It seems that there is a definite trend in today's newly developed shows. That trend is taking popular books (mainly those geared toward young adults) and creating popular television shows from them. Case in point: The Vampire Diaries, Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and so on. I can honestly say that I have heard great things about all of these shows, but I have yet to watch a single episode of any or read a single book. On the other hand, there are three shows developed from books that I absolutely love (in descending order):
HBO's True Blood. This is a tremendously brilliant show. If you love vampires, sex, blood, shape shifters, sex, witches, and did I mention sex, then this is the show for you! That's right. Based on Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire series, True Blood has managed to capture the hearts of nearly everyone who's caught an episode of it. It also doesn't hurt that the actors are incredibly good looking (for the most part). Now there is a negative...the books are atrocious! Terrible! Awful! I started to read the first in the series, Dead Until Dark, and couldn't even get through the first chapter. That's pretty bad because I am the type of reader who tends to plow through despite how awful a book might be (I always seem to think that it might turn around if I keep reading). Despite that, I will still watch the show. Good stuff.
Showtime's Dexter. I absolutely LOVE Dexter. I love that he's a blood spatter analyst. I love that he's quirky. I love that he's damaged. And I love that he kills people (only bad people...for the most part) in hygienic ways. This show is dark, broody, bloody, and oh so good. I will forever thank my roommate, Courtney, who "forced" me to watch this show one scorching summer (we only had one room with air-conditioning...her bedroom) and I've never looked back. Dexter was adapted from Jeff Lindsay's Darkly Dreaming Dexter, which I've never read. I have a sneaking suspicion that the books wouldn't be nearly as good as the series so, in this instance, I'll stick with the show.
The number one slot for favorite TV adaptation of a book has to go to AMC's The Walking Dead. Only in its second season, this show is fantastically amazing. Based on the comic books, The Walking Dead, by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard, the series follows a group of people who have been thrown together in truly cataclysmic circumstances: a zombie apocalypse! Say what?! They have to continually fight for their survival against nearly impossible odds. Sometimes having to kill one of their own. It's heart-wrenching. In addition, the make-up department is phenomenal! They are true artistic geniuses. I haven't read the comics, as I'm not really a comic book reader, but I'd probably enjoy them. I definitely recommend this series if you haven't seen it.
Now movies are a completely different story...literally. I tend to find that when books are adapted into full-length films, they're done to the detriment of the actual novel. There are always sacrifices that are made and scenes that end up on the cutting room floor and, inevitably, the fans of the book are disappointed. Nowhere is this more true than in the Harry Potter franchise. Don't get me wrong, I still love the movies, but they don't even hold a candle to the original novels. However, there are those brief gems that manage to do justice to the books they were based on. Again, in descending order:
JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Tolkien's novels are rich with detail and layered with complex descriptions (sometimes daunting to the reader) and Jackson did his job when he envisioned the world of Middle Earth. He was able to capture the mood, the characters, and the elements that are present throughout each novel. They are a great escape whether literary or visually. The movies are simply amazing.
There are few authors that can match Chuck Palahnuik's commercial satire. He's biting and witty and spot on. Nowhere is this more evident than in Fight Club. I loved this book when I read it for an undergrad fiction course (after the movie had come out) and still love it. I also loved the movie more. That's saying something. It's brilliantly acted by the truly awesome Edward Norton...and Brad Pitt wasn't too shabby either (hello beat up Brad and a truly gorgeous ab shot). The movie was able to portray, perhaps more vividly, the true satirical genius of the novel. It reaches out and grabs the viewer, forcing them to scrutinize their own lives. Epic.
I don't think that anyone or anything can top Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice; at least not in my book. Both the BBC version and the Hollywood version are beautifully shot, wonderfully acted, and heartwarming in their entirety. I love both and will watch either whenever I get the chance (though I have to set aside a good chunk of time for the BBC version). Austen's critique and portrayal of class systems and relationships are relevant to today's society, though perhaps not as rigid as they used to be. It's definitely a novel and movie(s) that can and will stand the test of time. I love anything and everything to do with Pride & Prejudice and can not recommend it more.
And there you have it. My top picks for adaptations of books. The ranking order for movies could definitely change by March...I am so incredibly excited for The Hunger Games!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Movies that are infinitely better than the original books: