Allison's Book Bag

Book or Movie First?

Posted on: April 8, 2013

I recently finished reading The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick. Because I first saw it as a movie, I started thinking about that first question of reading habits.

Do you prefer to read the book or watch the movie first? For me, there isn’t one clear-cut answer. In other words, it all depends on many factors.

The majority of the time, the reason a movie based on a book even interests me is because I want to see a beloved story brought to life on the big screen. With older movies, more often than not, I ended up hating the movie experience. Why I have often vented would anyone take a book with lots of action, strip it of its adventures, and make one with little resemblance to the original. No matter how many versions made, it happened repeatedly with Little Women by Louisa Mae Alcott, Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, and Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery to name a few. If I ever found a movie version that faithfully honored a beloved book, I took note of it and immediately made plans to buy it. In all these cases, I’m glad that I read the book long before I saw the movie.

Less often, the reason I took interest in a movie based on a book is that I hadn’t yet read the book but was curious about the story. That happened to me with Ella Enchanted. Fairy tales are normally sure winners with me, but somehow I hadn’t ever gotten around to reading the book. Now Gail Levine is one of my favorite authors. Or if I had read the book, it hadn’t appealed to me upon the first read. That happened to me with The Series of Unfortunate Events, a set which I now own–and even got signed by its author Lemony Snickett.

Then there’s the third reason. Sometimes I watch a movie, absolutely love it, and am happy to find out its based on a book. That happened to me with Pollyanna by Eleanor Porter, although this is one of the rare instances where I have preferred a Disney version of a book. A more recent experience involved Silver Linings Playbook  by Matthew Quick. My husband and I had been looking for a Valentine’s Day movie. It came highly recommended. We loved the movie so much that I immediately requested a copy of the book from the library. I still haven’t decided whether the book or movie should have come first for me, because throughout the book I kept wanting to translate scenes into those from the movie. But I also like both versions. As for my husband, he views the movie as getting to see Pat’s life unfold and views the book as being able to hear all the thoughts behind his actions. So, he’s happy enough with the order he saw them.

What about you? Do you prefer to read the book or watch the movie first?

14 Responses to "Book or Movie First?"

I don’t tend to remember movies very well, even a few weeks after watching them. This causes a problem for me if I read a book after having seen the movie–I get so distracted by trying to remember the movie and how it was different from the book, that I can’t enjoy the book on its own merit. I’ve avoided seeing movies because I hadn’t read the book and didn’t want it ruined for me.

On the other hand, I love seeing a movie after having read the book! Even if it doesn’t do the book justice, I enjoy the experience of comparing the two. (And sometimes I even feel inspired to re-read the book after watching the movie).

I don’t tend to remember books or movies upon my first encounter with them. That’s why my beloved books are well worn from repeated reads. 🙂

Usually I prefer to read the book before seeing the movie and most times I’ve found I’ve preferred the book or at least appreciated the greater detail in the book before seeing the movie. Here’s my musing:

Thanks for your visit!

One thing I forgot to add in my post is that sometimes a movie can turn me off a book. Used to be, every time I’d walk past a display of The Life of Pi by Yann Martel, I’d feel tempted to borrow or buy it. Thanks to the movie, I no longer feel that inclination. 🙂

Reading books and watching movies are almost unrelated activities for me. I’m a bookworm, but I also enjoy watching movies and television with the family.

I don’t buy many books now and never buy movies, relying on the local library for books and television for movies. Liking either a book or a movie could lead me to try to experience it in the other format.

Since starting Allison’s Book Bag, I have like you found that enjoying a book or a movie could lead me to try it in the other format. That’s because I mostly read children’s books for my blog but mostly watch general movies with my husband.

I think this is one of those things where we all have our own preferences, lol. For me personally, I almost always prefer to read the book before I see the movie. I’ll admit though, that it doesn’t always happen. For instance, I’m pretty sure I saw Pride and Prejudice before I read the book though I still love both. In my mind, I just prefer to read books first because I like to experience the story as it was intended to be before I see someone else’s interpretation of it.

I do the same thing, in reverse, when there’s a book based on a movie too. Off the top of my head I can think of Dead Poets Society, the movie came before the book, so I won’t read the book until I see the movie because of that wanting to experience the original first.

You bring up another interesting point. What do you think of books that were written because of a movie? To date, I have yet to find one that I like. 😦

I would read lots of movie-inspired books when I was a kid: E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Goonies, etc. But I wouldn’t read any now. I just don’t think they’d be very good. I want a book that sprung from the author’s imagination, not a book that parrots a movie. But then that raises the question of why book-based films aren’t seen as inferior to original films. Although I suppose the answer is clear — we see books as being superior to films in general.

I’m not sure that I see books as superior to movies. Yes, books do require one to use more imagination than movies. But if I thought books were superior, I wouldn’t care about seeing my favorites brought to the big screen. And yet I do!

Perhaps, it’s just the process for the two are different, which typically results in a lower quality for books based on movies. If a producer wants to bring a book to the screen, he often can take whatever liberties he needs to create his own film version of the story and hire the best screenwriters that he can afford. Do writers get the same option? Can they take whatever liberties they wish to create their own print version of the story? And do producers try to get the best writers to adapt their movies to print?

To be honest, I don’t know a lot about the process, but seems to me that a book based on a movie should expand upon what the movie offered. None of those which I’ve read have, but rather seem bland replicates of the movie. I’d rather just see the movie!

In contrast, if I loved a book, I’m typically eager to see the movie too. It gives me a different but often equally positive experience. Wish I could say the same for books based on movies. 🙂

For me personally, when it comes to books based on movies I think it all depends on how its done. I mean, with a book you have a lot more room to play, so I think that can be dangerous if an author goes too crazy with it. If they keep it realistic, there’s the potential to have a really great story that you can experience on a new level (if that makes sense).

I recently read a book based on a movie, which frustrated me on two levels. The movie had been a documentary of a brutal event, but the tone was so objective that I felt that I could have as easily been reading about a wedding instead of a death. I felt sickened by the book, not because of the events of the story but because of how casually the author narrated the story. Second, I felt the author missed an opportunity to update readers on the aftermath of the crime and to help them make sense of it or better yet stir them to action. So here’s one where I really wanted the author to have made the story her own, instead of just giving me the movie version.

That’s an extreme example, but I can also remember reading the book version of some popular movies like E.T. before I saw them. It happened that way simply because I had access to the book copies before the movies. Once I saw the movie versions, I never gave the books a second thought. They were simply what I made do with, because I didn’t have access to the movies. Whereas with movies based on books, I often have both versions.

I don’t think I ever wish I had encountered a book and movie in a different order. But I do often wonder if I’d have feel differently about them if I had.

I tend to prefer the version I encounter first. Maybe that’s because I don’t like change? Or maybe it’s just an illusion, since I only try the alternate version if I really liked the first, which is kind of setting up the alternate version for failure. Maybe I should only try the alternate version when I hate the first version? Hmm.

For the record, I can only think of one case of loving both a book and its film adaptation equally: To Kill a Mockingbird.

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