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8 Books You Will Want To Read Before They Hit The Big Screen

Because it’s against literary law not to read the book first.

By Laura Brading

If you have any respect for the natural order of things, then you’ll know that one must read the book before one sees the movie. Or at least, that’s what this snooty purist who uses impersonal pronouns like ‘one’ thinks anyway.

And with movies and TV shows now feeling like a thing that only materialises if a bestselling paperback exists first (hello Oppenheimer, The Flatshare, Daisy Jones & the Six, Queen Charlotte, The Little Mermaid etc), that’s a rather large to-be-read pile staring back at you. And I hate to break it to you, but although we’re only halfway through the year, there are still plenty of adaptations to hit the big (or little) screen in 2023.

Wondering where to start? Here are eight books that you’ll definitely want to experience on the page before they… become compromised and butchered by another art form… I mean, before their screen releases premiere in the near future.

1. Lessons in Chemistry
Release Date: 13 October 2023
Based on the hit 2022 novel by Bonnie Garmus, Lessons in Chemistry takes place in California in the early 1950s and follows the life of Elizabeth Zott (played by Brie Larson). Zott—whose dream of being a scientist is thwarted when she becomes pregnant and is forced to resign from a patriarchal research institute—finds herself as the reluctant host of a TV cooking show. But her revolutionary approach to cooking, fuelled by scientific and rational commentary, grabs the attention of a nation and she unwittingly starts a feminist revolution. The first two episodes of the series will be available on Apple TV+ on 13 October.

2. Red, White & Royal Blue
Release Date: 11 August 2023
If you were as charmed by this LGBTIQA+ rom-com as I was, you will be delighted to know that its movie adaptation is a mere few weeks away. Red, White & Royal Blue follows two young men (who also happen to be members of Britain and America’s most important families) as they experience their first real love, and the film will star Nicholas Galitzine as Prince Henry and Taylor Zakhar Perez as Alex. Oh and Alex’s mum, the female president of the United States, will be played by Uma Thurman. A steamy streaming event if ever there was one, the film will premiere on Prime Video on August 11.



3. The Colour Purple
Release Date: 25 December 2023
Yes, the first iteration of this story was in fact a profoundly touching novel by Alice Walker and not the 1985 film starring Oprah. And if you haven’t read it, now’s the time, with the story’s latest evolution coming to the big screen in December… as a musical! Starring singer and actress Fantasia as Celie and Halle Bailey from Little Mermaid fame as Young Nettie, the story centres on an African-American girl growing up in Georgia in the early 1900s.

4. Eileen
Release Date: 8 December 2023
The big screen adaptation of Ottessa Moshfegh’s off-kilter thriller Eileen premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival to strong reviews. Anne Hathaway, who plays Dr. Rebecca St. John in the film, describes it as Carol meets Reservoir Dogs. And if that’s not enough to pique your interest, fans of My Year of Rest and Relaxation will be happy to know that the plot also follows a self-loathing female anti-hero, and its author also wrote the film’s screenplay.

5. Leave the World Behind
Release Date: 8 December 2023
Based on the 2020 literary thriller by Rumaan Alam, this novel’s Netflix adaptation features a star-studded cast including Julia Roberts, Ethan Hawke and Mahershala Ali. The book was a finalist for the National Book Award and is reportedly one of Barack Obama’s favourite novels, and it follows a family renting an AirBnb and the family who owns it. Both are forced together for a long weekend and the result is a provocative exploration of parenthood, race and class set in a disturbing apocalypse. December 8 can’t come fast enough.


6. Nightbitch
Release Date: TBC
Those who loved Rachel Yoder’s feral and funny debut Nightbitch, will be pleased to learn about its film adaptation, set to stream as a Hulu Original. The “darkly comic neo-horror” is about a stay-at-home suburban mum who becomes increasingly aware of the bizarre and undeniable signs that she is turning into a canine. Come for the “mischievous commentary on the neuroses of modern womanhood”, stay for Amy Adams’ no-doubt stellar performance as the film’s lead.

7. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous
Release Date: TBC
Ocean Vuong’s critically acclaimed 2019 debut novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is one of the most profound reading experiences I have ever had. Many sentences were underlined, many tears were shed, many times did I push the book into friends’ hands and urge (read: force) them to read it. Which makes me very nervous about its imminent film release. Written as a letter from a young Vietnamese American man, nicknamed Little Dog, to his illiterate mother, Hong, I’m comforted by the fact Vuong is the film’s screenwriter. Now to wait for an official release date.

8. Three Emily Henry Books
Release Date: TBC
I couldn’t write an article on buzzy book-to-screen adaptations without mentioning that three (yes, three!) of Emily Henry’s beloved romantic comedies are set to be made into films. Beach Read, People We Meet On Vacation and Book Lovers have all been optioned for film in the past year and I don’t see any reason why her latest release Happy Place won’t also get the same treatment. EmHen fans (as they’re known) may already be aware that after Beach Read, each of her subsequent books include a subtle reference to characters explored in other books. Move over Marvel, that is a cinematic universe I can get behind!


BY Laura Brading

Laura is part of the PRIMER team. She also runs WellRead, a book subscription service.

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