1. The Political Drama — The Weight of a Mustard Seed
Infiltrate Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime through the story of one of his most loyal aides. Wendell Steavenson spent five years with General Kamel Sachet and his family, slowly uncovering a man torn by his own conscience, a wife lost to her sense of duty, and sons whose frightful fanaticism grows increasingly dangerous. A current, compassionate, and honest book, The Weight of a Mustard Seed explores the emotional side of the current conflict in Iraq.
2. The Period Piece — The Other Queen
With every Tudor formula already tried and tested, it’s time to discover those other salacious Royals: the Stuarts. After being forced out of her land, Mary, Queen of Scots takes refuge in England, kingdom of her Protestant cousin Elizabeth. But her new home is not quite fit for a queen, as the charismatic Catholic is kept under the close guard of Elizabeth’s cunning advisers. Author of the bestselling, The Other Boleyn Girl, Philippa Gregory again delivers her irresistible brand of historical fact and corseted scandal.
3. The Blockbuster — Next
Humans and chimpanzees differ in only 2% of their DNA. Is that why an adult human resembles a chimp fetus? And should that worry us? Welcome to the fast, furious world of genetics. This is not the world of the future — it’s the world of now. The late Michael Crichton has already brought us Jurassic Park and The Andromeda Strain. Now, he delves into a new world where nothing is as it seems, and where your sense of reality is challenged at every turn. Genetic change is closer than you think. Get used to it.
4. The Foreign Film — First Darling of the Morning
Acclaimed journalist Thrity Umrigar paints a colorful picture of her childhood in Bombay, with an emotionally detached and abusive mother, an overly-docile father, and a loving aunt who is a substitute for both. Vivid details of Indian culture, history, and politics make this book an all-rounder, as readers (and potential viewers) feast on the sights and sounds of India’s most cosmopolitan city, and the fragile characters that inhabit it.
5. The Action-cum-Drama — Bel Canto
In the heart of South America, an American opera diva is entertaining guests at a lavish party in honor of Japanese businessman Mr. Hosokawa — until a band of gun-wielding terrorists breaks in through the air-conditioning vents and takes the entire party hostage. And what begins as a terrifying hostage situation turns into an exploration of culture, love, music, and friendship, as guests from all walks of life begin to form bonds and find the common ground that brought them together that evening.
6. The Biopic — Love, Janis
From the Janis Joplin-like characters on 30 Rock and Across the Universe, everyone’s interested in the first lady of classic rock. But few people knew her as intimately as her sister Laura, and even fewer books offer a glimpse as true as this collection of memories, letters, and photographs. With award-winners like Ray and Walk the Line still reaping their success, Love, Janis is the perfect female counterpart to Hollywood’s love affair with music history. Maybe this is the Joplin biopic that’ll actually get made!
7. The War Story — Lizzie’s War
It’s summer 1967 and Mike O’Reilly has just been shipped out to Vietnam. His wife Liz is trying to keep it all together for the sake of their four kids — but yearnings to pick up the theatre career she had abandoned, to escape her suffocating family life, and to get close to the attractive local priest, have Liz fighting a war of her own. With as much heart as action, Lizzie’s War will be the ultimate chick flick meets action drama.
8. The Romantic Comedy — Getting Rid of Matthew
Ever the faithful mistress, Helen has waited for years to be Matthew’s one-and-only. But when he finally leaves his wife to be with Helen full-time, she realizes that life with Matthew isn’t quite what she thought it’d be. So she stops shaving her armpits. And bikini line. And strategically befriends the ex-wife. Anything to get rid of Matthew. But how far is too far? The rights to Jane Fallon’s rollicking first novel have been swooped up by Jennifer Aniston’s production company — so maybe there is a film in this book’s future.
9. The Art House Indie — Clara Callan
An actress in New York City, Nora Callan is flighty, pretty, and talented. Her sister Clara, on other hand, is a spinsterish school teacher in small town Ontario. As one sister writes letters about life in the city, her career, and her successes, the other writes of her longing for love and adventure. Already a multi-award winning book, including the Governor General’s Award, the Giller Prize, the CBA Libris, and the Trillum, Clara Callan is destined to rack up even more wins as an artsy indie movie.
10. The Noirish Crime Flick – Darkness at the Stroke of Noon
Dennis Richard Murphy’s novel is a tension-filled debut where murder, mystery and a missing 160-year-old journal turn a remote northern camp into the site of a lethal game of cat-and-mouse. The novel takes place in Yellowknife and the action follows RCMP Sergeant Kennison as he races to solve the murders of two archaeologists who were killed on Victory Island.
I think that’s a pretty strong list. I’ve wanted Bel Canto to be a movie for ages (she’s one of my favourite writers – I also hope to see a film version of The Magician’s Assistant, which I liked almost as well as Bel Canto. I also think, given the success of The Other Boleyn Girl, that The Other Queen is an inevitability.
Two books I think would make great movies would be Crocodile on the Sandbanks by Elizabeth Peters, and The Suspect by L.R. Wright. The former is a mystery/horror/adventure about a single, independent woman of means who decides to take a trip to Egypt with a younger womanfriend of hers on an adventure. The story is told with a lot of humour and would make for plenty of action onscreen, as well as excellent scenery.
The latter is probably the favourite mystery novel I’ve ever read. It’s set on the small-town, sunshine coast of British Columbia, and is a murder mystery involving a small-town cop, a retired man named George, his neighbour, Carlyle, and a parrot. In the year it was published it beat out Jonathan Kellerman, Paul Auster and even Ruth Rendell to become the first Canadian novel to win an Edgar Award for best mystery of the year.