Your Summer Reading Guide: 16 Great Books About To Become Movies

Chloe Grace Moretz in Carrie
(Image credit: MGM)

"Yeah, but it wasn't as good as the book."

You hear that about movies all the time pretty much no matter what, whether it's a spin on a huge best-selling series like Harry Potter or an intimate adaptation of a highbrow novel like Jane Eyre. We love movies here are much as anybody, but we also know there's nothing quite like the experience of reading book, feeling like you're living with these characters in your head for weeks and days on end, and imagining them in a way that's totally specific to you.

But even if you're setting yourself up for disappointment, you can't help but look forward to an adaptation of a book you love, out of curiosity if nothing else. And even though we'll be spending plenty of time at the movies this summer, we're also in need of a few good books, whether for reading on the beach or in a dark air-conditioned room somewhere. So we've put our heads together and come up with 16 books we all love that are on their way to becoming movies, whether set for release later this year or in development at a studio somewhere. Not only do you get to add some great titles to your summer reading list, but you'll be totally prepared to be that guy complaining the movie isn't as good as the book when it finally comes out.

Dive into our Summer Reading List below, and let us know in the comments what you're thinking of picking up. Clicking on the title of each book will take you to the Amazon listing for that book, and you can also check at the bottom of each entry for links to more information on each film adaptation. We're here to help!


Status: In development, but has a projected release date of 2012. 2013 is more likely.

Who's Involved: The Kids Are All Right writer-director Lisa Cholodenko has recently revealed she's taken over the reins of adapting and directing from Little Miss Sunshine's Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton.

Why you should read the book first: Simply because it's a fascinating read. Perrotta's penned a couple of novels that have become incredible movies (Election, Little Children), and I think Cholodenko is a brilliant fit for this book's blend of taboo, humor and humanity. Nonetheless, this story of opposites attract is so funny, provocative and moving that it's a perfect for summer travel. The story centers on the troublesome attraction that sparks between a liberal-minded sex ed. teacher, and one of the born-again Christians responsible for making her change her long-held sex-positive curriculum to an abstinence-only agenda. Perrotta paints his characters with a delicate hand, giving them layers and dimension beyond the labels they initially apply to each other. The results are insightful, hysterical, and breathtakingly poignant as they build to a climax that plays out at a nail-biting pace that won't allow you to set it down, and will leave you feeling ragged but satisfied.

More on the film adaptation of The Abstinence teacher

ANNA KARENINA by Leo Tolstoy

Status: November 9, 2012.

Who's involved: Joe Wright directing an adaptation by Tom Stoppard. Starring Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Aaron Johnson, Kelly Macdonald, Matthew Macfayden and many more.

Why you should read the book first: When people talk about capital ‘L’ Literature, this is the novel they’re talking about. It’s Russian Literature that even other Russian Literature alludes to with references in works by Chekhov, Bulgakov and Nobokov. The innovative tome may seem like a daunting task with eight thick parts to conquer, but at least you get to hold it over everybody’s head when you’re finished. And reading the story of Anna Karenina - and also Konstantin ‘Kostya’ Levin - before watching Wright’s film will not only help you keep your Vronskys and Oblonskys, Myagkayas and Vronskayas straight, but give you the opportunity to fully explore the layered thematic implications of the arguably un-adaptable novel as well as put the events you’re to see in proper context. The film’s talent will likely deliver an enjoyable version of Anna Karenina, but it cannot help but pale in comparison to the virtues of the full text. Stoppard is a genius, but even he cannot condense the classic into a two (and a half) hour movie and do it justice. I imagine it will be heavy on the Anna and light on the Levin.

More on the film adaptation of Anna Karenina.


Status: In development, still needs a director.

Who's involved: Patrick Dempsey is supposed to star and as of December 2011, Unstoppable's Mark Bomback is set to pen the script.

Why you should read the book first: Unlike other dog-focused stories, The Art ofB Racing in the Rain is told from the perspective of the dog, as opposed to the owner. The story of race car driver Denny Swift is told to us by his faithful dog Enzo. It's a truly charming, touching story that will make you want to hug your dog (or get a dog if you don't already have one), and wonder how your own pet might tell your story, if given the opportunity. While it should prove to be especially tricky to adapt the novel to screen while keeping the focus on Enzo's perspective, the book is a real page-turner and a great read. It's impossible not to fall in love with Enzo, a dog who, in addition to loving his owner, is also studying humanity in preparation for his next life, which he hopes will be a human one.

More on the film adaptation of The Art of Racing in the Rain

CARRIE by Stephen King

Status: Set for release on March 15, 2013

Who's involved: Chloe Moretz, Hit Girl herself, takes on the title role, with Julianne Moore playing the teenaged girl’s manipulative mother. Kimberly Peirce directs, still trying to make good on the promise shown in 1999’s Boys Don’t Cry.

Why you should read the book first: At this point, any mention of Carrie conjures images if Sissy Spacek drenched in pig’s blood from Brian De Palma’s 1976 adaptation of King’s earliest work. But if potential viewers truly want to understand the hardships suffered by King’s impressionable protagonist, they need to revisit the novel that started the author’s remarkably prolific writing career. Though King has downplayed the book in various interviews (it was his fourth book, but his first published novel), the structure is out of the ordinary and worth celebrating. King actually uses newspaper stories and “official” documents to piece together what he calls the “Black Prom” incident, where a girl with telekinetic powers exacted revenge on the classmates how bullied her. Carrie isn’t King’s best book. But it’s better than De Palma’s campy horror, and a chilling preview to what Peirce, Moretz and Moore should be able to accomplish with this anticipated reboot.

More on the film adaptation of Carrie

CLOUD ATLAS by David Mitchell

Status: Set for release sometime in late 2012.

Who's involved: The Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer directing, with Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Ben Whishaw, Hugh Grant and many more in the cast.

Why you should read the book first: Mitchell's wide-ranging, centuries and genre-spanning novel may very well be unadaptable as a movie, and even if the Wachowskis and Tykwer do a fantastic job, you'll probably be glad to have the book as background before going into it. With six stories that interrupt each other and nest inside one another like a set of Russian dolls, the novel draws spiritual and moral connections among a very wide range of characters, all of whom are fascinating to get to know in their own right, on the page, before you see them interpreted by any actor. And though the movie adaptation seems to have the budget to recreate some fantastical worlds, like a rigid Korean futuristic society or the savage, wild South Pacific of the mid-1800s, the one you imagine for yourself will still probably be more impressive than any CGI recreation.

More on the film adaptation of Cloud Atlas


Status: Set for release on Aug. 3

Who's involved: Original stars Zachary Gordon, Devon Bostick, Robert Capron, and overwhelmed parents Steve Zahn and Rachael Harris.

Why you should read the book first: In the previous two Wimpy Kid movies, young cast members like Gordon, Bostick and Capron have done a commendable job of breathing life into Kinney’s memorable characters, who are little more than stick figures on a page. That’s why it might be best to thumb through Dog Days before diving into the third Wimpy Kid movie. Kinney’s knack for writing in the first-person narrative creates so many quick-witted jokes on the diary pages of lead character Greg Heffley. And with the action leaving the comfort of Greg’s middle school – it is summer vacation, after all – the Dog Days book will help flesh out the characters while simultaneously giving you a good feel for our hero’s sarcastic, self-deprecating sense of humor, which has helped make the Wimpy Kid series of books worldwide best-sellers.

More on the film adaptation of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days

ENDER'S GAME by Orson Scott Card

Status: Set for release November 1, 2013.

Who's involved: Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley and Asa Butterfield (starring), Gavin Hood (directing), Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (among the producers).

Why you should read the book first: My own interest in sci-fi reading was especially limited when I first picked up Ender's Game, but despite my lack of space-interest, the novel hooked me from the first chapter. The story is set in the future and follows a child named Ender Wiggin, who's recruited to attend Battle School, a space-set training facility where children study and play games to prepare for a battle against an alien race. While the premise proves to be suspenseful and easy to follow, at its core, Ender's Game is a story about a child set up as an underdog, whose compassion, intuition and tactical genius makes him especially likable and a fascinating character to watch. It's a story that, if done right, could make for a great movie. If you've already read the book, try Ender's Shadow and see how the story goes from the perspective of one of Ender's trusted companions, Bean.

More on the film adaptation of Ender's Game

THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Status: Set for release December 25.

Who's Involved: Baz Luhrmann directs a star-stacked cast that includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton and Tobey Maguire.

Why you should read the book first: If Luhrmann's brash and flashy trailer is anything to go by, you may want to better know these characters before they get his larger-than-life melodrama makeover. Beyond a pretty society girl, Daisy was once a romantic, who has since had to lock away her hopes of love. Beyond a mysterious man of the moment, Gatsby is a pining youth and a dangerous criminal. Beyond his bluster and snobbery, Tom is a man who wants to punish the world for not being everything he dreamed of. These are layers I fear may be lost in Lurhmann's glossy translation, along with Fitzgerald's complicated relationship with wealth and the American Dream. Like his narrator Nick Carraway, the author was fascinated yet repulsed by affluence and its aftermath, and never is his conflict felt so strongly as in this incredible novel. Not only is The Great Gatsby a captivating battle of past versus present, old money versus new, love versus obligation, and dreams versus reality, it's also a book that breaks my heart each time I read it, not just for its tragic hero, but for every one of the characters caught in this crushing embrace of New York society.

More on the film adaptation of The Great Gatsby

THE HOBBIT by J.R.R. Tolkien

Status: Part one (An Unexpected Journey) set to be released December 14, 2012; part two (There And Back Again) set to be released December 13, 2013

Who's involved: Peter Jackson directing, with Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ian McKellen, Evangeline Lilly, Orlando Bloom Andy Serkis, and many more starring.

Why you should read the book first: One thing that could very well surprise a lot of people come December is that The Hobbit is actually very different than the Lord of the Rings trilogy. In fact, rather than being filled with hordes of orcs, evil wizards, Sauron, and epic battles, the book is actually more of a children’s fable, telling the story of Bilbo Baggins as he goes along with a bunch of bumbling dwarfs to find a treasure. It’s also one of the few books that will get a fairly literal translation on the big screen, as the book is being split into two three-hour films. And who doesn’t love to see a movie taken right from the pages of a legendary tome?

More on the film adaptation of The Hobbit

THE HOST by Stephenie Meyer

Status: Set for release March 29, 2013

Who's involved: Saoirse Ronan, Diane Kruger, Max Irons and Jake Abel (starring), Andrew Niccol (directing/screenplay)

Why you should read the book first: The Host is set in a world that's been inhabited by aliens - or rather, the people have been inhabited by aliens - called souls. The story begins with the capture of human Melanie Stryder, a young woman whose body is soon taken over by a Soul called Wanderer, an alien with a fair amount of experience in inhabiting other life-forms. But she soon learns that Melanie's mind is a challenge to overcome, as Melanie refuses to abandon it. It's a bit more mainstream and female-focused than most science fiction literature probably is, but to dismiss the book as "Twilight with aliens" would be an unfair generalization. Not only does The Host prove to be an interesting story, but it also explores humanity from an outside perspective and should make for a great movie, especially with the exceptionally talented Saoirse Ronan in the lead.

More on the film adaptation of The Host

I, ALEX CROSS by James Patterson

Status: Set for release on Oct. 26

Who's involved: Rob Cohen (The Fast and the Furious) directs, with Tyler Perry playing the famous title character.

Why you should read the book first: Because even though Patterson has become the Starbucks of the literary circuit – cranking out a new book seemingly every week – his detective novels centered around Washington, D.C. detective Alex Cross embody the term “page-turner” and should be read to enjoy the author’s gift for pacing and prose. The brilliant but humanly flawed Cross has been the protagonist of 18 novels for a reason – audiences can connect with his unconventional method of tracking serial killers, and his stop-at-nothing approach to criminal apprehension, usually because close members of his family are in danger. For whatever reason, Alex Cross hasn’t translated smoothly to the big screen--Morgan Freeman was miscast as the detective in Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider. Perry seems like a better choice, and Matthew Fox looks like a crazed antagonist in early photos we’ve seen. But read Patterson’s novel I, Alex Cross before Cohen’s adaptation to get a better grip on Cross, as a character, and the sadistic foe he’ll be tracking once the movie opens in October.

More on the film adaptation of I, Alex Cross

KING DORK by Frank Portman

Status: In pre-production, set for release sometime in 2014

Who’s involved: Thomas Mann, Nick Offerman (in talks), D.V. DeVincentis (writing), Matt Piedmont (directing)

Why you should read the book: King Dork is a funny little mystery filled with self-deprecating humor and witty observations that occasionally uses comedy as a front for heartbreak. Tom Henderson, otherwise known as Chi-Mo, is a high school student who is having problems at home and hasn’t quite figured out how to maneuver through the social hierarchy of his school. In his spare time he enjoys ranking the greatest rock bands of all time, attempting to fit callipygous into sentences, and coming up with creative names for the band he’s started with his only friend, Sam. After discovering a strange clue in an old copy of Catcher in the Rye, Chi-Mo stumbles into a mystery surrounding his father’s death. Portman’s book may be a YA novel, but its themes are universal and its dialogue is crisp--the type of book that can't be put down once it is picked up.

More on the film adaptation of King Dork

KNIGHTFALL by Chuck Dixon, Doug Moench, Alan Grant, Jo Duffy, Jim Aparo and Graham Nolan (rumored basis for The Dark Knight Rises)

Status: Set for release July 20.

Who's involved: Christopher Nolan directing, with Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman and many more starring

Why you should read the book first: There are two things about Knightfall that separate it from every other entry on this list: 1) it’s the only comic book and 2) there is no film directly adapting it. That said, if you wish to know the origins of the battle that is Bane vs. Batman – the fight at the center of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises - you need look no further than this three-part arc. Though it’s a bit messy structurally sometimes and goes on the occasional strange tangent (you have to remember the plot was originally told over the course of multiple issues), it’s actually a compelling story about a seemingly invincible hero being defeated and learning how to fight his way back to the top. One of the benefits of the read is that it’s also pretty hard to get spoilers from it, as much of the stuff in the book would be impossible to translate into Nolan’s universe. So what you get is a great Batman vs. Bane story and a way to pump yourself up for summer’s most anticipated movie!

More on The Dark Knight Rises

A MOST WANTED MAN by John le Carré

Status: Shoots in September for a 2013 release.

Who's involved: Anton Corbijn directing an adaptation by Andrew Bovell. Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams and possibly Daniel Brühl.

Why you should read the book first:One of the best films of last year was Tomas Alfredson’s take on Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, but the adaptation of John le Carré’s seminal spy novel also left a lot of people cold. By the sounds of it, they were too often chasing down the plot of the slow burning mystery because not everything is painstakingly explained. Not as sublime as his early work, “A Most Wanted Man” is still a wonderfully dense and engaging read. le Carré’s classic (and realistic) spy sensibilities set in the modern political climate, the novel tells the complex story of a mysterious Muslim named Issa, the idealistic young lawyer trying to prevent his probable rendition, an inscrutable bank owner, and the murky actions of several international intelligence agencies. And like TTSS, I wouldn’t expect A Most Wanted Man to hold your hand and walk you through the maze, as Corbijn is very much a visual stylist, far more concerned with atmosphere and composition than exposition. It might be best to know the plot basics before you ever step into the movie.

More on the film adaptation of A Most Wanted Man


Status: Set for release September 14.

Who's involved: Author Chbosky adapted his own book and directs it, with a cast that includes Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Paul Rudd, Melanie Lynskey, Mae Whitman and Johnny Simmons.

Why you should read the book first: Because it's written as a series of first-person letters from our hero, Charlie, that are so personal and frequently heartbreaking it's hard to know how any movie could recapture them. Chbosky's book captures so many pains of being a teenager-- from loving someone who doesn't love you back to simply not understanding how your body works and what it wants-- that it feels kind of like traveling back to your own adolescence, and there's a personal connection you get inside of Charlie's head that's impossible to recreate onscreen. There's a great cast lined up for the movie version, and Chbosky clearly knows his way around his own book, but the best way to meet Charlie and his friends is to imagine them in your head first.

More on the film adaptation of The Perks of Being A Wallflower

WORLD WAR Z by Max Brooks

Status: Set for release June 21, 2013

Who's involved: Marc Forster directing, with Brad Pitt, Matthew Fox, James Badge Dale, David Morse and more starring

Why you should read the book first: World War Z is a legitimately great book, and there’s a very good chance that the movie adaptation is going to screw it up royally. While certainly not the easiest book to make into a movie - as the whole story of the zombie apocalypse is told as an oral history after the fact– the film version seems drastically different than the source material to the point that we must wonder if we will even recognize the book inspiration inside of it. Hollywood is filled with tons of terrible zombie stories, but Brooks has created something really compelling and interesting with World War Z and it’s something that can best be appreciated on the page and in the imagination. For added fun, pick up the audiobook, which features the voices of actors like Alan Alda, Carl Reiner, Mark Hamill, Henry Rollins, John Turturro, and Rob Reiner.

More on the film adaptation of World War Z

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