28 February 2017
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If you love: La La Land

You should read: Funny Girl

In the charming and romantic La La Land - which brought home an impressive six Oscars - we follow the fortunes of beautiful Mia, who dreams of Hollywood stardom and a happy ending. Peppered with allusions that trigger classic movie memories, the film lovingly references Hollywood’s golden age. Nick Hornby brings a similar nostalgic perspective to his insightful and entertaining tribute to the heyday of British TV light-entertainment, Funny Girl, in which beauty queen comedienne Barbara becomes an overnight sensation in a TV sitcom.

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If you love: Moonlight

You should read: Giovanni's Room

Barry Jenkins’s gritty yet profoundly moving film trumphed in the Best Picture category on awards night - even after a surreal mix up at the Podium! It's a movie that will resonate with anyone who has struggled with their identity. Moonlight puts the gay black experience front and centre, with central character Chiron battling to come to terms with his homosexuality. James Baldwin’s classic, Giovanni’s Room, explores similar themes, telling the story of a tormented love affair between David – who has just proposed to his girlfriend - and Giovanni, an Italian bartender. Caught between convention and his repressed desires, David’s is an impassioned, deeply moving story.

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If you love: Arrival

You should read: The War of the Worlds 

If aliens landed on Earth, how would we understand each other? Arrival presents a debate on the importance of language as a new twist on the ‘first contact’ plot, and won an Oscar for its sound editing. If you love it, why not try out (or even re-read) the first and daddy of all alien invasion stories, H.G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds -perhaps the most influential science fiction book ever written. Wells’ compelling and haunting tale of an alien invasion from Mars has been much imitated, but has it ever been bettered?

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If you love: Hidden Figures

You should read: Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls 

Feminism and civil rights underpin Hidden Figures, an empowering story of the African-American women mathematicians at NASA who played a vital role in the 1960s space race, and yet did not recieve the same respect or rights as their white male colleagues. While history is full of unsung heroines who made substantial contributions to society, Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls is a new book designed to challenge that by celebrating the stories of 100 remarkable women, from Ada Lovelace to Malala.

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If you love: Fences

You should read: Long Day’s Journey Into Night 

Based on the critically acclaimed play by August Wilson, Fences shines a spotlight on racial and domestic tensions in 1950s Pittsburgh, and netted the best supporting actress gong for Viola Davis. It’s a searing portrait of a doomed marriage that has weathered too many storms and is finally breaking under the pressures of jealousy, infidelity, guilt and unfulfilled dreams. While the film stays true to Wilson's original, there are echoes of another great play that similarly portrays a family in crisis – Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night. This towering autobiographical tale is a visceral take on the story of family slowly tearing itself apart.

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If you love: Lion

You should read: Homegoing 

An emotional tearjerker, Lion follows Saroo’s search for his family twenty years after he got lost on a train in India as a five-year-old, depicting in heartbreaking detail his immediate immediate panic after his separation from his brother, which leaves him completely alone and miles from home. In Homegoing, sisters Effia and Esi are also parted by terrible circumstances; one sold into slavery, the other becoming a slave trader’s wife. Yaa Gyasi’s intimate, gripping and utterly absorbing novel unflinchingly documents how one terrible event can affect a family for generations.

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If you love: Hacksaw Ridge

You should read: Medic

The brutality of war is laid bare in Hacksaw Ridge, a World War II drama about a pacifist American combat medic who wins the Medal of Honor for bravery, which scooped film editing and sound mixing Oscars. Desmond Doss returns to the bloodbath on Hacksaw Ridge time and time again to rescue his comrades, scrambling over shattered bodies to get them to safety. Gor those who want to learn more about the incredible courage of those who put saving life above taking life, Medic by John Nichol and Tony Rennell is a great choice, and stands as a tribute to anyone who has gone into battle armed only with a red cross.

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If you love: Hell or High Water 

You should read: Caught

Hell or High Water is an audacious crime thriller that has us rooting for two brothers who rob a series of banks in order to save their family ranch. The film has a free-wheeling spirit reminiscent of Hollywood’s 1970s classics, with the plot secondary to themes of family and friendship. The 1970s setting of Lisa Moore’s Caught matches this vibe, with it’s two protagonists – one a middle class drug dealer just escaped from prison, the other his former partner-in-crime – meeting up for one last narcotics heist. A literary take on the classic road trip, Caught is a thrillingly charged and compulsive adventure story.

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