Monday, March 1, 2010

Should you read the book first?

How many times have you heard someone say that you have to read the book before watching the movie? I've heard it so many times, it's ridiculous. Good fiction is turned into good films all the time (and is made into bad films even more so).

People who say you should read the book first have their reasons. They think the imagery won't be as good; the books have more details that are "essential" to the plot; they think the true creator of the story should be praised first. The list goes on and on.

I used to be one of those people. I read the Chronicles of Narnia several times before ever seeing a movie of it. Wuthering Heights, Pride & Prejudice, Jane Eyre--all were in my hands as a book long before my eyes saw their stories on the screen. I could argue about this thing that was only in the book or that thing that was added to the movie by the director.

As I got older and more of my time was spent doing less pleasure reading (and more textbook reading), I discovered that I didn't have time to spend the time I wanted reading a story before watching it. Watching movies based on books became a way for me to better choose my next book. If I thought the movie was bad, there was no way I would waste my time in reading the book. If I really liked the movie, the book would go on my to-read list.

To the purests out there, this may sound like blasphemy. Hopefully, this will help ease your mind. I'm a slow reader with very little time on my hands. I have read books before watching movies, so I know your point of view firsthand. I just have a new philosophy on the subject now.

I've discovered something about watching movies based on books. If I read the book before watching the movie, I almost always have a horrible time liking the movie. BUT, if I watch the movie before reading the book, I can like both of them! It's so much quicker for me to watch a movie than it is to read a book. If I like a story, I will most likely want to go back to it. Going back to the book (sadly) can be too time consuming. Watching a movie, on the other hand, takes very little time comparatively.

I have been turned on to many good books by watching movies or tv shows. Dexter, Bridget Jones' Diary, The Christmas Carol, Gone with the Wind, and The Sookie Stackhouse books were all inspired reading for me after watching them first. I loved them both as books and movies. With my time being gobbled up by priorities, I feel no shame in picking up a book that I am most certainly going to enjoy because I liked the movie first.


  1. I tried to leave a comment earlier but it didn't publish so I'll try it again.

    I don't like many movies that come out and that's just because I'm weird like that I suppose. But I did enjoy "Everything Is Illuminated" and watched it several times. Because I liked the movie so much, I decided to read the book as well. I loved the book too. So, based on this anecdotal evidence, your hypothesis appears to be correct.

  2. Holy coincidence Batman! I was thinking of "Everything Is Illuminated" as I was reading Erin's post. Loved both saw the movie first, and who in this world could resist a dog named Sammy Davis Jr. Jr. - his performance deserves repeated viewings.