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Granted, literary adaptations aren't exclusively an autumnal phenomenon. So far this year, we've already seen successful book-to-movie translations like Shutter Island, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Winter's Bone.

Yet there's something about the chill returning to the air that sets movie industry minds wandering ever more noticeably to your library shelf. Maybe it's the whiff of award-season respectability that comes from successfully bringing a book to the big screen.

Of course, some of these adaptations arrive with a higher profile than others: People are already going to be clued in to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows being on the way. They might even know that there's an adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's award-winning Never Let Me Go heading into limited release next week.

But if you like to prep your reading list so that you can stay one step ahead of the cinematic release schedule, here are some of the lesser-known books coming to your multiplex before year's end. (As always, release dates are subject to change.)

Film: The Town

Source material: Prince of Thieves

Author: Chuck Hogan

Book overview: In Boston's gritty Charlestown neighborhood, bank robber Doug becomes obsessed with the bank manager he and his crew took hostage while disguised. Author Hogan may not be as sharp as Dennis Lehane at the top of his game, but he proves tremendously effective at conveying a place frozen in time, and a protagonist whose attempt to break away may be doomed. A sharp, punchy piece of crime fiction.

Book grade: B+

Reason for optimism: Writer/director Ben Affleck showed with Gone Baby Gone that he can nail the working-class world of his native Boston.

Reason for concern: Affleck the leading man (in this case, Doug) generally isn't as disarmingly subtle as Affleck the filmmaker.

Scheduled release date: Sept. 17

The Hollywood pitch: "Mystic River meets Inside Man."

Film: Legend of the Guardians

Source material: Guardians of Ga'Hoole

Author: Kathryn Lasky

Book overview: In a land of owl kingdoms, one young orphaned owlet is caught in the battle between a mysterious evil and the legendary noble owls of Ga'Hoole. Lasky's basic narrative line is familiar epic-fantasy fodder, but the details are often unexpected. Unfortunately, those unique turns don't necessarily translate to a story that's genuinely engrossing.

Book grade: B-

Reason for optimism: Early trailers suggest breathtaking use of 3-D.

Reason for concern: Director Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) often seems more interested in visual dazzle than storytelling.

Scheduled release date: Sept. 24

The Hollywood pitch: "The Lord of the Rings meets The Incredible Journey."

Film: The Social Network

Source material: The Accidental Billionaires

Author: Ben Mezrich

Book overview: The phenomenon that is Facebook began in a Harvard dorm room; exactly how it began is the much-contested question. Mezrich explores the story of enigmatic computer whiz Mark Zuckerberg, and the friends and fellow students who felt that they were part of launching an enterprise that would make them all rich. By conveying his reporting as page-turning narrative non-fiction, the author crafts a character study as stylish as it is informative.

Book grade: B+

Reason for optimism: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button notwithstanding, David Fincher rocks.

Reason for concern: The ongoing dilemma of how to turn sitting in front of a computer screen into compelling drama.

Scheduled release date: Oct. 1

The Hollywood pitch: "Rashomon meets Hackers."

Film: It's Kind of a Funny Story

Source material: It's Kind of a Funny Story

Author: Ned Vizzini

Book overview: Academic and personal challenges send high-achieving Brooklyn 15-year-old Craig into a spiral of depression, leading to suicidal thoughts and a week-long stay in a psych ward. It's initially difficult getting inside Craig's head — he does seem like the whiny, privileged kid he's afraid people will perceive — but eventually Vizzini crafts an effective portrait of a despairing teen looking for a reason to live. The eccentric supporting characters often verge on overwhelming Craig's journey, yet never quite do.

Book grade: B

Reason for optimism: Writer/directors Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden (Half Nelson, Sugar) have already made two terrific New York-set dramas.

Reason for concern: Will it effectively find balance between genuine depression and sanitized uplift?

Scheduled release date: Oct. 8

The Hollywood pitch: "The Breakfast Club meets One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."

Film: Love and Other Drugs

Source material: Hard Sell

Author: Jamie Reidy

Book overview: Reidy's memoir recalls life as a mid-1990s sales rep for Pfizer, when Viagra became a pharmaceutical phenomenon. Despite the novel's double-entendre title, relatively little of the narrative deals specifically with the Viagra years. Mostly it's a self-deprecating warts-and-all story of a low-ambition guy able to scam the system for years, while also offering funny, startling insights about contemporary health care. If Reidy's immature hijinks don't get on your nerves, you'll find interesting tales of the people who really decide which medications you get.

Book grade: B.

Reason for optimism: Narrative requirements might tone down the bad-boy anecdotes.

Reason for concern: Maybe it's just me, but when I think "lighthearted," I don't think of director Edward Zwick (Blood Diamond, The Last Samurai).

Scheduled release date: Nov. 24

The Hollywood pitch: "I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell meets Up in the Air"

scene@csindy.com

Film Details

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole 3D
Rated PG · 90 min. · 2010
Official Site: www.legendoftheguardians.com
Director: Zack Snyder
Writer: John Orloff, John Collee and Kathryn Lasky
Producer: Zareh Nalbandian
Cast: Emily Barclay, Abbie Cornish, Ryan Kwanten, Anthony LaPaglia, Miriam Margolyes, Helen Mirren, Sam Neill, Geoffrey Rush, Jim Sturgess and Hugo Weaving
The Town
Rated R · 123 min. · 2010
Official Site: www.thetownmovie.com
Director: Ben Affleck
Writer: Peter Craig, Ben Affleck, Aaron Stockard and Chuck Hogan
Producer: Graham King and Basil Iwanyk
Cast: Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively, Titus Welliver, Pete Postlethwaite and Chris Cooper
Love and Other Drugs
Rated R · 113 min. · 2010
Official Site: www.loveandotherdrugsthemovie.com
Director: Edward Zwick
Writer: Marshall Herskovitz and Charles Randolph
Cast: Anne Hathaway, Jake Gyllenhaal, Oliver Platt, Hank Azaria, Judy Greer, Brenna Roth, Gabriel Macht, Jaimie Alexander, George Segal and Katheryn Winnick
The Social Network
Rated PG-13 · 120 min. · 2010
Official Site: www.thesocialnetwork-movie.com
Director: David Fincher
Writer: Aaron Sorkin
Producer: Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca and Ceán Chaffin
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Timberlake, Brenda Song, Joseph Mazzello, Rooney Mara, Andrew Garfield, Max Minghella, Trevor Wright, Dakota Johnson and Stream
Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole
Rated PG · 90 min. · 2010
Official Site: www.legendoftheguardians.com
Director: Zack Snyder
Writer: John Orloff, John Collee and Kathryn Lasky
Producer: Zareh Nalbandian
Cast: Emily Barclay, Abbie Cornish, Ryan Kwanten, Anthony LaPaglia, Miriam Margolyes, Helen Mirren, Sam Neill, Geoffrey Rush, Jim Sturgess and Hugo Weaving
It's Kind of a Funny Story
Rated PG-13 · 101 min. · 2010
Official Site: www.itskindofafunnystorymovie.com
Director: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck
Writer: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck
Producer: Ben Browning and Kevin Misher
Cast: Keir Gilchrist, Zach Galifianakis, Emma Roberts, Viola Davis, Zoë Kravitz, Aasif Mandvi, Lauren Graham, Jim Gaffigan, Daniel London and Adrian Martinez
Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole An IMAX Experience
Rated NR · 90 min. · 2010
Official Site: www.legendoftheguardians.com
Director: Zack Snyder
Writer: John Orloff, John Collee and Kathryn Lasky
Producer: Zareh Nalbandian
Cast: Emily Barclay, Abbie Cornish, Ryan Kwanten, Anthony LaPaglia, Miriam Margolyes, Helen Mirren, Sam Neill, Geoffrey Rush, Jim Sturgess and Hugo Weaving
Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole An IMAX 3D Experience
Rated PG · 90 min. · 2010
Official Site: www.legendoftheguardians.com
Director: Zack Snyder
Writer: John Orloff, John Collee and Kathryn Lasky
Producer: Zareh Nalbandian
Cast: Emily Barclay, Abbie Cornish, Ryan Kwanten, Anthony LaPaglia, Miriam Margolyes, Helen Mirren, Sam Neill, Geoffrey Rush, Jim Sturgess and Hugo Weaving

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