Tuesday, 24 November 2015

The 20 Most Extreme Cases Of ‘The Book Was Better Than The Movie’


Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay -- Part 2."
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2.”
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2” rolls into theaters this weekend, and if there’s one thing I’m not looking forward to it’s the inevitable “I liked the movie, but it wasn’t as good as the book” I’ll hear after the film.
You know how the traits in other people that make you the maddest are usually the ones that remind you about a part of yourself you don’t like? The “I liked the movie, but it wasn’t as good as the book” shtick is that for me. If I have a relationship with a book and it’s poorly done on the big screen, on some level, I’m galled. But on the other hand, not every movie can be “Watchmen,” and by now, I should be able to accept the nuance of adaptation, being an adult and all. On the whole, I’d argue that haggling over which is better, the book or the movie, is mostly pointless.
The operative word being “mostly.” Because there are extreme cases where book-lover rage is justifiable. Which cases? I pulled the Metacritic critic ratings of the top 500 movies on IMDb tagged with the “based on novel” keyword.1 I then2 found the average user rating of the source novel for each film on Goodreads, a book rating and review site.3 In the end, there was complete data for 382 films and source novels.
Here’s what each film’s Metacritic rating looks like plotted against its source material’s Goodreads rating:
The first thing that stands out: All the novels in the set are rated above 2.8 stars and below 4.6 stars. This is not exactly unexpected: We know, based on studying other such sets, that the distribution of user and fan reviews tend to skew higher than critical reviews. But more importantly, this is a set of books that were good enough to get made into a movie. Don’t get me wrong — Hollywood makes awful decisions, but studios are not in the business of adapting unbearably bad books. (And before you pull the “Twilight” card on me, keep in mind that these are fan reviews and that there are far worse books churned out than “Twilight.”)
All this really means is that to compare the set of Metacritic reviews directly to the set of Goodreads reviews, I needed to normalize both. I converted each set of ratings to z-scores, which means that I calculated a score based on how far away a given movie or book’s rating was from the mean of the whole set, rather than the skewed raw rating or number of stars.4 That gave us the worst movies (relative to other movies) based on good books (relative to other books) and vice versa.
Let’s start with the good movies! Sometimes an OK book is turned into a really good movie. In this case, the movie with the biggest difference between scores was “Up in the Air,” which was a middlingly received novel — 2.9 out of 5 stars on Goodreads — but a very well-received George Clooney movie, with 83 out of 100 on Metacritic. (I still have “The Passenger” by Iggy Pop stuck in my head as a result of this film.)
1Up in the Air (2009)832.95.3
2Apocalypse Now (1979)903.43.6
3Metropolis (1927)983.63.4
4Scent of a Woman (1993)593.03.1
5Mr. Holmes (2015)673.22.9
6Sideways (2005)943.72.8
7The Graduate (1967)773.42.8
8Taking Lives (2004)382.82.8
9Dr. Strangelove (1964)963.72.8
10There Will Be Blood (2008)923.72.8
Other movies in the top 10 page-to-screen adaptations ever: “Apocalypse Now,” regarded as one of the best movies ever made and with a 90 on Metacritic, was based on “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad, a book that Goodreads readers didn’t love (3.4 stars).5 “The Graduate,” a cinema classic with Dustin Hoffman, was apparently based on a book, but not a well-reviewed one.
Both “Sideways” and “There Will Be Blood” were loved by movie critics — 94 and 92 on Metacritic, respectively — but their source material, “Sideways” by Rex Pickett and “Oil!” by Upton Sinclair didn’t appeal to Goodreads voters, with each receiving scores of 3.7.
Still, I don’t know a ton of “Up in the Air” novel fans out there. But I know a thousand fanboys and fangirls burned by poor adaptations. Which were the worst, then?
1Addicted (2014)324.3-3.0
2Vampire Academy (2014)304.2-2.7
3The Jackal (1997)364.2-2.6
4Safe Haven (2013)344.2-2.5
5The Last Song (2010)334.1-2.4
6The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (2013)334.1-2.4
7Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (2013)394.2-2.4
8Left Behind (2014)123.8-2.4
9A Walk to Remember (2002)354.1-2.4
10Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010)654.6-2.3
11Divergent (2014)484.3-2.2
12Unbroken (2014)594.5-2.1
13The Book Thief (2013)534.4-2.1
14Mortdecai (2015)274.0-2.1
15Where the Heart Is (2000)304.0-2.1
16Pay It Forward (2000)404.1-2.0
17The Three Musketeers (2011)354.0-2.0
18Seventh Son (2015)304.0-2.0
19Ender’s Game (2013)514.3-2.0
20The Help (2011)624.4-1.9
“Addicted,” a 2014 film based on a book released in 1998, no doubt disappointed avid fans of erotic novelist Zane.
There are several films on this list based on highly regarded young adult science fiction or fantasy series: “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters,” “Divergent,” and “Ender’s Game” all disappointed, compared with rave reviews on Goodreads. One Harry Potter film made the list, but that’s likely because the book it’s based on, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” is the top-reviewed book in the whole Goodreads set — 4.6 — and the film was just pretty good, with a 65 on Metacritic. “The Help” and “Unbroken” are in similar positions, with extremely positive reviews of the books exceeding decent ratings on screen. On the other hand, “Mortdecai,” which notoriously sucked, also made it into the top 20.
In the end, “The Hunger Games” movies have done pretty well for themselves so far, with no egregious differences between the reviews of the text and the reviews of the films. Hopefully, that trend will continue through the fourth installment; Mockingjay received 4 stars on Goodreads, which is pretty good.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Rinse, Spin, Read To Kids: It's A Mashup Of Laundromat and Library

OCTOBER 27, 2015 4:09 PM ET
The Libromat, which combines laundry and literature, results in brighter brights and brighter kids.
The Libromat, which combines laundry and literature, results in brighter brights and brighter kids.
Justin Woods/Courtesy of Libromat
Poor mothers often spend way too much time hunched over a washboard. What if they could use those hours to curl up with their kids and read a book instead? A group of friends at Oxford University plans to find out by developing a combination childhood education and laundry services center, a concept they've dubbed a "Libromat."
The five team members have extensive backgrounds in childhood education, and they pooled their talents to apply for the 2015 Hult Prize, a $1 million award for young social entrepreneurs tackling some of the world's biggest problems.
This year's challenge: provide self-sustainable education to impoverished urban areas.
Put in a load, read a book: It's a relief for parents who were washing clothes by hand and a joy for kids to have Mom or Dad read a story to them.i
Put in a load, read a book: It's a relief for parents who were washing clothes by hand and a joy for kids to have Mom or Dad read a story to them.
Justin Woods/Courtesy of Libromat
Team member Nicholas Dowdall, 25, zeroed in on picture book reading after stumbling on a study in Khayelitsha, a township of more than 300,000 in Cape Town, South Africa. Mothers of infants were recruited and given eight weeks of training to read to their children. The women reported a significant increase in the number of words that their kids understood and vocalized.
"I thought, 'This is fantastic research, but how do we take this to scale so that it doesn't just sit in a journal article?' " Dowdall says.
The group's members figured out their answer when they learned that residents are desperate for laundry facilities. According to the team's research, mothers and caregivers in South Africa can spend a whopping nine hours per week hand-washing dirty clothes. "That's one whole working day," team member David Jeffery, 23, says. So they aimed to solve two problems at once and teach mothers effective ways to read books to their infants in the amount of time it takes to complete a wash and spin cycle. And with the money collected from the laundry, they could keep this up for load after load.
As finalists for the Hult Prize, the team was given the opportunity to pilot a Libromat in July and August at an early childhood development center in Khayelitsha, where Jeffery had previously volunteered. Washers and dryers were installed and the fee for a wash and spin cycle was roughly $1.50 in South African currency — on par with the limited laundromat options available in the area.
Parents get advice on how to do a great job reading books to their kids.
Parents get advice on how to do a great job reading books to their kids.
Justin Woods/Courtesy of Libromat
For four weeks, they offered courses on book sharing between parents and children. Lessons started with videos clips that taught parents techniques like pointing at and naming key objects, connecting pictures in the books to familiar things, and taking opportunities to talk about feelings and emotions with their child. Then parents practiced these techniques and received immediate feedback from two women in the community trained at a nearby university.
In interviews conducted after the pilot, Dowdall was thrilled to learn that many of the mothers believed their relationships with their children had improved. Some even said their children were asking for story time every evening before bed.
One participant, Ntomboxolo, 34, a mother who attended the sessions with her infant daughter, says, "I am a working mother, so more often than not I am tired. But now, I make time to share something in a book with my daughter every night." Ntomboxolo also says she saw changes in her daughter's behavior: "There was not much communication before. I see her drawing closer to me."
And the added laundry services helped mothers save some of their energy for those bedtime stories. "The machine does not complain when it is cold," says a mother of two named Paulina. "The machine never complains; it just does its job."
Team Libromat estimates the total cost to build and retrofit centers to be approximately $10,000 (including the machines, books and furniture). They hope to attract 200 regular customers every month.
As part of their research, the Libromat team members conducted surveys with over 300 parents in South Africa, Guatemala, Cameroon and Uganda. They found that roughly 80 percent were willing to pay for the service. Meanwhile, 94 percent of those surveyed in South Africa even said they would walk as far as 30 minutes to go to a center.
Dowdall suspects the enthusiastic response is due to the lack of laundry services in urban areas. Once people experience a Libromat, however, he believes they will recognize that they can get more out of it than just clean clothes. He also added that each course will offer free slots for members of the community who cannot afford laundry services.
Although the Libromat missed out on the Hult Prize — which went to an idea that willimprove informal day care centers in urban slums — the team members are going forward with the project. They have received initial funds of $200,000 from an investor to start three new centers in South Africa. They will extend their program to eight weeks and, when classes are not in session, operate the center as a walk-in laundry and library service with children's books. Centers will be managed directly by the team and will employ one educator, laundry manager and general assistant from the community.
"Everyone can go to the local Libromat center and get a class," Dowdall says.
Andrew Boryga is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times and other publications.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Little Free Libraries popping up in Grimsby

Update: A Little Free Library has arrived at the corner of Queen and Beam in Beamsville at the Literacy Council beside the old library.  It looks fabulous and Allen Smith (below) crafted it.

Beam St. has a library again!
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Watch for a new Little Free Library coming to Beamsville soon! I will share the grand opening details once they are available!        

Grassroots book exchange gaining popularity

Grimsby Lincoln News
Little Free Libraries popping up in Grimsby


Little Free Libraries have been popping up in Grimsby since the first one appeared in Grimsby Beach two years ago. In the photo, standing from let, Ray Bowers and Donna Brown-Bowers have one at their Murray Street home. Kneeling Allan Smith (right), a retired cabinetmaker, built one for Pierre Giroux.

By Luke Edwards

On a recent evening, around 8 p.m., Donna Brown-Bowers walked out to the front of her Murray Street home and placed a book in the Little Free Library her and her husband Ray started a little more than a year ago.
By 10 a.m. the following morning, it was gone.
“We have a house full of books, and we love sharing,” said Donna.
Little Free Libraries may not be taking Grimsby by storm, but they certainly have carved out a niche for local bibliophiles.
Donna and Ray operate their Little Free Library year round, in the winter clearing a path to the small book repository that resembles the couple’s home and was built by Ray. And they’re not alone.
Pierre Giroux also opened his own Little Free Library this past August. The Morrison Crescent resident heard about Little Free Libraries on a radio program. Dating back to 2009, the idea is to provide a place where people can exchange books for free. Small “libraries” are place outside of people’s homes. Anyone can come and check out the collection and take a book to read, hopefully leaving one in its wake.
Giroux sought out his friend, Allan Smith, a retired cabinetmaker.
“I said, ‘Allan, you’ve got to build one,’” Giroux said.
So build one Smith did, creating a unique Little Free Library under the theme he calls “wonky architecture.”
Since installing his own library, Giroux said there’s been a steady stream of book lovers coming by. Each morning he’ll head out and take stock of the collection of books in his library. Quite often there will be a few gone, typically replaced with a few new books.
“We seldom have to replenish it,” added Donna. “It’s just been wonderful.”
Though Giroux will have to take his down for winter, he said Smith’s craftsmanship is exemplary. There have been no leaks – it’s obviously important to keep water out of the libraries – and it has withstood windstorms.
There’s a third Little Free Library at Grimsby Beach. It was the first in Grimsby, and was put up in 2013.
“It’s building community in a ripple effect,” said Ray, who will often have a quick conversation if he sees someone checking out their library.
Donna added they’re happy to report no issues so far, either. Ray said he was a little reticent early on, worried vandals might be attracted to their library. But that hasn’t been the case.
People interested in Little Free Libraries can visit littlefreelibrary.org for information. There’s also a map where registered libraries can be registered. However, many of the libraries, like those in Grimsby, are unregistered.