Whenever I see a movie that's based on a book my first instinct is to go out and get the book! If it's a good movie at least. I can be slow getting around to it, but usually the books are better than the movies, so I try to get to it eventually!
"The Golden Compass" is book 1 in the series "His Dark Materials" by Philip Pullman, and yes, it was made into a movie just over a year ago. If you've seen the movie, you've got a pretty good idea of what the book is about! There are some differences though. Mainly, the book goes into a lot more detail in some places than the movie does. The story is more fleshed out.
For those of you who haven't seen the movie - "The Golden Compass" is the story of a girl named Lyra who finds herself caught up in a grand adventure! She never was your typical girl, raised by scholars instead of a family, and because of this she was allowed to run a little wild. Children have started disappearing, much to her concern, and she starts to try to figure it out. Next thing she knows she's caught up in a twisted plot by the grown ups, and setting out on a dangerous journey to save the other children.
One thing that sets this series apart from other fantasy series is the concepts of daemons. Daemons are thought to be the "soul" of the person as personified by an animal companion. They add a fun element to the story that I really enjoyed, but that I also understand has been the subject of an uproar by the Christian community. While I would agree that maybe the choice of the word "daemon" is a bit unfortunate, I don't really see this as being that much different from any of the other fantasy books out there and I really enjoyed reading it!