Thursday, February 18, 2016

Let's Swap: Books for Movies


Fact: I need to be reading more books. I find myself in this weird ADD sort of phase where I'm having a hard time focusing on anything for very long and while I've read a couple books recently here and there, nothing that has really captured me. I really need to get lost in a good book or two and remove myself from the screen a little more.

Other Fact: Despite the fact that I could use less screen time in my life, I have seen some really great movies lately that I thought I would share with you guys. Most of these are recent (in the past year or 2?) but these are not your Oscar contenders and summer blockbusters. (I really liked Spotlight tho, but The Martian?...how did that get nominated for best picture?) but these are beautiful, funny, wistful, quirky, crazy stories that have stayed with me for days and days afterward. I love them.

And so I thought we could swap. I'll tell you about these favorite movies that I've seen in a long time and you give me your favorite book recommendations. Deal?



First up two movies based on true stories. I am definitely a person who finds 'truth stranger than fiction' or just more interesting-er than fiction. These things really happened! It's amazing! You can stream all of these from Amazon and I've put the links in there. (Full disclosure, these are affiliate links FYI).

Love and Mercy. The music lover in me went nuts for this movie. This is the wonderful biopic of Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys fame. The Beach Boys are to American music what apple pie is to American food, which is to say the backbone of our culture. If you don't like the Beach Boys, I would consider you a traitor to our country. Simple as that. And while everyone likes some Beach Boys songs the real musicians out there know how truly influential their 11th studio album, Pet Sounds, was to rock music. Rolling Stones named Pet Sounds the second most influential rock album of all time. But I had NO IDEA about the back story behind their music--specifically this album and it's creator, composer and musical genius Brian Wilson. This is a such a powerful story of beauty rising from the ashes of the depths of human despair. Love and redemption and ...OK, you just have to watch it. And then like me you'll listen to Pet Sounds on repeat for like 2 weeks. (Also, fantastic cast! John Cusak is always good, but Elizabeth Banks? She blew me away!) Tip: Don't watch the trailer... too many spoilers, just jump straight to the movie!

The Walk. I was sorta iffy on renting this movie. But OH MA'GOODNESS, this movie got under my skin big time. This is the true story of Philippe Petite, the artist and Frenchman who dared to walk across a tightrope strung between the Twin Towers in 1974. You guys, this is a true story! This happened in real life. And it's crazy town. I watched the end of the movie several times and even showed it to my girls the next day (not the whole movie, but I think this would actually be a good movie to watch with older kids.) I'm not super crazy about how they choose to do the narration, but it doesn't ruin the movie by any means. I really love seeing someone pursue a crazy dream for no other reason than it is their crazy dream. I really found this movie super inspiring and have been thinking about my own coup. Also, I wish I would have seen this in IMAX... I don't remember the last time my husband and I experienced such tension while watching a movie. Again, just crazy town. Starring cute-pa-toutie Joseph Gordon Levitt and the amazing Ben Kingsley.  

The last two movies are teenage indie flicks. A genre I unabashedly love.

It's a Funny Kind of Story--This is the lightest movie of them all but as I start to describe the storyline I'm like, wait... this is light? But it is somehow. Or at least it handles heavy subjects in a light-handed manner. It's the story of a suicidal teen who checks himself into a mental hospital and the people he encounters while he's there. I love a movie filled with quirky, flawed characters and obviously if the setting for your movie is in a mental hospital then you're going to get quirk in surplus. Also, there is a musical scene in this movie that I don't want to give away, but for me this was the highlight of the film. It was just perfect and I watched it again and again. Another good, mostly well-known cast even featuring one of my favorite Gilmore Girls Lauren Graham.

Me, Earl and the Dying Girl: This movie. WATCH THIS MOVIE. Within the first few minutes you will dig the style and find yourself hooked. It's so well done. Definitely the funniest movie of the bunch, and it manages that impossible feat of being tender and moving without creeping into sappy territory. It's a little more gritty in places (for example there is a quick shot of a computer screen as a boy is shutting down porn sites--you don't see anything...but still I could have done without that)  but overall this movie is fantastic. The characters are so spot on. Also, I didn't recognize any of the actors who portrayed the teenagers--there were all superb--but there are quite a few recognizable faces in the adults around them like Molly Shannon, Connie Britton and Nick Offerman.

OK, I've held up my end of the bargain, so any and all book recommendations please! Note, I've been meaning to read Big Magic forever, and I've already read All the Light We Can't See...what else? Also, has anyone seen any of the movies above and loved them just as much as I did? 

22 comments:

  1. The Bone Clocks, Station Eleven, Far From the Tree, The Goldfinch, Light Between Oceans, the Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

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    1. I have heard of NONE of these. Thank you!

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  2. What kind of books do you like? There are so many amazing books out there..here are some of my favs:
    1) The Outlander Series: my favorite series of all times. Long and weighty and yet so readable with characters that just stick with you. History, romance and a dash of sci-fi, they're amazing.
    2) The Night Circus is one of those books you either love or hate. I *adored* it and felt like I was reading a dream. Try it.
    The Language of Flowers- great book about the power of the family you're born into and the family you make for yourself.
    3) The Fault in Our Stars: if you like quirky teens with a side of sobbing, give that a whirl. If you've read it/seen the movie, try All the Bright Places.
    4) A Man Called Ove- sweet/funny/sad story of an elderly man, the life he read and the family he creates.
    5) The Nightingale: historical fiction about two sister in occupied France in WWI. Heartbreaking and life-affirming.
    Happy reading!


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    1. Heather--you're right...it would have helped if I gave a little more direction, but I think your list sounds great! I've read TFIOS and loved it...and I'm SUPER intrigued by The Lang. of Flowers...I dig non-fiction a lot.

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    2. I admit to no being a huge non-fiction junkie unless it's an audio book, but "The Boys in the Boat" was fantastic! If you're looking for lighter non-fiction and love "The Princess Bride" movie- "As You Wish" by Cary Elwes (the actor who played Wesley) was a delight.

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  3. I agree with Heather's list! The books she listed that I haven't read are all on my library hold list. :)

    I just read Dead Wake: The last crossing of the Lusitania. A very worthwhile read.

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  4. Have you heard of the Mitford series by Jan Karon? If you like stories that seem true to life and will have you both laughing and crying I highly recommend them. When I've read them I've found myself genuinely concerned about the characters and thinking of them as friends that I want to call on the phone. That probably makes me sound crazy, but I love it because her books are addicting and extremely uplifting. :)

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    1. Thanks AnnaLynne! Sounds very gripping!

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  5. Have you heard of the Mitford series by Jan Karon? If you like stories that seem true to life and will have you both laughing and crying I highly recommend them. When I've read them I've found myself genuinely concerned about the characters and thinking of them as friends that I want to call on the phone. That probably makes me sound crazy, but I love it because her books are addicting and extremely uplifting. :)

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  6. You've got to read Boys in the Boat - Excellent ! The college rowing team from Washington State who went to the Olympics in 1936 Germany. Loved Loved it !!

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  7. I read a lot, but by looking at your movie preferences, you might not like the same kind of things as me. (I live and die for science fiction! I thought the Martian (book and movie) were masterpieces!) But perhaps you share my intense love of memoirs, particularly about people whose lives are very different from my own.

    The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls is a memoir about a girl who grew up off-and-on homeless but grows up to become a successful journalist. Very literary.

    Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick is depressing but amazing book about modern life in North Korea. This was absolutely gripping and opened my eyes to current political events. I went on to read several other North Korea memoirs, but I think that was the best.

    The Boy who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Meale is the memoir of a teenage boy in Malawi Africa who figures out how to wire his family home with electricity from scratch, while starving.

    The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance: A Memoir by Elna Baker Not to be like "Oh, she's Mormon and so are you!" but Elna is an being touted as the "Mormon Tina Fey" so you might be interested. I thought it was just okay but maybe I didn't get all the jokes because I am not Mormon and have never really met any LDS people in person? I read a few other similar memoirs afterwards and they all kind of ran together.

    Oh, not a memoir but I also love Margaret Atwood, and my favorite of hers is "The Year of the Flood" which is the second in the Oryx and Crake books. But also kind a sci-fi, so maybe not your thing.

    Also, if you want to try some classics I found Gone with the Wind surprisingly accessible and enjoyable, and I loved all of the Sherlock Holmes stories. I just checked out a complete collection anthology and read one of the short stories each night, skipping around to whatever seemed most interesting. By the time I finished the book I cried because I would miss "my friends" Watson and Holmes. (I was also pregnant...so I can blame hormones!)

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    1. Angela--Oh the Glass Castle was a really difficult book for me to read...it was so well written, but the beginning especially as written with the innocence of a child who really doesn't know better was just very, very difficult for me for some reason. But yes I do love memoirs and am familiar with Elna Baker, but have never read her book. I'll check it out. Thanks!

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  8. I read a lot, but by looking at your movie preferences, you might not like the same kind of things as me. (I live and die for science fiction! I thought the Martian (book and movie) were masterpieces!) But perhaps you share my intense love of memoirs, particularly about people whose lives are very different from my own.

    The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls is a memoir about a girl who grew up off-and-on homeless but grows up to become a successful journalist. Very literary.

    Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick is depressing but amazing book about modern life in North Korea. This was absolutely gripping and opened my eyes to current political events. I went on to read several other North Korea memoirs, but I think that was the best.

    The Boy who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Meale is the memoir of a teenage boy in Malawi Africa who figures out how to wire his family home with electricity from scratch, while starving.

    The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance: A Memoir by Elna Baker Not to be like "Oh, she's Mormon and so are you!" but Elna is an being touted as the "Mormon Tina Fey" so you might be interested. I thought it was just okay but maybe I didn't get all the jokes because I am not Mormon and have never really met any LDS people in person? I read a few other similar memoirs afterwards and they all kind of ran together.

    Oh, not a memoir but I also love Margaret Atwood, and my favorite of hers is "The Year of the Flood" which is the second in the Oryx and Crake books. But also kind a sci-fi, so maybe not your thing.

    Also, if you want to try some classics I found Gone with the Wind surprisingly accessible and enjoyable, and I loved all of the Sherlock Holmes stories. I just checked out a complete collection anthology and read one of the short stories each night, skipping around to whatever seemed most interesting. By the time I finished the book I cried because I would miss "my friends" Watson and Holmes. (I was also pregnant...so I can blame hormones!)

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  9. "The warmth of other suns" - Just got it from the library and thoroughly enjoyed it. Historical narriative about the true stories of 3 (and general stories too) african american people who went through this mass migration from the south to the north mostly in the years 1915-1965. As a white person I learned a LOT of things and I am glad that I read it.

    Ooh I second the Margaret Atwood trilogy Oryx and Crake, Year of the Flood, and the third book... I forgot the title. Great story set in the future, post-apocolyptic kind of thing but soooo good.

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  10. I recommend this series to everyone who is looking for something new...The Samaria series and The Twelve Houses series by Sharon Shinn. She is my favorite author and the books from these series are my comfort books that I read over and over. It is fantasy but her world building is so perfect that it's not cheesy at all. The Samaria series is about a planet in the future where angels and humans live, but not Biblical angels, more like some people have wings and some don't. The Twelve houses series is kind of like Xmen, where its a medieval type era and a really strong female character is the center of the books, and about her friends too. And they are all love stories mixed in with other stuff, and they are strictly pg-13, she keeps it very clean. She's an extremely good writer and it's all very real world situations but in a fantasy setting. Maybe not what you're looking for but they are satisfying, entertaining books! :)

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  11. Jenny Lawson's books- "furiously happy" and "let's pretend this never happened"

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  12. I also love people's stories, especially ones different from my own as well...
    The boy who harnessed the wind was wonderful and fascinating and inspiring. I bought the children's version for my kids.
    Another favorite...The Small Woman by Alan burgess. It is a beautifully written true story of a brave woman with no support in her dreams except her faith and her own unbelievable grit. Love, love love this book.

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  13. I second The Boys in the Boat. Such a good book! And Nothing to Envy was an interesting read. My book club just read Orphan Trsin and a lot of people really liked it. Also, isn't It's Kind of a Funny Story a book, too? Although reading it after watching the movie might not make a lot of sense.
    I just watched Everest and now I'm dying to read Into Thin Air. It's been on our bookshelf forever but I've never picked it up.

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  14. Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Society is a delightful quick read with depth.

    Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman (also At Large & At Small by same) is a collection of essays, so you can just read one and move on. She's very very smart and very witty; I loved these!

    84 Charing Cross Rd. is another epistolary book, like Guernsey, but it's true! It's also book-focused but it's so cute and fun, and because it's letters, it's easy to get into.

    Of John Green's novels, I actually love Looking for Alaska the best. There is language, and there is...a scene...so I don't know if it'll be quite your thing, but it's a beautiful book. Much more put together, start to finish, than TFIOS, to me. And he was in his 20s when he wrote it!

    Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. SO good. So important, just to read about the poverty aspect (ok, that makes it sound like homework. It's a wonderful book!)

    Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein.

    Kitchens of the Great Midwest--I just read this, and adored it.

    Karen by Marie Killilea. You might've already read this. It's about a little girl born prematurely in 1940, and the first 7 or so years of her life. The sequel, With Love from Karen, is less organized but also worth reading. Oh, and they're true.

    Life After Life by Kate Atkinson? It has an unconventional premise but I just loved it.

    The Martian, by Andy Weir. I know. I'm not a sci-fi person either. But it's funny and engaging. Your husband might also like it.

    Ready Player One by Ernest Cline I think you will adore for the pop culture stuff if nothing else. I am SO not a video game person and I enjoyed this one.

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  15. Anonymous4:29 PM

    I am Malala
    Gone With The Wind
    Same Kind of Different as Me
    Life & Death in Shanghai
    Outcasts United
    A Single Shard
    A Town Like Alice
    Gilead (!!!)
    Al Capone Does My Shirts
    The Art of Hearing Heartbeats
    Eleanor & Park
    I Am The Messenger
    The Count of Monty Cristo
    Outlander

    Enjoy!

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  16. Anonymous4:31 PM

    Oops! ...Monte Cristo
    :)

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