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Adapted Screenplays: A Browsing Gold Mine for Reading

Janice Batzdorff, Librarian,
Collage of films adapted from books

Screenwriters for The Dig, Nomadland, White Tiger, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, The Queen’s Gambit, The Father, One Night in Miami and News of the World are possible award contenders for their adaptations of books and plays. They also provide a welcome array of reading possibilities. As COVID has affected the library's in-person services for almost a year now, the original sources for adapted screenplays constitute a de facto browsing shelf.

Books and Plays for Award Contenders

The following works are the basis for films that have been nominated or are likely to be nominated for Adapted Screenplay awards.

Book cover for The Dig
The Dig
Preston, John, 1953-

The overlooked person responsible for an archaeological find with extraordinary historical significance is finally given proper credit in this work of fiction.

Book cover for Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century
Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century
Bruder, Jessica

A journalist’s account of transient older Americans who live out of vans to obtain seasonal employment, focusing on Linda May, a 64 year-old grandmother, whose home is a second-hand jeep.

Book cover for The White Tiger
The White Tiger
Adiga, Aravind

Winner of the Man Booker Prize, this dark comedic story follows the rise of a poor villager to a successful entrepreneur in modern day India.

Book cover for Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
Wilson, August

Blues singer Ma Rainey joins her band in a Chicago music studio for a tense recording session. This is one of the playwright’s ten Century Cycle or Pittsburgh plays that document the African American experience decade by decade during the twentieth century.

Book cover for The Queen's Gambit
The Queen's Gambit
Tevis, Walter S.

Beth Harmon learns to play chess from the janitor at her Kentucky orphanage where habit forming sedatives are doled out to all of the children. Beth’s brilliance at the game permit her to compete internationally at the highest level, an unheard-of accomplishment for a female chess player in the 1960s.

Book cover for The Mother and The Father
The Mother and The Father
Zeller, Florian

The Father, available together with the play The Mother, is a powerfully disorienting story of dementia that involves a father and his daughter.

Book cover for One Night in Miami
One Night in Miami
Powers, Kemp

This play brings to life a conversation on February 25, 1964 between Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Singer Sam Cooke, and football star Jim Brown. The four friends met in a hotel room to discuss segregation on the night that the boxer won the heavyweight championship.

Book cover for News of the World
News of the World
Jiles, Paulette

A widower who reads news stories to gatherings of people is asked to deliver a ten year-old orphan from Wichita Falls to her relatives near San Antonio. Living with Kiowa who raised her as their own after killing her parents and sister, the girl she has no interest in travelling with this man who speaks a language she doesn’t understand.

Original Sources for Television Shows

Emmy Awards for television screenwriters honor those who write either for a comedy series, for a drama series, or for a limited series, movie or dramatic special. Individual episodes are highlighted, but there is no category specifying adaptation from existing material. Nonetheless, there is an abundance of new television series inspired by written sources.

Book cover for The Duke & I
The Duke & I
Quinn, Julia

Marriage prospects for debutants in 19th century Britain is the focus of this purely fictional romance series. The popular TV series, unlike the novels, casts Black actors as members of the royalty and aristocrats.

Book cover for Defending Jacob
Defending Jacob
Landay, William

An assistant district attorney in a small Massachusetts County comes across a case in which his beloved son is charged with murder.

Book cover for The Flight Attendant
The Flight Attendant
Bohjalian, Chris

A flight attendant wakes up in a Dubai hotel room lying in bed next to a dead man and a pile of blood. She is too drunk to remember what happened the night before.

Book cover for Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter
Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter
Gaiman, Neil

Obstacles keep arising, preventing the end of the world.

Book cover for High Fidelity
High Fidelity
Hornby, Nick

A 30-something list-making record store owner examines his previously failed relationships.

Book cover for I Know This Much is True
I Know This Much is True
Lamb, Wally

An identical twin who protects his paranoid schizophrenic brother feels both loving and resentful.

Book cover for Little Fires Everywhere
Little Fires Everywhere
Ng, Celeste

Book cover for Lovecraft Country: A Novel
Lovecraft Country: A Novel
Ruff, Matt

In 1954 a twenty-two-year-old Army veteran travels from Chicago to New England to find his missing father. He encounters horrors of Jim Crow America and of an H.P. Lovecraft tale.

Book cover for Normal People: A Novel
Normal People: A Novel
Rooney, Sally

Sally Rooney’s immensely popular novel, Normal People, is a tale of deep friendship and irresistible love. Connell and Marianne are unlikely friends but the popular boy and the wallflower find an unexpected connection when they first talk. When they head to Trinity College together, their roles reverse and their profound connection is tested. At the root of their mutual fascination lies an intense friendship, but will that be enough to overcome their vast differences? The Hulu show Normal People is a limited series based on Rooney’s book. 

Book cover for The Outsider: A Novel
The Outsider: A Novel
King, Stephen

Overwhelming evidence links a man to a grisly murder, but camera footage also shows the accused miles away at the same time.

Book cover for Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of my Hasidic Roots
Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of my Hasidic Roots
Feldman, Deborah

A memoir of a woman who grew up in a Hasidic community in Brooklyn and left her arranged marriage and the community after the birth of her son.

Screenplays by Another Name

JoJo Rabbit, recipient of the 2020 Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, is based on the novel Caging Skies by Christine Leunens. The TV show Killing Eve was inspired by Luke Jennings’ novel originally entitled Codename Villanelle. The following books are the inspiration for movies and a TV mini-series with a different title.

Book cover for Fly a Little Higher: How God Answered a Mom's Small Prayer in a Big Way
Fly a Little Higher: How God Answered a Mom's Small Prayer in a Big Way
Sobiech, Laura

Clouds is based a mother’s biography of her son, Zach Sobiech, a seventeen year old cancer patient who wrote an inspiring song when told he had a year to live.

Book cover for Good Morning, Midnight
Good Morning, Midnight
Brooks-Dalton, Lily

The Midnight Sky is based on the author’s debut novel in which a solitary, aging astronomer and an astronaut on her return from Jupiter ponder the impact of their life’s work in the context of the end of the world.

Book cover for The Good Shepherd
The Good Shepherd
Forester, C. S.

The movie Greyound is based on this historical novel that recounts a sea captain’s task during World War II of leading a convoy of ships through the Atlantic Ocean having to fend off German submarines.

Book cover for Guantanamo Diary
Guantanamo Diary
Slahi, Mohamedou Ould

The Mauritanian is based on this true account of being detained for years at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba without being charged for any crime by the U.S. government.

Book cover for The Half-Life
The Half-Life
Raymond, Jonathan

First Cow is adapted from this novel and focuses on two men in the Pacific Northwest, a cook for fur trappers and a Chinese immigrant, who form a business together. In the book, two female friends come across the remains of the men one hundred fifty years later.

Book cover for My Life on the Road
My Life on the Road
Steinem, Gloria

The Glorias is based on this memoir of the feminist activist’s itinerant childhood followed by a career travelling for political campaigns and organizing. 

Book cover for The Man Who Made Vermeers: Unvarnishing the Legend of Master Forger Han Van Meegeren
The Man Who Made Vermeers: Unvarnishing the Legend of Master Forger Han Van Meegeren
Lopez, Jonathan

The Last Vermeer is a movie based on the biography that uncovers the motives behind the forgeries.

Book cover for Penguin the Magpie: The Odd Little Bird Who Saved a Family
Penguin the Magpie: The Odd Little Bird Who Saved a Family
Bloom, Cameron

Penguin Bloom is based on the true story of a family that nursed an injured magpie back to health, giving them hope since the mother became paralyzed from a near fatal fall.

Book cover for Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss & Love
Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss & Love
Logelin, Matthew

Fatherhood is based on this memoir written about the first year of being a father to a baby girl whose mother unexpectedly died the day after giving birth.

Book cover for You Should Have Known
You Should Have Known
Korelitz, Jean Hanff

The Undoing TV series is based on this novel in which a therapist who cautions her clients not to delude themselves, finds that her own life is not what she thought it was.