Jaws by Peter Benchley – 1974
If you haven’t read Jaws I would urge you to do so. If you have no inclination to read it because you think it’s probably just a pulpy and poorly written airport novels, the only value of which was to spawn Hollywood’s annual summer blockbuster tradition… think again. Not only is Jaws none of those things, but it’s one of the very best novels I’ve ever read.
I’ll be honest: the quality of Jaws really surprised me too. When I picked it up I had no idea how good it was going to be, because like most people I saw the movie first, and it’s sometimes difficult to get that Hollywood taste out of your mouth. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a very good movie, but the book goes in to a lot more detail and does almost everything better.
Yes, Jaws is essentially a book about a killer shark, but it also explores plot threads that the movie doesn’t even touch upon, including the marital problems between Brody and his wife, and the tension between Brody and Quint. The book even includes a bunch of f-bombs which are (for obvious reasons) conspicuously absent from the movie. All of these things and more make the novel feel like a more adult-oriented experience, and a more worthy and realistic one as a result.