The first nip of fall may not have hit the air, but literary-adaptation season is right around the corner. And while they include best-sellers (Twilight) and Oprah-approved prize-winners (The Road), here’s a glance at some of 2008’s lesser-known book-to-movie translations.


Miracle at St. Anna

by James McBride

Book Overview: In 1944 Tuscany, four soldiers from the U.S. Army’s all-“colored” 92nd Infantry find themselves trapped behind German lines in a small town when one of them attempts to rescue an orphaned Italian boy. McBride skillfully avoids wartime clichés, capturing the unique psychology of black soldiers in a segregated era. His precise characterizations of both the soldiers and the Italian peasants make the story feel like a magnificently specific slice of history rather than something with a grandiose agenda.

Book Grade: A-

Reason for Adaptation Optimism: McBride himself is adapting the screenplay.

Reason for Adaptation Concern: Director Spike Lee may be passionate about the material, but he’s been known to crank up the Significance.

Scheduled Release Date: Sept. 26

The Movie Pitch:Saving Private Ryan meets Glory.”


Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist

by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Book Overview: When a recently-dumped musician’s ex walks into a nightclub, he impulsively asks the nearest woman to pose as his girlfriend, launching an epic all-night “first date” through Manhattan. The co-authors alternate chapters from the point of view of their two protagonists, lending a wonderful multi-lensed perspective on burgeoning romance. The hipster milieu might be a bit grating, and Norah’s self-loathing a little protracted, but ultimately it’s smart and thoroughly engaging.

Book Grade: B+

Reason for Adaptation Optimism: Long-awaited follow-up from director Peter Sollett (the terrific Raising Victor Vargas); Superbad‘s Michael Cera is perfectly cast as the sensitive Nick.

Reason for Adaptation Concern: Will the book’s hyper-verbal internal monologues translate to cinema?

Scheduled Release Date: Oct. 3

The Movie Pitch:Before Sunrise meets High Fidelity.”


Body of Lies

by David Ignatius

Book Overview: A CIA agent, desperate to infiltrate a terrorist network, creates an elaborate fiction to force his target into the open. Ignatius clearly has a grasp of his milieu, but this is one of those plot machines where attempts at creating “context” for the main character — an ice-queen wife, a humanitarian girlfriend — all fall flat. Engaging enough as beach reading, assuming you’re not looking for any political (or human) insight.

Book Grade: B-

Reason for Adaptation Optimism: Director Ridley Scott + Russell Crowe resulted in Gladiator.

Reason for Adaptation Concern: Director Ridley Scott + Russell Crowe also resulted in A Good Year.

Scheduled Release Date: Oct. 10

The Movie Pitch:Syriana meets The Kingdom.”


The City of Ember

by Jeanne DuPrau

Book Overview: In a dying city surrounded by darkness and facing shortages in supplies, two 12-year-olds search for a way to save citizens from impending doom. An unfortunate prologue gives away too much before the mystery has even begun, giving this kid-lit tale a certain inevitability. But DuPrau’s world is well thought-out, serving as a metaphor for humanity’s worst impulses in crisis and as a simple, effective adventure in its own right.

Book Grade: B

Reason for Adaptation Optimism: Director Gil Kenan helmed the smart, under-appreciated kid-pic Monster House.

Reason for Adaptation Concern: The book’s cliffhanger ending — setting up a sequel — may prove difficult to translate in a satisfying way.

Scheduled Release Date: Oct. 10

The Movie Pitch:The Golden Compass meets The Village.”


Marley & Me

by John Grogan

Book Overview: Journalist and newspaper columnist Grogan’s memoir recounts life as a newlywed and young father with a lovable, energetic, endlessly destructive Labrador retriever. Marley instantly becomes a wonderfully complex character in Grogan’s hands, in exploits simultaneously hilarious and cringe-inducing. It won’t just be the dog-lovers whose pets were their “first-born” left blinking back tears.

Book Grade: B+

Reason for Adaptation Optimism: Director David Frankel did fine book-to-crowd pleaser work with The Devil Wears Prada.

Reason for Adaptation Concern: It’s going to require a lot of tinkering to impose a narrative shape on Grogan’s episodic tale.

Scheduled Release Date: Dec. 25

The Movie Pitch:Turner & Hooch meets Brian’s Song.”