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Recommended Reads

Sci-fi book & movie pairings you won’t want to miss


Sep 20, 2023

I just attended my first Dragon Con, the ridiculously popular science fiction & fantasy convention held every Labor Day weekend in Atlanta. I heard a lot of smart folks talking about the appeal of science fiction—it’s a warning, a sideways look at where we are now, a dream of the future, etc. It can also have splashes of comedy, adventure, fantasy and so much more, because there are about as many ways to enjoy sci-fi as there are sci-fi authors and moviemakers.

And that’s what we want to celebrate! It’s Sci-Fi Films September on Kanopy, so we’re giving you an extra dose of the genre with book and movie pairings to keep you busy all month long. Borrow the ebook or audiobook in the Libby reading app, and also check out these film recommendations on Kanopy*, the ad-free streaming video service from your library.

Easy picks

Some of these movie and book pairings are pretty straightforward, because the movies are based on terrific books and stories. (By the way—I’m not one of those folks who says you have to read the book before the movie. You dive into these in whatever order you want. You have my blessing.)


Movie: Annihilation
Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

A group of scientists enter a quarantined area in order to understand its unique flora and fauna that have had tragic consequences for previous visitors. Annihilation is book one in The Southern Reach trilogy, and the movie stars Natalie Portman and Oscar Isaac.


Movie: Arrival
Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

A story of first contact. A linguist tries to piece together the arrival of aliens on earth for her daughter. The movie was nominated for a slew of awards, and it’s based on the Chiang short story “Story of Your Life.”


Movie: Blindness
Blindness by José Saramago, translated by Giovanni Pontiero

A mysterious illness strikes huge swathes of people blind, but one sighted woman sneaks into quarantine, where what she sees and does serves as a moving metaphor for society today. The movie is by acclaimed Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles, and based on a novel by Nobel Prize winner José Saramago.


Movie: Metropolis
Metropolis by Thea Von Harbou

Interesting fact about Harbou: She didn’t merely adapt her novel for the screen or do a novelization of her screenplay, she worked on the two simultaneously, a practice she often employed when working with her director husband, Fritz Lang. It’s a tale of haves and the exploited have-nots living in an industrialized future. The film and book are stellar examples of early sci-fi and German Expressionism.

A little harder

Battle Royale

Movie: Battle Royale
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

In a dystopian world, teens are forced to battle each other in a sick game where only one of them can survive.


Movie: Her
A lonely man finds himself growing closer to the AI voice that controls his home. Spike Jonze’s movie is a beautiful meditation on society, disconnection and loneliness, featuring a remarkable performance from Joaquin Phoenix and an equally compelling voice performance from Scarlett Johansson.

Book: The Plus One by Sarah Archer
Fake dating meets AI. Kelly is a successful robotics designer, and yet it’s her sister who is considered the perfect one. Who can Kelly possibly take to her sister’s wedding? Ethan, her robot, of course. But what’s going to happen when Kelly realizes she’s developing feelings for him?

Mad Max

Movie: Mad Max
One of the great post-apocalyptic film franchises of all time, and still going, the original Mad Max is an action-packed examination of a near future dominated by violence and revenge. The visuals remain as stunning today as when George Miller first splashed the vistas of Australia across screens in 1979.

Book: Fist of the North Star by Buronson and Tetsuo Hara, translated by Joe Yamazaki
Inspired by the Mad Max franchise, this manga series has a remarkable visual style of its own. One day, a wanderer named Ken arrives from the post-apocalyptic wasteland to bring justice and hope. Keep an eye out for Volume 10, coming out Sept. 26.

Mars Attacks!

Movie: Mars Attacks!
It’s an alien invasion story with an all-star cast centered around Jack Nicholson’s U.S. president that really could only have been made by visionary director Tim Burton.

Book: The Road to Roswell by Connie Willis
Looking for a good laugh with your aliens? Look no further than the latest from Willis, winner of pretty much every sci-fi award going. Francie doesn’t believe in aliens when she arrives in Rosewell, New Mexico, for an alien-themed wedding, but that all changes with her abduction.

A little bit of everything

Everything Everywhere All At Once

Movie: Everything Everywhere All at Once
Can Michelle Yeoh save the entire multiverse, her marriage and manage a tax audit all at the same time? Can you really doubt her?

Books: This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn
The Golden Apples of the Sun by Ray Bradbury
When a movie is about, well, everything, you can’t pick just one read-alike. So if you love this Oscar winner, I have several books that might click for you.

This Is How You Lose the Time War is an epistolary time travel romance in which two people try to reshape the future. If what you like most about Everything Everywhere All at Once is watching Michelle Yeoh prove that older women can still handle themselves, then I think you’ll get a kick out of Killers of a Certain Age, a book featuring a group of female spies who are about to retire until their spymasters put out a hit on them. And if you enjoy the interconnectedness of time, Ray Bradbury’s classic story “A Sound of Thunder”, where the course of history is altered when a time traveler steps on a butterfly, is for you.

*Title availability may vary by region.
*Not all libraries offer Kanopy. Check with your local library to learn more about their offerings.

Ready to read, watch or both? Put that library card to use and celebrate sci-fi this September. 🪐


About the Author

Shelia Mawdsley did everything from answering questions at the Reference Desk to tech training to running a classic lit book club in her 17 years in public libraries. Now she helps other public libraries make the most of their OverDrive collections. In her spare time, she’s either writing or reading, usually with an opera playing in the background. If you ever run into her, ask Shelia about #WITMonth.


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