Books into Film: My Top 10

Many books get made into movies, including the recent Oscar winner Slumdog Millionaire (Q & A by Vikas Swarup) and Oscar nominee The Reader (The Reader by Bernard Schlink). So, I started thinking about my favorite books that have been adapted into film. Here are my top 10 (in alphabetical order).

My Top 10 Favorite Books Made into Movies

The Handmaid's Tale book jacket

The Handmaid's Tale
by Margaret Atwood
Set in the near future, Atwood creates a frightening, puritanical society where women have no rights. The story is told from the perspective of Offred, a handmaid, whose only purpose is to reproduce. Truly chilling.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Science fiction meets up with wacky British humor in this hilarious novel about Arthur Dent, recently rescued from planet Earth by his (surprisingly) alien friend Ford Prefect. The most useful possession when hitchhiking across the galaxy? A towel.

Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
If you like vampires in your fiction, you cannot go wrong with this book.

Like Water for Chocolate book jacket

Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments, with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies by Laura Esquivel
With magical realism and plenty of humor, Esquivel tells a love story set in rural Mexico at the beginning of the twentieth century. Forbidden to marry her love, Pedro, Tita’s lot in life as the youngest daughter in her family is to care for her mother until she dies.

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
A New York Times Notable Book, this novel beautifully depicts the exotic world of Japanese geishas through the fictional autobiography of Sayuri. A dramatic tale that’s hard to put down.

Mrs. Bridge and Mr. Bridge by Evan S. Connell
Written a decade apart, these two quiet novels portray an upper middle class couple living in 1930s and 40s Kansas City. (A scene in the movie was filmed in the Central Library’s film vault before it was converted to a theatre.)

Out of Africa book jacket

Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen
Originally published in 1938, this evocative memoir tells the story of Dinesen’s life on a coffee plantation in Kenya after marrying and moving there. A beautifully written depiction of colonial life in Africa.

Possession: A Romance by A. S. Byatt
Winner of the Man Booker Prize, this intricate novel moves between the lives of two modern-day English scholars, Maud Bailey and Roland Mitchell, and the subjects of their research, fictional Victorian poets Christabel LaMotte and Randolph Henry Ash. Byatt beautifully channels the poets through their letters and poetry in this literary novel, just as much mystery as romance.

A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
Considered a contemporary take on Shakespeare’s King Lear, this novel set in rural Iowa depicts the events that transpire after a father decides to divide his farm among his three daughters. Full of dark secrets and tragedy, A Thousand Acres won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1992.

Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy by Frances Mayes
One of the first books to turn me on to memoirs, Under the Tuscan Sun tells the story of Mayes’s life in Tuscany after she buys a dilapidated farmhouse and embarks on renovating it and the garden. Part travel writing and foodie journal (with plenty of recipes), this memoir will have you dreaming of Italy and its food in no time.

Honorable Mentions

Okay, I know this is kind of cheating when you’re doing a top ten list, but here are a few more of my favorite books later adapted into film.

The Joy Luck Club book jacket

Curious about what other books have been made into movies? Check out Based on the Book, a website that lists over 1,250 books, novels, short stories, and plays that have been made into films since 1980.

What are your favorite books adapted into movies?


Angela Kille

Angela Kille is a librarian at the Kansas City Public Library.