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The books behind the Oscar nominees, from Poor Things to Oppenheimer

These top titles are well worth a read   (iStock/The Independent)
These top titles are well worth a read (iStock/The Independent)

The age-old saying of snobs and critics everywhere, “the book was better”, is a nauseating sentence often said in response to you mentioning a film you loved. While we will be the first to defend the art form of movies, sometimes discovering the books they are based on can help further your understanding and affection for a story. And sometimes, it can prove the snobs wrong.

The 2024 Oscars are being held this weekend, and with half of the best picture nominees being based on books, it may be worth one last quick trip to the library. From biographies of iconic historical figures to eye-opening discussions of race in the media and even female Frankenstein-like tales, this year's nominees cover something for every genre and taste. While building a film around a novel is nothing new, each film approached this tactic very differently, some even re-writing essential plots and narratives for their on-screen adaptations.

Books often hold whole other worlds, characters and themes that simply could not translate onto the screen, anyone who has read Harry Potter or Game of Thrones can attest to this we’re sure. While this does not mean one is better than the other, it does mean they are different and therefore each deserves our attention.

So whether you're grabbing your popcorn or your reading glasses, these stories are not to be missed, here’s where to find the 2024 best picture nominated books.

‘Erasure’ by Percival Everett, published by Faber & Faber: £8.99, Amazon.co.uk

 (Amazon)
(Amazon)

Book behind: American Fiction

Both the film and the book follow struggling author Monk as he battles with his frustration towards the literary world's idealisation of blackness. In a despaired rage he writes a novel under a pseudonym, intended to be a joke about how white people see Black Americans in the media, only for it to become an overnight bestseller. As he comes to terms with what this ironic success means, the centre of this literary satire rests as a true and honest family drama, one that is sure to make you laugh and cry in equal amounts.

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‘Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI’ by David Grann, published by Simon & Schuster: £5, Amazon.co.uk

 (Amazon)
(Amazon)

Book behind: Killers of the Flower Moon

This movie/book is a great example of where a director uses a novel to tell a story but instead chooses to use a different narrative for the film. Scorsese’s latest epic is of course based on true and horrifying murders in Osage County during the early 1900s, but he used this novel to inspire the script. However, in the book, the story of the Osage people and the white people who married and murdered them for their money was told through the eyes of the FBI agent who uncovered the case. In the film, though, Scorses decided to tell the story through the eyes of Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo Dicaprio) one of the men who married an Osage woman and partook in the crimes. With the film runtime being 206 minutes long, you could probably read the whole book in the same length of time.

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‘American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer’ by Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin, published by Atlantic Books: £9.74, Amazon.co.uk

 (Amazon)
(Amazon)

Book behind: Oppenhiemer

The arguable front-runner for the biggest award of the night Oppenheimer was birthed from director Christopher Nolan’s reading of this biography. The life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the most famous scientist of his generation, the director of the world-changing Manhattan Project and one complex and flawed man, is a story so influential amid the biggest events of the 20th century. With the Greek tragedy title, the Pulitzer Award for best non-fiction and the stamp of approval from legendary director Christopher Nolan, this book is sure to make for a stimulating read.

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‘Poor Things’ by Alasdair Gray, published by Bloomsbury: £9.19, Amazon.co.uk

 (Amazon)
(Amazon)

Book behind: Poor Things

One of the wackiest films on the list also makes for one of the wackiest books too. After a scientist reanimates a drowned woman, creating Bella, she must re-learn how to grow up and navigate the world around her with many twists and unpredictable turns. Set in late-Victorian Glasgow, Paris and Alexandria, the themes of learning how to grow up when you are already in an adult body are endlessly fascinating, as well as the perspective of having to relearn what it means to be a woman.

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‘The Zone of Interest’ by Martin Amis, published by Vintage: £9.19, Amazon.co.uk

 (Amazon)
(Amazon)

Book behind: The Zone of Interest

One of the most unique approaches to filmmaking on the list of nominees, the story of this WWII drama was very loosely based on the 2014 book by the same name. The book follows the love story and affair of a German officer and his commandant's wife, all set within the infamous concentration camp Austwivitz. While the story of the book differs from the film, they both share the themes and concept of regular dramas, stories and even love happening side by side with the biggest atrocity in modern history – without ever really noticing it.

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For more 2024 Oscars buzz, check out our article on where to watch all the Best Picture nominees