1. If you love Lost in Translation, try A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki.
A Tale for the Time Being follows an alone and isolated Japanese teenager in Tokyo who writes a diary to record her thoughts and escape the bullying of classmates. When her diary washes ashore across the Pacific in British Columbia, the writer who finds it decides to try and discover what happened to its author.
A meditation on loneliness and human connection, the book was shortlisted for the 2013 Man Booker prize. It’s a beautifully written and realised tale fans of Sofia Coppola’s heartbreaking film will enjoy.
2. If you love Inception, try Ubik by Philip K. Dick.
What is reality? Long before Inception posited the question, Philip K. Dick published Ubik and made us question the very fabric of reality. Is this life, or afterlife? Are we dead, or dreaming? Set in a future world of psychics and suspended animation, Ubik and its conclusion will have you checking the coins in your pocket very carefully.
3. If you love Mean Girls, try Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill.
If you took the high school politics and wit of Mean Girls and transferred it to a boarding school in a future dystopian patriarchy, where girls learn to please men and compete to be chosen as companions, allowed to live with their husbands and breed, you would get Only Ever Yours. Those who don’t make the cut must suffer life as a concubine, or worse yet, a teacher.
An ingenious exploration of gender roles, female identity, and female competition, Only Ever Yours has been described as “Mean Girls meets The Handmaid’s Tale”, and if that doesn’t warrant a read, then what does? (Out now in UK/Ireland. Out April 2015 in US)
4. If you love Pulp Fiction, try The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt.
A leftfield choice but stick with me: Charlie and Eli Sisters are the Vincent and Jules of the Wild West, feared assassins carrying out contract hits for a crooked crime boss. As they journey to San Francisco in search of a target in The Sisters Brothers, there is plenty of humour and pulp-Western violence, along with existential crises of faith and human nature.
5. If you love Se7en, try The Treatment by Mo Hayder.
For one of the most disturbing films of the last 20 years, a book that is one of the most disturbing ever written. Featuring grotesque murders and a genuinely unsettling plot involving paedophile rings and child abuse, The Treatment is not for the faint of heart.
6. If you love Star Wars, try Saga by Brian K. Vaughn & Fiona Staples.
Award-winning comic book writer Brian K. Vaughn conceived of Saga when he was a boy, with Star Wars a particular influence. Illustrated by Fiona Staples, it tells the tale of Alana and Marko, star-crossed lovers who must protect their newborn child from the galactic war that has consumed their races.
The way the series deals with sex and violence has led some to describe it as “Star Wars meets Game of Thrones”. Hilarious, thrilling, and as good as the hype.
7. If you love Juno, try Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell.
Sharing some of the whimsy and indie soundtrack of Juno with none of the film’s grating tweeness, Eleanor & Park is the story of two loner teens brought together through a mutual love of mixtapes and comic books while dealing with serious subjects such as racism, bullying, and body image.
8. If you love The Matrix, try Neuromancer by William Gibson.
An obvious choice, but for obvious reasons: Neuromancer invented cyberpunk, “the matrix”, and plugging into computers, and was one of the main sources of inspiration for the Wachowskis’ 1999 sci-fi action film The Matrix.
If you’ve already read Neuromancerthough, then try Neal Stephenson’s equally genre-defining Snow Crash. If you’ve read that, then try wrapping your lenses around the techno-surreal musings of postmodern French philosopher/loon Jean Baudrillard.
9. If you love Gosford Park, try The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton.
From upstairs/downstairs intrigue to the wild frontier of gold-rush New Zealand, The Luminaries is a Victorian-era murder mystery and Booker Prize winner that shares Gosford Park’s literary merit and exploration of class and character. It’s a page-turning, utterly compelling package.
10. If you love Raiders of the Lost Ark, try Sandstorm by James Rollins.
Indiana Jones, meet Painter Crowe, the majestically monickered action hero and star of James Rollins’ SIGMA Force novels, of which Sandstorm is the first. The Raiders-esque romp of globe-hopping, world-ending proportions is a rip-roaring adventure that Indy fans will love.
11. If you love The Usual Suspects, try The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie.
One of the greatest twists in cinema owes much to Agatha Christie, who literally wrote the book on the unreliable narrator. That book is The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, and it finds both Christie and her detective Hercule Poirot at the top of their games. A thrilling mystery with the original killer twist.
12. If you love Spirited Away, try The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.
Neil Gaiman’s Graveyard Book follows a young boy raised by a cemetery of ghosts after his parents are killed when he’s a baby, blending fantasy and horror for younger readers in a magical, moving story that will delight fans of Hayao Miyazaki.
13. If you love Memento, try The Face of a Stranger by Anne Perry.
In The Face of a Stranger, an amnesia-stricken detective searches for a muderer in Victorian England, while trying to recover his memories and work out exactly who he is. No structural shenanigans to speak of, but a very clever exploration of memory, identity, and murder most foul.
14. If you loved Terminator 2: Judgment Day, try Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson.
If the title Robopocalypse doesn’t sell you on this book, then how about a plot featuring a war between man and machine, a group of Native American resistance fighters, and an army of dead bodies reanimated with electrical wiring known as “meat puppets”?
Steven Spielberg has been trying to film an adaptation for a while, with Chris Hemsworth in the lead, but is struggling to work out how to make a film kickass enough to do justice to the book.
17. If you love Groundhog Day, try The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Clare North.
We join Harry August near the end of his 11th life, which has been exactly the same as the 10 before it. When he dies, he returns to the beginning and starts it all again. Nothing ever changes – until now. A small girl visits his bedside with a message, and August must learn how to change his life to prevent a future he can’t allow.
19. If you love Contagion, try Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel.
Twenty years after a flu strain wipes out 99% of the human race, a band of actors and musicians travel the landscape performing the plays of Shakespeare for survivors they encounter. The apocalypse theme might sound familiar, but it’s a frame that allows Mandel to unravel a unique and literary exploration of art, loss, and relationships.
20. If you love Alien, try Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer.
In a future America, the four women of Expedition 12 are sent into Area X, a place cut off from the rest of the continent for decades, where natures has all but erased any trace of human civilisation, in order to document life. As fans of Alien might know all too well, things don’t go as planned. I’ll leave it at that.
22. If you love Amélie, try The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery.
A fun, heartwarming, and whimiscal exploration of those who prefer to walk among us quietly, and the profound effect of friendship, in this case between an unassuming autodidactic concierge of a Paris apartment building and the suicidal 13-year-old daughter of one of the building’s tenants. H/T BookRiot.
23. If you love The Hurt Locker, try Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain.
There is a scene in The Hurt Locker where Jeremy Renner’s character returns from war and to the humdrum pace of suburban life. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is a meditation on this displacement, which finds Billy and his squad invited to the Super Bowl and paraded as heroes, forcing Billy to confront both the horror of his experiences and the fact that he’ll never quite feel at home again.
24. If you love The Royal Tenenbaums, try The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson.
An exploration of the effects parents have on their children in the tradition of Wes Anderson’s Tenenbaums, The Family Fang sees the children of the titular clan grow up resenting their eccentric artist parents, who turn their lives into walking performance art. They flee the nest as soon as they can, but events conspire to bring the family back together for one final performance.
25. If you love Blue Valentine, try Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill.
Dept. of Speculation is a written as a series of dispatches from the frontline of a marriage, following the narrator through romance, marriage, pregnancy and all the emotional turmoil that comes with them. It’s both hilarious and heartbreaking, but like Blue Valentine it’s probably best left alone if you’re having doubts about your relationship.
26. If you love Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, try Q by Evan Mandery.
Q opens with the narrator being visited by a man claiming to be his future self, who delivers a note telling him not to marry “Q”. As the stranger arrives with more instructions from the future, what unfolds is an exploration of relationships, love, commitment that’s more than worthy of comparison to Eternal Sunshine.
27. If you love Pan’s Labyrinth, try Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.
Fans of magical realism and dark fairy tales will love this book, a collection of strange Victorian photography connected through the fictional tale of a boy’s quest to find the titular orphanage and discover the strange children who once lived there…and maybe still do.
28. If you love Midnight In Paris, try The Paris Wife by Paula McLain.
No time-travel here, but a fictional exploration of Ernest Hemingway’s marriage to first wife Hadley Richardson, and their time in Paris. Touched on in Allen’s 2009 film, their story is retold here from Richardson’s point of view. H/T Crack a Book.
30. If you love Bright Star, try Frances & Bernard by Carlene Bauer.
In Bright Star, poet John Keats and future-fianceé Fanny Browne seduce each other through a series of lyrical love letters. Frances and Bernard, meanwhile, are writers, he a poet, she a novelist, who communicate entirely in letters. It’s a sophisticated, funny, and deeply moving literary romance you’ll fall head over heels for.
32. If you love Caché, try Threats by Amelia Grey.
Something to please fans of dark European drama: For a film about a man who begins receiving videotapes of himself being surveilled by an unknown person or persons, try this book about a man who starts finding threatening notes around his house that appear to have been left by his dead wife.
Note: There are no links to any of the books on purpose. Support your local bookshop, folks!
I’ve only included films on this list that were made from original screenplays, so there’s nothing adapted from another medium. Many of the films are taken from the IMDb Top 100. The books I’ve included on this list are ones that have not yet been made into films (with one or two exceptions).