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Oscar at the Library

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For me, one of the earliest reminders that spring is on the way comes with the annual arrival of the Academy Awards. For the past 82 years, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has acknowledged the film industry's achievements in movie excellence with the presentation of Oscar statuettes to winners in categories including directing, acting, and writing. What is the connection between the golden Oscar statuette and your public library? 

Books often offer inspiration to the films that are showing at your local theatre. In turn, these movies are frequently nominated for honors at the Academy Awards. Before this year's ceremony takes place on February 27, let's take a look at the past, present, and future literary sources that have and will inspire some of the most critically acclaimed films of the year.

Historically, film adaptations of books have had quite a bit of success on Oscar night. Books that have been adapted into award-winning movies include: The Godfather, Mario Puzo's saga of organized crime boss Vito Corleone, Schindler's List, Thomas Keneally's heartbreaking tale of heroism during the Holocaust, The Silence of the Lambs, Thomas Harris' chilling tale of the infamous serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lector, Rebecca, Daphne Du Maurier's suspenseful story of a wife who is haunted by her husband's questionable past, and The Return of the King, the third installment in fantasy writer  J.R.R. Tolkien's classic Lord of the Rings trilogy. These books, whose film adaptations each won the Academy Award for best picture in their respective years, are just a few of the literary selections at your library that have been befriended by Oscar at the awards gala.

Which movie will take home the most gold at the 2011 Academy Awards?  We will have to wait for Sunday night to find out. Perhaps the following book-adapted films will receive this year's highest honors, reminding us all just how inspirational literature can be.

Nominated for 10 awards including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, True Grit, inspired by Charles Portis' novel of the same name, tells the story of a 14-year old girl who hires outlaw U.S. Marshall Rooster Cogburn to help her seek revenge on the man she believes murdered her father. Fans of classic western movies will remember that John Wayne won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Rooster Cogburn in the 1969 version of the film.

The Social Network, nominated for 8 awards including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, revolves around the lives of Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin, former Harvard University students who co-found the popular social networking site Facebook. The movie is based on the biography The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich.

127 Hours, up for 6 awards including Best Picture and Best Actor James Franco, is based on Aron Ralston's autobiography Between a Rock and a Hard Place. Ralston, a thrill-seeking nature lover, was faced with extraordinary adversity when an accident during a hiking trip left him stranded alone in the wilderness for 6 days in 2003.

And, finally, Winter's Bone, based on the same-name novel by Daniel Woodrell, follows the intriguing life of a young girl who is trying to keep herself and her siblings out of harm's way in a rural community. The movie is nominated for 4 awards including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay.

What will be the literary bridge between the Academy Awards and your public library in 2012?  While it's too early to make those predictions now, we recommend reading Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, The Help by Kathryn Stockett, and The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. These well-received books have been adapted to films slated to be released within the upcoming year.

Water for Elephants tells the story of Jacob Jankowski, a young scholar of veterinarian medicine who joins a substandard traveling circus during the Great Depression. Jane Eyre is Charlotte Bronte's classic exploration of the sometimes romantic, oftentimes troubled exchanges between a young governess and her secretive employer. While eager to enhance her buddingcareer as a writer, the female protagonist in the The Help collects the life stories of African American women living in Jackson, Mississippi during the Civil Rights movement. Lastly, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, winner of the Caldecott Award for children's literature in 2008, incorporates words with gorgeous black-and-white pencil illustrations to tell the story of an orphan who lives in a railway station in 1930s Paris.

For information regarding the upcoming 83rd Academy Awards, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and a brief history of the Academy Awards ceremony, visit If you are interested in the book selections discussed in this article, please visit or call 276-988-2541. Remember there are several ways to enjoy materials available through your public library, including downloadable audiobooks and eBooks.

--Jami McDonald

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Online collection of animated, talking picture books to encourage reading in children.


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