The Books Behind the Oscars

The Books Behind 2016’s Big Oscar Films

The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge

The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge

Michael Punke. Picador, trade paper, $16, ISBN 978-1-250-07268-9
The film based on Punke’s 2002 book, directed by Alejandro Iñárritu and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, received a whopping 12 Oscar nominations, in categories including best actor, best adapted screenplay, best director, and best picture. Punke’s novel, set in 1823, is based on the story of the real-life trapper and frontiersman Hugh Glass. Viciously mauled by a bear and abandoned by his men, Glass struggles to survive for one purpose: to exact revenge.


The Martian

The Martian

Andy Weir. Broadway, trade paper, $15, ISBN 978-0-553-41802-6
Next up on the red carpet is The Martian, based on Andy Weir’s 2011 SF adventure. The film, which was directed by Ridley Scott and stars Matt Damon, earned seven Oscar nominations, in categories including best actor, best adapted screenplay, and best picture. Here is another story of a man left for dead, but this time he’s on a different frontier: Mars. An American astronaut finds himself stranded and literally alone on a planet



Patricia Highsmith. Norton, trade paper, $14.95, ISBN 978-0-393-35268-9
The late Patricia Highsmith, author of Strangers on the Train and The Talented Mr. Ripley, was no stranger to Oscar attention. Now one of her very-much-under-the-radar novels is behind the film Carol, the recipient of six nominations, in categories including best actress, best adapted screenplay, and best cinematography. This tale of romantic obsession, based on Highsmith’s own life, was originally published in 1952 as The Price of Salt. In it, a stage designer trapped in a dull job as saleswoman and a bored suburban housewife fall in love and set out across the United States.

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine

Michael Lewis. Norton, trade paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-0-393-35315-0
Moving from a fictional tiny bad place to the very real big bad world of Wall Street is The Big Short, a bestseller first published by Norton in 2010 and written by Lewis—another author familiar with Oscar attention (The Blind Side, Moneyball). The film has earned four nominations, for best supporting actor, best adapted screenplay, best film editing, and best picture. In The Big Short, Lewis recounts the story of Wall Street players who foresaw the financial collapse of 2008, which was fueled by the spread of subprime mortgages.

The Danish Girl
David Ebershoff. Penguin, trade paper, $16, ISBN 978-0-14-310839-9
Another unusual love story is at the core of The Danish Girl, whose film adaptation garnered four Oscar nominations in the categories of best actor, best supporting actress, best costume design, and best production design. Ebershoff’s novel, originally published in 2000, was a New York Times Notable Book, winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Fiction, and winner of the Rosenthal Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In this portrait of a marriage, a question arises: What do you do when the person you love has to change? The Danish Girl is loosely based on the life of Lili Elbe, a pioneer in transgender history.

Emma Donoghue. LB/Back Bay, trade paper, $16.99, ISBN 978-0-316-39134-4
When it was published in 2010, Donoghue’s Room was a New York Times Top Ten book and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. This year she’s been nominated for an Oscar for writing the screenplay based on the novel. Room received three other nominations as well: best actress, best director, and best picture. Room tells the story of a boy and his mother who are held in captivity. To five-year-old Jack, who narrates the book, the room where they’re held is his home and the only world he knows. To his mother, it is a prison.



Colm Tóibín. Scribner, trade paper, $15, ISBN 978-1-5011-0647-7
Tóibín’s acclaimed 2009 novel tells the story of a young Irish immigrant forging a life in 1950’s Brooklyn. The film adaptation earned two Oscar nominations, for best adapted screenplay and best picture. In the novel, Eilis Lacey leaves her mother, sister, and everything she knows in the small town of Enniscorthy to travel to Brooklyn, where a priest has offered to sponsor her. She establishes a life and finds love, but devastating news from home shatters the promise of her future.


Steve Jobs

Walter Isaacson. Simon & Schuster, trade paper, $20, ISBN 978-1-5011-2762-5
Isaacson has a long list of accomplishments: he is the former CEO of the Aspen Institute, former chairman of CNN, former managing editor of Time, and the author of several books, including this biography of Steve Jobs, originally published just weeks after the master innovator died in 2011. Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet have both been nominated for Oscars for their roles in the film. Isaacson’s bestselling book is based on more than 40 interviews that he conducted with Jobs, as well as hundreds of interviews with friends, family, adversaries, and colleagues. What emerges is a portrait of the turbulent life of a driven, creative genius and revolutionary entrepreneur.


In Another Country: Selected Stories

David Constantine. Biblioasis, hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-1-77196-017-5
British author Constantine has been widely published abroad for 30 years, but In Another Country is his North American debut. The story “45 Years” from the collection is the basis for the movie of the same name, for which Charlotte Rampling received a best actress nomination. The story focuses on a couple preparing to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary. As the day draws near, the husband receives news that the body of his ex-girlfriend has been found, 50 years after she fell into an Alpine crevasse. The news profoundly affects his wife’s perspective on their long life and marriage together.



Bruce Cook. Grand Central, trade paper, $15.99, ISBN 978-1-4555-6497-2
Cook’s 1977 biography of Dalton Trumbo, the Oscar-winning screenwriter who broke the Hollywood blacklist, is the basis for the film that has earned a best actor nomination for Bryan Cranston. Trumbo was the screenwriter behind the blockbuster films Exodus, Roman Holiday, Spartacus, Thirty Seconds over Tokyo, and others. He was also the author of the 1939 antiwar novel Johnny Got His Gun. In the years between 1947 and 1960, Trumbo didn’t work at all—he was one of the “Hollywood 10” who refused to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee and was subsequently blacklisted

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