10 Books to Read Before the 2024 Oscars

Many of 2023's best movies were based on books.

2024 oscars books poor things
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A new year is upon us, which means we’re only a few months away from the Oscars. 2023 was a fascinating year for film, particularly the kinds that the Academy likes to reward: biopics, historical dramas, musicals, costume dramas, and stories that make you gasp with wonder at how the hell they ever pulled that off. 

Though the official Oscar nominees have not been announced as of the publication of this post, there are many predictions about which films will be nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture. So, why not get ahead of the curve? Check out these books that inspired some of the most hotly hyped contenders of the Oscar season. 

American Prometheus

American Prometheus

By Kai Bird

There were few films in 2023 bigger than Oppenheimer, Christopher Nolan's three-hour historical drama about J. Robert Oppenheimer and the creation of the atomic bomb. 

Befitting of a filmmaker obsessed with detail, Nolan used American Prometheus, the Pulitzer Prize-winning doorstop of a biography (it's over 700 pages!) as his basis for the film. The book delves into how Oppenheimer went from a prodigious physicist to American hero to pariah, and the work that went into creating the weapon that changed the world.

The Rose of Martinique

The Rose of Martinique

By Andrea Stuart

Ridley Scott’s Napoleon is a film utterly unconcerned with facts or sticking to the oft-documented history of General Bonaparte. That’s what makes it so much fun, and far more interesting as a portrait of a despot who knows everything about battles but nothing about humans, particularly women. 

If you wanted to know more about Josephine, his first wife and the woman with whom he was utterly obsessed, Andrea Stuart’s The Rose of Martinique delves into her backstory. Born Rose de Tasher, Josephine went from an isolated child raised in the Caribbean to a jailed aristocrat during the French Revolution to the Empress of France.

Poor Things

Poor Things

By Alasdair Gray

Alasdair Gray is one of the greatest writers in the history of Scottish literature, but his work is never adapted for film or TV, probably because it’s, to put it mildly, bonkers. So, of course it took someone like Yorgos Lanthimos, the Greek director whose works are dryly surreal and have no qualms about abandoning realism, to bring Poor Things to life. 

A riff on Frankenstein, the novel follows Bella Baxter (played in the movie by Emma Stone), a young woman whose brain has been replaced with that of her unborn fetus. Now, she’s a mentally an infant but with the body of a grown woman, and as she matures, she has new insights into the world that are entirely divorced from staid notions such as gender, sexuality, and decency. 

Killers of the Flower Moon

Killers of the Flower Moon

By David Grann

After oil was discovered in Oklahoma in the 1920s, the people of the Osage Nation became the richest people per capita in the world. People arrived in droves to the state to make their own fortunes, often off the backs of the Osage people. 

Mollie Burkhart, one of those wealthy women who was married to a white man, suddenly started to fear for her life. Her relatives were murdered one by one, and nobody seemed eager to help her uncover the killers. As the death toll rose, the newly created FBI took up the case, and the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to try to unravel the mystery. 

The truth was even more shocking than Mollie could have foreseen. Martin Scorsese's latest historical epic, based on David Grann's stellar work, is a dense and heart-wrenching gaze into the racism that robbed the indigenous population of what was rightly theirs.

The Films of Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro

The Films of Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro

By Andrew J Rausch

Martin Scorsese is one of the greatest directors on the planet, and his regular partnership with Robert De Niro, who reinvented acting for generations of performers, has birthed some of the greatest American movies of all time. Killers of the Flower Moon is the latest addition to a rich and varied filmography that, in many ways, paints the story of cinema of the past 50 years. 

Film critic Andrew J. Raush's exploration of their collaborations delves into what makes this duo so special and the unique chemistry they created through films like Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and The King of Comedy.

erasure by percival everett, book basis for 2024 oscar nominee american fiction


By Percival Everett

American Fiction was the surprise winner of the Audience Award at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival, elevating it instantly to Oscar-favorite status. Its roots can be found in Percival Everett, the multi-award-winning and intensely prolific author whose works offer a scathing insight into American life and its intersections with Blackness. 

In Erasure, author Thelonious (Monk) Ellison finds himself stuck in a creative rut. He's furious that his audience seems to prefer what he sees to be cliche-ridden and exploitative tales of Black lives in the “ghetto,” dominated by violence and drugs. To prove a point, he decides to write a deliberately bad version of this subgenre, an over-the-top parody that he's sure everyone will laugh at. But then it's published and becomes a runaway smash hit. Soon, his alter ego, Stagg R. Leigh, is being called the voice of a generation. Can he keep up this facade, or will he come clean? 

famous father girl 2024 oscars book adaptation

Famous Father Girl

By Jamie Bernstein

Jamie Bernstein grew up in the shadow of her legendary father, composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein. As he became a major celebrity and mingled with the best and brightest of society, Jamie had a front row seat to the truth behind the famous face. 

Her memoir, Famous Father Girl, documents her childhood with a so-called genius for a father and how his dark, often troubled life, including his status as a closeted gay man married to a woman, bled into his work. It’s one of the inspirations for Maestro, the Bernstein biopic directed by and starring Bradley Cooper. 

zone of interest martin amis 2024 oscar nominee book

The Zone of Interest

By Martin Amis

Jonathan Glazer’s unnerving drama about the Holocaust has proven to be one of the darkest films of 2023. His portrayal of the banality of evil against the backdrop of one of the most abhorrent atrocities of the 20th century drives home the ways that humans are all too capable of turning a blind eye to their own cruelty. 

The late Martin Amis’ novel provides the loose foundations for Glazer’s version, but is worth reading for its own merits. German officer, Angelus Thomsen, is stationed at Auschwitz concentration camp. While there, he becomes enamoured with Thomsen, the wife of his camp commandant. As Thomsen and Doll’s wife pursue their passion, the Nazis' plan for the Final Solution unfolds around them.

The Color Purple

The Color Purple

By Alice Walker

Alice Walker’s novel is the stuff of legend, having won the Pulitzer Prize and sold millions of copies for decades. Steven Spielberg first adapted it into a film, then it became a Broadway musical, and now that’s a film, with Fantasia Barrino and Taraji P. Henson among its illustrious cast. 

The Color Purple follows Celie, a young Black woman who is tormented and abused throughout her life, first by her father and then by her brutish husband. Throughout it, she finds solace in the memory of her sister, as well as the company of headstrong Sofia and glamorous singer Shug Avery. 

strangers yamada oscars 2024


By Taichi Yamada

Japanese writer Taichi Yamada wrote for film and TV before turning his pen towards the novel. His second book, Strangers, won the Yamamoto Shūgorō Prize, one of the biggest literary awards in the country. Now, it's been turned into an English-language film, All of Us Strangers, by director Andrew Haigh. 

Yamado's protagonist is Hideo Harada, a 47-year-old TV scriptwriter. One night, he meets a couple who bear an eerie resemblance to his dead parents. The more he visits them, the sicker he becomes, but the more this curious pair grow in strength. They are sapping him of his essence, and they cannot all survive the change.