I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

A host of movies based on books have been drawing in the crowds over the past few months – Ian McEwan’s Atonement, Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, Cormac McCarthy’s No Country For Old Men to name a few – but perhaps the most interesting is I Am Legend.

Will Smith is starring in the movie version of this Richard Matheson science fiction horror tale from 1954 and this is the third time that the book has been put on the Silver Screen. Vincent Price starred in The Last Man on Earth in 1964 and Charlton Heston starred in The Omega Man in 1971.

Matheson’s book concerns the last man, Robert Neville, left on Earth after a pandemic has turned humanity into vampires. Neville’s battles for survival as the vampires attack at night but the novel actually addresses the true horror of being alone. The Omega Man adaptation saw the vampires dropped in favour of mutants left behind after biological warfare.

I Am Legend is an extremely influential novel. George Romero used the book as the inspiration for his 1968 movie Night of the Living Dead, which sparked huge interest in zombie horror – a genre still going strong today in the movie world. Stephen King and Chris Carter, the creator of The X-Files, both list Matheson as an important influence.

Matheson also worked as a screenwriter and wrote for the series like The Twilight Zone and he also scripted Steven Spielberg’s Duel movie. Another famous Matheson novel turned into a movie is The Shrinking Man, published in 1956.

Atonement

Ian McEwan

Atonement by Ian McEwan

On a hot summer day in 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses a moment’s flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant and Cecilia’s childhood friend. But Briony’s incomplete grasp of adult motives–together with her precocious literary gifts–brings about a crime that will change all their lives. As it follows that crime’s repercussions through the chaos and carnage of World War II and into the close of the twentieth century, Atonement engages the reader on every conceivable level, with an ease and authority that mark it as a genuine masterpiece.
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No Country For Old Men

Cormac McCarthy

No Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

Llewelyn Moss, hunting antelope near the Rio Grande, instead finds men shot dead, a load of heroin, and more than $2 million in cash. Packing the money out, he knows, will change everything. But only after two more men are murdered does a victim's burning car lead Sheriff Bell to the carnage out in the desert, and he soon realizes how desperately Moss and his young wife need protection. One party in the failed transaction hires an ex-Special Forces officer to defend his interests against a mesmerizing freelancer, while on either side are men accustomed to spectacular violence and mayhem.
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Love in the Time of Cholera

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marques

In their youth, Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza fall passionately in love. When Fermina eventually chooses to marry a wealthy, well-born doctor, Florentino is devastated, but he is a romantic. As he rises in his business career he whiles away the years in 622 affairs--yet he reserves his heart for Fermina. Her husband dies at last, and Florentino purposefully attends the funeral. Fifty years, nine months, and four days after he first declared his love for Fermina, he will do so again.
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The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials)

Philip Pullman

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

In a landmark epic of fantasy and storytelling, Philip Pullman invites readers into a world as convincing and thoroughly realized as Narnia, Earthsea, or Redwall. Here lives an orphaned ward named Lyra Belacqua, whose carefree life among the scholars at Oxford's Jordan College is shattered by the arrival of two powerful visitors. First, her fearsome uncle, Lord Asriel, appears with evidence of mystery and danger in the far North, including photographs of a mysterious celestial phenomenon called Dust and the dim outline of a city suspended in the Aurora Borealis that he suspects is part of an alternate universe.
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The Kite Runner

Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Taking us from Afghanistan in the final days of the monarchy to the present, The Kite Runner is the unforgettable, beautifully told story of the friendship between two boys growing up in Kabul. Raised in the same household and sharing the same wet nurse, Amir and Hassan nonetheless grow up in different worlds: Amir is the son of a prominent and wealthy man, while Hassan , the son of Amir's father's servant, is a Hazara, member of a shunned ethnic minority. Their intertwined lives, and their fates, reflect the eventual tragedy of the world around them. When the Soviets invade and Amir and his father flee the country for a new life in California, Amir thinks that he has escaped his past. And yet he cannot leave the memory of Hassan behind him.
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The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Jean-Dominique Bauby

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby

In December 1995, Jean-Dominique Bauby, the 43-year-old editor of French Elle, suffered a massive stroke that left him permanently paralyzed, a victim of “locked in syndrome.” Once known for his gregariousness and wit, Bauby now finds himself imprisoned in an inert body, able to communicate only by blinking his left eye. The miracle is that in doing so he was able to compose this stunningly eloquent memoir. In a voice that is by turns wistful and mischievous, angry and sardonic, Bauby gives us a celebration of the liberating power of consciousness: what it is like to spend a day with his children, to imagine lying in bed beside his wife, to conjure up the flavor of delectable meals even as he is fed through at tube. Most of all, this triumphant book lets us witness an indomitable spirit and share in the pure joy of its own survival.
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