Book List

10 of the Best Book-to-Screen Adaptations

JAWS

The jaws are those of a shark which makes quick work of a pretty young woman on the Long Island shore (Amity) where the disaster is kept quiet in the (financial) interest of the town's summer rentals. This is no longer possible after the next victim—a youngster—and police chief Brody is wrongly blamed for not closing the beaches sconer. He has other troubles — namely a restless young wife who remembers better days playing country club tennis and she is not immune to a visiting ichthyologist, the only one fascinated by the local shark. The finale entails some ugly, lashing action against the big one that's been getting away and all of it is designed to jolt that maneating masculine readership who probably won't notice that it ""should of"" been better written.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 1973

ISBN: 978-0-345-54414-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1973

A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES

Earlier this year, the mystery community paid tribute to Block's extraordinary Matt Scudder aeries by awarding 1991's A Dance at the Slaughterhouse—not quite the aeries' finest—an Edgar for Beat Mystery. Scudder's new outing, his tenth, lives up to the honor as the brooding, alcoholic p.i takes on a pair of sadistic thrill-killers. Block opens with some stylistic flash, intercutting third-person narration of the abduction-murder of a Brooklyn drug-dealer's wife with Scudder's account of his own mundane doings the day of the crime. The p.i.'s voice takes over entirely, explaining bow the dealer's brother, a fellow AA member, asked him to look into the killing—a particularly vicious crime, with the victim, despite a ransom payment, returned in butchered pieces. Slowly—the action takes a while to boil—Scudder sniffs up leads with much help from his pals—not gangster Mick Ballou, who dominated the p.i.'s last three cases but who's now visiting Ireland, but other series veterans, including lover/call-gift Elaine and T.J., a spunky young hustler. And a pair of newcomers, the Kongs, teenage outlaw hackers whose midnight ramble through the phone company's computers provides a welcome light note as well as valuable clues. The case breaks when another drug-dealer's daughter is snatched, leading to a skin-prickling showdown with the killers at a Brooklyn cemetery, and to a grim and vicious blood-revenge. The story concludes, though, with Scudder fumbling toward a new alliance with Elaine, and with an alcoholic's suicide—affecting examples of the frailty, courage, and moral uncertainty that are Block's real subjects. The Edgar Award merely confirmed what Block's fans already know—that Matt Scudder is the most appealing and richly human p.i. working today. And this exciting, moving, immensely satisfying case proves it.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 1992

ISBN: 0752837486

Page Count: 309

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1992

JURASSIC PARK

Genetically engineered dinosaurs run amok in Crichton's new, vastly entertaining science thriller. From the introduction alone—a classically Crichton-clear discussion of the implications of biotechnological research—it's evident that the Harvard M.D. has bounced back from the science-fantasy silliness of Sphere (1987) for another taut reworking of the Frankenstein theme, as in The Andromeda Strain and The Terminal Man. Here, Dr. Frankenstein is aging billionaire John Hammond, whose monster is a manmade ecosystem based on a Costa Rican island. Designed as the world's ultimate theme park, the ecosystem boasts climate and flora of the Jurassic Age and—most spectacularly—15 varieties of dinosaurs, created by elaborate genetic engineering that Crichton explains in fascinating detail, rich with dino-lore and complete with graphics. Into the park, for a safety check before its opening, comes the novel's band of characters—who, though well drawn, double as symbolic types in this unsubtle morality play. Among them are hero Alan Grant, noble paleontologist; Hammond, venal and obsessed; amoral dino-designer Henry Wu; Hammond's two innocent grandchildren; and mathematician Ian Malcolm, who in long diatribes serves as Crichton's mouthpiece to lament the folly of science. Upon arrival, the visitors tour the park; meanwhile, an industrial spy steals some dino embryos by shutting down the island's power—and its security grid, allowing the beasts to run loose. The bulk of the remaining narrative consists of dinos—ferocious T. Rex's, voracious velociraptors, venom-spitting dilophosaurs—stalking, ripping, and eating the cast in fast, furious, and suspenseful set-pieces as the ecosystem spins apart. And can Grant prevent the dinos from escaping to the mainland to create unchecked havoc? Though intrusive, the moralizing rarely slows this tornado-paced tale, a slick package of info-thrills that's Crichton's most clever since Congo (1980)—and easily the most exciting dinosaur novel ever written. A sure-fire best-seller.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 1990

ISBN: 0394588169

Page Count: 424

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1990

Regardless, readers will likely be so swept up in the romance they can read past any flaws.

TO ALL THE BOYS I'VE LOVED BEFORE

From the To All the Boys I've Loved Before series , Vol. 1

An ultimately compelling exploration of teenage growth and young love.

With her idolized sister Margot leaving for college, Lara Jean doesn’t feel ready for the coming changes: becoming more responsible for their younger sister, Kitty, helping their widowed father, or seeing Margot break up with Josh, the boy next door—whom Lara Jean secretly liked first. But there’s even greater upheaval to come, when Lara Jean’s five secret letters to the boys she’s loved are mailed to them by accident. Lara Jean runs when sweet, dependable Josh tries to talk to her about her letter. And when Peter Kavinsky gets his letter, it brings him back into Lara Jean’s life, all handsome, charming, layered and complicated. They start a fake relationship to help Lara Jean deal with Josh and Peter to get over his ex. But maybe Lara Jean and Peter will discover there’s something more between them as they learn about themselves and each other. It’s difficult to see this book as a love triangle—Josh is bland as oatmeal, and Peter is utterly charismatic. Meanwhile, readers may find that Lara Jean sometimes seems too naïve and rather young for 16—though in many ways, this makes her feel more realistic than many of the world-weary teens that populate the shelves.

Regardless, readers will likely be so swept up in the romance they can read past any flaws. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2670-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2014

Lecter emerges as one of the great villains of thrillerdom, and this novel, likely to garner a huge readership, as one of...

THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS

With this stunning sequel to his 1981 blockbuster, Red Dragon, Harris (Black Sunday, 1975) seals his reputation as a thriller-master by delivering a deeply involving, blood-freezing tale of a young female F.B.I. trainee on the trail of a serial killer.

The premise of Red Dragon was its detective's ability to sympathize with the killer he sought. Here, Harris reverses thematic gears, finding an unbridgeable chasm between good and evil. On the side of light stand spunky heroine Candice Starling and her compassionate FBI boss, Jack Crawford; in the darkness dwell two indelible creations: rampaging serial killer ""Buffalo Bill""—so-nicknamed because he skins the women he kills—and homicidal genius Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a minor figure from Red Dragon here expanded into the very embodiment of self-knowing evil. With no clues to Bill's identity, a desperate Crawford sends Starling to the madhouse where Lecter, an expert on the criminally insane, is imprisoned. Will the insane psychologist help ferret out Bill? Yes, but at a price: Starling must reveal a personal secret for each sliver of advice, In a series of chilling meetings, Starling strips her psyche bare; Lecter responds by toying with her, feeding helpful but inconclusive clues. Meanwhile, Bill—a walking nightmare busy making a human suit out of the skins he harvests—kidnaps a congresswoman's daughter, dumping her into a pit in his basement. The congresswoman learns of Lecter's help and offers him a deal: identify Bill—a former patient of his—and Lector will be transferred to a room with a view. Sadistically, Lecter coughs up a false name—and then escapes during his transfer in an orgy of killing. As the clock winds down. Starling and Crawford race to find Bill—a race that culminates in an ultratense, violent confrontation between Starling and the madman in his lair—while Lecter connives to stay free; will he return to cast his long, black shadow in yet another sequel? A tour de force of suspense, dark and polished as onyx.

Lecter emerges as one of the great villains of thrillerdom, and this novel, likely to garner a huge readership, as one of the most gripping reads of the year.

Pub Date: Aug. 29, 1988

ISBN: 978-0-312-02282-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1988

THE SHINING

A presold prefab blockbuster, what with King's Carrie hitting the moviehouses, Salem's Lot being lensed, The Shining itself sold to Warner Bros. and tapped as a Literary Guild full selection, NAL paperback, etc. (enough activity to demand an afterlife to consummate it all).

The setting is The Overlook, a palatial resort on a Colorado mountain top, snowbound and closed down for the long, long winter. Jack Torrance, a booze-fighting English teacher with a history of violence, is hired as caretaker and, hoping to finish a five-act tragedy he's writing, brings his wife Wendy and small son Danny to the howling loneliness of the half-alive and mad palazzo. The Overlook has a gruesome past, scenes from which start popping into the present in various suites and the ballroom. At first only Danny, gifted with second sight (he's a "shiner"), can see them; then the whole family is being zapped by satanic forces. The reader needs no supersight to glimpse where the story's going as King's formula builds to a hotel reeling with horrors during Poesque New Year's Eve revelry and confetti outta nowhere....

Back-prickling indeed despite the reader's unwillingness at being mercilessly manipulated.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 1976

ISBN: 0385121679

Page Count: 453

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1976

With a sweeping bow to Virginia Woolf, McEwan combines insight, penetrating historical understanding, and sure-handed...

ATONEMENT

McEwan’s latest, both powerful and equisite, considers the making of a writer, the dangers and rewards of imagination, and the juncture between innocence and awareness, all set against the late afternoon of an England soon to disappear.

In the first, longest, and most compelling of four parts, McEwan (the Booker-winning Amsterdam, 1998) captures the inner lives of three characters in a moment in 1935: upper-class 13-year-old Briony Tallis; her 18-year-old sister, Cecilia; and Robbie Turner, son of the family’s charlady, whose Cambridge education has been subsidized by their father. Briony is a penetrating look at the nascent artist, vain and inspired, her imagination seizing on everything that comes her way to create stories, numinous but still childish. She witnesses an angry, erotic encounter between her sister and Robbie, sees an improper note, and later finds them hungrily coupling; misunderstanding all of it, when a visiting cousin is sexually assaulted, Briony falsely brings blame to bear on Robbie, setting the course for all their lives. A few years later, we see a wounded and feverish Robbie stumbling across the French countryside in retreat with the rest of the British forces at Dunkirk, while in London Briony and Cecilia, long estranged, have joined the regiment of nurses who treat broken men back from war. At 18, Briony understands and regrets her crime: it is the touchstone event of her life, and she yearns for atonement. Seeking out Cecilia, she inconclusively confronts her and a war-scarred Robbie. In an epilogue, we meet Briony a final time as a 77-year-old novelist facing oblivion, whose confessions reframe everything we’ve read.

With a sweeping bow to Virginia Woolf, McEwan combines insight, penetrating historical understanding, and sure-handed storytelling despite a conclusion that borrows from early postmodern narrative trickery. Masterful.

Pub Date: March 19, 2002

ISBN: 0-385-50395-4

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2001

CLOSE RANGE

WYOMING STORIES

A vigorous second collection from Proulx (after Heart Songs and Other Stories, 1988): eleven nicely varied stories set in the roughhewn wasteland that one narrator calls a “97,000-square-miles dog’s breakfast of outside exploiters, Republican ranchers and scenery.” The characters here are windburned, fatalistic westerners stuck in the harsh lives they’ve made for themselves in this bitter demi-paradise. They include: hardworking, luckless ranchers (in the painfully concise “Job History,” and the sprawling “Pair a Spurs,” the latter a wry tale of divorce, sexual urgency, and sheer cussedness that bears fleeting resemblances to Proulx’s Accordion Crimes); aging hellion Josanna Skiles (of “A Lonely Coast”) and the lover who can neither tame her nor submit to her; a sagebrush Bluebeard and his inquisitive wife (in the amusingly fragmentary “55 Miles to the Gas Pump”); and an itinerant rodeo cowboy (in “The Mud Below”) whose vagrant spirit stubbornly kicks against memories of his disastrous childhood. Two stories are, effectively, miniature novels: “People in Hell Just Want a Drink of Water,” about memorably dysfunctional feuding families; and “The Bunchgrass Edge of the World,” which begins as a collection of random eccentricities, then coheres into a grimly funny parody of the family saga. “The Blood Bay” retells a familiar western folktale, adding just a whiff of Chaucer’s “Pardoner’s Tale.” And two prizewinning pieces brilliantly display Proulx’s trademark whipsaw wit and raw, lusty language. “The Half-Skinned Steer” wrests a rich portrayal of the experience of unbelonging from the account of an old man’s journey westward, for his brother’s funeral, back to the embattled home he’d spent decades escaping. And the powerful “Brokeback Mountain” explores with plangent understated compassion the lifelong sexual love between two cowboys destined for separation, and the harsh truth that “if you can’t fix it you’ve got to stand it.” Gritty, authoritative stories of loving, losing, and bearing the consequences. Nobody else writes like this, and Proulx has never written better.

Pub Date: May 10, 1999

ISBN: 0-684-85221-7

Page Count: 285

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1999

THE GODFATHER

Ten years in the workaday progress of a New York Mafia sort of family dynasty tale with all the attendant flurries of great houses at war. Don Corleone is ruler of the Family, avenger and dispenser of favors, from judges boughten verdicts to rub-outs among the fiefdoms. The noble Don ages and there is the nagging worry as to who shall carry on. Eldest son Sonny is too impetuous; Freddie is a fornicator; Michael fancies a teaching career with his Yankee bride. Along with the manipulative, diplomatic and skull-smashing demands of the Eastern empire of real estate, manufacturing, and gambling, there is always the threat of treachery from within one unfortunate example of which snuffs out Sonny by the Jones Beach toll booths. Michael, forgetting the scholar's life, pumps bullets in revenge, is sent to Italy, and is finally returned miraculously intact after assassination attempts. It is Michael, after the Don's near murder and eventual death from heart failure who reasserts the Family as Number One in a coup which includes the garrotting of a traitorous brother-in-law. The scene roams from coast to coast, provides glimpses of the sex/love tangles of the Ladies Auxiliary, family fun and cosy Italian fiestas, boppings, bashings, shootings, hackings. A Mafia Whiteoaks, bound for popularity, once you get past the author's barely concealed admiration for the "ethics" and postulates of primitive power plays.

Pub Date: March 10, 1969

ISBN: 0451205766

Page Count: 472

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 9, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1969

This story is necessary. This story is important.

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THE HATE U GIVE

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is a black girl and an expert at navigating the two worlds she exists in: one at Garden Heights, her black neighborhood, and the other at Williamson Prep, her suburban, mostly white high school.

Walking the line between the two becomes immensely harder when Starr is present at the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Khalil’s death becomes national news, where he’s called a thug and possible drug dealer and gangbanger. His death becomes justified in the eyes of many, including one of Starr’s best friends at school. The police’s lackadaisical attitude sparks anger and then protests in the community, turning it into a war zone. Questions remain about what happened in the moments leading to Khalil’s death, and the only witness is Starr, who must now decide what to say or do, if anything. Thomas cuts to the heart of the matter for Starr and for so many like her, laying bare the systemic racism that undergirds her world, and she does so honestly and inescapably, balancing heartbreak and humor. With smooth but powerful prose delivered in Starr’s natural, emphatic voice, finely nuanced characters, and intricate and realistic relationship dynamics, this novel will have readers rooting for Starr and opening their hearts to her friends and family.

This story is necessary. This story is important. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-249853-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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