8 Books to Read Before You See the Movies This Winter
A doctor who can talk to animals. A distraught woman grieving the loss of her family in an accident that’s not exactly what it seems. A pair of orphans who appear to be haunted. Yup, a lot of exciting films are coming out this winter—and a lot of them are actually based on must-read books. Here, eight titles you should read before you see them on the big screen.
1. The Voyages of Dr. Dolittle by Hugh Lofting
In the 1920s, English author Hugh Lofting created the character Dr. Dolittle, a doctor who can speak to animals. Based on Lofting’s second Dr. Dolittle book, the fantasy adventure comedy Dolittle (in theaters January 17) stars Robert Downey Jr. After the death of his wife, the eccentric physician becomes a recluse with only his animals for company. But when Queen Victoria (Jessie Buckley) becomes gravely ill, a reluctant Dolittle is forced to set sail on an epic adventure in search of a cure. The book is a total classic, but the movie promises to be a total refresh with the animals voiced by stars such as Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, John Cena and more.
2. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
Henry James’s 1898 horror novella focuses on a governess who, while caring for two children at a remote estate, becomes convinced that the grounds are haunted. The Turning (in theaters January 24), a film based on James’s work, takes place at a mysterious estate in the Maine countryside, where a nanny (Mackenzie Davis) is charged with the care of two disturbed orphans (Brooklynn Prince and Finn Wolfhard). She quickly discovers that the children and the house are harboring dark secrets in this reimagining of an iconic ghost story. Both should be sufficiently freaky, but we recommend reading the book first for a taste of what to expect in the theater.
3. The Rhythm Section by Mark Burnell
Almost a year after it was supposed to premiere, the Reed Morano-directed adaptation of Mark Burnell’s 1999 spy thriller is finally hitting theaters January 31. Blake Lively stars as Stephanie Patrick, a woman who seeks to uncover the truth behind a plane crash that killed her family three years earlier. Read the book for a fast-paced thriller, then see the movie to indulge in all of Lively’s wig changes (and to see appearances by Jude Law and Sterling K. Brown).
4. P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han
To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You is the sequel to the 2018 film To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, and is also based on a YA teen romance novel—P.S. I Still Love You—by Jenny Han. Lana Condor and Noah Centineo return as Lara Jean and Peter, teenagers experiencing the ups and downs of first loves. Both the book and the movie—which will debut on Netflix February 12—promise to be sweet coming-of-age stories that will make you nostalgic (but also glad you’re not a teenager anymore).
5. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
The central character of Jack London’s 1903 adventure novel is a dog named Buck, who is stolen from his California home and sold into service as a sled dog in Alaska. Becoming progressively feral in the harsh environment, he ends up emerging as a leader in the wild. In the live-action, CGI-animated film adaptation, in theaters February 21, Buck is sold to freight haulers in the Yukon, where he encounters John Thornton (Harrison Ford), and the two form an unlikely bond. If the short novel wasn’t required reading in middle school, thumb through it before February 21 to get caught up on the classic tale of nature versus nurture and the relationship between man and man’s best friend.
6. Emma by Jane Austen
Emma Woodhouse is the “handsome, clever and rich” protagonist of Jane Austen’s classic 1815 novel that’s been adapted for screen and stage countless times. The latest is a film (out February 21) directed by Autumn de Wilde and written by Eleanor Catton (The Luminaries) that stars Anya Taylor-Joy as the titular Emma, with Bill Nighy playing her father, Henry Woodhouse.
7. The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells
This science-fiction psychological thriller (in theaters February 28) is a loose modern adaptation of H.G. Wells’s 1897 novel. In the original text, Griffin is a scientist who invents a way to change a body's refractive index to that of air, which is a fancy way of saying that it becomes invisible. In the film adaptation, Elisabeth Moss plays Cecilia, a woman in an abusive relationship with a scientist, played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen. One night, Cecilia runs away, only to later hear the scientist has died by suicide. Cecilia has a feeling he’s not actually gone when scary things start happening to her and her friends. Read the book to experience Griffin as a horror icon and then watch the movie to be utterly creeped out.
8. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
OK, this one is technically a miniseries, but still. Based on Celeste Ng’s 2017 novel of the same name, this upcoming Hulu series (which will premiere March 18) centers on the chaos that erupts when a single mother, Mia Warren (Reese Witherspoon), and her daughter move to an affluent Ohio city, where they meet Elena Richardson (Kerry Washington) and her seemingly picture-perfect family. Things take a mysterious turn when a few acts of arson are committed around town. The book is a fascinating exploration of complex mother-daughter relationships, while the show should be nothing less than fabulous, considering the cast. (Witherspoon and Washington are also executive producing.)