The author’s close comparison between page and screen offers up plenty of insights about each individual adaptation, but the book shines in large part due to Lopez’s extensive incorporation of Hollywood history. As the book works its way through time, patterns emerge, with the self-imposed censorship guidelines known as the Hays Code and studios’ stubborn interest in marketability popping up as two recurring factors that often lead to major shifts from page to script. Fascinating fun facts abound, often shared in sidebar blurbs, and a series of striking blue illustrations from Jyotirmayee Patra — a bowler hat here for “A Clockwork Orange,” a mosquito trapped in amber there for “Jurassic Park” — decorate many entries.
The book’s greatest strength is its curation. Its 52 titles include expected favorites, like “Frankenstein” and “The Hunger Games,” but the book also takes care to touch upon many stories that center women, people of color, and queer characters, casually canonizing films that are all too often left out of the coffee table film book syllabus. Books built around pop culture lists are often mind-numbingly homogenized, but Lopez and TCM seem to care much less about whether an adaptation is popular (there’s no “Harry Potter” or “Twilight” to be found here) than about whether it’s actually significant or interesting. To that end, the book includes several surprising but delightful additions, like modern Jane Austen riff “Clueless” and Rebecca Hall’s excellent adaptation of Nella Larsen’s “Passing.”