Faceoff: Book vs. Movie

Small Cover ImageWhen I was 10 years old I read Lois Lowry’s classic sci-fi/dystopian young adult novel The Giver for the first time. Then I read it again, and again, and again, until my poor paperback copy was worn nearly to shreds. Thus began a 20-year love affair with the sci-fi/dystopian genre that stands strong to this day. The Giver made me think in ways I never had before, about society, about the things people will forfeit for comfort, about the unwillingness of most people to question societal norms or challenge the status quo.

When I heard that The Giver was being made into a movie I had mixed feelings. It’s always exciting to see a beloved story come to life, but oftentimes the picture on the big screen doesn’t measure up to the picture in my head. More often than not, when I see a movie based on a book, I leave the theater saying, “That was OK, but it wasn’t as good as the book.” However, there are a few exceptions to the rule. Here are a few movies that I liked just as well as, if not better than the book.


Tuck Everlasting (2002 version)

Small Cover ImageIn 1975 Natalie Babbitt published a children’s fantasy story that asked a question that people have pondered throughout the ages: if you could choose to live forever, would you? That is the question faced by the novel’s protagonist when she encounters a family who unknowingly sentenced themselves to eternal life by drinking water from a particular spring. In 2002 the book was made into a movie starring Alexis Bledel and Jonathan Jackson. The movie shouldn’t have measured up to my high standards because it broke one of my cardinal rules when it comes to books made into movies: no major plot changes! A relationship that had been platonic in the book was changed to a romance in the movie. I couldn’t be upset over this, though, because the change, in my opinion, worked. Furthermore, the film was beautifully acted and filmed, and captured the mood of the book perfectly.

Pride and Prejudice (1995 BBC version)

Small Cover ImageTechnically, this isn’t a movie; it’s a mini-series. But in this case, being a mini-series gives this adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice a leg up. A mini-series can be twice or three times as long as a movie, which allows the BBC production to mirror the book very closely without making any major changes. In fact, huge chunks of dialogue in the mini-series come directly from the book, to the film’s great benefit. With excellent acting, costumes, scenery, and period details, the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice leaves nothing to be desired.

Schindler’s List

Small Cover ImageMany people are unaware that Steven Spielberg’s Academy Award winning film Schindler’s List is based on the book Schindler’s List (originally published under the title Schindler’s Ark) by Thomas Keneally. Having both seen the movie and read the book, I would undoubtedly recommend the movie over the book. This is not because the book is bad, but because it’s different. Schindler’s List is perhaps the most gut-wrenching and difficult to watch of any film ever made. It seems to be filmed in such a way so as to evoke the most powerful emotional response possible. Because of the subject matter addressed, this is a good thing. However, the book is not presented in the same way. It is less the story of the horrors experienced by the Jewish people during the holocaust, and more the story of Oskar Schindler and how he ended up saving so many Jews. It is less emotional and more factual. It’s an excellent resource for anyone who wants to learn more about Oskar Schindler, but if you have to choose between watching the movie and reading the book, watch the movie.

The Rainmaker

Small Cover ImageJohn Grisham’s books seem particularly well-suited to movie adaptations. Full of suspense, they translate well to the big screen. The Rainmaker in particular holds its own next to the book. Featuring an all-star cast (Matt Damon, Danny DeVito, Claire Danes), Grisham’s story is particularly well-told here, with a subtlety of craftsmanship that makes The Rainmaker the best of any John Grisham movie adaptation.

So, those are a few of my favorites. What are some of your favorite book-to-movie adaptations?

Hemingway’s beard

The 15-Minute Pulitzers

Our U-Turn completed (with no flashing lights in the lane behind us!) our next data point for “The Near-Pulitzers” is the year 1941.  Now, if you’ll remember, 1941 was the year Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls was talked about as the unofficial winner.  Well, it seems that though Hemingway’s book was quite the bestseller and all, the uber-professionals had a couple of other books in mind when it came to decision-time and of course the result of the hullabaloo was that no award was given.  What were those other books, you ask?  Well, now that I’ve read the pair of them, I can tell you.

The first was Walter Van Tilburg Clark’s The Ox-Bow IncidentIn this novel about cowboys, Clark (who was born in Maine and raised in Nevada) strove to use the tropes of the Wild West (saloons, cattle-rustling, stagecoach stickups, and vigilante justice) to sound out the vague caverns of human psychology.  For me, these qualities made the book eminently readable and interestingly substantial, and I was also impressed by how Clark, in the last few pages, managed to give a light-hearted wrap-up to an otherwise dispiriting story.  I would like to think Clark was trying to orchestrate some metaphorical machinations for the reader there at the end, but I’m nervous about declaiming authorial intent too strongly.

As for the other novel considered in 1941, it was by a chap named Conrad Richter, and well, let me just say, we’re going to see more of him later.  Turns out if you write a near-miss Pulitzer, maybe you should turn that book into the first of a trilogy.  You know, third time’s charm.  But seriously, Richter’s book, The Trees, was quite compelling, alternately devastating and hilarious.  Maybe those terms are too strong.  Someone read this book and give us your opinion. It’s about the Ohio frontier around the turn of the 19th century and the trees that used to flourish there.  I mean ostensibly it’s about a pioneering frontier family, but we all know it’s about the trees, right?  Well, the trees as a metaphor, right?

Evidently, I have more questions than I do answers, but one thing I can positively affirm about these three books (I’m including For Whom the Bell Tolls here), is that they were all accessibly straightforward in the humanity of their stories and their very reasonable lengths.  If someone were to ask which one should have won, well, you know I’m not actually going to have an answer, but I do have to say I’m probably inclined toward Hemingway.  How much of that inclination has to do with my admiration for his beard, I couldn’t say, but there it is, folks, “Hemingway by a beard!” as a race announcer might shout at a track for competing writers; a metaphorical race track, that is.  I don’t really want to have to watch writers run in a competitive manner.  It just wouldn’t seem fair, that’s not what they’ve trained for.  They should be judged for their medium within their medium.  Not everyone can be a “category-spanning” giant like Ernest H.; boxing, sailing, beard-cultivating, writing like an angel.  Most of us are lucky if we do one of these things, or even anything at all, well.  But it still is fun to imagine Hemingway winning a footrace by stretching forward his neck and tipping back his forehead so that his beard literally reaches the finish just a hairsbreadth before a glowering Conrad Richter and a gasping Walter Van Tilburg Clark.  Just one of the reasons I love metaphors.

Early in June, a sci-fi blockbuster was released under the title Edge of Tomorrow.  It stars Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt as futuristic soldiers defending Earth from an alien invasion.  By some twist of fate, William Cage (Cruise) is killed in the battle, and awakens to find himself repeating the same day with the option to allow things to play out differently.  Think Groundhog Day with more exosuits.  The film twas well met by critics, but even the star power of the lead cast wasn’t enough to launch this title into the box office stratosphere.  While I’m sure many of you remember it being released, I’m sure there are plenty for whom the mundane title Edge of Tomorrow has faded from memory.  Warner Bros. is counting on it, at least.

As the film is prepared to release on home media, there has been this strange effort to re-brand the film.  Check out this photo of how the film will appear on store shelves:


It doesn’t catch your eye, but although the words “Edge of Tomorrow,” do appear on the cover, they are eclipsed by the movie’s tagline, “Live, Die, Repeat.”  A quick review of the movie posters reveals that this has always been a prominent phrase in the advertising, but not to the point where it overshadows the movie title.  While there was muttering on film forums about whether or not this indicated a title change, confirmation came later when the official title of Edge of Tomorrow’IMDB page was changed per request of Warner Bros.  The hope here is that moviegoers who had little interest in seeing Edge of Tomorrow in theaters will be intrigued by Live, Die, Repeat when they see it on store shelves.  Somehow I don’t buy it.


“Light novels” are the length of an English novella and are typically aimed at a young adult audience.

What strikes me as really odd is the fact that this film has already had another alternate name, and in my opinion, it is the most striking of the three.  The story is an adaptation of Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s light novel All You Need Is Kill, and the film was also titled this up until a late stage of production.  Grammarians may cluck their tongues at the title, and it is probably due to poor Japanese-to-English translation more than anything, but you can’t deny that it sticks in your mind.  It highlights the single-mindedness of a soldier whose determination is to cause as much destruction as he can with each living breath, especially as he plays the same scenarios out over and over again.  Kill is not merely the verb the soldier is doing, it has become a noun, a state of being.  Move over Fab Four; in the alien-infested future, all you need is kill.

Are title changes like this unprecedented?  Yes and no.  Smaller films will often change titles in order to rebrand themselves in an attempt to get picked up and Continue Reading »

Laugh, learn and live

Here’s how much I liked this book: I bought a copy. That may not sound like a big deal, but I work in a library and am a cheapskate by nature, so I get almost everything I want to read for free. But I was so impressed by Kelly McGonigal’s The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters and What You Can Do to Get More of It that I bought a copy for various loved ones whose willpower waverings are as powerful as my own.

Even if you are one of those relatively happy souls who has enough insight to work through the limitations of your human willpower, this Stanford University psychology instructor’s book will charm you with its often humorous stories about how and why our will works or fails.

But if you or any of your loved ones are among those who spend much of their lives feeling like failures for lack of willpower, the book is truly a treasure. One of the key things is that she writes about both how to stop doing what you don’t want to do and how to start doing what you do want to do.

McGonigal is not so much a scientific researcher — she relates no findings or theories of her own — but she is an outstanding scientific teacher and reporter. The book is not only well organized and easy to read, but the abundant insights and advice it offers are backed up by scores of studies in the science of willpower. (Look up the marshmallow test on pages 163 and 164 to laugh at how 4-year-olds tried to resist marshmallows and to almost cry at how their success or failure at achieving delayed gratification predicted their success or failure in teen-age life.)

Each of the nine chapters addresses an aspect of why it is sometimes so hard to live the way we want to live and then lays out straightforward suggestions of how to change our behavior. My own favorite is a play on the old idea that you make a firm commitment to “punish yourself” by giving  money to a charity if you fail to meet your exercise goals or cut back on cigarettes. Most of us would pick a charity we already support, so where’s the pain?

What if, McGonigal asks, you made it a charity you do not support? Or even, I ask, what if you made it one that you actively oppose? Depending on your bias, picture yourself donating $100 to either the NRA or the Brady Campaign and see how fast you walk around the block.

One of my senior regrets is not reading more self-help books over the years. Partly, I suppose, I didn’t realize how much help I could use, but mostly,  many of the books that I started were just boring. McGonigal’s book is different because it is full of fascinating information and is written so delightfully. If you need help living your life willfully — and who doesn’t? — Kelly McGonigal can be your new best friend.



Most of the quizzes I share are purely fun, but this one may have a bit more insight to offer.  A bit — I don’t know how much answering a few Either/Or questions can really tell us about ourselves that we don’t already know.

This test takes you through a series of “The following statements apply more to me” pages.  Read each set, decide which set on the page most applies to you, click the link to continue to the next step, and voila!  After four sets of statements, this site will award you with one of sixteen labels and provide you with a few paragraphs summarizing your personality type, as well as a handy list of adjectives for updating your resume or online dating profile!

Disclaimer:  I took the free personality test only.  I enjoyed reading the results, and more importantly, reading the results my friends posted on their Facebook pages.  I was not curious enough about the results from a four-question test to pay for the 90-page Career Profile.  Plus, I already know what I want to do and I’m lucky enough to be doing it!

Lots more than check-out

hsc checkout

Hessen Cassel Branch Library’s first automated check-out, 8/22/14.

Guest post by Edith

Yesterday, the Hessen Cassel Branch Library added a mobile check-out machine, and installation of two permanent machines is slated for September.

Many people worry that the librarians won’t have anything to do if computers are doing the check-out process. They are worried for us, and we appreciate their concern. However, believe me, we still have plenty to do! I’m looking forward to catching up on planning the curriculum for my new fall class, Full STEAM Ahead, where people can learn to program a circuitboard using Arduino; to design and print plastic objects on the 3D printer; or to build a simple musical instrument.

What will you learn at the public library today?

Missing Downton Abbey?

By Nancy

So Downton Abbey has been making the news as they released promotional images for the upcoming fifth season of the show. A water bottle left on a mantle somehow wasn’t noticed before the publicity photo of Lady Edith and Lord Grantham was put up on Instagram. Oops! For a television show whose fan base loves the costumes and historical setting and detail, it was a bit of faux pas. See a story about the gaffe at http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-28794870. (Spoiler alert! The BBC article above also talks some about the storylines for the coming year.)

While I am looking forward to the return of Downton Abbey this winter, I so missed Dan Stevens in season 4 that I think my withdrawal is more specific to Stevens’s blue eyes. So really, I’ve been missing Downton (as it was when Stevens was there) for a while now. (Still, this is nothing compared to having to wait until 2016 or longer possibly for the return of Sherlock. Luckily, Benedict Cumberbatch will be starring in a film that looks like a cross between Sherlock and The Bletchley Circle called The Imitation Game coming out in November. Too bad he won’t have those dark Sherlock locks though.)

Anyway, back to my continued grieving for Dan Stevens’s departure from Downton Abbey. Will his son little George, with his blonde hair, make up for the loss? (See adorable images of George in this series from Harper’s Bazaar UK — oh, and don’t miss the Dowager in image 7!) The huge leaps forward in chronological time that Downton Abbey often takes from season to season (and even within the season) used to bug me. But now I’m imagining a leap ahead for season 6 so that Dan Stevens can come back to play the grown up George! How wonderful would that be? (@JulianFellowes, do you read the ACPL blog?) Don’t worry, in my fan fiction, the Dowager Countess would still be going strong and look exactly the same, though perhaps Mary will have passed on (to pursue other film opportunities).

To tide me over until January I plan to watch Dan Stevens’s film “Summer in February” (no matter how bad it is) and perhaps listen to a few of his audiobook narrations (no blue eyes there though). I’ll also try to snag a book or two from the “Keep Calm and Read On” book display in Reader’s Services at the Main Library while it is still up. In the meantime, keep calm and start crafting for your Downton Abbey parties now.


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