What are the best movies based on books?

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'Anna Karenina'

Keira Knightley stars in the movie adaptation of "Anna Karenina." (May 8, 2013)

Winner of the 2013 Chicago Tribune Young Adult Literary Prize, which will be presented at the upcoming Printers Row Lit Fest in June, her books include “Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret,” “Deenie” and “Tiger Eyes,” the latter of which has been made into a film that opens in theaters June 7.

Favorite: “‘A Christmas Story,' adapted by Jean Shepherd from his book, ‘In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash,' is wildly funny without a forced moment. Can anyone who's ever seen it forget the frozen tongue? Would it have worked without Jean Shepherd's narration? Probably not nearly as well. I watch the movie every few years, but I haven't re-read the book in ages.

“‘To Kill a Mockingbird' — when I think of the story now, I think of Gregory Peck, but that's not a bad thing. I can't imagine anyone better than Horton Foote adapting Harper Lee's classic. Still, I'd go back to the book today before I'd watch the movie.

“A newer adaptation I really like is ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower.' In this case I prefer the movie to the book. Go figure …”

Bret Easton Ellis
randomhouse.com/kvpa/eastonellis

His novels “Less Than Zero,” “American Psycho” and “The Rules of Attraction” have all been turned into feature films.

Favorite: “Pop novels works best, and I'm particularly thinking of the heyday of the '70s and books like ‘The Godfather,' ‘Jaws' and ‘The Exorcist.' I think we can all agree they weren't great literature, but they supplied the medium of movies with what movies do best — which is a very strong narrative, an interesting hook and a strong story.”

Least favorite: “The recent adaptation of ‘Anna Karenina' was really kind of daft and not a great adaptation of that book. Unless you're going to spend 14 hours on a miniseries doing Tolstoy, I don't know where it gets you to do a two-hour movie adaptation of that story. The key thing to remember is that the better the novel, the less likely you're going to get a decent adaptation. You're drawn in by the writing, the prose, the digressions — all of which don't necessarily work in the surface-oriented world of film. And a novel that's so in tune with its narrator's voice is a very tricky problem to adapt.”

Jami Attenberg
jamiattenberg.com

The Buffalo Grove native is the author of “The Middlesteins,” a darkly comic novel about food addiction and family dysfunction.

Favorite: “I really enjoyed the ‘Virgin Suicides' adaptation. The movie is playful, whereas the book felt more serious. Either way, they all die at the end, but the movie made me more aware that these were fun little girls.

“I like movies that have a point of view of their own beyond the original text and heighten certain nuances of a book. I don't think I'd like to ever see an entirely faithful adaptation, and it's not possible anyway. There are too many moving parts in play.”

Warren Adler
warrenadler.com

His novels “The War of the Roses” and “Random Hearts” were both turned into feature films.

Favorite: “In my opinion, ‘The Godfather' by Mario Puzo. Mario and I came out of the Creative Writing classes of Professor Don M. Wolfe at the New School in New York eons ago along with Bill Styron. He taught that real stories come out of fictional characters who work out their own destiny and, if done right, the characters would create their own compelling plot points. Hollywood persists in violating that credo.

“I have a certain bias about purely escapist fare which offer, at the moment, bigger box office returns but little insight into the mysteries of human relationships and the intrinsic value of great storytelling. But then, Hollywood is a business, and ‘butts in the seats' and ‘attracting eyeballs' trump everything.”

Least favorite: “I nominate Tom Wolfe's ‘The Bonfire of the Vanities,' an excellent novel butchered to death by Hollywood hacks. There are many others, but ‘Bonfire' stands out as first in its class of misfires.”

Kelly Oxford
kellyoxford.tumblr.com

Her satirical book of personal essays “Everything is Perfect When You're a Liar” centers on her childhood celebrity obsessions and growing up in Edmonton, Canada. She also sold a screenplay to Warner Bros. last year.

Favorite: “A few of my favorites are ‘The Graduate,' ‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,' ‘Jackie Brown' (from ‘Rum Punch') ‘Stand By Me' and ‘Fight Club.' I felt like these film adaptations were often even stronger than the books they came from, which is a testament to both the screenwriters and filmmakers. The screenplays were very tight, focusing in on the details of the plot that were the strongest. Nothing really felt lost to me, even in omission.”

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