The 90th Oscars ceremony is approaching, and the nine movies nominated for Best Picture cover quite a range of styles and subjects. It got me to wondering, what books would I suggest to fans of each movie?
Call Me by Your Name
Based on the acclaimed novel Call Me by your Name by Andre Aciman, this tale of young love in 1980s Italy is sumptuous, by turns melancholy and joyful.
Fans might consider reading Patricia Highsmith's The Price of Salt, which was adapted into the meticulously crafted film Carol. Like Call Me By Your Name, it's a haunting story of a clandestine affair undertaken against the odds. Looking for something in sun-drenched Italy? You might also consider Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley, even though it's quite a different genre. (Last year's Best Picture winner, Moonlight, is also highly recommended for fans of Call Me By Your Name.)
Darkest Hour & Dunkirk
Oddly, there are two nominees this year about the events of the Battle of Dunkirk during World War II. They could hardly be more different. Darkest Hour focuses on Winston Churchill's struggle to lead Britain during this time, while Dunkirk immerses you in the experience of the emergency evacuation by sea of Britain's forces from the beaches of France. Alone is an outstanding recent book about Dunkirk that covers both the political and military sides of the story. (We included it on our Best of the Best list for 2017.)
Readers looking to get swept up in that place and time would do well to check out the novel Everyone Brave Is Forgiven by Chris Cleave, which follows three Londoners whose lives are changed by the war. The story was inspired by Cleave's grandparents.
In using genre conventions (in this case horror) in a thrillingly fresh way to tackle social issues, Get Out has one of the most innovative scripts of the year. In that sense, Ahmed Saadawi's Frankenstein in Baghdad is a kindred spirit. It draws on one of the most classic of all horror tales to comment on the cycle of violence in the Middle East.
Victor LaValle has also won literary acclaim for his fresh approach to genre. In his most recent novel, The Changeling, he draws on the fairy tale tradition to comment on parenthood, masculinity and modern society. It's also a scary work of horror that's been praised as an "instant classic."
Set in Sacramento, and told with nostalgia for the place where director/writer Greta Gerwig grew up, Lady Bird is reminiscent in some ways of the work of Joan Didion. In fact, it opens with a droll Didion quotation ("Anybody who talks about California hedonism has never spent a Christmas in Sacramento"). Try Didion's Slouching Towards Bethlehem for a sense of the wry, intellectual sensibility that Gerwig shares with Didion.
If you're in the mood for fiction, you might also try How to Build A Girl by Caitlin Moran. The protagonist of this funny novel, like that of the movie, is a young artist who longs to remake herself, even going so far as to rename herself.
This dark drama focuses on the relationship between a temperamental, womanizing fashion designer and a young new love interest determined to stand her ground. It's pretty unique in its particular love story, but the high-fashion elements jump out as one of many points of fascination. Try Grace, a memoir by Grace Coddington, the model-turned-fashion editor most famous as the creative director at Vogue who's seen it all. (She makes a great impression in the documentary The September Issue.)
With its old-fashioned, grand (if dark and twisted) romanticism, its element of cruel love, and a plot about a young woman initially overwhelmed after going to live in a grand house with a debonair older lover, the movie is also reminiscent of the classic Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.
Although he's just a minor character in this wonderful Spielberg-directed retelling of the Washington Post's Pentagon Papers scoop, Daniel Ellsberg (played by Matthew Rhys) is at the center of the action. It so happens that the real-life Ellsberg has published an acclaimed new book (a finalist for the Andrew Carnegie Medal): The Doomsday Machine is a continuation of his life's work, this time giving U.S. nuclear policy careful scrutiny.
The main character of the film is Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep, giving her best performance in years), who as publisher of The Washington Post faces a huge dilemma that threatens to bankrupt her family or even land her in jail. Graham's memoir, Personal History, was a sensation when it was published in 1997 and has been in demand again since the movie's release.
The Shape of Water
A kind of fairy-tale romance that is also a parable of Cold War-era social relations, The Shape of Water has charmed audiences and become a front-runner in several categories. (Ah, if only director Guillermo Del Toro had been hired for Universal's classic monster movie reboots and assigned The Creature From the Black Lagoon.)
Mrs. Caliban, first published in the early 1980s, was recently published in a beautiful new edition. When a green sea monster shows up at her door, a lonely suburban housewife embarks on an unusual love story. The book was originally compared to Beauty and the Beast and King Kong.
Need more? Why not check out Angela Carter's classic collection of brilliantly reinvented fairy tales, The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
This tale of a wild and angry cry for justice in the American Midwest has thrilled audiences with its ferocious heroine. For a fiery look at men and women in a rural Midwest of violence and desperation, consider Bonnie Jo Campbell's short story collection American Salvage.
Part of the satisfaction of the film is hearing Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) bluntly call things like she sees them. For more satisfyingly plain-spoken analyses on a range of issues, consider punchy, thoughtful essay collections like Shrill by Lindy West or Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay.
What books would you recommend for fans of these acclaimed movies?