Reading vs. Seeing

Images c/o Amazon

There exists an eternal argument about whether or not the book was better than the movie, or vice versa. Teachers constantly warned you to “not see the movie in lieu of reading the book!” Well, maybe they weren’t so eloquent, but the underlying truth is there.

I was never one to risk skipping the actual reading of the book; I was the person that used Sparknotes as a study tool, not as the study material. My overwhelming need to be prepared usually prevented me from cramming the night before. But those days are over. Now reading is just about enjoyment.

My roommate and I decided to read the two above books before the movies debuted. Upon completion, we would “reward” ourselves with a movie date. In my opinion, I Don’t Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson fell short in movie form (although the book was a little drawn out for my liking, but that, as they say, is another story), while The Help by Kathryn Stockett was fulfilling in both versions.

In my brief experience as a reader following books to the silver screen, I have always been hesitant. I end up loving the book and subsequently walking out of the theatre disappointed. Either something was left out or changed entirely and I can never understand why. Some books are more difficult to adapt from book to movie, like IDKHSDI (I just can’t type it out in full again). A lot of that book is an inner monologue. But then the movie cut out a few characters and a few sub-plots. The biggest offender of this kind of “editing” was in The Devil Wears Prada movie (a good read, by the by). Written by Lauren Weisberger, Andy’s boyfriend in the book is Alex. In the movie his name is Nate. Seriously? Why?

Images c/o Amazon

Two book/movie series that did not disappoint were Harry Potter by JK Rowling, and Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (J initials of authors coincidental?). On behalf of all the nerds out there, I extend a big thanks to all parties involved in creating the movies we already adored as books.

After much deliberation and worrying I’m spoiling the book/movie for myself, I end up reading the book before seeing the movie, unless I am unaware of a literary edition (had no idea Forrest Gump was a book first). That seems to be the only option. I don’t believe that one can see the movie and then read the book; no matter what, one usually ends up not doing justice for the other. I refuse to read The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks or P.S. I Love You by Cecelia Ahern or Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier. Sorry, but the movies were so wonderful for me that I wouldn’t want to change them in any way.

Image c/o IMDb

Up next, I’m working on finishing The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins (did I mention I’m a sucker for hype surrounding books?) (P.S. to all future books, please give up the tagline “the next Harry Potter” because there will never be anything better). This is one scenario that I think the movies are going to be better than the books, or at least I hope so. Great concept, a little lackluster in the delivery.

I’ve been scanning this link trying to think of others books-to-movies: I’m flirting with a couple, while some of them I’ve already read and may have to re-read pre-movie (I’m looking at you The Host). Unrelated to that list, I want to add Lev Grossman’s The Magicians to my books-just-staying-books list. I just can’t resist a good sci-fi fantasy.

Where do you stand on reading vs. seeing? At present, I don’t know if there is a side to choose. For me, the movie just seems to be the manifestation of the visuals the book provides. The root of the problem is wrestling what you saw in the book with what someone else saw. That other person just happens to be able to put his or her vision to film. If we could all be so lucky…


2 thoughts on “Reading vs. Seeing

  1. Great question, Megan! As you know, I have been known to see before read and read before see. I would say one will ALWAYS be disappointed when one reads before seeing. Always. If you are a reader like me, details matter, and I remember them. Consequently, I always feel a little jipped when I don’t see those small details portrayed on the big screen.

    Seeing before reading may cause only slight disappointment. However, it doesn’t really matter because you are reading the book due to the fact that you love the movie. And, although you may have wanted that extra scene in the movie after you have read the book, the underlying fact is that the movie impressed you.

    Shall we read a new book together? Sci-fi/fantasy/action/adventure preferred please!

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