8 Best Books About Adaptation Readers Will Love

What are the best book-to-movie adaptations of all time? Discover the top books about adaptation that you should explore for your next writing project.

Screen adaptations do not always go well, but some film adaptations have been phenomenal. You may not even realize that your favorite book has ended up on a movie that made it to Hollywood or landed on Netflix, HBO, Hulu, and Amazon. While graphic novels frequently get turned into thrilling movies, even some of the top Disney movies were originally books. Some of the movies have even gone on to win an Oscar.

If you are looking for the best books and source material that served as the foundation for thrilling movies, keep reading to learn more about the best book adaptations.

1. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien

Best Books About Adaptation: The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R.
Zanastardust, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Everyone is familiar with the famous movie series, and most people have heard of the books by Tolkien. The Lord of the Rings is undoubtedly one of the most successful stories ever transitioned from traditional books to the big screen. When the movies were first released, they were absolute blockbusters, spurring a wide variety of sequels and spin-offs. Many people have even been pushed to check out the books themselves.

“Some who have read the book, or at any rate have reviewed it, have found it boring, absurd, or contemptible, and I have no cause to complain, since I have similar opinions of their works, or of the kinds of writing that they evidently prefer.”

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
J.R.R. Tolkien 4-Book Boxed Set: The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings
  • Tolkien, J.R.R. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 1728 Pages - 09/25/2012 (Publication Date) - Del Rey (Publisher)

2. The Silence of the Lambs, by Thomas Harris

Many people are familiar with the movie of the same name that was released in 1991, but The Silence of the Lambs was already a thrilling book before it was turned into a movie. The story tells the tale of a woman on the hunt for a criminal who tracks down and kills young women in the backwoods of rural America. The movie launched Jodie Foster’s career in many ways, but the horrific things that shine through in the original book are worth exploring. 

“She didn’t give a damn about some of them, but she had grown to learn that inattention can be a stratagem to avoid pain, and that it is often misread as shallowness and indifference.”

Thomas Harris, The Silence of the Lambs
The Silence of the Lambs (Hannibal Lecter)
  • Thomas Harris, The Silence of the Lambs, paperback
  • Harris, Thomas (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 384 Pages - 02/15/1991 (Publication Date) - St. Martin's Paperbacks (Publisher)

3. The Godfather, by Mario Puzo

The Godfather is an absolute classic on the big screen, but it is worth checking out the source material by Mario Puzo. There is a lot of backstory in the books that had to be cut out before it could make it to the movie theater, but if you want to learn more about the stories of the individual characters, you should consider reading the books. Also, the book has a happier ending than on the big screen, so consider reading them from a slightly different perspective. 

“You cannot say ‘no’ to the people you love, not often. That’s the secret. And then when you do, it has to sound like a ‘yes’. Or you have to make them say ‘no.’ You have to take time and trouble.”

Mario Puzo, The Godfather
The Godfather: 50th Anniversary Edition
  • Puzo, Mario (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 448 Pages - 03/01/2002 (Publication Date) - Berkley (Publisher)

4. No Country for Old Men, by Cormac McCarthy

No Country for Old Men, the film version, was released in 2007. Even though the film received universal acclaim, the book has many more layers. The book is a profound, rich tapestry with many life lessons in its pages. Much was taken out to streamline the book for the big screen, but every bit of it is worth exploring. It will give you a slightly different perspective on humanity, and you can learn more about the decisions that were made in bringing the book to the big screen if you read the original text by McCarthy.

“You think when you wake up in the mornin yesterday don’t count. But yesterday is all that does count. What else is there? Your life is made out of the days it’s made out of. Nothin else.”

Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old Men
No Country for Old Men
  • Cormac McCarthy (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 309 Pages - 07/11/2006 (Publication Date) - Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group (Publisher)

5. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

Many people are required to read To Kill a Mockingbird in grade school. The movie was released in 1962, and it was an immediate classic. The story talks about compassion and tolerance during the Civil Rights and conservation movements of the 20th century. The movie does a fantastic job of adapting the book’s story, but it is worth reading the book itself. Even if you read it in grade school, you might want to read it one more time. You will probably have a slightly different perspective now than you did as a child. 

“Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whisky bottle in the hand of (another)… There are just some kind of men who – who’re so busy worrying about the next world they’ve never learned to live in this one, and you can look down the street and see the results.”

Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Gregory Peck
  • Atticus Finch
  • Scout
  • Boo Radley
  • Truman Capote

6. Fight Club, by Chuck Palahniuk

There are a lot of movies that are criticized when the central premise of the book is taken out. That is not something that happens with Fight Club, as it did an exceptional job of taking Palahniuk’s book and putting it on the big screen in 1999. Some deep, dark themes must be taken from the book and displayed on the big screen, and it still has an inflammatory, visceral feel. Consider giving the original text a read if you want to read a brilliant, entertaining book. 

“You are not your job, you’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You are not your fucking khakis. You are all singing, all dancing crap of the world.”

Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
Fight Club: A Novel
  • Palahniuk, Chuck (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 224 Pages - 05/01/2018 (Publication Date) - W. W. Norton & Company (Publisher)

7. It, by Stephen King

Stephen King is considered one of the greatest writers of all time. There are plenty of young adult books from the mind of this brilliant author that eventually made it to the big screen, and It is one of the best. It is a grim horror story about what life is like growing up in a small clown, particularly with a murderous clown on the loose. Even though the movie is considered a scary, horrific tale, the book is even more so. Consider reading the book for yourself. 

“Drive away and try to keep smiling. Get a little rock and roll on the radio and go toward all the life there is with all the courage you can find and all the belief you can muster. Be true, be brave, stand.”

Stephen King, It
It: A Novel
  • King, Stephen (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 1168 Pages - 01/05/2016 (Publication Date) - Scribner (Publisher)

8. Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott

Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott, was only recently turned into a movie adaptation. While the movie was great, the book is even better. It gives readers an inside look at what life is like for the March family sisters. It doesn’t have the saccharine overcoat that many other stories written during the 19th century had. Instead, it is a pressing story about women’s rights, life during the 19th century, and how to overcome many of the trials and tribulations of the era. 

“Love Jo all your days, if you choose, but don’t let it spoil you, for it’s wicked to throw away so many good gifts because you can’t have the one you want.”

Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
Little Women (Bantam Classics)
  • Alcott, Louisa May (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 505 Pages - 05/01/1983 (Publication Date) - Bantam Classics (Publisher)

Looking for more? Check out our round-up of the best 7 books about civilization!