15 Books for Your Oscar Season Reading List

4 minute read

Hollywood loves a sure thing. So for many filmmakers, adapting an already successful book is a recipe for big-screen success. The 2016 award season, already in full swing, is no exception; some of the year’s most anticipated and celebrated movies got their start as novels, biographies and histories. Here, a list of books that have served as fodder.


The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge


Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu won four Oscars for last year’s expansive Birdman, so it’s no surprise his next project is similarly ambitious. The director’s notoriously expensive adaptation of the Michael Punke novel stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a frontiersman whose company leaves him for dead after a bear mauling—but he survives, and tracks down his deserters to seek revenge.

Published: 2002

In theaters: Dec. 25 (limited), Jan. 8 (wide)


Little, Brown and Company

Critics wondered how a movie could capture the voice of Emma Donoghue’s novel, narrated by a young boy who has spent his life locked inside a room with his kidnapped mother, yet most have been impressed by Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay’s skillful handling.

Published: 2010

In theaters: Oct. 16 (limited), Nov. 25 (wide)

The Price of Salt, or Carol

Dover Publications

The movie version (just called Carol) of Patricia Highsmith’s lesbian love story stars Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara.

Published: 1952

In theaters: Nov. 20



Saoirse Ronan has earned critical raves as the moody Eilis Lacey in the adaptation of Colm Tóibín’s novel about life as an Irish immigrant in 1950s New York.

Published: 2009

In theaters now

The Danish Girl


Eddie Redmayne, the British actor who won last year’s Best Actor trophy for The Theory of Everything, stars in the adaptation of David Ebershoff’s novel based on the true story of transgender Lili Elbe, one of the first people known to undergo gender reassignment surgery.

Published: 2000

In theaters: Nov. 27

Steve Jobs

Simon & Schuster

Michael Fassbender takes on the tech visionary in this biopic based on the biography by former TIME managing editor Walter Isaacson.

Published: 2011

In theaters now

In the Heart of the Sea

Penguin Books

Nathaniel Philbrick’s National Book Award-winning story of the whaleship Essex—whose sinking inspired Moby Dick—gets the silver screen treatment in an adaptation starring Chris Hemsworth, Brendan Gleeson and Cillian Murphy.

Published: 2000

In theaters: Dec. 11

The Martian


Ridley Scott directs Matt Damon in Andy Weir’s story of an astronaut left behind on Mars who struggles to find a way to survive.

Published: 2011

In theaters now

To Reach the Clouds

North Point Press

Philippe Petit’s memoir of his high-wire walk between the Twin Towers is the starting point for The Walk, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Published: 2002

In theaters now

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine

W.W. Norton & Company

Michael Lewis’s anatomy of the financial crash—and profiles of the people who saw it coming—gets the Hollywood treatment with Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt.

Published: 2010

In theaters: Dec. 11 (limited), Dec. 23 (wide)

Beasts of No Nation

Harper Perennial

Uzodinma Iweala’s novel about a young African boy recruited as a guerrilla warrior has caused a sensation as Netflix’s first original feature film, which debuted online and in theaters.

Published: 2005

On Netflix now


Grand Central Publishing

Bryan Cranston stars as the blacklisted Spartacus screenwriter in an adaptation of Bruce Cook’s biography.

Published: 1977

In theaters now

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Harry N. Abrams

Jesse Andrews’ simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming YA novel about a teenage cancer patient became a Sundance favorite starring Olivia Cooke and Thomas Mann.

Published: 2012

On DVD and Blu-ray now

Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself

Broadway Books

The David Foster Wallace biopic The End of the Tour, starring Jason Segel, took much of its dialogue from journalist David Lipsky’s interviews with the Infinite Jest novelist, which were published in book form after Wallace’s death.

Published: 2010

On DVD and Blu-ray now

Black Mass: Whitey Bulger, the FBI, and a Devil’s Deal


Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill’s biography of the Boston crime boss, which covers his fights with competitors and his strange alliance with the FBI, is fodder for a shapeshifting Johnny Depp.

Published: 2000

In theaters now

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