7 Books to Read Based on Your Favorite Classic Films

For cinephiles and bookworms alike.

books and film
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  • Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

Like you, we love a good book, but that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate other art forms – namely movies, which have always had a special relationship with books. Over the years, we’ve been given some incredible movies based on our favorite books—and, of course, some total flops. But even when a movie isn’t strictly adapted from a book, it can still possess similar tones and themes of one.

Here are seven books we recommend based on your favorite films. While some of these selections are the actual book the movie was based on, others are entirely different stories that capture the essence of the films we hold so dear. Whether it’s the true story of the man who played the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz or a book that was written at the same time as the movie was being made, these pairings are sure to satisfy both film and book lovers. 

For fans of Gone With the Wind...

Plantation Trilogy

Plantation Trilogy

By Gwen Bristow

We could have paired Gone With the Wind with, well, Gone With the Wind – but that would have been too easy, and Margaret Mitchell’s epic is already widely known to fans of the film version. So we’re recommending The Plantation Trilogy by Gwen Bristow, which is pretty epic itself. Bristow’s story is a generational saga that spans dozens of years and three volumes. At the center of the novels are members of three Louisiana families.

For fans of The Wizard of Oz...

Notes on a Cowardly Lion

Notes on a Cowardly Lion

By John Lahr

Notes on a Cowardly Lion is a biography of Bert Lahr, written by his son. The elder Lahr was an affable entertainer in public but a troubled and insecure person in private. Fans of The Wizard of Oz will know Bert Lahr well for his role as the Cowardly Lion, but there was much more to the man than that, as his son’s thoughtful portrait shows. While the book’s scope goes beyond the famous film, it will hold a special appeal for those who love The Wizard of Oz.

For fans of Psycho...

Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho

Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho

By Stephen Rebello

There are a few ways to pair books and movies, and we used them on all on this list. In some cases, we paired books and movies with special relationships; elsewhere, we picked ones that shared a genre or a “feel.” Here, we’re simply picking a book that’s about the movie. Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho gives fans of the classic horror flick a real sense of what the set was like, and it paints a fascinating portrait of Hitchcock, a genius filmmaker who, by some accounts, was not much fun to work with.

For fans of The Maltese Falcon...

Flowers for the Judge

Flowers for the Judge

By Margery Allingham

The Dashiell Hammett novel that inspired The Maltese Falcon is a classic in its own right, but let’s go with a deeper cut: Flowers for the Judge. Allingham’s novel is a contemporary of The Maltese Falcon: it was published in 1937, a few years before the film and less than a decade after Hammett’s book. It also shares a genre (crime fiction, of course). Allingham’s novel is set in London in the 1910s, and features her recurring detective character Albert Campion.

For fans of 2001: A Space Odyssey...

books and film

2001: A Space Odyssey

By Arthur C. Clarke

This is one of our most obvious pairings, but it’s worth dwelling on because of the fascinating relationship between these two works: both projects were developed simultaneously, so neither is an “adaptation” of the other. Though they tell the same basic story, they’re quite different from each other. As filmmaker Stanley Kubrick became convinced that leaving things abstract and unexplained made his movie better, Clarke came to the opposite conclusion, filling his book with the explanations that are so notably absent from the movie. Together, the two works create a satisfying and complete work of multimedia art.

For fans of The Omen...

books and film

The Omen

By David Seltzer

It’s easy to find great movies based on books, but rarer to find great books based on movies. This is the latter. The Omen is one of the creepiest movies ever made. It’s a classic of the creepy-kid subgenre of horror, and it works in part thanks to the brilliant screenplay put together by David Seltzer. When it came time to release the novelization, Seltzer again took the reins. It’s a rare treat to read a novelization by the screenwriter, and The Omen works just as well as a novel.

For fans of Casablanca... 

books and film

A Farewell to Arms

By Ernest Hemingway

Casablanca and A Farewell to Arms are set in places far from each other: the former in Morocco, and the latter in Italy. They’re also set at different points in time: Casablanca during World War II, and A Farewell to Arms during World War I. But both deal with the ways in which the realities of conflict can affect love affairs, and both do so in deft and powerful ways.

Featured still from Casablanca via Warner Bros.