Is your New Year’s resolution to read more books already losing steam? Here’s some inspiration: Check out one of the novels being adapted into a movie this year. Star power and special effects will bring these stories of love, laughter and terror to the screen. But is that a good thing?
If you start now, you’ll be able to tell your friends which is better: the book or the movie.
Annihilation, by Jeff VanderMeer (2014)
Our take on the novel: “A successfully creepy, old-style gothic horror novel set in a not-too-distant future. The best bits turn your mind inside out.”
Paramount Pictures adaptation directed by Alex Garland opens Feb. 23.
Cast: Natalie Portman, Gina Rodriguez, Oscar Isaac.
Plot: After her husband comes back from Area X as the sole survivor, a biologist teams up with four other women to find out what — or who — is ravaging the mysterious environmental disaster zone where nothing is as it seems.
A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle (1962)
Our take on the novel: “Not the sort of book you were assigned in school. With its New Testament quotations and witchy supporting characters, it was at once too Christian and too blasphemous. It was the sort of book you discovered on your own, shelved as it was in the big kids’ section, and that you read ferociously into the night.”
Walt Disney Pictures adaptation directed by Ava DuVernay opens March 9.
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Oprah Winfrey, Chris Pine, Mindy Kaling, Zach Galifianakis.
Plot: In this YA fantasy classic, which won a Newbery Medal, two siblings and a friend search through the cosmos for their father, who disappeared while doing scientific research.
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli (2015)
Fox 2000 Pictures adaptation called “Love, Simon,” directed by Greg Berlanti opens March 16.
Cast: Josh Duhamel, Jennifer Garner, Tony Hale.
Plot: High school gets even more complicated for 17-year-old Simon Spier when someone threatens to out him before he’s ready.
Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline (2011)
Our take on the novel: “Entertaining but aggressively empty of anything approaching substance. Less a novel than a series of pop culture references glommed onto a thinly sketched out version of the monomyth.”
Warner Bros. adaptation directed by Steven Spielberg opens March 29.
Cast: T.J. Miller, Simon Pegg, Tye Sheridan.
Plot: The ultimate 1980s homage set in a mid-21st-century dystopia. When the creator of the virtual reality platform OASIS dies, players across the globe hunt for easter eggs hidden in the game. The winner not only wins oodles of money, but also the power to control OASIS and save the world.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette, by Maria Semple (2012)
Our take on the novel: “Semple is such a talent that suspending disbelief becomes part of the fun. This is an inventive and very funny novel that gets bonus points for transcending form.”
Annapurna Pictures adaptation directed by Richard Linklater opens October 19.
Cast: Cate Blanchett, Kristen Wiig, Judy Greer, Billy Crudup.
Plot: Bernadette is a typical mom, but she suffers from agoraphobia and hates her life in Seattle. Everything seems normal, until Bernadette disappears, and then it’s up to her daughter to find out where she is.
Crazy Rich Asians, by Kevin Kwan (2013)
Our take on the novel: “The sort of well-constructed romantic drama, rooted in real challenges for the couple, on which the best rom-coms rely.”
Warner Bros. adaptation directed by Jon M. Chu opens Aug. 17.
Cast: Constance Wu, Michelle Yeoh, Ken Jeong.
Plot: Economics professor Rachel Chun snags an invitation to the wedding of the century, courtesy of her boyfriend, Nick Young. Expecting a lighthearted affair in Singapore, Rachel is blown away when she finds out that Nick is the sole heir to one of Asia’s wealthiest families.
The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas (2017)
Our take on the novel: “This big, important novel is fueled by vividly drawn characters and large themes of systemic racism and speaking truth to power.”
Fox 2000 adaptation directed by directed by George Tillman Jr. has no release date yet.
Cast: Amandla Stenberg, Issa Rae, Common, Anthony Mackie.
Plot: Starr Carter has a lot on her plate. Not only must she navigate between two identities — “ghetto Starr” and “prep school Starr” — she is now the sole witness of a police shooting that claimed the life of her childhood friend Khalil. When Khalil’s death hits national headlines, Starr feels pressure from her community to tell everyone what happened. Inspired by Black Lives Matter.
Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett (2001)
Our take on the novel: “Some vividly realized characters and a plot right out of contemporary headlines. Patchett’s psychological observations are usually intriguing and most often convincing.”
A-Line Pictures adaptation directed by Paul Weitz has no release date yet.
Cast: Julianne Moore, Christopher Lambert, Ken Watanabe.
Plot: Terrorists crash the birthday party for a Japanese businessman at the home of the vice president of a South American country. A famous soprano finds herself among the hostages as guerrillas stand off with police. It is loosely based on the hostage crisis at the residence of the Japanese ambassador to Peru in 1996-1997.
Nicole Y. Chung works in Book World at The Washington Post.