A Book for Each Academy Award Best Picture Nominee
The Oscars 2024 nominees are in! To celebrate, we picked a book for each Academy Award nominee.
The 96th Academy Awards takes place March 10 at Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. But the nominees were just announced! Grab some popcorn and strap in for Oscars season.
“Hey, Barbie!” 2023 was undoubtedly the summer of Barbie. Released in July, it grossed over one billion at the box office, making it the highest-grossing comedy film of all time.
Barbenheimer memes abounded. The color pink is still trending. Bad jokes at the Golden Globe were made. Barbie‘s power is astounding—and we figure the Greta Gerwig-directed film will have staying power long after awards season.
Our book suggestion comes straight from Gerwig herself. In July 2023, the award-winning director rounded up her 10 favorite books for Vulture. Among them was The Idiot by Elif Batuman.
Set in the mid-1990s, The Idiot is a semi-autobiographical book following Selin during her freshman year at Harvard as she explores first love, classes on subjects she’s never heard of and new friendships. Gerwig wrote that the novel accomplishes what she’s always trying to do behind the camera: “make the mundane extraordinary not by adorning it but by telling it as it is.”
Killers of a Flower Moon
Martin Scorsese’s career goes back over 50 years; the 81 year old has directed 26 full-length films.
Starring Lily Gladstone, Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, Killers of the Flower Moon is his latest. Ringing in at 3.5 hours, the western historical drama is set in 1920s Oklahoma under Osage Nation land. When oil is discovered, the Osage people face a string of murders, leading the FBI to step in.
The most obvious book pairing is the 2017 nonfiction novel by David Grann of the same name from which the film is adapted from.
But we’re also going to suggest Yellow Bird by Sierra Crane Murdoch. Also nonfiction, the novel is set decades after The Killers of the Flower Moon in 2009. Like Killers of the Flower Moon, Yellow Bird grapples with big oil, murder and justice.
Cord Jefferson wrote, directed and produced his feature film debut, American Fiction. But you may recognize his writing from shows like HBO’s limited Watchmen series, The Good Place and Master of None.
Like Killers of a Flower Moon, American Fiction was adapted from a novel. Released in 2001, Erasure by Pervical Everett is satire about race and publishing following Thelonious Monk, an author who can’t get his latest manuscript published because he is told his writing isn’t “black enough.” When he writes a satirical novel in response under a pen name, it unintentionally becomes a hit. Both the novel and film are biting, funny and meta.
Enter the second half of Barbenheimer. Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer centers on its namesake, J. Robert Oppenheimer, otherwise known as “the Father of the Atomic Bomb.”
Starring Cillian Murphy, the film masterfully spans four decades, covering everything from Oppenheimer’s early days at Cambridge to The Manhattan Project to Hiroshima and Nagasaki to congressional and senate hearings and beyond. The film accounts Oppenheimer’s rise and fall; the grave, monstrous consequences of so-called scientific progress; and the moral fallout of creating the atomic bomb.
If you want to dive deeper into Oppenheimer, read the definitive, Pulitzer Prize-winning biography from which it’s based: American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin.
The Holdovers throws it back to the 1970s. Directed by Alexander Payne, it follows Paul (Paul Giamatti), a grumpy teacher at a New England prep school who has to stay on campus during winter break to look after students who can’t return home. It also follows Mary (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), a cafeteria worker grieving the loss of her son, and Angus (Dominic Sessa), a troubled-but-brainy student.
If you want to read like Paul, check out Meditations, a collection of personal writings by Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. (In true grumpy-guy fashion, it just-so happens to be a gift he imparts on Angus.)
Yorgos Lanthimos’ fantastical, steampunk, Frankenstein-esque film is also adapted from a book, Poor Things: Episodes from the Early Life of Acrhibald McCandless M.D., Scottish Public Health Officer by Alasdair Gray.
Set in Victorian London, this off-kilter gothic tale follows medical student Max (Ramy Youssef), who comes to resurrect a young woman named Bella (Emma Stone). She later runs off with a debaucherous lawyer (Mark Ruffalo) on a journey of self discovery.
Both the book and the movie take inspiration from Mary Shelley’s classic sci-fi novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. Whether you’ve watched the movie or plan to, it’s the perfect time to read (or reread) the classic sci-fi novel.
Celine Song’s debut film Past Lives follows childhood friends, Hae Sung and Na Young, who are separated after the latter emigrates to Toronto. There, she changes her name to Nora and later moves to New York City. Years pass and the two reconnect over Facebook but eventually lose touch again.
More years pass and Hae Sung visits NYC—except Nora is married. Fans of Past Lives may find similarities in Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin, which follows childhood friends who become creative partners; spanning decades, the duo weave in and out of each other’s lives but always find a way back to one another.
The Zone of Interest
Written and directed by Jonathan Glazer, The Zone of Interest is a German-language film about the real-life Nazi officer Rudolf Höss, who attempts to build a life with his wife, Hedwig, and their five children in a home right next to the Auschwitz concentration camp.
The film is loosely based on the 2014 novel of the same name by Martin Amis. If you want to read something shorter on the Holocaust, read Night by Elie Wiesel. The memoir accounts his time spent in a concentration camp as a teenager.
This Bradley Cooper-directed romantic drama is about the real-life relationship between composer Leonard Bernstein and his wife, Felicia. You may know Bernstein from his iconic work on musicals like West Side Story. The late composer won a slew of awards in his lifetime, including 16 Grammys, two Tonys and seven Emmys.
Our book suggestion leads to another composer and lyricist who also worked on West Side Story: Stephen Sondheim. Sondheim: his life, his shows, his legacy by Stephen M. Silverman lifts the curtains on the Broadway legend with hundreds of images, insights and first-person tributes.
Anatomy of a Fall
Anatomy of a Fall is both a courtroom drama and legal thriller about a woman who must prove her innocence after her husband’s death. Directed by Justine Triet—the only woman to be nominated for best director this year—it also spans languages, with French and English both spoken throughout the film.
If you’re still itching for a story where a character must prove their innocence, try The Maid by Nita Prose, which follows Molly—a maid at the Regency Grand Hotel—who finds herself in the throes of a murder mystery (and as prime suspect) when a wealthy guest is found mysteriously dead. And if you need a palate cleanser after Anatomy of a Fall, but still want a thriller, try The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Oseman, which is sure to make you laugh and keep turning the pages.