2020 Academy Award Best Picture Nominee Readalikes

One of my favorite seasons of all is Awards Season, so I couldn’t help myself- I had to make a readalikes list for all the Academy Awards’ Best Picture nominees this year! I’ve had the fortune of seeing all of them (and no, I’m not going to say which one I hope would win), so this was such a fun list to compile! Without further ado, here’s some titles you might enjoy based on these Oscar-nominated films.


1917

The Absolutist by John Boyne

It is September 1919: twenty-one-year-old Tristan Sadler takes a train from London to Norwich to deliver a package of letters to the sister of Will Bancroft, the man he fought alongside during the Great War.

But the letters are not the real reason for Tristan’s visit. He can no longer keep a secret and has finally found the courage to unburden himself of it. As Tristan recounts the horrific details of what to him became a senseless war, he also speaks of his friendship with Will – from their first meeting on the training grounds at Aldershot to their farewell in the trenches of northern France. The intensity of their bond brought Tristan happiness and self-discovery as well as confusion and unbearable pain.

The Absolutist is a masterful tale of passion, jealousy, heroism, and betrayal set in one of the most gruesome trenches of France during World War I. This novel will keep readers on the edge of their seats until its most extraordinary and unexpected conclusion, and will stay with them long after they’ve turned the last page.

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

A classic work of American literature that has not stopped changing minds and lives since it burst onto the literary scene, The Things They Carried is a ground-breaking meditation on war, memory, imagination, and the redemptive power of storytelling. 

The Things They Carried depicts the men of Alpha Company: Jimmy Cross, Henry Dobbins, Rat Kiley, Mitchell Sanders, Norman Bowker, Kiowa, and the character Tim O’Brien, who has survived his tour in Vietnam to become a father and writer at the age of forty-three.

Taught everywhere—from high school classrooms to graduate seminars in creative writing—it has become required reading for any American and continues to challenge readers in their perceptions of fact and fiction, war and peace, courage and fear and longing.

The Great War: July 1, 1916: The First Day of the Battle of the Somme by Joe Sacco & Adam Hochschild

From “the heir to R. Crumb and Art Spiegelman” (Economist) comes a monumental, wordless depiction of the most infamous day of World War I.

Launched on July 1, 1916, the Battle of the Somme has come to epitomize the madness of the First World War. Almost 20,000 British soldiers were killed and another 40,000 were wounded that first day, and there were more than one million casualties by the time the offensive halted. In The Great War, acclaimed cartoon journalist Joe Sacco depicts the events of that day in an extraordinary, 24-foot- long panorama: from General Douglas Haig and the massive artillery positions behind the trench lines to the legions of soldiers going “over the top” and getting cut down in no-man’s-land, to the tens of thousands of wounded soldiers retreating and the dead being buried en masse. Printed on fine accordion-fold paper and packaged in a deluxe slipcase with a 16-page booklet, The Great War is a landmark in Sacco’s illustrious career and allows us to see the War to End All Wars as we’ve never seen it before.


Ford vs. Ferrari

Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari, and Their Battle for Speed and Glory at Le Mans by A.J. Baime

By the early 1960s, the Ford Motor Company, built to bring automobile transportation to the masses, was falling behind. Young Henry Ford II, who had taken the reins of his grandfather’s company with little business experience to speak of, knew he had to do something to shake things up. Baby boomers were taking to the road in droves, looking for speed not safety, style not comfort. Meanwhile, Enzo Ferrari, whose cars epitomized style, lorded it over the European racing scene. He crafted beautiful sports cars, “science fiction on wheels,” but was also called “the Assassin” because so many drivers perished while racing them.

Go Like Hell tells the remarkable story of how Henry Ford II, with the help of a young visionary named Lee Iacocca and a former racing champion turned engineer, Carroll Shelby, concocted a scheme to reinvent the Ford company. They would enter the high-stakes world of European car racing, where an adventurous few threw safety and sanity to the wind. They would design, build, and race a car that could beat Ferrari at his own game at the most prestigious and brutal race in the world, something no American car had ever done.

Go Like Hell transports readers to a risk-filled, glorious time in this brilliant portrait of a rivalry between two industrialists, the cars they built, and the “pilots” who would drive them to victory, or doom.

Drive!: Henry Ford, George Selden, and the Race to Invent the Auto Age by Lawrence Goldstone

In 1900, the Automobile Club of America sponsored the nation’s first car show in New York’s Madison Square Garden. The event was a spectacular success, attracting seventy exhibitors and nearly fifty thousand visitors. Among the spectators was  an obscure would-be automaker named Henry Ford, who walked the floor speaking with designers and engineers, trying to gauge public enthusiasm for what was then a revolutionary invention. His conclusion: the automobile was going to be a fixture in American society, both in the city and on the farm—and would make some people very rich. None, he decided, more than he.

Drive! is the most complete account to date of the wild early days of the auto age. Lawrence Goldstone tells the fascinating story of how the internal combustion engine, a “theory looking for an application,” evolved into an innovation that would change history. Debunking many long-held myths along the way, Drive! shows that the creation of the automobile was not the work of one man, but very much a global effort. Long before anyone had heard of Henry Ford, men with names like Benz, Peugeot, Renault, and Daimler were building and marketing  the world’s first cars.

With a narrative as propulsive as its subject, Drive! plunges us headlong into a time unlike any in history, when near-manic innovation, competition, and consumerist zeal coalesced to change the way the world moved.

Crash Course: the American Automobile Industry’s Road from Glory to Disaster by Paul Ingrassia

This is the epic saga of the American automobile industry’s rise and demise, a compelling story of hubris, denial, missed opportunities, and self-inflicted wounds that culminates with the president of the United States ushering two of Detroit’s Big Three car companies—once proud symbols of prosperity—through bankruptcy. The cost to American taxpayers topped $100 billion—enough to buy every car and truck sold in America in the first half of 2009. With unprecedented access, Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Ingrassia takes us from factory floors to small-town dealerships to Detroit’s boardrooms to the inner sanctums of the White House. He reveals why President Barack Obama personally decided to save Chrysler when many of his advisors opposed the idea. Ingrassia provides the dramatic story behind Obama’s dismissal of General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner and the angry reaction from GM’s board—the same people who had watched idly while the company plunged into penury.

Informed by Ingrassia’s twenty-five years of experience covering the auto industry for The Wall Street Journal, and showing an appreciation for Detroit’s profound influence on our country’s society and culture, Crash Course is a uniquely American and deeply instructive story, one not to be missed.


The Irishman

I Heard You Paint Houses: Frank ‘the Irishman’ Sheeran and the Inside Story of the Mafia, the Teamsters, and the Last Ride of Jimmy Hoffa by Charles Brandt

The first words Jimmy Hoffa ever spoke to Frank “the Irishman” Sheeran were, “I heard you paint houses.” To paint a house is to kill a man. The paint is the blood that splatters on the walls and floors. In the course of nearly five years of recorded interviews Frank Sheeran confessed to Charles Brandt that he handled more than twenty-five hits for the mob, and for his friend Hoffa. Sheeran learned to kill in the U.S. Army, where he saw an astonishing 411 days of active combat duty in Italy during World War II. After returning home he became a hustler and hit man, working for legendary crime boss Russell Bufalino. Eventually he would rise to a position of such prominence that in a RICO suit then-U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani would name him as one of only two non-Italians on a list of 26 top mob figures. When Bufalino ordered Sheeran to kill Hoffa, he did the deed, knowing that if he had refused he would have been killed himself. Sheeran’s important and fascinating story includes new information on other famous murders, and provides rare insight to a chapter in American history. Charles Brandt has written a page-turner that is destined to become a true crime classic.

The Brothers Bulger: How They Terrorized and Corrupted Boston for a Quarter Century by Howie Carr

For years their familiar story was of two siblings who took different paths out of South Boston: William “Billy” Bulger, former president of the Massachusetts State Senate; and his brother James “Whitey” Bulger, a vicious criminal who became the FBI’s second most-wanted man after Osama Bin Laden. While Billy cavorted with the state’s blue bloods to become a powerful political force, Whitey blazed a murderous trail to the top rung of organized crime. Now, in this compelling narrative, Carr uncovers a sinister world of FBI turncoats, alliances between various branches of organized crime, St. Patrick’s Day shenanigans, political infighting, and the complex relationship between two brothers who were at one time kings.

As the film Black Mass, starring Johnny Depp as Whitey Bulger, hits theaters, take a deeper dive into the story of the Bulgers, and their fifty-year reign over Boston with Howie Carr’s The Brothers Bulger.

Havana Nocturne: How the Mob Owned Cuba– and Then Lost It to the Revolution by T.J. English

As the Cuban people labored under a violently repressive regime throughout the 50s, Mob leaders Meyer Lansky & Charles “Lucky” Luciano turned their eye to Havana. To them, Cuba was the ultimate dream, the greatest hope for the future of the US Mob in the post-Prohibition years of intensified government crackdowns. But when it came time to make their move, it was Lansky, the brilliant Jewish mobster, who reigned supreme. Having cultivated strong ties with the Cuban government & in particular the brutal dictator Fulgencio Batista, Lansky brought key mobsters to Havana to put his ambitious business plans in motion.

Before long, the Mob, with Batista’s corrupt government in its pocket, owned the biggest luxury hotels & casinos in Havana, launching an unprecedented tourism boom complete with the most lavish entertainment, the world’s biggest celebrities, the most beautiful women & gambling galore. But their dreams collided with those of Fidel Castro, Che Guevara & others who would lead the country’s disenfranchised to overthrow their corrupt government & its foreign partners—an epic cultural battle that English captures in all its sexy, decadent, ugly glory.

Bringing together long-buried historical information with English’s own research in Havana—including interviews with the era’s key survivors—Havana Nocturne takes readers back to Cuba in the years when it was a veritable devil’s playground for mob leaders. English deftly weaves together the parallel stories of the Havana Mob—featuring notorious criminals such as Santo Trafficante Jr & Albert Anastasia—& Castro’s 26th of July Movement in a riveting, up-close look at how the Mob nearly attained its biggest dream in Havana—& how Fidel Castro trumped it all with the revolution.


Jojo Rabbit

Caging Skies by Christine Leunens

A gripping, atmospheric novel about obsession and love. ‘Little by little, Elsa leaked out of her enclosure, strayed out into every corner of the house …In my bed at night, she switched places with me, she enjoying the softness of my bed, and I finding myself cramped up in her airless niche.’ This extraordinary novel is seen through the eyes of Johannes. An avid member of the Hitler Youth in the 1940s, he discovers his parents are hiding a Jewish girl called Elsa behind a false wall in their large house in Vienna. His initial horror turns to interest, then love and obsession. After the disappearance of his parents, Johannes finds he is the only one aware of Elsa’s existence in the house, the only one responsible for her survival. Both manipulating and manipulated, Johannes dreads the end of the war- with it will come the prospect of losing Elsa and their relationship, which ranges through passion and obsession, dependence and indifference, love and hate. This gripping, masterful work examines truth and lies at both political and personal levels, laying bare the darkest corners of the human soul.

Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes

Berlin, Summer 2011. Adolf Hitler wakes up from a 66-year sleep in his subterranean Berlin bunker to find the Germany he knew entirely changed: Internet-driven media spreads ideas in minutes and fumes celebrity obsession; immigration has produced multicultural neighborhoods bringing together people of varying race, ethnicity, and religion; and the most powerful person in government is a woman. Hitler is immediately recognized . . . as an impersonator of uncommon skill. The public assumes the fulminating leader of the Nazi party is a performer who is always in character, and soon his inevitable viral appeal begets YouTube stardom, begets television celebrity on a Turkish-born comedian’s show. His bigoted rants are mistaken for a theatrical satire–exposing prejudice and misrepresentation–and his media success emboldens Hitler to start his own political party and set the country he finds a shambles back to rights. With daring and dark humor, Look Who’s Back skewers the absurdity and depravity of the cult of personality in modern media culture.

Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut

Mother Night is a daring challenge to our moral sense. American Howard W. Campbell, Jr., a spy during World War II, is now on trial in Israel as a Nazi war criminal. But is he really guilty? In this brilliant book rife with true gallows humor, Vonnegut turns black and white into a chilling shade of gray with a verdict that will haunt us all.


Joker

Because Joker perpetuates dangerous, negative, and untrue stereotypes of those who struggle with mental illness, I’m only including positive and accurate depictions of mental illness as readalikes. The movie was incredibly triggering for myself, as I deal with clinical depression and generalized anxiety disorder, so I don’t recommend anyone watching it who deals with mental illness.

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

Caden Bosch is on a ship that’s headed for the deepest point on Earth: Challenger Deep, the southern part of the Marianas Trench.

Caden Bosch is a brilliant high school student whose friends are starting to notice his odd behaviour.

Caden Bosch is designated the ship’s artist in residence to document the journey with images.

Caden Bosch pretends to join the school track team but spends his days walking for miles, absorbed by the thoughts in his head.

Caden Bosch is split between his allegiance to the captain and the allure of mutiny.

Caden Bosch is torn.

Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon

Andrew Solomon’s startling proposition in Far from the Tree is that being exceptional is at the core of the human condition—that difference is what unites us. He writes about families coping with deafness, dwarfism, Down’s syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, or multiple severe disabilities; with children who are prodigies, who are conceived in rape, who become criminals, who are transgender. While each of these characteristics is potentially isolating, the experience of difference within families is universal, and Solomon documents triumphs of love over prejudice in every chapter.

All parenting turns on a crucial question: to what extent should parents accept their children for who they are, and to what extent they should help them become their best selves. Drawing on ten years of research and interviews with more than three hundred families, Solomon mines the eloquence of ordinary people facing extreme challenges.

Elegantly reported by a spectacularly original and compassionate thinker, Far from the Tree explores how people who love each other must struggle to accept each other—a theme in every family’s life.

The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang

An intimate, moving book written with the immediacy and directness of one who still struggles with the effects of mental and chronic illness, The Collected Schizophrenias cuts right to the core. Schizophrenia is not a single unifying diagnosis, and Esmé Weijun Wang writes not just to her fellow members of the “collected schizophrenias” but to those who wish to understand it as well. Opening with the journey toward her diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, Wang discusses the medical community’s own disagreement about labels and procedures for diagnosing those with mental illness, and then follows an arc that examines the manifestations of schizophrenia in her life. In essays that range from using fashion to present as high-functioning to the depths of a rare form of psychosis, and from the failures of the higher education system and the dangers of institutionalization to the complexity of compounding factors such as PTSD and Lyme disease, Wang’s analytical eye, honed as a former lab researcher at Stanford, allows her to balance research with personal narrative. An essay collection of undeniable power, The Collected Schizophrenias dispels misconceptions and provides insight into a condition long misunderstood.


Little Women

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall

The Penderwick sisters busily discover the summertime magic of Arundel estate’s sprawling gardens, treasure-filled attic, tame rabbits, and the cook who makes the best gingerbread in Massachusetts. Best of all is Jeffrey Tifton, son of Arundel’s owner, the perfect companion for their adventures. Icy-hearted Mrs. Tifton is less pleased with the Penderwicks than Jeffrey, and warns the new friends to stay out of trouble. Is that any fun? For sure the summer will be unforgettable.

The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly

Vibrant, fresh, and intelligent, The Little Women Letters explores the imagined lives of Jo March’s descendants—three sisters who are both thoroughly modern and thoroughly March. As uplifting and essential as Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, Gabrielle Donnelly’s novel will speak to anyone who’s ever fought with a sister, fallen in love with a fabulous pair of shoes, or wondered what on earth life had in store for her.

With her older sister, Emma, planning a wedding and her younger sister, Sophie, preparing to launch a career on the London stage, Lulu can’t help but feel like the failure of the Atwater family. Lulu loves her sisters dearly and wants nothing but the best for them, but she finds herself stuck in a rut, working dead-end jobs with no romantic prospects in sight. When her mother asks her to find a cache of old family recipes in the attic of her childhood home, Lulu stumbles across a collection of letters written by her great-great-grandmother Josephine March. In her letters, Jo writes in detail about every aspect of her life: her older sister, Meg’s, new home and family; her younger sister Amy’s many admirers; Beth’s illness and the family’s shared grief over losing her too soon; and the butterflies she feels when she meets a handsome young German. As Lulu delves deeper into the lives and secrets of the March sisters, she finds solace and guidance, but can the words of her great-great-grandmother help Lulu find a place for herself in a world so different from the one Jo knew? Both a loving tribute to Little Women and a wonderful contemporary family story, The Little Women Letters is a heartwarming, funny, and wise novel for today.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed.

But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh.

As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.


Marriage Story

All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover

Colleen Hoover delivers a tour de force novel about a troubled marriage and the one old forgotten promise that might be able to save it.

Quinn and Graham’s perfect love is threatened by their imperfect marriage. The memories, mistakes, and secrets that they have built up over the years are now tearing them apart. The one thing that could save them might also be the very thing that pushes their marriage beyond the point of repair.

All Your Perfects is a profound novel about a damaged couple whose potential future hinges on promises made in the past. This is a heartbreaking page-turner that asks: Can a resounding love with a perfect beginning survive a lifetime between two imperfect people?

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. In this deft exploration of love, loyalty, race, justice, and both Black masculinity and Black womanhood in 21st century America, Jones achieves that most-elusive of all literary goals: the Great American Novel.

Skipping a Beat by Sarah Pekkanen

Julia and Michael meet in high school in their small, poverty-stricken West Virginia hometown. Both products of difficult childhoods — Julia’s father is a compulsive gambler and Michael’s mother abandoned his family when he was a young boy – they find a sense of safety and mutual understanding in each other. Shortly after graduation they flee West Virginia to start afresh. Now thirty-somethings, they are living a rarified life in their multi-million-dollar,Washington D.C. home. From the outside it all looks perfect – Julia has become a highly sought-after party planner, while Michael has launched a wildly successful flavored water company that he sold for $70 million.

But one day Michael stands up at the head of the table in his company’s boardroom — then silently crashes to the floor. More than four minutes later, a portable defibrillator manages to jump-start his heart. Yet what happened to Michael during those lost minutes forever changes him. Money is meaningless to him now – and he wants to give it all away to charity. A prenuptial agreement that Julia insisted upon back when Michael’s company was still struggling means she has no claim to his fortune, and now she must decide: should she walk away from the man she once adored, but who truthfully became a stranger to her long before his near-death experience – or should she give in to her husband’s pleas for a second chance and a promise of a poorer but happier life?


Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood

Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi

Prosecuting attorney in the Manson trial, Vincent Bugliosi held a unique insider’s position in one of the most baffling and horrifying cases of the twentieth century: the cold-blooded Tate-LaBianca murders carried out by Charles Manson and four of his followers. What motivated Manson in his seemingly mindless selection of victims, and what was his hold over the young women who obeyed his orders? Here is the gripping story of this famous and haunting crime.

The Girls by Emma Cline

Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence, and to that moment in a girl’s life when everything can go horribly wrong.

Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood by Mark Harris

Explores the epic human drama behind the making of the five movies nominated for Best Picture in 1967-Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, The Graduate, In the Heat of the Night, Doctor Doolittle, and Bonnie and Clyde-and through them, the larger story of the cultural revolution that transformed Hollywood, and America, forever.


Parasite

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

When Korede’s dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what’s expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach. This’ll be the third boyfriend Ayoola’s dispatched in, quote, self-defence and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away. She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister and, as they say, family always comes first. Until, that is, Ayoola starts dating the doctor where Korede works as a nurse. Korede’s long been in love with him, and isn’t prepared to see him wind up with a knife in his back: but to save one would mean sacrificing the other…

The Witch Elm by Tana French

Toby is a happy-go-lucky charmer who’s dodged a scrape at work and is celebrating with friends when the night takes a turn that will change his life – he surprises two burglars who beat him and leave him for dead. Struggling to recover from his injuries, beginning to understand that he might never be the same man again, he takes refuge at his family’s ancestral home to care for his dying uncle Hugo. Then a skull is found in the trunk of an elm tree in the garden – and as detectives close in, Toby is forced to face the possibility that his past may not be what he has always believed.

A spellbinding standalone from one of the best suspense writers working today, The Witch Elm asks what we become, and what we’re capable of, when we no longer know who we are.

The Hole by Hye-Young Pyun

In this tense, gripping novel by a rising star of Korean literature, Ogi has woken from a coma after causing a devastating car accident that took his wife’s life and left him paralyzed and badly disfigured. His caretaker is his mother-in-law, a widow grieving the loss of her only child. Ogi is neglected and left alone in his bed. His world shrinks to the room he lies in and his memories of his troubled relationship with his wife, a sensitive, intelligent woman who found all of her life goals thwarted except for one: cultivating the garden in front of their house. But soon Ogi notices his mother-in-law in the abandoned garden, uprooting what his wife had worked so hard to plant and obsessively digging larger and larger holes. When asked, she answers only that she is finishing what her daughter started.

Evoking Herman Koch’s The Dinner and Stephen King’s Misery, award-winning author Hye-young Pyun’s The Hole is a superbly crafted and deeply unnerving novel about the horrors of isolation and neglect in all of its banal and brutal forms. As Ogi desperately searches for a way to escape, he discovers the difficult truth about his wife and the toll their life together took on her.


What is/are your favorite Best Picture nominee(s) or snubs this year? Place them in the comments below, and I’ll be avidly watching the ceremonies tonight!

Until next time…

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