While the first films I saw as a child were book adaptations like The Wizard of OZ (1939) and Gone with the Wind (1939) it wasn’t until much later in life that I thought about what the process of adapting a written work to the big screen entailed. In her new book, But Have You Read the Book? 52 Literary Gems That Inspired Our Favorite Films, podcaster and entertainment writer Kristen Lopez brings a well-researched eye to that process.
There are a lot of ways to approach describing the task and results of adaptation, but Lopez keeps it streamlined, picking the most prominent film where multiple versions of a story have been made and focusing most of her 52 entries on the differences between page and screen. She uses side bars to address some of those complicating factors, like other adaptations worth noting and bits of interesting, related trivia. The films stretch from 1931 to the present day and are diverse in theme, subject, and genre, though the focus is on Hollywood films.
In the wake of the book’s release, there has been some online chatter about readers planning to tackle every book and film in, But Have You Read the Book? including some who are as ambitious to attempt an entry a week and finish every title in the book in a year. Fortunately that would be a pleasant task, because Lopez’ selections are all excellent films and novels, which of course is often not the case.
The idea of exploring the source material along with a film adaptation has long been a popular one among film fans. Lopez has handled the task of translating this concept to the page with a light touch and thorough analysis. It’s an entertaining read in addition to being informative.
Many thanks to TCM for providing a copy of the book for review.