In almost every issue of home/school/life, we put together a book-movie list to recommend reading to go along with upcoming movies. It's always one of my favorite things to research. Though this list is from spring 2014 (when all these flicks were coming to the big screen), I think it's just as fun now that you can watch them in your living room instead.
Before you see: Divergent, starring Shailene Woodley as a girl whose multiple talents cause big problems in a society where people are sorted according to their strongest characteristic
Read: Divergent by Veronica Roth, the dystopian young adult novel the movie is based on
Why: How else will you be able to nitpick the details changed in the text-to-screen adaptation?
Before you see: The Double, in which Jesse Eisenberg’s shy hero finds his life slowly being overtaken by his brasher doppelganger
Read: The Double by Fyodor Dostoevsky, the 1846 novella that inspired the film
Why: There’s plenty of critical controversy about what the Dostoevsky novel is really about, so it will be interesting to see what direction the film takes—and if you agree.
Before you see: Noah, Darren Aronofsky’s apocalyptic-style retelling of the Genesis flood story
Read: Many Waters by Madeleine L’Engle, a quiet little fantasy that transplants two modern-day Murrys to Noah’s time
Why: Aronofsky is all over the story’s epic details, while L’Engle’s novel touches on deep emotions and philosophical questions.
Before you see: X-Men: Days of Future Past, a time-hopping entry into the X-Men universe with an Oscar-worthy cast
Read: Time Machines: Time Travel in Physics, Metaphysics, and Science Fiction by Paul J. Nahin, a terrifically comprehensive examination of time travel in science fiction
Why: Nahin digs deep into the science behind science fiction, so you can intelligently quibble about disrupted timelines.
Before you see: Maleficent, in which Angelina Jolie attempts to create a sympathetic backstory for the baby-cursing villainess of Sleeping Beauty
Read: From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers by Marina Warner, a smart exploration of women’s roles in fairy tales and their history
Why: Jolie’s villain’s sympathetic origins can reveal a lot about society’s values and needs—if you know how to look.
Before you see: How to Train Your Dragon 2, which flashes forward five years into Hiccup and Toothless’s future
Read: How to Train Your Dragon: How to Seize a Dragon’s Jewel by Cressida Cowell, the latest installment in the popular series
Why: Like the Harry Potter series, Cowell’s dragon books have grown increasingly dark and complex as her hero grows up. Will the movies follow suit?
Before you see: The Fault in Our Stars, starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort as teenagers with cancer who fall in love
Read: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, the heart-warming (and tear-jerking) novel the film is based on
Why: There’s every chance the movie will be excellent, but you are missing out if you don’t read the book, which is so beautifully sad that it can make you cry on the subway. (Ask me how I know.)
This list was originally published in the spring 2014 issue of HSL.