Coming Attractions 

Don't wait for the movies -- read the books.

A passel of highly literary books have been acquired by studios and are headed for the big screen or have newly arrived there. Save yourself the price of parking, movie tickets, and popcorn by reading the books. Or read the books, then see the movies anyway -- but don't spoil their endings for your friends.

A top best-seller for what seemed like a lifetime, Charles Frazier's Civil War love story/road story Cold Mountain (Vintage, $13) is now in the hands of director Anthony Minghella and stars Nicole Kidman as Ada, Renee Zellweger as Ruby, and Jude Law as the injured Inman.

An intimate peek into madness, the film version of Patrick McGrath's Spider (Vintage, $13) is directed by David Cronenberg and stars an unsmiling Ralph Fiennes, scuffling through the layers of memory -- most of which include Miranda Richardson -- that got him where he is now.

Roman Polanski scored an Oscar bid for directing the screen adaptation of The Pianist (Picador, $13). This memoir of Polish musician Wladyslaw Szpilman, who survived the Holocaust in hiding, was written soon after the war but its publication was suppressed for decades.

Academic high jinks punctuate Philip Roth's The Human Stain (Vintage, $14). Thus the film version's cast includes Sir Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Gary Sinise, and the ubiquitous but always welcome Nicole Kidman -- and not Pauly Shore.

Ed Harris rears his evocative head again in the screen adaptation of Robert O'Connor's Buffalo Soldiers (Vintage, 13.95), also starring Joaquin Phoenix and Anna Paquin and set on a US army base in Germany just before the Berlin Wall's fall.

Del Rey has issued a boxed set ($31.96) for Lord of the Rings fans; with The Hobbit, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King, you'll be way ahead of the game. The covers of all four books, and the box, sport scenes from the films.

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