Books to Film, 2021

I’m as much of a film buff as I’m a reader, and when I find out a favorite book is now a movie… well, life is good!

This year brought an abundance of adaptations, with a couple more to come early next year. Here are some of the ones I saw and enjoyed thoroughly, plus a sneak peak at the future.

DUNE by Frank Herbert.

Boy, did I love these books when I first read them ahempity years ago. I’m shocked that the David Lynch adaptation was so universally panned, because I loved it too. I mean, Kyle MacLachlan, Sting, Patrick Stewart, Max VonSydow… But, above all DAVID LYNCH. It was a good movie, people!

Does the new one by Denis Villeneuve improve on the novels? On the original film? I think it tries very hard to be different, and it succeeds in being a film of its time, just like the 1984 Dune was very much a film of the ’80s exuberant excesses. If you’re going to see any film in the theater this season, watch Dune. It deserves a big screen experience. I am curious, though, if they’re going to honor the entire book series and (spoiler!) turn Timothee Chalamet into a pretty-headed spice worm in the sequels.

THOSE WHO WISH ME DEAD by Michael Koryta

This adaptation had the bad luck to come out smack dab in the middle of the pandemic, thus missing the chance at box-office success, which it would certainly have had. The novel, which came out in 2014 to both critical and popular enthusiasm, was a bestseller, and continues to top many best of and sales lists. The movie stars Angelina Jolie. So… you know. It looks really, really good. Heart-thumping suspense, a thrilling premise, what more do you want in a story?

CHERRY by Nico Walker

This one is on my list to both read and watch, and I’m getting on that pronto. Just look at the premise:

A young medic returns from deployment in Iraq to two things: the woman he loves, and the opioid crisis sweeping across the Midwest, becomes addicted to heroin, and arrives at what seems like the only logical solution: robbing banks.

This one topped pretty much every best of list.

THE WHITE TIGER by Aravind Adiga

I watched this one before reading the novel. Twice. The first time because it looked interesting, and the second time, the very next day, because I wanted to see the story again and to deconstruct it. The novel won the Booker Prize, and it’s on my TBR list. Smart, sharply observed, this is a tale of two Indias and it’s absolutely fascinating.

PASSING by Nella Larsen

I have yet to read the novel, but you bet I’m going to be reading it ASAP. The film is gorgeous. Quietly desperate, beautifully filmed and acted, with a score that perfectly suits the time period and emotions. It is understated in the way that a person who speaks in a low voice is. You pipe down and lean in to hear. That’s what this film does.


This juggernaut of a bestseller was a natural for an adaptation, not least because its main character is an obsessive film buff and uses old Hollywood movies as an escape from the tragedy that crippled her life. But then again, who doesn’t do that?

The film itself is an homage to the best of Hollywood noir, with a dash of expressionism thrown in. Beautifully acted, with gorgeous sets and cinematography, it would have been a blockbuster back in the day. Now, you can enjoy all that whilst wrapped in a blanket on your couch.

DEATH ON THE NILE by Agatha Christie

I’m not even sure I need to say anything about this. A master novel, and a film directed by Kenneth Branagh! Starring Kenneth Branagh! And Sophie Okonedo, Jennifer Saunders, Russell Brand, Gal Gadot, Annette Bening… I mean. Something to look forward to in the next year.

What are your favorite book to film adaptations? What do you WISH was adapted?

Emilya Naymark

Emilya Naymark is the author of the novels Hide in Place and Behind the Lie.
Her short stories appear in the Bouchercon 2023 Anthology, A Stranger Comes to Town: edited by Michael Koryta, Secrets in the Water, After Midnight: Tales from the Graveyard Shift, River River Journal, Snowbound: Best New England Crime Stories 2017, and 1+30: THE BEST OF MYSTORY.

When not writing, Emilya works as a visual artist and reads massive quantities of psychological thrillers, suspense, and crime fiction. She lives in the Hudson Valley with her family.

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