There’s hardly a month that goes by in which I don’t go to the movie theater. I love the feeling of sitting in the dark and having nothing to focus on except for what is happening on the screen. Going to the movies, like reading, is one of my favorite ways to relax.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about what books would pair perfectly with some of my favorite movies and television series. Here are five movies and books that pair together like fine wine and cheese.
This is perhaps the most perfect pairing on this list. The Yid and The Death of Stalin both take a satirical look at the events before and after Joseph Stalin’s death in 1953.
The Yid follows a group of Soviet rogues, led by Jewish actor Solomon Shimonovich Levinson, as they plot to kill Stalin before the implementation of his pogrom against Jews in the USSR. While (obviously) anachronistic, this book is a fast-paced, good time that combines dark humor, Shakespeare references, and Yiddish.
The Death of Stalin is, without a doubt, the best movie I’ve seen this year. This film focuses on the power struggle that went on after Stalin’s death between several of his close advisors. It’s one of those films which integrates humor so well that it turns serious situations into absurd ones.
I feel as though Stefan Zweig is an underrated modern classic author. He writes such beautiful, wonderful prose. This collection of twenty-two short stories focuses on Europe (particularly Zweig’s home country of Austria) at the turn of the 20th century. Zweig’s style of writing a story within another story is really interesting. It’snot a writing style that is utilized that often, and we see this story inside another story format used in Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel.
Anderson is a fan of Zweig’s writing, and Grand Budapest Hotel was heavily inspired by the author’s stories and his life. The film isn’t based on any specific story of Zweig’s, but incorporates the feeling of his world. I think that if you’re a fan of Wes Anderson, diving into Zweig would be a real treat for you.
Who isn’t familiar with Nora Ephron’s writing from films like When Harry Met Sally …¸ Sleepless in Seattle, or Julie and Julia? She has such a delightful voice in her films that shines through even more in her personal essays. I Remember Nothing is Ephron’s last collection of essays before her death in 2012. This book will definitely make you chuckle, but it’s also tinged with a bit of sadness.
Michael is one of my favorite Ephron films. This movie is about two tabloid journalists and a hoax “angel expert” who travel to meet Michael, an angel living with an old woman in Iowa.
Michael, the famous archangel, is anything but angelic. He drinks, smokes, and has a love of sugar. This sets the movie up for a lot of fun, like the scene where Michael battles a bull. There are also a lot of sweet, sad moments, and that’s why I think it’s a great fit with I Remember Nothing.
I read Stasiland this past spring, and thought it was one of the best books I’ve read so far this year. This book is part memoir of Germany post-Communism, and part historical record of people’s lives in eastern Germany as they were being watched by (or watching for) the secret police. Anna Funder tells the stories of these people in a wonderful way, making us feel both for those who were targeted by the Stasi, and those who worked for them. Stasiland is a book that anyone looking to understand the Communist regime in Germany will find educational and enlightening.
Deutschland 83, the only television series on this list, takes a thriller approach to the tensions between East and West Germany. Martin Rauch, a young East German soldier, is recruited and sent to spy on a NATO general in Bonn, the capital of West Germany. Stasiland and Deutschland 83 give different perspectives on how we see divided Germany; the former more empathetic to the struggles of everyday life and the latter is a well done spy narrative.
Berlin at the end of the 1920s was a wild, uncertain, artistic place, and The Berlin Stories and Cabaret show just that. The Berlin Stories is a set of two novellas, The Last of Mr. Norris and Goodbye to Berlin, written by Christopher Isherwood. The second novel in the collection reads more like loosely connected stories about residents of Berlin, one of which is the infamous Sally Bowles.
Cabaret is based on Isherwood’s stories. The movie follows Sally Bowles’s exploits and has an entertaining take on the creative scene in Berlin during the last years of the Weimar Republic. I particularly enjoy the way the movie looks at the events and mentality of the era in the songs.
What are some books you would pair with movies? What about them make you think they make a great pair?