Top 10 Novelizations That Are Actually Worth Reading

Categories: Books

If someone turns a book into a movie, no one bats an eye. It's such an accepted part of the artistic world that of the nine films nominated for best Picture at the last Academy Awards, six of them were based on previously written works. However, turning a movie into a book is usually frowned upon quite deeply. Partly it's because the cheap paperbacks are rushed out by hacks so the studio can make a few extra merchandising dollars, and part of it is because it usually feels as if the movie is trying to fake some kind of greater artistic legitimacy with the weight of the printed page.

We're addicted to these novelizations, and have dozens of them. They get their own section at Half-Price Books and it's rare for us not to walk out with at least on per trip. Today we salute these maligned creatures of literature.

10. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chosen by Nancy Holder

Buffy, like Star Wars, suffers from a glut of bad books trying to keep alive something great that inarguably went to its final rest long ago. Really, between some of the novels they've put out and Joss Whedon's ridiculous excuse to live out sexual fantasies with his female stars in comic book form, we're almost to the point where we deny ever watching the show.

One bright spot for the books, though, was the entire last season condensed into a single, Atlas Shrugged-sized novel. The last season was nowhere near as good as the third or fifth ones, but it's a fair read that lays out much of the Buffyverse in clear, concise bits.

9. My Girl by Laurice Elehwany

This is on here merely for having the balls to exist. The film where our childhood self fell head over heels hopelessly in love with Anna Chlumsky was actually based on a novel called Taste of Blackberries by Doris Buchanan Smith. Rather than just slapping the movie poster on the cover of the original book and saying, "The novel that inspired the hit movie," they actually had someone rewrite the damn thing to better match the film adaptation. Also, a look at the Amazon comments reveals that apparently no one knows this was a movie.

8. Total Recall by Piers Anthony

On a similar note, brilliant sci-fi author Piers Anthony was given the job to adapt Total Recall to novel form. He does a really bang-up job, it's a perfectly wonderful adventure that bears the quality of his original work... but again, it was a movie already based on a book, the short story "We Can Remember it for You Wholesale" by Philip K. Dick. Our theory is that stuff like this happens because of some weird desire of Hollywood to deny that Philip K. Dick ever existed, but still make millions of dollars off his work.

7. Orca by Arthur Herzog

Orca was panned as a film when it came out because people called it a rip-off of Jaws, which is a fair argument that doesn't bring up that Orca is still a pretty good nature-gone-mad scarefest. The weird thing is... not only is the novelization good, we think it's better than the book Jaws was based on. A lot of the stupid crap that they cut out of the film version of Jaws like the mafia connection and Ellen Brody boinking Hooper kind of bogs down the book. By contrast, Orca is a lightening fast pulp tale that has nothing but adventure and loads of blood.

6. Gremlins by George Gipe

When you think about the movie Gremlins for a second, it doesn't make any sense in the slightest. Nothing even remotely resembling an explanation for Mogwai or their evil mutated forms ever shows up in either film. If water was the main reproductive element for a species on a planet that is covered in the stuff, why aren't we neck deep in Gizmos?

Well, Gipe laid out the fact that the species was actually alien in origin, and even gave the reader insight into the Gremlin mindset with conversations between Gizmo and Stripe. We won't say it gives a lot of depth to the story, it's still just a little Christmas horror tale, but it does go to some lengths to rationalize something that is a solid ten on the Huh? scale.

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Daddy Tang
Daddy Tang

I remember reading the novelization of the Abyss by Orson Scott Card that was awesome, and answered all the questions I had while watching the movie. An enthralling good read!


The novelizations of Eyes of Laura Mars and The Rose are very good. The Eyes of Laura Mars novel goes deeper into the connection between Laura and Neville. In the book, when Laura was a little girl she would have visions of a young boy (Neville) who was neglicted and abused by his mother.

Jef With One F
Jef With One F

I don't think I will ever forgive myself for leaving 2001: A Space Odyssey off this list...

Howard Randall Smith
Howard Randall Smith

I'm A TASTE OF BLACKBERRIES author Doris Buchanan Smith's son, Randy.  Mom knew of comparisons of her book and the movie My Girl. The book and the movie are unrelated however. Becasue death from bee stings is rare, it is natural readers of BLACKBERRIES would compare the movie to the book, but that's just where the similarity ends.  After 40 years, the book is still in print, by the way.


Wow, Jef.  Awesome article.  I must confess that I am one of those that sneers at novelizations of films.  I am now thinking I may need to peruse that section of Half Priced Books.  Thanks!

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