A good book adaptation can be hard to find. The best ones aren’t scene-for-scene mirrors. Instead, they capture the spirit of the book and transform it into a different medium, bringing our favorite characters to life while offering us a new perspective of their world. Here, members of the NetGalley team shared some of their favorite adaptations—including some that we like even more than the book.

Kelly

The Handmaiden

Starring: Kim Min-hee, Kim Tae-ri, Ha Jung-woo, Cho Jin-woong

Based on: Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

Ask anyone: I come up with excuses to talk about how much I love this movie. It’s a rare case where I not only think that the movie perfectly captured the heart of the novel, but improved upon it.

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters is set in Victorian-era Britain and follows a con woman as she attempts to defraud the lady she’s working for. The movie, directed by Park Chan-wook, changes the setting to Korea under Japanese colonial rule and, though it follows the plot pretty closely, switches a few other details that ensure readers will still be surprised. I don’t want to say anything more that might give away what happens. I watched without having looked up the plot or trailers and was blown away.

I saw the movie first, and then went back to listen to the audiobook. While I enjoyed the book, it’s the movie that captivated me and captured my heart. It’s The Handmaiden that I long to return to time and time again for its soundtrack, cinematography, and amazing cast. If you enjoyed Parasite, try this movie.

Amanda

Good Omens

Starring: David Tennant, Michael Sheen, Frances McDormand

Based on: Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

I loved Amazon’s Good Omens! I read the book shortly before the series was announced, and I was pretty skeptical about it. I was worried it would be cheesy or confusing, but I was happily mistaken. While not a shot-for-shot retelling, the show captures the weirdness, silliness, and magic of the book in its own way and I enjoyed both equally. One of my favorite parts of the show was how they stuck true to Crowley’s cursed Queen soundtrack, which plays even better when you can actually hear and appreciate it.

Dana

The Hate U Give

Starring: Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby

Based on: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give is one of the most powerful books I have ever read and its film adaptation blew me away. This YA novel explores racism and police brutality through the eyes of Starr Carter, who witnesses a cop shoot and kill her friend. The movie is so well cast. Amandla Stenberg plays Starr with such depth of emotion. Regina Hall and Russell Hornsby play Starr’s parents, who are pivotal characters in the novel, and they are so talented. While watching you can tell how much care director George Tillman Jr. put into the movie—concerning both what the movie depicts, but also keeping it close to the source material. Like the book, the movie has so much pain and grief, but still retains those really funny and heartwarming moments too. There are very few YA book adaptations that capture the feeling you had while reading like The Hate U Give does.

Katie

The Sisters Brothers

Starring: John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix, Jake Gyllenhaal, Riz Ahmed

Based on: The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

As a person who normally only reads books that have dragons in them, I never in a million years expected to fall in love with a cowboy book. The Sisters Brothers, a comedic Western, charmed the heck out of me, and the movie version turned it into one of my favorite stories of all time.

Both the book and movie follow the Sisters brothers, two hitmen-for-hire on their adventures to strike it rich in the West. The movie, which stars John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix, shows an unbelievably lovable dynamic between the two brothers, even through many questionably moral situations. 

The adaptation is mostly faithful to the book, but brings to life the relationships in the story that can’t really be expressed through Eli’s inner monologue in the book. Sometimes you find yourself crying over a horse, sometimes you’re filled with rage over the injustices of the Wild West… but mostly you’re laughing because witty banter is this movie’s bread and butter. 

I would especially recommend this book or movie to anyone looking to get outside their comfort zone. It’s not a genre that’s popular with modern audiences, but it’s absolutely still worth checking out.

Stuart

Short Cuts

Starring: Andie MacDowell, Julianne Moore, Tim Robbins

Based on: Collected Stories by Raymond Carver

Carver’s stories are brilliantly reimagined in Robert Altman’s always fascinating ensemble movie. The cast is perfect (especially Tom Waits and Lily Tomlin, who look like they’d been waiting their whole lives to play these parts) and the deft weaving of the stories means it feels like you’re constantly dipping in and out of people’s lives—until a shocking climax brings everything, and everyone, together.

What are your favorite book adaptations?

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