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I love to read, always have. More often than not, I spent my weekends and summers growing up with a book nestled in my hands. Motherhood has left me with a lot less time for it, but I still really enjoy it. I recently finished reading the Divergent series by Veronica Roth. I’m slow to get on the bandwagon, I know. I loved the series though. I was so excited about it that I only finished the first book before I pawned my kids off on my momma, kidnapped my husband from work and we hit up the new Luxury+IMAX Theater for a matinee of the movie based on the book. The theater was amazing… full size recliners (no lie on the Luxury title), a huge screen (and it wasn’t even one of the IMAX screens) and the sound was great. But, the movie was a little disappointing. Actually, I was really disappointed. The book was so good and the movie was meh, okay, I guess. I hate when that happens! I won’t go into all the reasons I was disappointed, but there were a lot.
So, I’ve come up with a list of books-made-into-movies that didn’t disappoint (at least, not me). If you haven’t seen any of these, put them on your summer bucket list now! You can make the call on reading the book first or not. Titles marked with an asterisk (*) are suitable to read with kids too!
1. Hunger Games. I was slow to jump on this bandwagon too and read these books shortly after Little J was born. I liked the books. I liked them a lot. I did not love them. Maybe that’s one reason that I also really enjoyed the movie. It followed the story line well, the characters were true to their literary portrayal and the visual effects were amazing. Both the first and second movies were good, I was not left disappointed or unsatisfied when the credits started rolling. Definitely a couple good movies to see. Hopefully the last two movies will be just as good.
2. Harry Potter. I liked all the Harry Potter movies. The fourth one was probably the one that fell short of my hopes, but it was still good. There was a lot in the fourth book to shove into a 2.5 hour movie. Again, the plot line followed the books (mostly) and the visuals were fantastic. The first couple books would be fun to read with grade school kids, but the series gets darker the further you go and might be better for an older audience.
3. The Help. I enjoy historical fiction and The Help was no exception. My biggest complaint was the grammar in the book. I am a bit of a Grammar Nazi and reading the incorrect grammar was hard at first, but I powered on and I’m so glad I did. I saw this movie and then read the book. If the movie hadn’t been so enjoyable I would have stopped reading the book without much effort to get past the grammar. But it was so good.
4. The Great Gatsby. This is the only book on this list where I liked the movie better than the book. I tried really hard to really love this book. I read it first in high school and it was okay. I read it again last summer and I was right, it was good, but it didn’t change my life. The movie, however, I really enjoyed. I don’t know why though. I’m not sure if the book was clouded by a couple discussions I remember from high school about the Optometrist’s billboard, but I expected that to be a lot more important than it seemed on my last reading. Or maybe I’m not as in-depth a reader as I once was…? In any case, that was a little anti-climactic when nothing much ever came out of it. I would watch this movie again today. However, I don’t need to read the book again any time too soon.
5. The Notebook. If you want a sappy chick flick, The Notebook is a winner. I’ve read several of Nicholas Sparks’ books and this one is very near the top of my favorites. Who can say no to a timeless love story like that of Noah and Allie? And besides, there’s the Ryan Gosling eye candy factor as well in the film. Call up the girls, send the guys out and get a box of tissues.
6. The Princess Bride. This is one of my favorite movies. And the book is even better. This story has everything. Adventure, mystery, rescue, sword fights, damsels in distress, gypsies, an evil six-fingered man, pirates and romance. There is something for everyone in this story… yes, it’s that good.
7. The Book Thief. I am reading this now and I’m loving it. The movie was fantastic and made me want to read the book. What can go wrong when Death is the narrator…? Knowing the ending (uhm, here’s your hint: it’s set in WWII) isn’t making me enjoy the story any less. It’s very well written and I am reading it when I should be folding laundry… “Sorry, boys, but your underwear will just have to be wrinkled this week. Momma’s reading.”
8. *Holes. My mom tried to convince me to read this when I was younger and I was just not interested. I did read it in high school though and enjoyed it (although my teacher nit-picked it to death and I was tired of it by the time we finally moved on). It’s a good story and a pretty quick read. The movie was entertaining and tame enough for my younger siblings too. A decent flick for family night.
9. *The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. The firsts in the Chronicles of Narnia series, both as literature and film, are excellent. If my boys were a little older, I’d read it to/with them this summer. The movie plot follows the book plot on all the important points and the actors fit the characters well. (That was one of my complaints with Divergent.) I will probably hold off showing the movie to my kids for a few years (because I really don’t need either of them claiming there’s an Ice Queen in the closet at 4am), but older kiddos would enjoy both the movie and book as well.
10. *Bridge to Terabithia. I first read this in elementary school (3rd or 4th grade maybe). When the movie came out, I went back and read it again. It was probably one of the first books I read that didn’t end in sunshine and rainbows. I was a little sheltered and I remember it surprised me that not all stories end with “happily ever after”. Nonetheless, I loved the book, even at a young age. The movie isn’t quite as awesome, but it comes close. As the credits rolled, I thought “that was a good movie”. I was satisfied and that’s all I ask for in a movie adapted from a book.
11. Phantom of the Opera. I want to see this on Broadway so bad. But, at this point, I’m stuck with Hollywood. The text got a little wordy at times, but I really enjoyed reading it for the most part. Hollywood’s version does the story justice in just a couple hours. I might have been more disappointed if the cast hadn’t done so well with the music. Definitely worth a watch and a good read if you want something with some depth. It’s a good story.
12. The Bourne Series. I read the first Bourne book the summer after I got married, mostly because it was about the only book we owned that I was vaguely interested in and hadn’t read a hundred times before, give or take. Wink, wink. Guess what? I liked it. Enough to read the others. And the movies are one I can watch with Mr. Napping. Score.
13. *How to Train Your Dragon. This is that rare anomaly. The book and the movie are two completely different stories, with barely the character’s names in common, but both of the Dragon film and text are good stories! The book is definitely aimed more toward older boys (8-12ish) but it was still a good read and Big J (4.5) enjoyed it and understood the large majority of it. The movie is a favorite in our house and who can resist that awkward Viking and graceful dragon friendship? We are so excited for the 2nd movie this summer.
14. *Mr. Popper’s Penguin’s. When I was in grade school, my teacher read this book aloud to the class. When the movie was made a few years ago, I didn’t think they’d even come close to the magic of the book. I re-read the book before we saw it and it was funny that I remembered the book being more magical than it was, but I also found the movie quite charming. I found myself at a happy medium and liked the movie nearly as well as the book.
15. *The Lorax. While the movie has a predominant “save the trees” theme (which is fine – I’m much more middle ground on this issue than most people), the awesome music and lovable characters saved it from an overwhelming “save the Earth” vibe. I liked the movie, my kids love it and the book is a classic. Who couldn’t use a little reminder every so often to be a little more self-conscious and less wasteful? And who can resist that bushy, yellow mustache?