Books that need movies

Every week in /Answers, we attempt to respond to a new pop culture-related question. This week’s edition asks “Which book do you most want to see adapted into a movie?” 

As always, we have submissions from the /Film writing crew and podcast team. If there’s a book you’d like to see to adapted (especially if you know who should star in it and direct it), send your thoughts to slashfilmpitches@gmail.com for a chance to be featured on the site. Find out our favorite books that need movie adaptations below!

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Chris Stipp: “Anna” by Andre Dubus

I’ve never been one to gravitate towards the fantastical or otherworldly.

My friends growing up in adolescence, well-intentioned as they were, tried to get me to read Douglas Adams, Ray Bradbury, and attempted to cajole me into picking up any number of science fiction series which were, by all of their accounts, well worth my time. I just wasn’t interested. I didn’t want to read novels, to be honest. I stayed this way until the very first semester of college when I wanted to make English my sole focus of study. I read everything. Novels, plays, poems… You name it, I was sitting at home on a Saturday night reading it.

What made the most impact, though, was short form American fiction. Next to Shakespeare, there was no other genre that spoke to me more than the works of John Updike, John Cheever, Charles Baxter, Ron Carlson, and, the heavyweight to rule over them all, Andre Dubus. Dubus should be known to many in cinematic circles for his short story that was the basis for In the Bedroom, called “Killings.” The style and manner in which he was able to juxtapose hobbled individuals at true crossroads with elegant, economically chosen prose to helped color those moments and still gives me pause.

“Anna” is a story that could easily be rendered before our eyes in a visually understandable medium, much the same way that the photographer Gregory Crewdson captures the gnarled existence of suburban living as tableaus that can sometimes be unsettling as they are honestly moving. Take, for example, this sample from the story, which happens after our protagonist, a 21 year-old woman named Anna, helps her boyfriend rob a drugstore on a cold day. They go to a bar shortly afterward to drink and, after a while, she leaves the bar and even though enriched by a paltry sum of money, this is how she reacts to the weather:

“…the sudden cold emptied her lungs, then she deeply drew in the air tasting of night and snow. ‘Wow.’ She lifted her face to the light snow and breathed again. Had she smoked a Camel? Yes. From Lou. Jesus. Snow melted on her cheeks. She began to shiver. She crossed the sidewalk, touched the frosted parking meter. One of her brothers did that to her when she was little. Which one? Frank. Told her to lick the bottom of the ice tray. In the cold she stood happy and clear-headed until she wanted to drink, and she went smiling into the warmth and smoke.”

The ending to this story is sad, not pathetic, and it gets to a certain hollowness that resonates, should we ever be so low as to think that stealing would be a way of life for anyone possessing a conscience. It’s this kind of writing that I wish could be reflected on film more often but, like Dubus, sometimes it’s just enough that our mind’s eye helps us see it all unfold before us.

Available on Amazon for around $7.

Sabriel

Hoai-Tran Bui: Sabriel by Garth Nix

Necromancy, zombies, high fantasy and an intrepid female hero? Sabriel is the gothic fantasy adventure film we need at a time that the the young-adult movie genre is at standstill and the vampire trend is all but dead in the ground.

Written by Garth Nix, the story is the first in a trilogy set in a world divided into two lands separated by a mystical wall: the modern, 1900s-like Ancelstierre, and the magical, ravaged Old Kingdom. The titular Sabriel is a student in Ancelstierre, brought there to keep her safe from the Old Kingdom by her necromancer father. But his disappearance into Death (in this story, a nine-level pathway into the afterlife through which runs an icy river), triggers a series of events that forces Sabriel to venture into the Old Kingdom to find him and claim her inheritance as Abhorsen — a necromancer who puts the dead to rest.

It sounds like a bit of a convoluted set-up, but Sabriel is a heart-pounding, eerie and gory adventure with a dash of romance which explores a brilliantly constructed fantasy world. With many of Neil Gaiman’s gothic fantasies being adapted for the big and small screen (and Sabriel’s many similarities to Stardust are not lost on the book), Sabriel could be the next big thing. Plus: zombies.

Available on Amazon for around $6.

survivor novel

Peter Sciretta: Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk

I discovered Chuck Palahniuk through David Fincher’s seminal film adaptation of Fight Club and devoured all of his books published previously and since. And while Fight Club remains my favorite of the bunch, Survivor is my close second. The book was published two years before the events of September 11, 2001 and the story follows a man who has hijacked a Boeing 747-400, and the story is told under the construct of him relaying his life story to the black box leading up his plans to crash the airplane.

Fox was developing a film adaptation written by Jake Paltrow, but one day in September changed everything. I Am Legend/Hunger Games director Francis Lawrence has tried unsuccessfully for years to bring the story the big screen.

The book tells the story of Tender Branson, a member of a death cult called the Creedish Church. Through flashbacks, we are told the story of how he got to this place. On center stage is Palahniuk’s signature humor and prose, this time taking on pop culture, fame, religion, and commercialism. The chapters and pages are numbered backwards, beginning with Chapter 47 on page 289 and ending with page 1 of Chapter 1.

I would love to see this story on the big screen someday, although I must admit that most of Palahniuk’s work probably works better on the page. I used to imagine a movie directed by David Fincher, but that might be a bit too obvious and on the nose. These days I’d like to see this work adapted by someone by the likes of Jason Reitman or Rian Johnson. I feel like their sensibilities would fit the tone and humor of this book.

Available on Amazon for around $10.

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David Chen: To Conquer the Air: The Wright Brothers and the Great Race For Flight by James Tobin

It’s remarkable to consider that, as a species, we’ve only been flying in heavier-then-air vehicles for about a century. But as normal as flying feels to us today, there was a time not too long ago when man’s ability to quickly traverse the skies seemed far from certain. James Tobin’s book, To Conquer the Air, is one of the definitive chronicles of the Wright Brothers quest to fly, despite seemingly insuperable odds. In addition to capturing the fascinating dynamic between the two brothers, there’s a whole colorful cast of characters that the brothers were up against, some of whom would make great fodder for a film version.

Available on Amazon for around $18.

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