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Quarantine Reading Guide: The Best Books Coming to the Screen

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With people across the country being forced to shelter in place or encouraged to practice social distancing, many have started filling the extra time at home with binge-watching. (And ET has put together a few streaming guides.) But a break from the screen -- big or small -- can be really essential. That’s why ET has also rounded up a few books being adapted into films or TV series that are worth reading now that many upcoming projects have been delayed or postponed, giving fans extra time to catch up on the original sources.

 

OUT NOW OR COMING SOON

Books Composite
Penguin Group / Faber and Faber

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Adaptation:  Little Fires Everywhere starring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington (Hulu; Now Streaming)

This is one recommendation worth catching up on even though Hulu’s series adaptation is now streaming: Elena Richardson and Mia Warren, two mothers from very different circumstances, take center stage in Ng's 2017 bestselling novel. Elena is a part-time, small-town journalist and married mother of four with strict rules and Mia is a photographer and single mother of a teenage daughter who keeps to herself and barely connects to the outside world. Their unlikely paths cross when Elena rents a duplex to Mia, and soon after, their lives become tangled in family turmoil, romantic love triangles and identity crises. As mentioned, the novel has been turned into a limited series with Witherspoon as Elena and Washington as Mia. But the source material is still a worthy read -- especially if you're interested in comparing and contrasting differences between the book and the series. -- Philiana Ng

Watch Little Fires Everywhere on Hulu.

 

Normal People by Sally Rooney
Adaptation:  Normal People starring Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal (Hulu; April 29)

Irish author Sally Rooney is barely 30, yet her second novel has captured the world's attention. Featured on Barack Obama's personal shortlist in 2019, the novel is an exquisitely written love story between two schoolmates, Marianne and Connell, who come from different social classes. Spanning the course of their high school and college years, it's a heartbreaking exploration into young modern love in all its complicated forms. It's easy to fall head over heels for Marianne and Connell's unassuming romance; Normal People isn't about grand romantic gestures or trite misunderstandings. And they may be the most memorable literary couple of the 2000s. With a Hulu adaptation dropping in the U.S. in April, there's more reason to give this bestseller a try. -- P.N.

Sign up for Hulu. 

 

SLATED FOR LATER THIS YEAR

Books Composite
Collins Crime Club / Chilton Books / HarperCollins / Grand Central Publishing

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
Adaptation:  Death on the Nile starring Kenneth Branagh, Armie Hammer, Gal Gadot and Annette Bening (20th Century Studios; Oct. 9)

It doesn’t get more classic than Agatha Christie, the prolific author who wrote 66 detective novels, many of which featured the masterful Hercule Poirot. Thanks to his sleuthing skills, the most complicated of crimes couldn’t evade him, not even the double murders in 1937’s Death on the Nile. Upon its release at the time, critics had nothing but positive things to say and in the decades since, it’s only grown in popularity and is considered to be one of Christie’s best. In fact, it’s been adapted a number of times for the big and small screen, with Branagh’s upcoming version being the latest and released as a direct sequel to 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express. Considering the 1978 film version starring Maggie Smith and Angela Lansbury cannot be streamed anywhere, curling up with the book itself may be the better way to go while also providing the perfect escape.

Dune by Frank Herbert
Adaptation:  Dune starring Timothée Chalamet, Oscar Isaac and Zendaya (Warner Bros. Studios; Dec. 18)

This 1965 sci-fi novel is perhaps where many fans draw the line, but those who are on the right side of Dune will tell you that it’s a fascinating, richly complex series that propelled the genre forward. Set over 8,000 years in the future, Herbert’s first novel tells the story of a feudal interstellar society in which humans have spread out and colonized various planets in the universe. On one such planet, Arrakis, Paul Atreides’ family accepts the dangerous undertaking of being stewards over the mining of the universe’s only source of melange, a life-extending “spice,” coveted by everyone around them. The book has spawned a sprawling series of five sequels, the first of which is being adapted by director Denis Villeneuve. This is the first major movie adaptation of Dune since David Lynch’s 1984 film, which was a box-office dud at the time despite its massive following. -- Stacy Lambe

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Adaptation:  Rebecca starring Lily James and Armie Hammer (Netflix; 2020)

Du Maurier’s 1938 gothic novel is worth reading, especially now that Netflix is promising to release the first English-language film adaptation since Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 Oscar-winning classic. After an unnamed young woman impulsively marries a wealthy widower, she discovers that he and his household are haunted by the memory of his late wife, Rebecca. The bestseller, which has never gone out of print, has transfixed generation after generation of readers, who no doubt have dreamt about Manderley again and again in the 80-plus years since its release. If there’s any doubt about this book’s impact or the film’s lasting legacy, just ask your mother. She’ll undoubtedly transport you back to her first time reading the book or seeing Hitchcock’s film. -- S.L.

You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz
Adaptation:  The Undoing starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant (HBO; 2020)

What happens when you discover that your perfect life and marriage is a facade? That's the premise of Korelitz's 2014 bestselling psychological thriller that will soon be on HBO as the miniseries, The Undoing, with Kidman and Grant. Therapist Grace Sachs, who is also the author of an upcoming book that chastises women for not valuing their intuition and calls on them to pay attention to their first impressions of men, finds her husband, a respected oncologist, has disappeared without a single clue. Soon, she uncovers a trail of shocking secrets about her husband and the life she thought she knew, and is forced to create a new one for her and her son. -- P.N.

 

ANNOUNCED OR IN PRODUCTION 

Books
Macmillan / Doubleday

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriaty
Adaptation:  Nine Perfect Strangers starring Nicole Kidman and Melissa McCarthy (Hulu; TBD)

The Aussie author is best known for Big Little Lies, her bestseller that would become Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman’s Emmy-winning HBO series. But her latest novel, a fizzy thriller slash comedy of manners set at a wellness resort, is just as cinematic of a read. To say that much more about the plot would ruin the fun of experiencing the book’s twists and turns for yourself, but it unfolds chapter-by-chapter through a different character’s perspective, including the guests -- a romance novelist, a recent divorcée and a lotto winner among them -- and the resort’s owner, a mysterious Russian émigré, who survives a near-death experience and turns to the wellness industry. That latter character, so deliciously written by Moriarty, will be brought to life by Kidman in Hulu’s upcoming limited series. And after you read this novel, you too will understand just how brilliant and absolutely insane that casting is. -- John Boone

Sign up for Hulu. 

The Stand by Stephen King
Adaptation:  The Stand starring Whoopi Goldberg, James Marsden and Amber Heard (CBS All Access; TBD)

King’s 1978 post-apocalyptic classic is getting another star-studded TV treatment -- this time on CBS’s streaming platform -- that will introduce The Stand to a whole new generation of fans. The epic novel tells interwoven stories about several survivors who have banded together to establish a new social system and world order after a weaponized strain of influenza wipes out most of the population. Following the outbreak of the coronavirus, the novel has resurfaced in popularity, with readers comparing the incidents of the book to what’s happening now. The author, however, took to Twitter to reassure fans that the “coronavirus is NOT like THE STAND. It’s not anywhere near as serious. It’s eminently survivable. Keep calm and take all reasonable precautions” and read on. -- S.L.

Sign up for CBS All Access.

 

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