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A fiction lover’s delight at the movies this holiday season

Tom Cruise 'Jack Reacher' based Lee Childs' series novels.

Tom Cruise in "Jack Reacher," based on Lee Childs' series of novels.

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Oscar bait

Six of the nine best picture nominees last year were adapted from books (clockwise from top left): “The Help,” “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” “Moneyball,” “War Horse,” “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” and “The Descendants.”

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Updated: December 12, 2012 6:01AM

Didn’t read the book? Not to worry. A flurry of movies pegged to best-selling books — both classic and contemporary — will be in theaters soon, primers for those who never quite made it through the real deal.

English majors will love Tolstoy’s tale of adultery, “Anna Karenina,” starring Keira Knightley and Jude Law in the tragic novel’s 13th movie adaptation (Nov. 16); and “Les Miserables,” the musical with Hugh Jackman (Dec. 25).

And that’s just the beginning. There’s J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” directed by Peter Jackson and arriving Dec. 14; Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” (Dec. 21); and Yann Martel’s “Life of Pi,” starring Suraj Sharma (Nov. 21). Pete Dexter’s “The Paperboy,” with Nicole Kidman and Matthew McConaughey, and David Mitchell’s “Cloud Atlas,” starring Tom Hanks, opened last month.

What’s going on? “A cynic would say this is a case of unoriginality, coupled with the pursuit of commerce,” says Paul Dergarabedian, president of the box-office division of “Of course books provide a plentiful source, picture-perfect for producers, writers and studio executives to exploit ... and with a built-in concept and title already attached.”

Dergarabedian says there’s nothing wrong with the trend — “so long as the movies are good!”

He cites the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Harry Potter series as examples of well-made movies from books. “The Twilight books have also spawned one of the most successful movie franchises of all time,” he adds. “The final installment [Nov. 16] is certain to be a massive worldwide hit.”

Fans of investigator Jack Reacher will be not disappointed, either, when the aptly titled “Jack Reacher,” adapted from One Shot, the ninth book in Lee Child’s best-selling series, hits theaters Dec. 21, starring Tom Cruise.

It’s not a one-way street, either. Books often see a bump in sales when a movie tie-in edition arrives in bookstores. “A movie with a Hollywood talent as big as Tom Cruise presents an amazing opportunity for the entire Jack Reacher franchise,” says Libby McGuire, publisher of Ballantine Bantam Dell.

Gannett News Service

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