January might be the ideal month for cinephiles: Not only is it usually too cold to even think of doing anything outdoors, it’s also prime time for the Golden Globes and the kickoff of Oscar season. Of course, January also brings us great opportunities to snuggle up with a good book, so why not combine both interests? After all, if there’s something cinephiles and bibliophiles have in common, it’s that we all love a good story. Here are 10 books that pair perfectly with some of our favorite films:
1. For Fans of Harold and Maude: The Lover by Marguerite Duras
Harold and Maude makes it clear that ephebophilia doesn’t always play out like Lolita; some relationships between adults and teenagers are actually mutual. Harold isn’t abducted by Maude, and the same goes for the narrator of The Lover: She meets a man 10 years her senior in Vietnam and has a private affair with him. Like Harold, the girl is an old soul beyond her years, deeply frustrated with her mother, who is too blind to understand her. It’s a coming-of-age story similarly driven by the passionate relationship between two outcasts.
2. For Fans of Do the Right Thing: The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem
Nostalgic for what Brooklyn used to be? These two works provide different perspectives on what it was like to grow up in the borough before the 21st century. Fortress of Solitude spans the 1970s to the ‘90s, while Spike Lee’s film plants itself in the late ‘80s. Like Do the Right Thing, Lethem’s novel discusses race, class and gentrification in a way that will play your heartstrings into oblivion.
3. For Fans of Requiem for a Dream: Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson
Fans of this movie have likely read the novel it was based on, but have you read Jesus’ Son? These two works offer kaleidoscopic perspectives of drug addicts, lost souls and dreamers. If you want to experience worlds fueled by hallucinations, desperation and delusions — the ugly beauty of it all — Johnson is your writer. The title of his short story collection is taken directly from The Velvet Underground’s song “Heroin” (“When I’m rushing on my run, and I feel just like Jesus’ son”), which is a departure from the dramatic string symphony that plays throughout Requiem, but the subjects and, more importantly, the takes are similar — though, thankfully, Jesus’ Son will likely leave you with a bit more hope.
4. For Fans of Igby Goes Down: The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
Countless people have described Igby Goes Down as the modern cinematic equivalent of Catcher in the Rye. Like Holden, Igby is a sarcastic teenage boy rebelling against an East Coast society of wealth and entitlement; he flunks out of prep school and runs away to Manhattan, where he mingles with strangers and plays adult with people many years his senior, while his detached parents remain oblivious. In fact, Igby Goes Down basically is Catcher in the Rye.
5. For Fans of Clueless: Emma by Jane Austen
Did you know that Clueless actually was loosely based on Emma? If you compare Austen’s Emma Woodhouse to Clueless’s Cher Horowitz, there are a startling number of similarities: They are both headstrong, naive young women who decide they are talented matchmakers, often meddling with people’s lives in ways they shouldn’t. Amy Heckerling, the writer and director of the Clueless even recommends the famous novel in an interview: “Emma is just timeless. It’s just a wonderful look at character.”
6. For Fans of Annie Hall: Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli
Both Annie Hall and Asterios Polyp are case studies on the ways that relationships fall apart, and they both take experimental approaches. Woody Allen often breaks the fourth wall and illustrates disconnect with double exposure, while Mazzucchelli’s graphic novel illustrates two lover’s differing lifestyles and opinions by drawing them in completely different styles. Like Annie Hall, the graphic novel also plays with memory and leaves you feeling like you just suffered you first big heartbreak all over again.
7. For Fans of The Hours: Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
We might be cheating a bit with this recommendation. The Hours (the movie and the book) was obviously inspired by Mrs. Dalloway and the life of Virginia Woolf, but anyone who’s cried while watching this movie is going to absolutely love Woolf’s classic novel, which has a stream-of-consciousness style that shifts gracefully from the perspective of each character. Woolf’s writing will really drive home just how much the past informs the present.
8. For Fans of Cast Away: Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Remember Wilson, Tom Hank’s loyal volleyball confidant? Now before you start shouting “I’m sorry, Wilson!”, imagine Wilson as a 450-pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Imagine being stranded in the middle of the ocean with nothing but a hyena, an injured zebra, an orangutan, a few rations and that gigantic, hungry tiger. Almost makes it seem like Tom Hanks had it easy. Both Cast Away and Life of Pi get to the core of survival and what it truly means to be stranded, so if you loved the film, you’ll love the book.
9. For Fans of Bonnie and Clyde: Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins
Bonnie and Clyde are classic partners in crime. If you have a soft spot for them, then you’re sure to enjoy a book that claims “love is the ultimate outlaw.” Robbins’s novel features Princess Leigh-Cheri and Bernard, an outlaw bomber known as The Woodpecker. The two fiery redheads fall for each other over a couple of shots of tequila despite their opposing philosophies on life: Leigh-Cheri wants to make the world a better place while Bernard simply wants to “shake things up.” It’s a post-modern fairy tale that kicks ass, much like the movie.
10. For Fans of Dr. Strangelove: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Irrational, insane and corrupt bureaucrats tend to upset people, but if political satire is your thing and you enjoy the dark humor of Stanley Kubrick’s classic, you’ll likely love Catch-22. Heller’s novel takes place during WWII and features Yossarian, a bombardier who must run a certain number of missions before completing his service — but, suspiciously, the number of missions keeps increasing, creating a paradoxical situation that entraps the pilot. Thankfully, Heller maintains a sense of humor through it all. It’s the kind of book that can only add to your twisted experience with Dr. Strangelove.
This list is by no means meant to be the final say on movie-book pairings, and you can help us improve it: Know of any other great book and movie duos? Think you have a better pairing than one suggested above? Tell us all about it in the comments below!