A red carpet reading list


On Sunday, February 26, all the stars will dress up and delight movie fans on the red carpet for the 84th annual Academy Awards. But what do lovers of literature have to look forward to? Well, lots! This year's Oscars might be the most literary yet. Six of the nine Best Picture nominees are adaptations of a book, and all five films in the Best Actress category can claim literary origins.

So which books should you pick up at the library this weekend to get yourself Oscar-ready? CBC Books has the scoop for you. Here are 11 books to choose from!

1) The Descendants

The Descendants is up for five Academy Awards, including Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Director and Best Picture. Kaui Hart Hemmings's story of Matt King, a lawyer and father of two whose wife is in a coma, originally began as a 2004 short story called The Mind Wars. Hemmings expanded this story and it became the 2007 novel (her debut) The Descendants.


  • Best Picture (Jim Burke, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor)
  • Best Actor (George Clooney)
  • Best Director (Alexander Payne)
  • Best Editing (Kevin Tent)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay (Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash)

Fun fact: The youngest daughter, Scottie, wears a "Mrs. Clooney" shirt in the novel.

2) Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Jonathan Safran Foer's 2005 novel inspired this film of the same name. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close follows nine-year-old Oskar Schnell as he grapples with the death of his father in the 9/11 attacks. Both the book and the movie polarized critics. It's interesting to note that this is the first Best Picture nominee that deals directly with 9/11 and its aftermath.


  • Best Picture
  • Best Supporting Actor (Max von Sydow)

Fun fact: This is the fifth Best Picture nomination for producer Scott Rudin. He was previously nominated for The Hours, No Country for Old Men, True Grit and The Social Network -- all movies based on books.

3) Hugo

While Martin Scorsese's adaptation of Brian Selznick's award-winning hybrid comic book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, didn't bust the box office, Selznick should be proud of all the technical achievements that went into this film. While the visual elements of the book and film are strikingly different, the rich, dynamic world of Hugo, his train station home and on-the-run, undercover lifestyle come to life on both page and screen.


  • Best Picture
  • Best Director (Martin Scorsese)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay (John Logan)
  • Best Cinematography (Robert Richardson)
  • Best Original Score (Howard Shore)
  • Best Costume Design (Sandy Powell)
  • Best Visual Effects (Robert Legato, Joss Williams, Ben Grossmann and Alex Henning)
  • Best Film Editing (Thelma Schoonmaker)
  • Best Sound Editing (Philip Stockton and Eugene Gearty)
  • Best Sound Mixing (Tom Fleishman and John Midgley)

Fun fact: The Invention of Hugo Cabret won the 2008 Caldecott Medal, which honours the best picture book for children. It was the first "novel" to receive this honour.

4) The Help

Kathryn Stockett's story of a young white woman who sets out to record the stories of black maids in Mississippi has been riding a runaway train of success since its publication in 2009. Although it was initially rejected by 60 literary agents, the book has sold more than five million copies worldwide. The film saw similar success, grossing over $200 million at the box office.


  • Best Picture
  • Best Actress (Viola Davis)
  • Best Supporting Actress (Octavia Spencer)
  • Best Supporting Actress (Jessica Chastain)

Fun fact: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell are all mentioned in the novel and can be seen on Skeeter's bookshelf in the movie.

5) Moneyball

Baseball statistics. It shouldn't make for an interesting book or an interesting movie, but it does. Michael Lewis's 2003 take on Billy Beane's attempt to turn the Oakland As around thanks to a statistics concept called "sabermetrics" has had such an impact on professional sports that the book's title is now an actual baseball term. While the movie has been just as well received, only time will tell as to whether it will have the same impact as the book.


  • Best Picture
  • Best Actor (Brad Pitt)
  • Best Supporting Actor (Jonah Hill)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay (Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian; Story by Stan Chervin)
  • Best Film Editing (Christopher Tellefsen)
  • Best Sound Mixing (Deb Adair, Ron Bochar, Dave Giammarco and Ed Novick)

Fun fact: This is the second adaptation of a book by Michael Lewis to score a Best Picture nod in the past three years. The Blind Side, which was based on Lewis's book of the same name, was nominated in 2010.

Fun fact #2: This is the second year in a row in which Aaron Sorkin is up for Best Adapted Screenplay. His adaptation of The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich won in that category in 2011; the film was also nominated for Best Picture.

6) War Horse

Michael Morpurgo wrote this children's book about a horse's role in combat in the First World War 20 years ago, but its pop culture impact is bigger than ever in 2012. Steven Spielberg's movie adaptation scored six Oscar nominations, and a recent Tony-winning stage adaptation has wowed on Broadway and in London's West End.


  • Best Picture
  • Best Art Direction (Rick Carter, Production Designer, Lee Sandales)
  • Best Cinematography (Janusz Kamiński)
  • Best Original Score (John Williams)
  • Best Sound Editing (Richard Hymns, Gary Rydstrom)
  • Best Sound Mixing (Gary Rydstrom, Andy Nelson, Tom Johnson, Stuart Wilson)

Fun fact: Author Michael Morpungo makes a cameo appearance early in the movie, during the auction scene.

7) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

David Fincher's adaptation of the bestselling Stieg Larsson novel didn't fare as well at the box office as expected, despite Rooney Mara's star-making turn as socially inept hacker Lisbeth Salander and a generally positive critical reception. Whether it was due to the 2009 Swedish remake still being a hot topic or just general Millennium Trilogy fatigue is tough to say, but the second film remains in the works and scoring five Oscar nominations doesn't hurt.


  • Best Actress (Rooney Mara)
  • Best Cinematography (Jeff Cronenweth)
  • Best Film Editing (Angus Wall, Kirk Baxter)
  • Best Sound Editing (Ren Klyce)
  • Best Sound Mixing (David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce, Bo Persson)

Fun fact: Rooney Mara caught Hollywood's attention in her brief but powerful appearance as Mark Zuckerberg's ex-girlfriend in The Social Network. And yes, The Social Network was one of the much-lauded literary adaptations of the Academy Awards in 2011.

8) My Week with Marilyn

Author Colin Clark was so profoundly affected by his work as third assistant director on the Marilyn Monroe/Sir Laurence Olivier film The Prince and the Showgirl that he wrote not one but two books about the experience: 1995's The Prince, The Showgirl and Me and 2000's My Week with Marilyn. While the film takes its name and most of its material from the second book, the first book offered the film more background about production of The Prince and the Showgirl as a whole.


  • Best Actress (Michelle Williams)
  • Best Supporting Actor (Kenneth Branagh)

Fun fact: Interestingly, Colin Clark's two books portray very different and often contradictory versions of Marilyn Monroe.

9) The Iron Lady

Meryl Streep may be the only actress around who has the chops to play one of history's most influential and controversial women. Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher has been the subject of many books and biographies, but The Iron Lady is the first major feature film to tackle her political reign.


  • Best Actress (Meryl Streep)
  • Best Makeup (Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland)

Fun fact: Though the film is based on his book, author John Campbell has openly criticized The Iron Lady, calling it historically inaccurate.

10) Albert Nobbs

George Moore's novella about a woman who dresses as a man in order to find work in Ireland in the 1800s was originally adapted as a stage play. It took 30 years for the work to move from stage to screen. While the performances of Glenn Close and the rest of the cast were widely acclaimed, the movie itself received mixed reviews.


  • Best Actress (Glenn Close)
  • Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Janet McTeer)
  • Best Makeup (Martial Corneville, Lynn Johnson, Matthew W. Mungle)

Fun fact: Glenn Close first played Albert Nobbs in the 1982 off-Broadway adaptation and was instrumental in the film adaptation.

11) Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

John le Carré's spy novel came out in 1974 and was the third of five le Carré novels to centre around intelligence officer George Smiley. Tomas Alfredson's 2011 film is only the latest in a string of adaptations of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: a television adaptation starring Alec Guinness as George Smiley was made in 1979, and in 1988, the BBC broadcast a radio adaptation.


  • Best Actor (Gary Oldman)

  • Best Adapted Screenplay (Bridget O'Connor, Peter Straughan)

  • Best Original Score (Alberto Iglesias)

Fun fact: Gary Oldman's portrayal of George Smiley was largely based on a single line from the book: "George is like a swift, Ann once told Haydon in George's hearing. He lowers his temperature until it's the same as the room around it. Then he doesn't lose heat by adjusting."

Bonus Book Material

One of this year's Animated Short Film nominees is a love letter to books. Watch "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore" below.

Need a scorecard for Oscar Night? Download CBC New's PDF right here.