I’ve read a lot of books this year, more than I’ve read most complete years since I started keeping track 20 years ago. Of the 105 read since January here are the lows and highs.
Most disappointing: Casino Royale by Ian Fleming. Bond in print is harder to take than Bond on film. Let’s just leave it there.
Non-Fiction enjoyed most: Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops by Jen Campbell. Love. I work in a bookshop. Customers do truly say weird things. Many of them are quite funny.
Old book enjoyed most: Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. I really liked this, and I was sort of approaching it as a book I SHOULD read but wouldn’t like as much as Dorothy Sayers. How wrong.
Fiction That Stuck In My Head: Two books tie for this, The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery and Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.
Now let’s see what books can challenge these in the final four months of 2013!
I’m working on two questions from the big book meme today:
- What is your favourite movie adaptation of a book?
- What was the most disappointing movie adaptation of a book you’ve encountered?
My favourite adaptations are not identical to the books they represent. They are, however, good adaptations of the books, and don’t alter the two books in ways that makes them unrecognizable. I like the movie “Hunt for Red October” and “Possession”. The books are better in both cases, but the movies are quite good.
(Here I note that in my movie-watching experience I’ve met two movies I liked better than the book: “Beaches” and “Everything is Illuminated”. Those two movies fall into the category watch the movie and don’t bother with the book. My opinion of course.)
The most disappointing movie adaptation is more difficult, mostly because I don’t watch many movies that are adaptations of books I love. I think that sets one up for disappointment. That being said, the two I’d pick are “Prince Caspian” and “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”. Both movies heavily altered the book and in the case of Voyage, ruined a key theological point in the book. My humble opinion again. Any further thoughts on books and movie adaptations?
Speaking of movies, I quite enjoyed “The Blind Side” this past weekend. Look for the misquotation of the Bible.
I’m reading books I got for Christmas. Yes, it is March — but we still have snow. I’ve been saving some of these books. Some books need the right frame of mind. I got two books from 1Mom for Christmas. I just finished the first of these, The Reader, by Bernhard Schlink. It is pretty interesting. It contains a lot of German Guilt over the Third Reich. I’ve encountered this before in some friends of German ancestry. I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I’m still not sure what to do with it.
At one point during the war crimes trial described in The Reader one of the defendants asks the judge an honest question: “What would you have done?” I’m sure we’d all like to think we’d be part of the heroic underground or that we’d have stood up and said No in the face of monstrous injustice, but would we? Do we? Are there not monstrous injustices in our own society that we ignore? How will we be judged by history?
On the book vs the movie question, I saw the movie before I read the book. The book is slightly different than the movie, and, I think, gives better insight into the moral questions and moral ambiguity that the narrator faces. The movie is very well done, though, and Kate Winslet is brilliant in it. I recommend both equally.
I mentioned in this space that I’d acquired a library copy of Casino Royale so that I could read James Bond books in order as part of my reading old(er) books project. The James Bond books have all just been deleted from my list. Why? Let’s just say that the movies soften Bond. The one book that I’ve read is pretty raw, and I’m not really interested in that kind of reading material. I posted a link to my previous Bond post to facebook and one friend commented that the movie character and the book character were completely different. He’s right. I prefer the Hollywoodized Bond.
I’ve found this with other book/movie pairings. The movie leads me to the book looking for the fuller experience that the books usually provide, then the book turns out to be full of scenes I’d rather not read. The fuller experience has too much information. The movie softened the book, made it more palatable for viewers, broadened the audience. The movie basically has less sex and/or violence than the book. A short list of books I remember that fall into this category includes Beaches, Everything is Illuminated, and now Casino Royale.
Of course movies change books, that cannot be helped. But I’m still surprised when I find that the movie softened the book substantially. The accepted view in society is that movies are full of sex and violence. But the written word can carry a lot of both those elements as well. Should books have rating systems? Just a random thought on a Saturday morning.
When I was thinking about deliberately reading old(er) books this year, I thought about the James Bond series. I like a good spy story. I investigated the publication dates of the books written by Ian Fleming. Fleming died before I was born, making everything he ever wrote eligible as an Old Book by my definition. This is Very Exciting News. I went hunting for Casino Royale, determined to read the Bond books in publication order. I have now secured a library copy and am half-way through it already. So far I’ve met the Bond car, watched Bond drink his own particular version of the dry martini, met the Bond girl, and things have exploded all over our heroes. Excellent. I shall report as things develop, but I’m sure you already know what happens.
1Mom and I went to see “Life of Pi.” We’ve both read the book and liked it, but were slightly skeptical of the movie. We both thought it would be a hard book to capture. Ang Lee did a good job. We both enjoyed the movie. It was 3-D, which, in our opinion, wasn’t necessary. The photography was striking, and the visual effects beautiful, but the depths of the ocean shots didn’t strictly need 3-D. The tiger jumping out of the screen might have been effective, but that didn’t happen.
As you might expect from a shipwreck book there was a lot of water. Lots and lots and lots of water. As you might not expect, the movie adaptation was very true to the book. A colleague of 1Mom told her that this was the case, and that she’d really enjoyed the movie. This recommendation was a key reason 1Mom and I took ourselves to the theatre. If you’ve read the book, there are no surprises in the movie. If you’ve not read the book, the movie is a good introduction. Movies and books are different experiences, and I’d recommend both the book and the movie.
RABro got me The Casual Vacancy for Christmas. This is very exciting. I’m looking forward to it, despite the indifferent to negative reviews I’ve seen. I don’t necessarily trust reviewers any more, particularly when they get their copy of a much anticipated book and have a deadline in less than a day. Sometimes one must savour a book, not barrel through it looking for something to say in a review.
I re-read the Potter series during Advent as an escape from reality. Potter is a very handy escape series. It can take a week to read, and one can profitably read and re-read the books. That is to say, I can read and re-read the books. I’m not sure about everyone else. I think I’ve heard of other people re-reading Potter, so I think it is more than just me. I think Rowling will turn out to be a good writer, because she writes even when she doesn’t need to — she has enough money just from Potter and movies — but because she likes to tell stories. I think this is important.
I’m still enjoying The Elegance of the Hedgehog so it will be at least a day before I turn to Ms Rowling’s latest work. I’ll tell you if the reviewers had anything useful to say when I’m done.
I got two books from 1Mom for Christmas that she categorized as books on the aftereffects of war. One is The Ash Garden by Dennis Bock, set in Ontario and Japan. The other is The Reader by Bernhard Schlink. From my perusal of summaries and my memory of the movie of The Reader, both are about the effects of war on teens or children who grow up in the shadow of conflict. This is interesting for many reasons and has been a side interest of mine, but not one I’ve followed up on in my reading of books on the wars. I’ve more focussed on grown-ups in the wars, people who were in the conflict or who refused to join the army or things like that. I think that interest comes from my ADad and AGrandfather who served in very different ways in the second and first war respectively. ADad was in the air force. His father, my AGrandfather was a conscientious objector who served as a stretcher-bearer on the front. I’ve only recently started to see bits and pieces about this kind of service in the first war, and it was nuts. My grandfather never ever talked about it. Ever.
Fiction is an interesting way into the way the world looks for people on the inside of an historical event. Well researched, well imagined historical fiction provides a window into another time and place. I’m looking forward to my books on the aftereffects of war.
Sometimes a movie points me to a book. On the weekend I watched “The Hours” which I quite enjoyed. I know the movie is based on a book (The Hours by Michael Cunningham) which is based on a book (Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf). So many layers. Anyhow, I’ve read neither The Hours, nor Mrs. Dalloway, but now I’m much more likely to read both. I watched “Possession” before even realizing there was a book called Possession by A.S. Byatt, and now I think that is the Best Book Ever. The BBC serial adaptation of Pride and Prejudice helped me re-read the book by Jane Austen which I’d initially thought tedious. That book gets better every time I read it.
Which movies enhance your enjoyment of books or introduced you to books?
I finished reading the Hunger Games trilogy last week. I am still pondering. One friend liked “the strong female lead.” I’m not as convinced that Katniss is a strong female lead. She is certainly a female and a lead character. But other characters are constantly playing her. I am not sure she is a great character even though she overcomes the adults using her as a pawn. Peseta has more moral fibre and courage in many ways. He knows what he wants and Katniss doesn’t. Is this the kind of female lead we want in young adult novels?
I haven’t yet seen the movie, but soon. I am also in the middle of some interesting discussions about HG with teens and young adults. There will be more to say on this.