmmaker who does not shy away from the harrowing and grotesque brutality of the human spirit. That’s the type of filmmaker who constantly challenges, not only themselves, but the audience as well. Tim O’Brien’s novel is a first-hand perspective of the frenetic and tragic chaos of the war in Vietnam; you’ll need a director who is willing to meet halfway on the grittiness.

2. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke (David Fincher)

So, this has been surrounded by yellow crime scene tape for decades. A crime scene that Hollywood has entitled “Development Hell.” A project that is simple in story, but discerning in visual production and audience interest. The book follows a group of scientists and astronauts who find a large object on its way to earth. They must determine if it is a sign of extra-terrestrial life and if so, how to contact it.

An adaptation attempt was made with David Fincher and Morgan Freeman behind the wheel. Although, Morgan Freeman is an interesting choice, it is the involvement of David Fincher that has peaked my interest. Although his many clashes with studios has become more than high-profile, building a bit of a good and bad reputation around it, hopefully there will be a fundamental understanding between Fincher and which ever studio owns the rights by now.

1. 2666, Roberto Bolano (Denis Villeneuve)

If someone had one last chance to remind the world why they are considered an influential genius before their impending death coming around the corner— you would be happy to have half of the proof that this novel had. This is the mother load of an end note on an already flourishing career. Bolano was literally rushing against time to finish this novel, even on his death bed. What he created was one of the most influential books ever written. A Latin American tale about disconnected lives in a not-so-distant, post apocalyptic city called Saint Teresa. From literary scholars, to journalist watching underground boxing, to a serial killer targeting women. There is a lot going on and there is a lot of emotions and philosophies at play here.

Denis Villeneuve, the best director for working in the desert, has shown in his career his sublime precision in detailing the deformation of a family in Incendies, the determination of answers in Prisoners, the lack of answers in Enemy, and the eruption of violence in Sicario as well as femicide in Polytechnique. The epic landscape of the destruction of existence because of human interference is something that is relevant in many published work, however, Bolano does not hold back when explaining the power of manipulation and the abuse of people and things by cynical ontology.

Which book would you like to see adapted into a movie?


Latest from our Creators