17 Books to Read Instead of Watching the Oscars

Posted on February 22, 2017 by

Awards season comes to a close this weekend with the 89th Annual Academy Awards on February 26. As in years past, many of the 2017’s Best Picture nominees include outstanding book and play adaptations. So whether you’re a film buff or just simply love a great books, we’ve rounded up a list of the books that inspired this year’s Best Picture nominees, as well as those that inspired winners in recent years. Publishers’ descriptions included below.

 

2017 Best Picture Nominees

Fences by August Wilson

Fences

From legendary playwright August Wilson, the powerful, stunning dramatic work that won him critical acclaim, including the Tony Award for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize.

Troy Maxson is a strong man, a hard man. He has had to be to survive. Troy Maxson has gone through life in an America where to be proud and black is to face pressures that could crush a man, body and soul. But the 1950s are yielding to the new spirit of liberation in the 1960s, a spirit that is changing the world Troy Maxson has learned to deal with the only way he can, a spirit that is making him a stranger, angry and afraid, in a world he never knew and to a wife and son he understands less and less.

2017 nomination: Fences

 

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

Hidden Figures

The phenomenal true story of the black female mathematicians at NASA whose calculations helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space. Soon to be a major motion picture starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kirsten Dunst, and Kevin Costner. Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as human computers used pencils, slide rules and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space. Among these problem-solvers were a group of exceptionally talented African American women, some of the brightest minds of their generation. Originally relegated to teaching math in the Souths segregated public schools, they were called into service during the labor shortages of World War II, when America’s aeronautics industry was in dire need of anyone who had the right stuff. Suddenly, these overlooked math whizzes had a shot at jobs worthy of their skills, and they answered Uncle Sam’s call, moving to Hampton, Virginia and the fascinating, high-energy world of the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory. Even as Virginias Jim Crow laws required them to be segregated from their white counterparts, the women of Langley’s all-black West Computing group helped America achieve one of the things it desired most: a decisive victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War, and complete domination of the heavens. Starting in World War II and moving through to the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement and the Space Race, Hidden Figures follows the interwoven accounts of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden, four African American women who participated in some of NASAs greatest successes. It chronicles their careers over nearly three decades they faced challenges, forged alliances and used their intellect to change their own lives, and their country’s future.

2017 nomination: Hidden Figures

 

A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley

A Long Way Home

First it was a media sensation. Then it became the #1 international bestseller A Long Way Home. Now it’s Lion, the major motion picture starring Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, and Rooney Mara — nominated for six Academy Awards!

This is the miraculous and triumphant story of Saroo Brierley, a young man who used Google Earth to rediscover his childhood life and home in an incredible journey from India to Australia and back again…

At only five years old, Saroo Brierley got lost on a train in India. Unable to read or write or recall the name of his hometown or even his own last name, he survived alone for weeks on the rough streets of Calcutta before ultimately being transferred to an agency and adopted by a couple in Australia.

Despite his gratitude, Brierley always wondered about his origins. Eventually, with the advent of Google Earth, he had the opportunity to look for the needle in a haystack he once called home, and pore over satellite images for landmarks he might recognize or mathematical equations that might further narrow down the labyrinthine map of India. One day, after years of searching, he miraculously found what he was looking for and set off to find his family.

A Long Way Home is a moving, poignant, and inspirational true story of survival and triumph against incredible odds. It celebrates the importance of never letting go of what drives the human spirit: hope.

2017 nomination: Lion

 

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Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

Stories of Your Life and Others

Ted Chiang has long been known as one of the most powerful science fiction writers working today. Offering readers the dual delights of the very strange and the heartbreakingly familiar, Arrival presents characters who must confront sudden change. In “Story of Your Life,” which provides the basis for the film Arrival, alien lifeforms suddenly appear on Earth. When a linguist is brought in to help communicate with them and discern their intentions, her new knowledge of their language and its nonlinear structure allows her to see future events and all the joy and pain they may bring. In each story of this incredible collection, with sharp intelligence and humor, Ted Chiang examines what it means to be alive in a world marked by uncertainty, but also by wonder.

2017 nominationArrival

 

In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney

moonlight

Best Picture nominee Moonlight started as a play called In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue. Written by McCraney as a drama school project, it is “drawn from [his] memories of his own search for identity as a queer youth in Miami’s poor and tough Liberty City neighborhood,” reports NBC News.

 

Best Picture Winners of Recent Years

Tweleve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

12 Years a Slave

The harrowing true story that inspired the critically acclaimed film.

The son of a freed slave, Solomon Northup lived the first thirty years of his life as a free man in upstate New York. In the spring of 1841, he was offered a job: a short-term, lucrative engagement as a violinist in a traveling circus. It was a trap. In Washington, DC, Northup was drugged, kidnapped, and sold into slavery. He spent the next twelve years on plantations in Louisiana, enduring backbreaking labor, unimaginable violence, and inhumane treatment at the hands of cruel masters, until a kind stranger helped to win his release. His account of those years is a shocking, unforgettable portrait of America’s most insidious historical institution as told by a man who experienced it firsthand.

Published shortly after Harriet Beecher Stowe’s abolitionist classic Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Northup’s memoir became a bestseller in 1853. With its eloquent depiction of life before and after bondage, Twelve Years a Slave was a unique and effective entry into the national debate over slavery. Rediscovered in the 1960s and now the inspiration for a major motion picture, Northup’s poignant narrative gives readers an invaluable glimpse into a shameful chapter of American history.

2013 Best Picture winner: Twelve Years a Slave

 

The Master of Disguise by Antonio J. Mendez

Master of Disguise

For the first time, the CIA has authorized a top-level operative to tell all in an unforgettable behind-the-scenes look at espionage in action. An undisputed genius who could create an entirely new identity for anybody, anywhere, anytime, Antonio J. Mendez combined the cunning tricks of a magician with the analytical insight of a psychologist to help hundreds of people escape potentially fatal situations. From “Wild West” adventures in East Asia to Cold War intrigue in Moscow and helping six Americans escape revolutionary Tehran in 1980, Mendez was on the scene. Here he gives us a privileged look at what really happens in the field and behind closed doors at the highest levels of international espionage, some of it shocking, frightening, and wildly inventive — all of it unforgettable.

2012 Best Picture winner: Argo

 

Q&A by Vikas Swarup

Q&A

Vikas Swarup’s spectacular debut, which provided the inspiration for the award-winning film Slumdog Millionaire, is a page-turning and beguiling story of love, perseverance, and drama.

Vikas Swarup’s remarkable debut novel opens in a jail cell in Mumbai, India, where Ram Mohammad Thomas is being held after correctly answering all twelve questions on India’s biggest quiz show, “Who Will Win a Billion?” It is hard to believe that a poor orphan who has never read a newspaper or gone to school could win such a contest. But through a series of exhilarating tales Ram explains to his lawyer how episodes in his life gave him the answer to each question.

Ram takes us on an amazing review of his own history — from the day he was found as a baby in the clothes donation box of a Delhi church to his employment by a faded Bollywood star to his adventure with a security-crazed Australian army colonel to his career as an overly creative tour guide at the Taj Mahal.

Swarup’s Q & A is a charming blend of high comedy, drama, and romance that reveals how we know what we know — not just about trivia, but about life itself. Cutting across humanity in all its squalor and glory, Vikas Swarup presents a kaleidoscopic vision of the struggle between good and evil — and what happens when one boy has no other choice in life but to survive.

2008 Best Picture winner: Slumdog Millionaire

 

No Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

No Country for Old Men

In his blistering new novel, Cormac McCarthy returns to the Texas-Mexico border, setting of his famed Border Trilogy. The time is our own, when rustlers have given way to drug-runners and small towns have become free-fire zones.

One day, a good old boy named Llewellyn Moss finds a pickup truck surrounded by a bodyguard of dead men. A load of heroin and two million dollars in cash are still in the back. When Moss takes the money, he sets off a chain reaction of catastrophic violence that not even the law — in the person of aging, disillusioned Sheriff Bell — can contain.

As Moss tries to evade his pursuers — in particular a mysterious mastermind who flips coins for human lives — McCarthy simultaneously strips down the American crime novel and broadens its concerns to encompass themes as ancient as the Bible and as bloodily contemporary as this morning’s headlines.

No Country for Old Men is a triumph.

2007 Best Picture winner: No Country for Old Men

 

Million Dollar Baby by F. X. Toole

Million Dollar Baby

F. X. Toole knew boxing. Between bouts, he wrote, and two years before his death he published this collection of stories, giving readers an unprecedented look at the gritty life around the ring.

He tells of a cutman with a sweet tooth, young fighters with dreams of celebrity, and a talented boxer who goes to Atlantic City for his biggest bout, only to be humiliated by the prejudices of a callous promoter. In “Million $$$ Baby,” the inspiration for the Oscar-winning Clint Eastwood film, an aged trainer takes on a female fighter, guiding her through disappointment, pain, and tragedy. And in “Rope Burns,” Toole realizes his epic vision, showing that even the purest fighter can succumb to the pressures of the world outside the sport. Throughout these stories, boxing’s violence is redeemed by the respect these men and women share, as they strap on gloves and prepare their bodies for the ultimate test.

This ebook features an illustrated biography of F. X. Toole including rare images and never-before-seen documents from the author’s estate.

2004 Best Picture winner: Million Dollar Baby

 

The Return of the King by J. R. R. Tolkien

The Return of the King

As the Shadow of Mordor grows across the land, the Companions of the Ring have become involved in separate adventures. Aragorn, revealed as the hidden heir of the ancient Kings of the West, has joined with the Riders of Rohan against the forces of Isengard, and takes part in the desperate victory of the Hornburg. Merry and Pippin, captured by Orcs, escape into Fangorn Forest and there encounter the Ents. Gandalf has miraculously returned and defeated the evil wizard, Saruman. Sam has left his master for dead after a battle with the giant spider, Shelob; but Frodo is still alive — now in the foul hands of the Orcs. And all the while the armies of the Dark Lord are massing as the One Ring draws ever nearer to the Cracks of Doom.

2004 Best Picture winner: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

 

A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar

A Beautiful Mind

In this powerful and dramatic biography Sylvia Nasar vividly recreates the life of a mathematical genius whose career was cut short by schizophrenia and who, after three decades of devastating mental illness, miraculously recovered and was honored with a Nobel Prize.

“How could you, a mathematician, believe that extraterrestrials were sending you messages?” the visitor from Harvard asked the West Virginian with the movie-star looks and Olympian manner. “Because the ideas I had about supernatural beings came to me the same way my mathematical ideas did,” came the answer. “So I took them seriously.”

Thus begins the true story of John Nash, the mathematical genius who was a legend by age thirty when he slipped into madness, and who — thanks to the selflessness of a beautiful woman and the loyalty of the mathematics community — emerged after decades of ghostlike existence to win a Nobel Prize for triggering the game theory revolution. The inspiration for an Academy Award–winning movie, Sylvia Nasar’s now-classic biography is a drama about the mystery of the human mind, triumph over adversity, and the healing power of love.

2001 Best Picture winner: A Beautiful Mind

 

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

The English Patient

With ravishing beauty and unsettling intelligence, Michael Ondaatje’s Booker Prize-winning novel traces the intersection of four damaged lives in an Italian villa at the end of World War II. Hana, the exhausted nurse; the maimed thief, Caravaggio; the wary sapper, Kip: Each is haunted by the riddle of the English patient, the nameless, burned man who lies in an upstairs room and whose memories of passion, betrayal,and rescue illuminates this book like flashes of heat lightening.

1996 Best Picture winner: The English Patient

 

Forrest Gump by Winston Groom

Forrest GumpSix foot six, 242 pounds, and possessed of a scant IQ of 70, Forrest Gump is the lovable, surprisingly savvy hero of this classic comic tale. His early life may seem inauspicious, but when the University of Alabama’s football team drafts Forrest and makes him a star, it sets him on an unbelievable path that will transform him from Vietnam hero to world-class Ping-Pong player, from wrestler to entrepreneur. With a voice all his own, Forrest is telling all in a madcap romp through three decades of American history.

1995 Best Picture winner: Forrest Gump

 

Schindler’s List by Thomas Keneally

Schindler's List

The acclaimed bestselling classic of Holocaust literature, winner of the Booker Prize and the Los Angeles Times Book Award for Fiction, and the inspiration for the classic film — “a masterful account of the growth of the human soul” (Los Angeles Times Book Review).

A stunning novel based on the true story of how German war profiteer and factory director Oskar Schindler came to save more Jews from the gas chambers than any other single person during World War II. In this milestone of Holocaust literature, Thomas Keneally, author of The Daughters of Mars, uses the actual testimony of the Schindlerjuden — Schindler’s Jews — to brilliantly portray the courage and cunning of a good man in the midst of unspeakable evil.

1994 Best Picture winner: Schindler’s List

 

The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris

Silence of the Lambs

A serial murderer known only by a grotesquely apt nickname — Buffalo Bill — is stalking women. He has a purpose, but no one can fathom it, for the bodies are discovered in different states. Clarice Starling, a young trainee at the FBI Academy, is surprised to be summoned by Jack Crawford, chief of the Bureau’s Behavioral Science section. Her assignment: to interview Dr. Hannibal Lecter — Hannibal the Cannibal — who is kept under close watch in the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.

Dr. Lecter is a former psychiatrist with a grisly history, unusual tastes, and an intense curiosity about the darker corners of the mind. His intimate understanding of the killer and of Clarice herself form the core of Thomas Harris’ The Silence of the Lambs — and ingenious, masterfully written book and an unforgettable classic of suspense fiction.

1992 Best Picture winner: The Silence of the Lambs

 

Dances With Wolves by Michael Blake

Dances With Wolves

Set in 1863, the novel follows Lieutenant John Dunbar on a magical journey from the ravages of the Civil War to the far reaches of the imperiled American frontier, a frontier he naively wants to see “before it is gone”.

His posting to a desolate and deserted outpost is the springboard for contact with the lords of the southern plains… the Comanche.

Though he does not speak their language, has no know-ledge of their customs, and is considered a trespasser, Lieutenant Dunbar finds himself intrigued by the exotic and alien culture of the buffalo-hunting people of the plains.

A simple desire to know more about his wild neighbors ignites a great adventure of transformation that culminates with the emergence of a different kind of man… a man called Dances With Wolves.

1991 Best Picture winner: Dances With Wolves, 1991

 

Which of these books have you read? Share in the comments!

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