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Audiobooks Which Have Inspired Motion Picture Films

By Cameron Phillips, Kathryn Alley and Rose Cook

Rose’s pick: Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann, narrated by Will Patton, Anne Marie Lee and Danny Campbell

Inspired by the 96th Academy Awards this month, I have chosen to spotlight Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, the 2017 book by David Grann on which the Oscar-nominated film is based. 

Grann, a journalist, tells the true story of the murders of the Osage people in twenties Oklahoma. After discovering oil deposits on their land and benefiting from the wealth this provides, the Osage people begin to be killed off. The FBI takes up the case but botches the investigation, so they turn to Texas Ranger Tom White to solve the case. Working with the Osage people, White uncovers one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history.

Grann presents a chilling narrative non-fiction account of a real-life crime story. The audiobook is divided into three sections, each narrated by an unfamiliar voice, which fits the developing mood and themes. The tension builds over each section, culminating in a thrilling conclusion. The audiobook could be a thriller novel, except it’s all true.

Killers of the Flower Moon is a gripping account of a forgotten piece of American history. The audiobook is a must-listen for fans of crime and thrillers who want to hear the true story that inspired the critically acclaimed film.

Cameron’s Pick: American Prometheus, written by Kai Bird and Martin J Sherwin, narrated by Jeff Cummins

I love cinema and I love Christopher Nolan, but I did not like Oppenheimer. It was too long and too loquacious even for me. There really is not a more complex figure in modern history than J. Robert Oppenheimer, acknowledged by himself when he quoted the famous line from the Bhagavad Gita: “Now I am Become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds” after completing the Manhattan Project. 

I wanted to find out more about the man from a source that was both objective and authoritative, and I found that with American Prometheus. What is so great about this audiobook is that it is not Oppenheimer, the leader of the nuclear age, but Oppenheimer, the man, in all his complexity and ideology. It was clearly rigorously researched, with the work stimulating the mind and stirring the imagination, with the narrative style matching this effort. I like the ethical discussion on the merits of scientific advancement to the detriment of human and societal morality, which I found easier to digest in the audiobook than in the film. Cummins lends his weight to the narration, acknowledging the gravitas of the discussions and debates presented in the book.

Given the state of geopolitics, I think it is important that people educate themselves on the history of how the modern world was shaped to understand the present. American Prometheus provides an opportunity to do just that.

Kathryn’s Pick: The Zone of Interest, written by Martin Amis, narrated by Sean Barret

The Zone of Interest is one of those audiobooks that you can’t turn away from. Amis’ novel, complemented by the brilliant narration of Barret, dives into the heartbreaking story of a Nazi concentration camp from the perspectives of three inhabitants: a brutal commander, a Jewish overseer and a young aristocrat. Zone of Interest forces audiences to consider a haunting portrait of life, holding up a mirror to reveal the world’s true intentions. 

Amis’s 2014 novel ended up loosely inspiring Jonathan Glazer’s historical film of the same name, which received recognition at the 2024 Oscar nominations. Both the film and the novel showcase the horrors of the Holocaust in a discomforting, unconventional approach. Instead of focusing inside the walls of Auschwitz, Zone of Interest focuses on the narrative that takes place just outside, in the homes of supporters and bystanders. 

The audiobook is an incredibly disturbing listen and quite difficult to experience, but I think that’s exactly the point. Amis wanted to draw attention to the Holocaust in a chilling sense that speaks very much to audiences now and highlights the dangers of living in a zone of oppression that has become a part of our daily lives. Although unique in their mediums, this is one of those rare occasions that I recommend both the audiobook and the film as a necessary introspection into the depths and contradictions of the human soul.


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