The Oscars are not far away, and we've got so many book-related options in the running. Brooklyn, based on a novel by Colm Tóibín, is one that's particularly killing it, with nominations for Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay.
Brooklyn swept me away, from the drama of the story to the eye-catching costumes. (I don't know about you, but I wanted to steal everyone's coats.) I went from telling my roommate I'd try watching it for five minutes to sitting on the edge of the seat shouting at the screen about how unfair all of it was.
With vivid characters, an intense plot torn between distinct places, and plenty of heartbreaking moments, Brooklyn has everything that movie-lovers and book nerds alike go gaga over. Plus, as a resident of Brooklyn, I loved getting to see the history of my adopted city.
Some of these books give marvelous portraits of the U.S. and Ireland alike. Others are immigrant stories as moving as Eilis'. Others still will take you into the chaotic worlds of fresh new characters as they are forced to make some terribly difficult decisions. Either way, if you're looking for another ride to hook you like Brooklyn did, these books will take you there and back again.
1. Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín
It's no surprise that such an engrossing story was a book first. So, duh, if you liked the movie, you'll love the novel. Tóibín is a master at his craft, and will pull you effortlessly back into Eilis' story.
2. Small Island by Andrea Levy
Set in the same post-war time period, this book has all the humanity and drama of Brooklyn, but this time it's set in England and follows four intertwined lives. Hortense Joseph just arrived to London, immigrating from Jamaica. Her husband, Gilbert, has just returned from war and is confronted with his status as a black man. Gilbert's white landlady, Queenie, befriends the couple. But when Queenie's husband, Bernard, unexpectedly returns home, he brings baggage with him that throws their lives into further chaos. A thoroughly engrossing read, Small Island dives into themes that Brooklyn fans will gush over (immigration, relationships, poverty, love), while mixing in some important perspectives about race and status.
3. Dubliners by James Joyce
A quintessential read for anyone interested in Irish literature, this classic short story collection by James Joyce paints a portrait of Dublin in the early 1900s. Digging into the (often cold) realities of his characters lives, Joyce brings life to the forefront in a way that only he can.
4. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
One of the most heart-wrenching parts of Brooklyn is Eilis' relationship with her sister, and it immediately brought this classic to my mind. Set during the Civil War, Little Women follows the March family, four unique sisters (Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy) and their mother who are living through tough times while their father is out to war. As you follow the ups-and-downs of their lives and watch their sisterhood strengthen, this book will sweep you up.
5. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
A mind-blowing must-read, Americanah is another great immigrant story to sink your teeth into. Nigerian teenagers Ifemelu and Obinze are in love; but when Ifemelu goes to America to study and Obinze is not allowed into the country, they find themselves separated and on very different paths. As Ifemelu builds her American identity, and confronts the idea of race for the first time, Obinze finds himself in a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Decades later, the two reunite in their home country, only to face some tough decisions.
6. The Mango Bride by Marivi Soliven
Two separate young women, Amparo and Beverly, immigrate to California from the Philippines, and just like Eilis, they have to piece together their new identity as they strive to accomplish the American dream. When the two's lives collide and Amparo life gets entangled in the chaos of Beverly, they must face a series of hard choices and confront a secret from the past.
7. Walk the Blue Fields by Claire Keegan
Irish author Claire Keegan turned heads with this short story collection, set in modern-day Ireland. Filled with despair and desire, Keegan paints an astounding portrait of Ireland and creates characters with all the heart and vibrancy of Brooklyn.
8. Sacred Time by Ursula Hegi
Spanning from the 1950s Bronx to contemporary Brooklyn, this is another astounding portrait of post-war New York. Centered on Anthony Amadeo, a young Italian American man growing up in the Bronx; when his uncle Malcom goes to prison, Anthony's aunt and twin girl cousins come to live with them. When the family is shocked by a tragic event, the effects reverberate throughout time in a brilliantly captivating read.
9. A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
Nick Hornby wrote the screenplay for Brooklyn, and he's a literary force in his own right. In this book, four strangers all go to the same rooftop on New Year's Eve to commit suicide, and end up connecting with each other. A moving novel about life, Hornby will win you over all over again.
Image: Fox Searchlight