What Should Come First…

…the movie or the book?

It’s a question that’s come into play for me a lot in the past. Is it better to read the book before watching its movie or TV show, or is it okay to switch it up sometimes? Up until a comparatively short time ago, I would have told you that you should read the book first—always, without question, no matter what. I’m afraid I had (and still have) a bit of a tendency to be a purist. How could anyone taint the meaning and initial impact of a story by watching its adaptation first?

And for a while, I was able to adhere to that, at least when I was aware that the movie or show in question was based on a book. Why on earth would I want someone to form my opinions for me? To fill my head with their own idea of what the story was and distort whatever thoughts I may have formed on my own? I made sure to follow this regimen with Lord of the Rings, with Harry Potter, and with pretty much any other story that I held in high regard.

But then, whether by accident or deliberately (I’m no longer sure which), I started watching movie versions of books before I had read the story. I began to fudge on my steadfast rule by watching movies like Pride and Prejudice and Emma and North and South, and, more recently, shows like Game of Thrones. And I discovered that by viewing one artist’s representation of another artist’s work, I was able to more fully grasp and enjoy the book that the adaptation was made from. I could take from the film version that which helped me to understand the book better, and I could choose to discard what didn’t. I could use the artist’s imagining of the book to expand my own imagination, or I could reject it and form different opinions altogether. I was beginning to make room for change amid my former rules for reading. In short, I began to discover that neither order of consumption is good or bad; both have their own merits and disadvantages, and neither form of the story necessarily has to compromise the other.

With Lord of the Rings, reading the book first worked well for me. Though they’re lengthy, complicated books, I enjoyed the challenge of constructing Middle Earth in my head, on my own terms, even though it probably took me until the third reading or so to really get it right (and yes, I am the biggest nerd ever…). I wanted the freedom to choose just how far I was willing to take my imagination during the scarier bits, and I wanted to see the faces of the characters themselves, rather than those of the actors who portrayed them. And I got the added benefit of pointing out to everyone watching the movies with me that “Oh, this isn’t the way it was in the book at all. What is Arwen doing there? There were no Wargs before the battle at Helm’s Deep…and where the heck is Tom Bombadil?!” I’ve since realized that this is pretty foolish (not to mention annoying); why on Earth should the filmmakers’ vision for the story be the same as mine? And how could they possibly be expected to fit something like 1000 pages’ worth of story into eight hours of film? I digress…but my point is, reading these books before watching their movies allowed me to make the experience my own, and I was glad I’d done it that way.

But a week or so ago, I had a very different experience. After having both the book and show Game of Thrones relentlessly recommended to me, I finally watched the show’s first season. In one weekend (I regret nothing!). After my hedonistic GoT bender, I became extremely excited to start reading a series I hadn’t even definitively decided to tackle. I loved watching this complex story come to life, and I very quickly fell in love with Daenerys, Jon Snow, Arya, Bran, and so many others. Throughout every episode, I couldn’t wait to see what they’d do next. And though I haven’t read the book yet, I know that I’m going to love getting even more deeply involved with the characters and the vast story even more when I do read it. In this case, I’m quite certain that preempting my reading of the book by watching its television adaptation first will enrich instead of compromise my enjoyment of the story.

I’ve learned for certain now that there isn’t one set way to do this, at least not for me. It depends on the story, my current mindset, the timing of the adaptation’s availability, even the urging of friends to follow one way or the other. But what do you think? Which order do you prefer? Are you a purist, do you go with the flow, or like me, do you end up somewhere in the middle? Or do you do it some other way entirely?


451 thoughts on “What Should Come First…

  1. I’m definitely a “go with the flow” girl — I’ve done both, depending on the situation. Sometimes it’s advantageous to have that visual in your head going into a book … and sometimes it destroys (for me, at least) the creativity inherent to reading.

    • Same here. Depending on whether or not the book is fiction or non-fiction and how the narrative structure is organized, it may be more satisfying to read first and watch second. On the other hand, if the film consists of a creative team that I like, and I tend to watch first.

      I read Interview With the Vampire and The Queen of the Damned before watching the films. I was able to enjoy them without too much comparing and contrasting. Same with About a Boy.

      • Its interesting that you mention Interview With The Vampire, as that was one rare case in which I watched the movie first and read the book second.

        For me, this felt like the better way round – I loved the movie, and then when I read the book I really appreciated all the extra character development and story elements that it gave to the characters I already knew and loved from the film. This way I felt enriched, rather than disappointed that the film didn’t include these elements (this is probably what I would have felt had I read the book first). Although in a few cases I did change the characters in my head to match their descriptions in the book, rather than the actors that played them.

  2. Like you, I’ve always been a purist – until I saw a movie I did not realize it was a book first! Then I did it “backwards” so to speak. If I see the show or movie first the problem is that now all the characters MUST look like they did on flim instead of letting my imagination do the work. Good idea for a post and congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

    • If I see a “really good” movie (which is few and far between these days) I have to assume it was adapted from a novel. There are so few creative stories out the specifically written for the big screen it seems.

      • I agree with you completely when it comes to seeing the characters as the actresses or actors from the movie adaptation. I was rather late when I started reading the Harry Potter series so evey book I read I saw Hermione as Emma Watson. It can be helpful but annoying…

      • The “purist” often plays a game of self-deception, holding a strong bias the book is somehow superior to the film because it was the “original.” But there is no way a reader can know what is original and what is not. How many authors have ripped off another’ writer’s idea and produced a bestseller? How many creative writing instructors have robbed a student? What distinguishes one writer from another, one book from its film version is simply this. Execution. Which tells the story best? I can’t think of a better example than Peter Benchely’s “Jaws.” The book got side-tracked in romance and gratuitous sex in a cynical effort to increase sales. But Steven Spielberg’s film version cut out the trash and focused on the simple idea, man versus shark. And it was better than the book because his execution of Benchley’s unoriginal idea (think Moby Dick) was far superior.

      • The worst is when you read the book first, visualize the character and then they cast someone completely different! Like, for instance in Eat, Pray, Love! I LOVED that book. The movie just didn’t work for me at all when they chose Julia, she is a decent actress, just not the right person for the role (in my opinion). The other issue I have is
        when the movie ends differently than the book!

      • Very true about movies and their relation with a book. It seems that most films you see…even if it is not a cinematic masterpiece, like say, “Dunston Checks In”, will have the “Based On the Book Written by Jim Nasium” in the credits. It would be difficult to see any movie without doing some reading before hand.

        I also agree with what digitalcandy said about the characters being associated with actors. Sometimes I have read Stephen King books after watching the awful TV movie versions and you picture the cheesy actors in your head.

    • I have always read the book first. I loved The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, but have to admit that I liked the character of Mikael that I pictured in my mind while reading the book, better than the on screen actor!

  3. The book! Almost always 😉 There’s a web thing you can ‘sign’ called “Read it first” – a pledge to read the book first wherever possible. It’s always been a rule in our house, actually, and with LotR I think it was definitely the thing to do. Okay, so I was so desperate to see the films that I read the books when I was barely eight years old, but still 😉

    Also with the Narnia books. I adored them and loved the style and all the little details you get. The recent adaptation of Prince Caspian annoyed me no end. (“It says he’s a golden-haired boy a few years older than Lucy, not some guy with a weird Spanish accent!”). Also, they didn’t put in the ‘stern yet joyful’ faces in the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, so it was obviously not as good as the book, because they were hilarious to try and do… /nerd

    But at times I see the film first. Like, with Mary Poppins, I saw the film so many times at primary school that when I read the book I didn’t like that version of the story, I liked the film adaptation! And Les Miserables I saw the musical before I read the book, all 1500 pages of it, and although I love the extra depth added by having read it, I also love the musical more than any other. I saw the film recently and thought it was great – except that Eponine, my favourite character, didn’t exist at all! I was devastated. So I’m mixed.

    Congrats on Freshly Pressed, by the way! And sorry that this comment was such an essay.

  4. I try my best to read the book first, but in the case of “Pride and Prejudice,” I watched both the BBC miniseries and the Keira Knightley movie first. I had tried to read it several times, but couldn’t get into it. Once I saw the films, I was better able to appreciate the book. I am an auditory learner, so the films gave me a better background context for the style of speech in Austen’s time. And it helped me have visuals of places that were only named and not really described. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  5. I began reading the Lord of the Rings in my seventh-grade. I was so fed-up with the length of the book that I discarded it altogether(along with The Hobbit which my father had gifted me around the same time). I was not even interested in the movie thinking it will be another of those stupid fairy-tales. But last year when I went to a cousin’s house he made me watch Lord of the Rings :The Fellowship of the Ring forcibly after listening to my contempt for one of the greatest book+movies of all time. It was at that moment when I could actually grasp the real power of LOTR. I came back home & immediately began reading the book & also downloaded the entire trilogy. And ever since then my puritan views have been completely shattered. It was a great post……………………:)

    http://freedomtosurvive.wordpress.com/ ———you are most welcome to visit & comment. Thank You.

  6. I don’t think there’s a hard and fast rule here – I prefer to read the story first and then see the fimmaker’s interpretation of it as was the case with “Lord of the Rings” (then go and see the locations – is this obsessive?) and “Harry Potter” but sometimes as with say the “Bourne Identity” series – I got to see the movies first which made me want to read the books they were based on. Yeah – book first is the ideal but sometimes it happens the other way. A good adaptation of a book should be a distillation of the story’s finest moments – a bad one well… and as for movies made from computer games… No comment. By the way Mr Jackson… What DID happen to Tom Bombadil??

  7. I prefer to read books first and then watch movies because if i do the opposite, I have the actors that played the characters in my head. I like to form my own characters and settings and then go back and compare my view to that of the movie or show I am watching. It is always a disappointment when movies don’t live up to the standard of the books they are based on. That really gets under my skin. It makes me think why did they say that line that way? Or she’s not supposed to look like that for this part?
    But what can you do, it’s their vision not yours.

  8. I definitely know where you’re coming from. I always used to make sure that I would read the books first before seeing the movies. I admit a big part of me is still like that. However, I’ve slowly been changing my mind. Granted that’s mostly due to Hollywood pumping out movies that I thought were original, only to find out while sitting through the opening credits that they are indeed based on books. (Hugo, anyone?)

    So, although I mostly prefer going to the original source before seeing adaptations, I find that I’m not as snooty about it as I used to be. I find that my experience reading the book after having seen a tv or movie version of it, certainly affects the way I read it, but never negatively. It either gives me more clear visuals of surroundings or characters, but the thrill of actually reading a really good story doesn’t diminish with outside influences.

  9. For me, it depends on the reliability of the film adaptation. If rumour has it that the film shares little with the book, I’d rather read the book first, learn the “true” story first as it were. If the adaptation has the reputation of being reliable, then it’s kind of like watching a trailer for the book- peak my interest, get the backstory and decide if I want to read the whole thing or not.

  10. I write both screenplays and novels which I learned are two very different animals. Novelists have more time to visually describe situations and characters thoughts, whereas, a screenplay acts as more of a blueprint for the film director, producer, etc… True, a screenplay needs to tell a compelling story, but many devices in novels do not translate onto the big screen. I realize that when I see a book translated on to the big screen or little screen, I look for the story told more in visuals than characters’ thoughts.

    For instance, the movie “The Celestine Prophecy” barely resembles the book, which acted more as an adventure-spiritual instruction manual. While novelists can get away with telling and not showing a story, a movie maker can’t unless he or she wants to see their movie fail at the box office.

    I enjoyed reading your post on a popular topic, the movie verses the book.

  11. be warned… the tv season ends about 5 chapters before the end of the book… I read the first book after watching the series, and am now on the edge of my seat, waiting to see how they portray those last, important chapters in the next season.
    I prefer to read the book before the movie, but sometimes, watching the movie makes me more interested in reading the book. I think the important thing is that at some point in the process, you should read the book – it is, after all, the original artists’ rendition of the story.

  12. i still like to watch the movie and read the book so i can connect all the missing pieces that you can’t find in the movie instead getting diappointed for some scenarios that u like and was not included in the movie

  13. Great post! I’d have to say I’m probably like you, somewhere in the middle. Sometimes a movie will lead me to the book, which is great, because maybe I wouldn’t have thought of the book otherwise. But there’s really no ‘rule’ – sometimes I read the book first, sometimes I see the movie first. Either way, as long as the story is told well, there’s enjoyment in it. Nothing beats a book for depth of character and story though – the author just has more time than a film director does! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and congrats on being freshly pressed!

  14. I agree that it depends on the story but I also admit that when I was studying like a hermit crab during law school, a book just did not cut it and a movie was def the winning option!! Now, it depends…I love reading it before watching it, most of the time.

  15. This is an interesting topic. I’ve found that with some books, I am so attached to my own mental version of what it all looks like (e.g Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy) that I’m resistant to seeing the movie; with others, I don’t mind as much (as with Lord of the Rings).

    I think it might be true that some books can withstand being adapted to film better than others. Some books have such atmosphere or such a distinct authorial voice that any film adaptation of them is going to end up quite different from the original simply by virtue of being a movie rather than a book. In these cases, it’s easier to appreciate the movie on its own terms. With other books, the film tends to sort of ‘take over’ – and it ends up dictating how many people imagine the book, which can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your point of view.

    • Great point! I agree that some books are more suited for adaptation than others. Some translate very well to the big screen, and some flop entirely, and in both cases, I think it’s just as much because of the nature of the book as it is because of the director’s vision or the actor’s portrayal. And a lot of times, I think it’s hard to say how a book will do with being adapted until the adaptation is created.

  16. If you want this ubernerdy English professor’s opinion, I think that literature “rewrites” itself for each new audience that encounters it. 🙂 The way one person or generation reads a text will always be slightly different because of the cultural “baggage” that these people bring with them, and in essence, even the interpretation of the screenwriter vs. the director is usually (at least slightly) different. Plus, the demands of screening books are unique when they are adapted for screen; face it–even the best literary texts would most likely bomb on screen if you changed absolutely nothing. As for me, I usually read the book first and then watch the movie, but I inevitably find myself frustrated that the film doesn’t get it entirely right, which is why I have opted to begin seeing movies first and then read the book. That way, I can appreciate both. 🙂

    • I love ubernerdy opinions! Thanks for your thoughts 🙂 I really like your point about cultural baggage – I think that plays a huge role in people’s interpretation of books and movies, and makes the stories more fluid as a result. To continue with that, I think it’s so interesting that the same story can have such a different impact on different generations, and that new things can continually be revealed as different age groups and cultures look at a story from their own unique perspective. One of the many wonderful things about great writing 🙂

  17. While I generally believe that most books are better than their screen adaptations, I don’t follow a set rule for the order of seeing the book or the movie. Sometimes it happens that I become aware of a book only after I’ve seen the movie or the shows (love Game of Thrones!). That’s how it happened with True Blood as well, but once I started reading the books, the show no longer had the same appeal because it’s approach was entirely different from that of the author’s.

    There is one movie that I feel was actually better than it’s book counterpart and that’s The Devil Wears Prada.

  18. Enjoyed reading your blog.. Interesting topic.. but I still prefer book over movie since a novel gives you an opportunity to test your imagination and take it to a extreme level and create an altogether different world similar to the movie ‘Inception’.. But still, a nice article..:)

  19. I used to be a purist. Then our book club became a movie club on a few occasions – some members hadn’t read up in time! The ensuing discussions helped broaden my view. However, as I’m an avid reader and have a powerful imagination, I would much rather read and travel to where the author wants to take me. If a director does it differently what I saw in my minds eye, more power to them 😉

  20. You are right to point out that there is no way a filmmaker can ever get all of the nuances of a book on screen. Even so, I am torn about which is better. In the end, I think neither is better because the film and our imaginings are different interpretations of the same source material. Look at the two very different versions of Willy Wonka – the story is essentially the same but the art direction of each is very different. And sometimes, as in the case of “the Bridge of Madison County,” the movie can make the story better.

    • Bingo! …Madison Bridges, the book is too short…and the film is superb!
      In “Dangerous Liaisons”, I loved to see the film first…to see the “scenarios” multiplies the possibilities while reading.
      (Though I’m a compulsive reader, in these 2 cases I thank for the film!)

    • I’m with ya there, but what I recently found out upon watching the first Willy Wonka is that Roald Dahl penned the screenplay. That threw all of my previous notions out the window. Tim Burton said the second movie (which I haven’t seen) was closer to the book, but I guess Roald Dahl was cool with the first. I assume…

  21. I barely touch fiction anymore (where by “barely” I’m pretty sure I mean “never”), but I’ve found that if the book is good, your imagination will take over whether you’ve seen a visual rendition of it before or not. I saw Chamber of Secrets before reading it, and while my eyes were perfectly happy indeed to rest upon Jason Isaacs with huge blue eyes and waist-length hair, my mind’s eye took no time at all to alter the image of Lucius Malfoy as I read to book to more of a grey, knifelike little trapdoor-spider sort rather than the version in the movie, who was incapable of blending into a crowd.

    If the book is good, your own imagination will grab the reins fairly quickly. If not then, the movie probably sucked, too. 🙂

    • What a great point! You’re so right; a book’s ability to supersede the images from its movie says a lot about the book’s quality. When the book is able to take on a strong life of its own for the reader, even after the reader has seen the movie version, it’s a great testament to the skill of the author.

  22. Personally, I’d rather look at the original work before I consider its adaptation. I guess I’d call myself a purist in that sense. If a movie was the original piece of art and a book was based on it, I’d prefer watching the movie before I read the book. I think you’ve hit the nail on its head with that bit about the Lord of the Rings. I’d rather that my construction of the artist’s world not be interrupted by a third person’s interpretation. I think I would find it too easy to let my views be shaped by what somebody else has already found in the piece, to not look at things differently. I’d rather draw my own conclusions, with only my interpretation of the artist’s intentions as a guideline.

  23. I’m torn on this subject, too. Normally, I read the book first, then watch the movie. After reading a book, whenever I watch the movie I feel like a) haven’t captured the movie completely by leaving out parts (that were important ito me) b) the actors are just no good for the part (take Kristen Stewart) and c) they don’t follow the book to a T leaving me disappointed in the movie and sometimes, the author of the book.
    So now, if I’ve read the book first I will not watch the movie or if I’ve watched the movie, I won’t read the book because then I’m always trying to follow the movie in the book (if that makes any sense)

    • That does make sense! I’ve run into that with reading the book after seeing the movie, too. It’s hard not to feel a sort of dissonance when you’re imagining the movie while reading the book and trying to assimilate what you’ve already seen with the parts from the book that were altered or cut out altogether.

      • Since I watched To Kill a Mockingbird and then tried to read the book, I do not read a book after the movie or visa versa. I like Classic movies where I can watch without wincing at the language. I know some of the books were much more descriptive.
        Also many of today’s movies from books use shock effect scenes and language which were never in the books, intimate scenes went behind closed doors and allowed imagination and concentration on good story lines.
        A scene in You’ve got Mail (taken from the old Shop Around the Corner which I loved) used language in one gym scene that threw the whole movie off for me. I was told it was added so they could rate the movie to include adults. Do they think all adults like to bombarded with streams of cursing to enjoy a good story?
        I laugh when I think about books like Sarah Plain and Tall. I loved the movies but if the little book had not been embellished, the movie would have been a commercial length film!! Ha,ha. Also the Little House series sure did not follow the books.
        To each his own but I like a prude filter on that doesn’t allow things added to the storyline just to make the film commercially sucessful. Some books you would not recognize as the same story when you see the movie.

  24. I’d definitly always prefer the book before the movie. Mostly because of the pleasure I get from creating my own scenery in my head.
    But if the movie is coming out and is mainstream and a bit cinema hit, it’s difficult to avoid trailers or posters, and then I find it difficult to make up the character’s apperances on my own, if I’ve already seen the character on a poster.. That happened to me with The Golden Compass and Twilight..

  25. What a great subject to broach! I have often asked myself that same question, and thought that I would always prefer the book to a movie version. But like yourself, I mixed it up a few times and found that the book was not really as great as seeing it played out in a movie. So I’d have to say I am like you, going with the flow, even though I do much more reading than movie watching.

  26. I’ll be honest- I’m a sucker for reading the book before the movie. At first, this was just Happy Coincidence: I read books that got turned into movies. There are very few books I’ve seen the movie of before reading the novel.

    Recently, I picked up Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. The movie came out when I was in high-school and I picked it up partly on whim, partly on interest.

    I didn’t read the book because I saw the movie.

    It wasn’t exactly a conscious choice- if I only had 1 more space on my library card and had to chose Nick and Norah or a book I’d knew very little about, I’d choose that other book. Same thing in the bookstore or with a friend lending it to me. For some reason, I have a much harder time picking up the book after I’ve seen the movie.

    It’s the exact opposite with movies: I’ll go see a movie based off a book I read way before any other movie. There’s something about wanting to see “how they did it” that makes me want to run into a theater.

    There are a few exceptions, of course. I’ll admit I didn’t show much interest in Girl with the Dragon Tattoo until I saw a trailer for the movie. Ditto for Game of Thrones, though I’ll admit I’ve yet to pick up either.

  27. What I’ve found is when I read a book before the movie, often times I find that I am disappointed with the movie. I’ve imagined it all happening a certain way and the director, for better or worse, was not present in my brain when I thought about the story.

    When I watch the movie before the book, though, I start picturing everything happening as if I were rewatching the movie.

    I guess it really would just depend on the book, the movie, and, most importantly, the director of the movie. If it is a director I don’t like, book all the way.

  28. I prefer to read the book first so my mind builds the characters from scratch. If I watch a movie, I picture the actors. (Not that this is a particularly big problem in the case of GoT, they did such a great job with the casting.)

  29. I think it depends on the origins of the art. If the book comes before the movie, I would read the book. If the movie was made and then the book, I would watch the movie. And if I adored the story I would bounce back and forth, taking in something different each time I explored the book and the movie. I have yet to find such a relationship. I hope to some day! Great post, great questions. 🙂

  30. In most cases, movie adaptations of a book weren’t as clear as the book. The movies make loose references to the jargon/pop culture referred in the book which they just assume people already know about. Yet there are many people who are entertained by Harry Potter movies without having read the book. I think Twilight movies don’t need a book reading. Either of them are a taste of fantasy for chiclit lovers (if I may be allowed to be opinionated this way). There is not much a movie watcher misses by not reading the book. However, movie adaptations, in some cases take the book’s popularity and its ability to entertain to new heights. For example, Three Idiots, a famous Hindi movie is based on an Indian English novel “Five Point Someone”. The movie script borrows the protagonists (three boys from a top engineering college) and their characters from the book but spins a story that is far more entertaining than the original novel despite its’ author claiming sufficient credit was not given to him. In my opinion, while the book was enjoyable it s own way, the movie’s story and the point it intended to drive home both were far different from the book, and reading it wouldn’t have made the movie any more understandable. Agreeing with you, its a subjective choice, based on the story and how good the movie/book turn out. Cheers on being FP.

  31. I find sometimes a movie would have been better had I not read the book. If I don’t know other side stories the book contained – often a movie and the performances can stand on their own. Sometimes a movie just fails to capture what my mind saw when I read the book – so the movie fails for me.

  32. For me it will always be to read the book first if I have any intentions of ever reading it at all. Partly because it’s the “original.” Mostly though it’s because I’ll happily sit through an hour and a half movie where I know the story far sooner than I’ll work my way through a book which I already know the ending to.

  33. I love this post! I am like you– usually a purist. It seems like people who read the book first– of whatever adaption is en vogue– feel they are the “true” fans. But I agree that movie adaptations are great because they give you a bigger canvas for your imagination.

    I saw The Help movie, but haven’t read the book yet. I’ll get to it! I recently, saw Water for Elephants and then read the book– and honestly, I prefer the movie. That almost NEVER happens.

    I saw the movie Practical Magic first, and now am totally smitten with the book by Alice Hoffman! I read it over and over. 🙂 The movie is totally different, more more simplistic and focused on Sally and Gillian, whereas the book also tells the story of Sally’s daughters, Kylie and Antonia, as well as the Owens women. But I appreciate each as a separate artistic entity, and truly don’t feel one is better than the other. I love them both.

  34. I though about it too. I made a very good point on your post.
    I believe it’s better to read the book first, cos you can imagine it in your own way. And when the movie comes it’s going to chance everything and give you a totally new perspective. It happend to me with Harry Potter, I read the 3 book after seeing the 1st movie and my mind charged like it was like the movies

  35. I recently read “The Help” before watching the movie and found that I disliked the movie because of all the parts it skimmed over. It had so much potential!
    I feel like I would have benefited from watching the movie first in this case…

  36. I’m in the middle. I have read a lot of books that become movies, or I see trailors for movies that are based on books and read the book before seeing the movie. Other times, I realize a movie I really liked is based on a book, and find the book! I almost always think the book is best, and spend half the movie explaining the differences to whomever is in the room (wheither they are listening or not!). 🙂

  37. I am definately one who reads the book first. Most of the time I don’t like the adaptation/interpretatin of book to movie. There have been the odd case of movie first (but only coz I didn’t realise there was a book available). I am happy to take on board what you have said… use their interpretations to enhance my reading experience. Who knows, you can teach an old dog new tricks.

  38. Wow. I like you have always been a purist on ‘Read the book, its better’. Gawd that sounds snarky and snobby when you say it out loud… Anyway, yes, agree to a certain point that you have to read the book first. Case in point, Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. If I hadn’t read the books in order and went to see “Queen of the Damned” in the theaters I would have been confused from “Interview with the Vampire” (the movie) to “Queen of the Damned.” I guess I should say that they didn’t necessarily promote “Queen of the Damned” as the ‘sequel’ and I would have been upset if they had, but there was so much backstory missing that, to me, was integral to understanding what was really happening in “Queen of the Damned.” I suppose I would say, to each their own, but in reality, sometimes you just have to read the book.

  39. I thought Lord of the Rings was better after – I could pronounce all the names in my head, plus had cool images of my favorite actors in the roles.

    Any Tom Clancy book/movie – you’d better watch the movie first – or you will seriously jeopardize your current relationship by constantly muttering – “He didn’t do that” “They completey skipped everything important” “What about the ___?” during the movie and making it impossible for them to concentrate.

    • I know what you mean about pronouncing the names…it’s a bit of a toss-up, I think – either one watches the movie first and gets the satisfaction of knowing how the name is pronounced but the frustration of not seeing the spelling, or vice versa when one reads the book first and has to stumble over difficult names. Something I run into quite often with fantasy books and movies…

  40. In my opinion, it is always better to read the book before watching the movie. Watching the movie just makes your imagination lazy. The few times that I watched the movie before reading the book, I got annoyed by how inferior the movie was! The only exception to this rule is where the book is not a good read, and the movie is done well!

  41. I started watching Game of Thrones before I read the books, but the series was so good I started and finished the first book before the series was over. I actually wished I had waited to read the book until after I finished the series (spoiled the ending for me), but usually I always read the books first.

  42. I’m more of a book purist, but I think I do this more because I’d rather look at the movie and say, “Oh, that isn’t right!” than do the same thing with the book. It may sound a little silly, but it feels unfair to the author, who, after all, invented the work and deserves to be thought of as “first.”

    • That’s a great way to put it 🙂 You’re right that it’s important to think of the author in this, and to give honor and credit where it’s originally due. Good point!

  43. For me, it really depends on the story. For example, I really don’t read any of the graphic novels and I couldn’t tell you the last time I picked up a comic book. But I certainly liked movies like, The Spirit and most Super Hero movies.

  44. Before I started watching many movies based on literature, I was for sure you should read the book FIRST! After being disappointed with the cinematic versions, I think watching the film or tv version first, then reading the work is better. There is so much more you can do in a book. Film is awesome and I love it, but it is limited to what you can see. Congrats on FP!

  45. I prefer to read the book first, definitely. It gives me an advantage because films often cut out integral parts, and in some cases the best parts of the story. I like being able to add in the bits the films have missed out. Books explain what films often fail to. And I like knowing the reasons behind actions, characters thoughts, and motives. But then i’m just as happy to do it the other way round. I had watched all but one of the Harry Potter films before reading the books then crammed them all in before watching the last one. A decision I regretted because until that point I loved the films, but after reading the books I nit picked my way through Part 2 of the Deathly Hallows; criticizing the whole franchise for how much was cut out.

  46. The answer to your question must lie in the heart, not the head. If you are in love with a book it can be devastating to watch someone else violating your beloved, best leave the movie alone. But sometimes seeing a movie or television adaptation of a story you do not know can cause you to fall in love with it, with the author, with everything else that author has written.

  47. Interesting points there, but reading the book first engages your imagination. So as you say it makes it your own. The stories are also far deeper and engaging as it becomes a personal journey within yourself when reading the book first. For me I find if I watch the movie first and then read the book, images of the movie creep into my minds eye. Not the ones I would generate myself. In saying that, people can discover new books or even take up reading for the first time when they have seen a movie or series they absolutely love.
    Guess I’ve just contradicted myself :-). Great post.

    • You make a great point there! That’s one of the things I love most about adaptations of books – they’re a great way to get more people reading the wonderful story that the movie/tv show was based on.

  48. Hi Kirsten

    I do have to read the book first! 🙂 However, I do love knowing which actor/actress plays the character from the novel. It helps me visualise the storyline and characters. Although I should admit that I read the first four Harry Potter books then cheated and watched the others on the big screen!

  49. I am a bit of a purist I enjoy reading the book before seeing the show/movie/tv show. Although the first Harry Potter movie introduced me to those books and the world of young adult reading. I have also noticed that certain movies, and shows with throw in a little something for those who have read the story. Case in point: Wicked, I read the book before I saw the show and at the beginning of the show sits a Giant dragon clock in front of the curtain. This same clock also sits above the stage the whole show, is never addressed and is a wonderful piece of artwork. Personally I think its a little gift for those who have read the book and know where it comes from.

  50. If the genre in question is sci-fi/fantasy, I almost always read the book first. 99% of the time, the book is going to be better than the movie. For non-book nerds, sometimes watching the movie first will get them interested in a book or series that they might not otherwise have read due to the length, or whatever. As for myself, the bigger the book, the better. I love nothing more than immersing myself in a thousand page novel or a series. Bring it! 😀

  51. I think i’m somewhere in the middle, because with many series I saw the movie first or switched up (Harry Potter). I do agree it doesn’t matter if you read the book or watch the movie first. Whatever works best for you.

  52. I would prefer to read the book first. I have read the books first and the movies just suck. I personally love the way that the book has all details it provides. Although there have been times where I have watched the movie first and then read the book and I am not disappointed with the book. But when I read the book, I am very disappointed in the movie. For example: P.S. I love you and Dear John or two of the ones I read first and the movies were not up to par for me. I however love the movie A Walk To Remember, and love the book.

  53. I think it depends, though usually I prefer reading the book first, too. Movie adaptations just have to leave out so much. In the case of The Shipping News, I happened to have rented the movie, was so impressed, I read the book. E. Annie Proulx so drew me in that I pretty much forgot about the movie! But then – a first – I went back and watched the movie again, thoroughly enriched by the novel. I guess it’s best to just be flexible!

  54. Typically, if I know a book is going to be made into a movie I watch the film and then read the book. I view it as a positive-positive; general if I like the movie I love the book for the added detail. When I’ve read the book first I tend to be disappointed by what they left out.

  55. I like watching the movies first before reading the book. I get really annoyed and disturbed whenever i see scenes in the movie that are not in the book and dont see the scenes that are mentioned in the movie. Kudos to a great blog.

  56. I usually get irritated when I watch the movie after reading the book because I often find myself disappointed after waiting for a scene from the book that didn’t make it into the movie. While watching the first Jurassic Park movie, I was so looking forward to seeing a swimming T.rex and watching said T.rex wrap a prehensile tongue around a human head.

  57. “True, a screenplay needs to tell a compelling story, but many devices in novels do not translate onto the big screen. I realize that when I see a book translated on to the big screen or little screen, I look for the story told more in visuals than characters’ thoughts.”
    pnwauthor said this well.

    I prefer to read the book first and then see the movie. Book helps me form my own images of characters and I’m not influenced by preconceived representations of people, places, events.

  58. Ah…the proverbial chicken-egg conundrum. I prefer reading the book first because I know the film version will be condensed and/or adapted to appeal to a wider audience. I go out of my way to not watch movies of books I haven’t yet read, and I go into movie adaptations of books I’ve read with generally low expectations.

    Someone mentioned that the movie version “makes you lazy” and, in a sense, it does; you are skipping over parts of narrative that, to the person adapting the original text, seem like a lot of blah, blah, blah but which, in fact, might reveal something deeper and more meaningful about a development in the story. Film adaptations tend to fill in these moments in the narrative with unnecessary dialogue that seems clunky in comparison to anything else we’ve “heard” the character say in our minds.

    I will offer you my favorite example of a book properly adapted to the screen: A Room With a View. This is a book I have loved for many, many, many (have I dated myself yet?) years and which I only watched in its film version because it had the Merchant/Ivory stamp on it. At the end of the first viewing, the only thing I could find that was not like the book were the words George Emerson yells from the tree and the vegetation that surrounds him and Lucy Honeychurch when he kisses her. That was about it. Of course, over time, I’ve noticed other little things, but it has taken longer to notice them because of how close an adaptation it is to the actual novel. About 20 years after the film I got suckered into watching the new BBC version and I was appalled to discover that an entirely different ending was “invented” by Andrew Davies.

    THAT, my friend, is a prime example of doing a book adaptation all wrong.

  59. Actually I like books very much, I read every adventure books before I watch but sometime, when I can’t get the feel when reading it. I’ll watch the movie to get what the writers is going to tell me, if there’s something different in the movie compare it in the book, I will directly correct it with my own story and presumption.

  60. You brought up a lot of interesting points! I think that it’s sometimes not even possible to choose to read the book first. So many contemporary movies are adaptations, and then at the end of the movie, you see the credits pointing you toward the book. I usually consider the book and movie completely different, but I do agree with you that sometimes watching artistic representations can help you understand or appreciate the story better.

    I especially love watching interpretations of Shakespeare plays and Jane Austen novels because they can be interpreted in so many different ways. It’s pretty amazing- seems like especially with Shakespeare there are infinite possibilities.

    • Thank you! 🙂 I think you’re right–a lot of times, watching the movie happens first by accident, because the book it’s based off of isn’t well-known or has a title that’s different from its movie adaptation.
      I totally agree about Shakespeare and Austen–I love watching the many different interpretations! They all have something to offer, and each adaptation makes the story feel new because it’s being viewed from a unique angle and brings different nuances of the story to light. I see the act of watching different adaptations of classics as a way to make the most of a great story!

  61. I recently took a Lit and Film class that made me really appreciate reading books first before the movie. Besides having more information, reading books first gives you the advantage of adding your own imaginative element. I certainly appreciated rereading Shakespeare’s Othello more than I did in high school. Comparing the book to the movie featuring Fishburne put a whole new spin on the book to movie thing.

  62. I find whatever I do first – read the book or watch the movie – I tend to like better. I used to think books were always better than movies, so I was massively disappointed when some movies I liked were based on awful books. Sometimes the movie just cuts out unnecessary parts. Or maybe whatever you do first becomes the “definitive version” in your mind

  63. I guess you can say that I, too, am a purist. I will tell you all the time that I absolutely have to read the book before I see the movie. The only way that I can do it in the reverse order is if I am a HUGE fan of the author. In my experience it is always better to read the book first because you really get a better understanding of how the characters are feeling and what they are thinking at certain times. Then watching the live adaptation makes a lot more sense to me. I am a Stephen King reader all the way. I have been reading King since I was 8 years old, and I adore just about everything he writes. He is the only author that I can say I will read his books whether I saw the movie first or not. With Harry Potter, I would read a book then watch the movie. By the time I finished the prisoner of Azkaban the movies were so good that I just couldn’t stop watching them. Then I was mad at myself because I never finished reading the series. Even to this day!

    I wanted to say a quick thank you to you for blogging this because it inspired me to write my own blog about how I began reading novels again. I was starting to write a response to your blog and it was so long that the light bulb went off and I said…”Wait! I can blog this!” lol. But I definitely think that reading the books first are always a better experience for me.

      • No problem. I appreciate coming across something that inspired me to write. I have been going through some very rough times and had been unable to write anything. I owe you!

  64. I started my son on Game of Thrones when he was about 14. He was way too young. Two years forward my new partner tells me about this new series he wants to read and I tell him we have the first one in the house. Now 5 of us have read the complete series. To me, I always like the books better, with the exception of Lord of the Rings, to which I have never read. My imagination has been captured already through brilliant film-making and if I read the book I will see the pictures already set before me. There is alot I love of GofT, but it’s too rushed for me in the t.v. series.

  65. Definitely books! Books are so much more fuller and satisfying than movies. Yes, it’s fantastic seeing characters brought to life on screen but in all honesty, for me, movies just don’t compare to what my imagination dreams up. I’ve been a huge reader since I was six years old and I’ve never stopped. I’m always reading something. Watching books I’ve read be made into movies or television shows like Twilight, Jurassic Park or even Lord Of The Rings is awesome… but.. though some of the filmed versions are close to the book versions.. it just doesn’t satisfy me like the book does. I’ll always be a bookworm.

    In regards to A Song Of Ice And Fire… you will LOVE it. I saw the television series first too. I was a bit sceptical of the books because I thought I’d be disappointed by how much would be missing or changed but it’s very little. They’ve stayed very true to the books and have definitely done them justice.

  66. There isn’t a rule here, just personal preferences. I think the main thing to keep in mind is that a film or stage or TV adaptation is just that – an adaptation. If you experience the adaptation first and like it, take it as a cue to go track down the source material. If you read the book first, don’t expect the adaptation to give you the same experience. It can’t and shouldn’t.

  67. BOOK. Seriously, sometimes you don’t get the movie because you haven’t read the book, or you would’ve understood the actions of the movie characters better if you read the book. I mean, it’s nice when you watched a movie, love it, find out it’s also a book and read it. That’s pretty awesome 🙂

  68. About 99.9% of the time, I prefer reading the book before watching the movie. However, sometimes, with time periods I don’t know so well (e.g. Ancient Greece) watching, say Troy, can help with my interpretation of Homer. And helps me understand all the friggin’ Son of Peleus stuff that gets super confusing.

  69. Wow guys. First I want to say that I’m very impressed with your blog here (I just found it, and that makes me sad, but now that I’ve found it I’m very excited. DPI ftw 🙂 ). You’ve done a fabulous job!! Applause!

    Next, I’d like to toss in my 2 cents. Though in the past I’ve been a staunch “book first” gal, I’ve recently lightened up too. One of the reasons: there’s no way I’m going to be able to read all the books of the movies I go see. (Because most movies nowadays are based on books, and I don’t realize it until I see the beginning credits.) So that has forced me to reconcile with this. I’ve come to discover that it can be very fun to read the book first, but also just as interesting to watch the movie, or show, first. And, to add a bit of spice, it’s almost mind-blowing to watch the movie/show and read the book at the same time.

    I’m doing that with the Song of Ice and Fire series, sort of. I saw they’d made a show, wanted to read the books, got the first couple, and then started watching the show. So while it’s not perfectly parallel, it’s close enough that I can catch some things I’d have missed if I’d gone one first then the other. So I’m with you, Kristen: any way you do it has merits. (As long as you read the book. 😛 )

  70. I try to read the book before the movie. There are instances where I don’t realize it’s a book or I know I don’t like the author but the movie sounds decent. I found two of my favorite writers by reading the book before watching the movie, Ian McEwan and Kazuo Ishiguro. I feel like I wouldn’t go back to read the book, but watching the movie second only takes a couple hours. I’m also a book addict, so that speaks for itself.

  71. In my experience, it is better to read the book first because the book usually have more intricate plots, deep characterization, and the room for the reader to project her or his own imagination onto the character and in the story. Books are usually a much more vivid and poignant experience, and the movies usually don’t stack up – – “No Country For Old Men” being the exception, as the movie was better than the book.

    However, if you want to enjoy the movie first, I would hold off on reading the book until after you’ve finished the movie adaption. Also, one thing to consider: who is directing the movie? Has the director shown that he or she adapted book into film well? When I heard that Del Toro wanted to do the new Hobbit movie, I was excited to his depiction, despite the fact that I had already read the book several times.

  72. For me its always the books !!! I prefer to let my imagination run wild with the story rather than have pre–conceived set images from movies….. That being said, there are instances when i watch a movie with no knowledge of the fact that its being adapted from a book… In these cases I try to put my hands on these books later and kinda make my own comparison …..

    Good post on a very debatable topic….

  73. This is one of those issues about which people who loves books and movies generally have a firmly held opinion. I used to think Book first, Movie second, for much the same reasons already shared in your post and in the comments above. But my experiences have been different for individual books and movies. Sometimes I love both, sometimes I get disappointed. Sometimes it’s helpful to have read the book first, sometimes it’s frustrating. There’s no blanket answer for every situation. These days I don’t worry too much about the order; it often depends which one I come across first. Generally I try to enjoy both the books and the movies (or shows) on their own merits, without too much comparison. Great post, and congratulations on being Freshly Pressed.

  74. I’m not sure, but I think it depends on which of the two you first knew the existence of. I wish I can be your book friend, but I’m still a baby. When I grow up…

  75. If you watch the movie first, then read the book, you have a better chance of enjoying both because the book is always better. If you read the book first, you may be very disappointed in the movie because you expect more.

  76. I am books all the way! I am so obsessive about movies ruining the book that if I have seen the movie before I read the book, I refuse to read the book at all. And there are books that, after I read them, I promise myself never to watch the movies because I have a perfect world set aside in my head for that book and those characters and any movie rendition would completely destroy that fantasy world that I live in. That is the brief version, as I would argue this point violently because I feel so strongly about it.

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but some people I have dealt with in the past feel the need to press me to change my ways and it has ended badly on all counts. I have become vicious when the world I have so carefully constructed, the one which will always be perfect even when terrible things happen, is challenged and criticized. Sometimes, books are my only escape from the real world, and to have that challenged by someone who does not understand how important reading is to me is nothing short of excruciating and threatening.

    I digress. Everyone has (and is entitled to) their own opinions! I respect others’ thoughts, and I hope all your readers can respect mine. 🙂 Great post and thanks for spending the time to put all your thoughts down in print! Happy posting!

  77. I was a purist, until I discovered differing adaptations/spin offs of some of my favorite book series. When I began reading books that I enjoyed even though they were reimaginations of other books, I started to be more okay with watching movies before I read the books.

    I still almost always prefer the book to the movie; I’m a nerd that way. I just don’t have the attention span for movies, and I enjoy my time curled up with a book much much more than I will ever enjoy watching a movie. But, occasionally, I like to watch the movie and have found that those adaptations can enhance my enjoyment of the original.

  78. It may be the author in me but I always try to read the book before seeing the film. Sometimes I’ll see a movie or television show that I love and later find out that it was a book first (Dexter) but if I knew it was a book first I try to read it. As they say… to each his own.

  79. Since I am a book nerd, I have always preferred reading the book first and then seeing the movie adaptation. Usually I am disappointed by movies based on books–case in point, “Something Borrowed”. The book was great with very complex characters and interesting plot + subplots; the movie was flat and the characters I loved were rendered unsympathetic. Of course, there have been exceptions: I didn’t read “Doctor Zhivago” until after I’d seen the film starring Omar Sharif and Julie Christie. I loved it. Saw it for the first time when I was nine years old. Now I am 41, and I still adore that film and watch it every time it’s on TCM. Read the book when I was 16 and was hooked. I am a Doctor Zhivago fan forever.

    Like you, I also love “Game of Thrones”. I had heard about the books but never read them because I wasn’t interested in investing time in reading a series. Then I watched the first season of the show and I was hooked. I had to know more. I bought the first four books and read them this summer. Now I am going to buy the Kindle version of the latest book in the series.

    I think the quality of the adaptation has a lot to do with what one should first. But if you think you need more backstory/background, then read the book first and try not to be disappointed if the movie is very different…

  80. I used to always first read a book, but then I watched some movie without knowing that it’s the adaptation of the book, so I read a book later and it worked for me, so it only depends on situation, sometimes it’s better to imagine and create a world of your own and sometimes you can rely on somebody’s view of things and maybe better understand the meaning…

  81. Just came upon your blog by accident. I,too, used to believe a book before the movie, in the traditional sense.

    I changed, in the same way you expained in your article. I was very shocked to see someone explain exactly how I felt about it.

    ( You will be an amazing writer, already are;)

    Thank you for sharing.

  82. If I watch the movie first, I usually don’t even end up reading the book, although there have been a few cases where a movie has turned me on to a certain author. Otherwise, I stick to the book first. I can think of a bunch of times where I loved the book but not the move…can only think of two where I didn’t think much of the book but thought the movie was great (Last Exit to Brooklyn and The English Patient).

    Great post! Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  83. who would read a book if they’ve already watched it in theaters? so I say the book should come first and the interpret it in the movies. 😛

  84. I like reading the book first but then I do feel strongly when I see a movie after reading a book and they change a lot of things! But I have found myself watching a movie first and NEVER reading the book ever, assuming that I got what I could from the movie. I think it just depends on which I have time to do first. I do both.

  85. I’m usually the “book before the movie” girl myself; but recently, I’ve either gotten lazy or–well, that’s mostly it, who am I kidding–and have watched before I’ve read. Hugo and Pride and Prejudice to name two. And I have definitely found your words true: “And I discovered that by viewing one artist’s representation of another artist’s work, I was able to more fully grasp and enjoy the book that the adaptation was made from.”

    Thanks for verbalizing it. And taking the pressure off. 😀

    • That’s a good question! At this point, it’s looking like most people prefer to read the book first. That’s what I would have guessed, though. Most bloggers seem to be great lovers of books, as well. Which is wonderful to see 🙂

  86. I always read the book before watching the film. That way I can enhance or I can practice my imaginations in many forms. I’ve always found myself criticizing the movie when it comes to comparing it to the book also, but well who can fit every details of 500 pgs to 2 hrs, really.
    Like the topic!

  87. For me, it’s almost always the book first [the exception being Harry Potter – I watched Sorcerer’s Stone at 7 and started reading the series at 11 with Half-Blood Prince, unfortunately]. Like you’ve said, it enables one to experience their interpretation of the story. And anyway, not all movie adaptations live up to the book they’re based on [i.e. The Time-Traveler’s Wife – I personally think the movie was not detailed enough AND they screwed up Jan “Gomez” Gomolinski’s description].

    Congrats on making the Freshly Pressed panel! 😉

  88. Great post idea! I watched the TV series of Dexter (a forensic scientist by day, sophisticated murderer at night) before reading the books, and I think the TV adaptation was a lot more entertaining. A lot of people probably did prefer the book but the TV series was really well done and became addictive. So I think these days with the power of modern cinematography, directing, acting, everything, films and TV shows can make really fantastic products that can meet or even surpass the quality of the book. It’s an interesting thing to experiment with.

  89. I feel that if you see the film of the book first, then you’re likely to enjoy the book as well. If the Director and Producers make a really good job of adapting a book to film then it works well the other way too.

  90. Could not agree more – used to be a “book first” purist myself until I realised that is not always the case.
    It varies on the strength of the adaptation, for example (imho) LotR needs to be imagined in ones mind with all the myriad details because as much as the movies are awesome but there is so much more – while GoT is so raw and visceral and the performances so intense that it enhances what you are reading by putting in some of the imagery and characters.
    Both have Sean Bean and he is possibly my favourite part of both and dies in both too… I really wish they’d give him more and longer parts at times, the “Sharpe” series’ were great and he is such a great actor.
    Nice post, cheers!

  91. To Kill a Mockingbird… book than movie and book again to be followed by the movie when ever it comes round on the tube. I go either way, sometimes movie first and I know that the book has got to be better. Sometimes book first. As long as we are reading or watching and thinking, that is all that counts.

  92. I liked very much your article. It’s pretty good, congratulations!
    I think it’s more possible for us to have fun with the movie by watching it first. Not that I resist the temptation of letting the book for a second time, but, when that happens, I always – or most part of time – enjoy the movie much better, even if I read the book after that and find it was way funnier, more intelligent, scarier and etc. So, for some books that we’re not so excited to read and it appears a change to watch the movie, I think this experience worths.


  93. I used to be a total purist and would insist on reading a book before seeing the film/TV adaptation. But now I’m more “somewhere down the middle” – especially since I don’t have as much time to read as I used to! I think that as long as someone keeps an open mind and (like you) allows the film/TV adaptation to enrich the book experience, then either option (book before movie, or movie before book) is fine. What’s bad (in my opinion) is when someone watches a movie/TV adaptation of a book and takes that as an absolute representation of the written work.

    Great to see everyone else’s comments/opinions and congrats on making Freshly Pressed!

  94. I prefer to read the books than watching the movies. I sometimes refuse to watch the movie such as Harry Potter. However, I found it very difficult to finish reading The Lord of the Rings book and i prefer to watch the movies. I don’t know, I guess it depends on the books and the movies.

  95. i have always thought the book is better, after watching the shows or movies i feel as if my imagination been stolen , i cant imagine the things my way anymore

  96. I have done it both ways, but I rarely find a film that lives up to the book… There are exceptions to this rule (I really enjoyed the Lord Of The Rings films, if only the first few Harry Potter films had been so well done!), but I mostly feel disappointed after watching the on-screen version of a book I love. Which is why it is sometimes a good idea to watch the films first! And of course, sometimes well made films make you want to read a book you didn´t know exsited..
    Congratulations on being freshly pressed 🙂

  97. I will admit I’m not a huge reader. 1. I don’t have a lot of time and 2. when I do read, it’s mostly technical books. With that said, I did read the entire Hannibal trilogy and watched the movies – movies first. While most books do not follow the movie and vice versa to a “t”, it did help me interpret some of the parts in the books.

    Congrats on being FP!

  98. I agree with some of the other comments in that I’ve always felt it’s better to read the book first and then see the movie. Inevitably I end up being disappointed by the movie (one awesome exception – The Help) but the book is always better and it’s nice to already know all of the back story from the book before seeing the movie. I usually spend most of my time during the movie doing a mental tally of all of the things they’ve “missed” from the book but heh, at least it gives me something to do!

  99. I have to read the book first under most circumstances. I do make some exceptions. If it’s a book I have no interest in reading and someone else is dragging me to the theater to see it, I’ll watch first. Sometimes I’m intrigued and go back to read the book. Other times, I am glad I only wasted an hour and a half of my time.

    The LOTR and Harry Potter books are ones that my kids must read before they watch the movie. No exceptions there.

  100. Wow, this post got my mind spinning! I am definitely open to both, although I’m strongly annoyed by people who would call themselves “purists-purists”. I totally agree with you, watching the movie (or show) can enhance your reading experience, although it can narrow your perception of a novel, granted.
    I really enjoyed watching-before-reading with the Millenium saga. I watched the first movie before reading the book (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), and it helped me a great deal to grasp the whole story, from characters to geography.
    Thanks for this very interesting and insightful article, I’m definitely sharing it with my purist friends! Congrats!

  101. I stumbled across your blog and think you pose some interesting thoughts. I think- and I fear sounding too cliche- it depends largely on what book it is and how much of a vested interest you have to begin with.

    Personally, I’ve never seen a film adaptation that was better than the book, but that’s cause we’re all book lovers and naturally there is more detail, more to the story, and our own mental rendering of events as they take place. Essentially, the novels we read are the reels turning the projectors on in our head.

    I’ve certainly read novels I wish were made into films, if for nothing more than to share their popularity with those less fond of the written word. My only exception is the first Twilight, which I found borderline erotic but that’s just me.

    Cool blog, speaking of which I just published my debut novel ‘Vagabond,’ if you want to check it out for a read- http://www.anthonykarakai.com or facebook.com/karakaibooks.

    Playfully I envision if my novel were to be adapted to film that I’d have full artistic control, but then technically I’d be out of my depth as I’m not a pro in that area…

  102. I think Book First! When you read the book first you have your own imagination of the character and stuff! Believe me, I regret watching Harry Potter when I haven’t read most of the books!

  103. I’ve noticed that when I see the movie first, I enjoy it more and don’t spend the whole time fuming about changes and differences from the book. I saw the first two Lord of the Rings movies before I read the books, and liked them a lot more than the Harry Potter movies, for example, where I couldn’t stop nitpicking about what wasn’t just like the books.

    But on the other hand, I’ve always been glad that I read Pride and Prejudice before I saw any of the movie versions, because I had no idea who Lizzy would fall in love with and it was more fun that way. So I guess I don’t have a strong opinion either way. Whatever I come across first, I’ll read or watch.

  104. I have done both as well. I have noticed some books are much different than their cinematic counterparts. One example would be Forrest Gump. I watched the movie before reading the book and was laughed at by my literary snob friends. The Forrest Gump book is much different than the movie even though they both have the same premise.

  105. My English degree is going to show here, but I ALWAYS read the book first. No exceptions. Savoring the figurative language, fleshing out the characters, returning to key passages when the need arises, escaping into an alternate world of the author’s creation…these are the things that I love most! And on very few occasions do I feel that the screen adaptation does justice to the original, written word. Three films that have actually surpassed the text, in my humble opinion, are A Walk to Remember, Forrest Gump, and The Reader.

  106. Great post! I generally don’t like to read a book after I’ve seen the movie. But I started to read “Game Of Thrones” as I watched the series and I enjoyed that experience very much. I’ll probably read along with all of that series’ episodes in the future. Congrats on being “Freshly Pressed”!

  107. Sometimes it is better to watch the screen version first – with the plot straight in your head, you have more time to focus on the smaller details and really appreciate the writing. Although, I do love reading the book first, sometimes it’s just not possible. Great post!

  108. When you love something, it is so hard to see it screwed around with, isn’t it? When I see a movie based on a favorite book, keeping an open mind is difficult. I always leave with one of three thoughts in my head – “okay, they didn’t f**k it up that badly,” “man, they totally ruined it”, or, once in a great while, “wow, they did a fantastic job and I forgive them for what they left out or changed.” Stand By Me, LotR, Song of Ice and Fire (although I want to reserve judgment until the series is done), Misery, and Shawshank Redemption were very well done adaptions. The Harry Potter movies fall under the first category for me though. True Blood – ruined it 😦

    Very much enjoyed reading the post and everyone’s comments.

  109. I honestly don’t think should even be a debate on this. If the book was published before a movie is released, which is often the case, then the book should be read first. If anything Hollywood has ruined so many good books for me.

  110. It’s interesting you write this now when so many movies that are hitting theaters are based off of books. How relevant of a topic, right? I have to say, like you’re starting to, I go either way when it comes to reading/seeing the movie first. I used to be the same type of purist who thought you had to read the book before seeing the movie adaptation. Lately though? It just depends on the what the movie/book is about. With things like Harry Potter, I usually see the movie first because it helps getting the picture in to my head of what’s going on. But then something like The Help? I read the book first because I had a feeling the movie wouldn’t be as good… And it wasn’t.

  111. It’s difficult to say anything other than the book should always come before the movie, but truthfully, sometimes it is nice to see the movie before the books are read. However, this did mess Harry Potter for me. I cannot stand the movies, and sadly I watched a few of them before reading the books–and the books have been ruined for me.

    Oh, and I’ve been considering giving Game of Thrones a try; thanks to you, I will begin soon.

    Thanks for the post and congratulations with the Freshly Pressed!


  112. For me, it’s always the book before the movie. If I see the movie first, I won’t read the book anymore. I don’t see the point. I already know what’s going to happen so I don’t bother to spend several hours/days of my life reading the novel.

  113. Hi! Wow, what a great article. And what a coincidence: your topic just about illustrates what I’ ll be researching in my Bachelor Thesis. It has some great inputs, so thanks a lot. And congratulations for being featured on freshly pressed. I’ m studying to become a movie director, and fascinated by adaptations. If you’ d like to check out my blog, you can do so here: http://miracleworksfilm.wordpress.com/

  114. I don’t have a preference either way. They’re such different mediums. Books inspire the reader’s own imagination. Movies are, for the most part, something you sit back and consume. Usually not much involvement or investment in them. For movies I greatly enjoy, I like being able to read the book version and delve even deeper into the characters and story. And if I enjoy a book, it’s nice to see the characters and places in my imagination come to life…even if it is someone else’s imagination realized.
    Peace & grace,

  115. Sometimes, novelizations of already existing movies make for exciting addendums to our appreciation of the movie itself. I would say the answer is “it all depends”!

  116. Sometimes getting a preview of a movie is enough. I have students who are reading the Hunger Games now in anticipation of the movie to come. Though I did have one student comment that he would rather have created the characters in his own imagination before viewing someone else’s idea.

  117. What a great post, and I fully agree! I recently promised myself that I will not read the book and watch the movie. It will be one or the other, depending fully on what it is about. I have had some successes: read all 4 Twilight books and eagerly love the movies, I’ve watched The English Patient, then read the book, I read Elephants for Water, then was horribly disappointed in the movie and I think that is when I said no more. But I will make one exception with Girl with the Dragon Tatoo series. About to read the third book, watched the first movie in Swedish, excited about the movie coming out in English and will most likely watch all three when they do come out.

  118. I am a professional writer so I view them as two different mediums as well. They both do things and have strengths the other lacks, but I guess because I am a writer I’m more of a book snob. Which is why I am always so pleasantly surprised when a movie actually follows a book I like very closely, haha.

  119. First, congrats on being “freshly pressed”. 🙂 Second, I think that it can go either way. Like you, I watched GoT first (I also regret nothing! AMAZING SHOW!!). However, I read the book after and I dont think that GoT is a fair example of the book vs movie matchup. This happens to be an example (albeit a RARE one) of the film adaptation being just as good as the book. HBO did an amazing job bringing the page to life on this. Had they done a bad job, I probably wouldn’t have ended up reading the book. I wrote a review of the book here —> http://puretextuality.com/2011/09/22/review-a-game-of-thrones-by-george-r-r-martin/

    With all that being said, I think that 9 times out of 10, it’s very fair to say that the book is better than film. In most cases, films dont do book justice. There are, of course, rare cases where the director really puts the book to good use but that is usually not the case.

    • That’s a really great point – I’ve heard a lot about the fact that the show version of GoT is very well done in terms of being a good representation of the book. As you said, this is rarely the case, unfortunately. So I think it’s possible to gain deeper understanding from adaptations that are done with varying degrees of skill and/or faithfulness to the original, though I do also think that some adaptations have more to offer in that department than others do.

  120. I’m having the exact experience with Game of Thrones as you are: I watched the show eagerly, not really knowing anything about the book series, but I’m now smack-dab in the middle of the first novel. I think you’ll be pleased that it’s surprisingly close to the television show. I was shocked at how closely the plot has been preserved…however, True Blood was the same way its first season and look where we are now. ; ) I’d be really interested to hear your take on a big Game of Thrones book v. show debate about the “wedding night” scene between Dany and the Dothraki guy. It’s extremely different in the book, and it’s raised all sorts of arguments about gender issues, rape, etc. Just a heads up in case you want to weigh in!

    • That sounds interesting! I’ll have to see what I think of that scene when I get there. Seems like there could be some intriguing implications involved!
      I really hope that the GoT show stays as close to the book as I’ve heard it starts off being…it’s definitely got some good potential.

  121. Generally, I’d probably consider myself in the purist-traditionalist category, rattling the drums to the war cry of “Books first, of course!”…but in truth, I’m probably somewhere in the middle. I’ve seen movies before I’ve read books (usually in those instances, of course, I did not know the movie was based on a book), and found no ill-will or taint upon the readings that came after. Similarly, while I’ve plenty of rage for movies that prove to be terrible adaptations of beloved books, movies that nevertheless stray from said books, to GOOD and ENJOYABLE effects (distinct clause there) I honestly don’t have a problem with, because then they are just proving to be two unique, separately enjoyable entities–and that’s something I can get behind.

  122. I would have to say read the book as sometimes they miss out key points in the story but usually they try and make up for it with spectacular visuals in the movie version. It is sometimes worth seeing both to compare. Yes people are sometimes disappointed in adaptations but when it is true to the book like some versions of Jayne Eyre for example it can work out being more enjoyable than just the text.

  123. I’ve done both in the past but I nearly always – probably about 95% of the time – prefer to read the book before seeing the movie if I can, especially if it’s a really good book. Otherwise, when you’re reading the book, you only visualize what the movie makers depicted.

  124. Book first because if you watch (bad example) I am Number 4 film when you’ve read the book you realise what a terrible movie is cause they completely messed up the storyline. And Harry Potter, I saw some of the films and it was no big deal but then I read the books and I <3ed them!!!

  125. I am certainly a purist. If there’s a book, I try to read it. Lord of the Rings is the exception, as I was only about twelve when the movies started coming out and the books were simply too daunting (I do plan on going back and reading those, though, as soon as I have time). My reasons for book-before-movie are relatively simple: Ella Enchanted. Still my all time favorite book (I’ve read it eight times…), the movie just flat out ticked me off. The plot, the characters, and the whole musical addition were blasphemy to this wonderful fairy tale, and I was a little angry that Gail Carson Levine had allowed them to butcher her work as they did. And anyone who watched the movie before reading the book told me how boring the book was compared to the movie. That broke my heart.

    Another small influence on my preference is that I like the characters to match my imagination. Harry Potter is one of my all time favorite series, and though the movies weren’t bad, it was difficult to get Daniel Radcliff and Emma Watson out of my head by the end of the series. This is the same with Twilight saga, which isn’t a favorite, but what I read wasn’t bad. Unfortunately, Robert Pattinson is nowhere close to my ideal Edward, and I hate picturing him and Kristen Stewart when I read.

    P.S. There are other reasons why I’m not a huge fan of movies. Reading http://corlosky.wordpress.com might tell you why.

    • You make some valid points! And I have to say, I agree with you one hundred percent about Ella Enchanted–it’s one of my favorites too (my copy is looking rather well-loved, shall we say), and I was beyond disappointed by the movie version. What a travesty! It’s my go-to example when I’m talking about horrible adaptations. There are way more poorly done adaptations than well-done ones, I fear.

  126. As a general rule, I never watch the movie after I’ve read the book. With few exceptions, I find the movie lacking. The characters never look or sound as I envisioned and what is important to the story line is a matter of perception. How you read is probably one of the biggest deciders on this. Do you read a book then set it down and say, good book or do you read a book like you watch a riveting show, with excitement, anticipating the next page, asking why and occasionally saying but it can’t end that way…

  127. I’m kind of on the fence. I have read books and hated the movie. Then there are some authors that I don’t like their books but love the movie adaptation.

  128. Hi I loved your article. I too would always read a book or listen to the audio drama before watching the movie.
    I did this for all of the Austen adaptation and I worked for me. The same also for agatha Christi’s murder mysteries.
    However when the LOTR movies came out I’m ashamed to say I had no interest. It was years later that a friend gave me the audio drama for book one that I really understood the imense awesomeness of Middle earth. but still it was only when I saw the movies that I really understood. Now when I read the books I have a sense of time and distances which just reading a treat

  129. i usually find reading the book first better than watching the movie, but sometimes, I just can’t get into the book. like lord of the rings, i couldn’t get past the first 10 pages, so in those instances, watching the movie first is better and sometimes, i don’t even get to the book.

  130. I generally prefer and try to read the book first, if I think I’m ever likely to read it. Although I don’t normal visualize a novel as I read it, I like not being tied to a specific image for a character or setting. That said, I’m not too strict about it and I always aim to view the movie or tv show on its own terms–I’m not one always quick to write off a visual representation of a written work by saying “the book was better.”

    I had the sense while reading the Game of Thrones that it was the kind of story that would likely work better for me as a tv show, and the episodes I’ve seen so far have borne out that theory. The actors, sets and visuals in general have done the story well.

  131. The book should be written before a movie script. The reverse usually gives a lame book. I tried to read the Lord of The Rings trilogy before watching the movies. I quickly lagged and gave up about half way through. In those movies, it was helpful to put a voice to the characters, this made it easier to read the tales but did detract some of my own imagination from creating the wild landscapes and various creatures. If I ever read the Harry Potter books, then I will watch the movies.
    In the case of the Dan Brown books, reading the story will ruin watching the movie. So it depends on how fast you read, I think. If you can read his books within a short amount of time (few days to a week) it will be as satisfying as sitting down to watch the movies.

  132. I have yet to see GoT but I do remember being read The Lord of the Rings as a bedtime story when I was young. For a fantasy epic, having the freedom to imagine the world through your mind is certainly a huge perk in my opinion. That said, I was pleased when LOTR came out and there was such a connection between the film and the cover art by John Howe and Alan Lee. When it comes to some of the more historical books, like North & South, I think the movie is a great opener into exploring writings that I might otherwise ignore. I fell in love with North & South before I ever picked up one of Elizabeth Gaskell’s novels. Having been introduced to the almost-Pride & Prejudice-like plot from the film, I’m more likely to now read the book.

  133. I try to read the book first, and feel the books are always better than the films, but sometimes I just like to watch a movie. I also find movies like Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings difficult to follow when not read, but I felt movies of lighter scripts are not bad. I’ve watched a couple of Nicholas Sparks’ novel films and quite liked them, and I haven’t read those novels yet. But the films were quite good and I think it will be fun actually to give faces to the characters.

  134. I try to watch/read the on that comes first, so to keep my imagination “pure”. When I read a book I’m making my own movie in my mind, so I’d like it to be my movie and just mine. Even so, watching your beloved characters from a book come to life on the big screen is a magical thing, no matter how differently you envisioned them in your mind.

  135. I used to be a “book-first” purist too, but nowadays I always go with the movie first – just because it involves less time commitment. I’ve lost count of how many books I started reading & then quit midway through after realizing it wasn’t for me. With a movie, if I quit watching midway through, I’ve only wasted an hour or so.

    And like someone else already commented, it’s hard for me to watch a movie after reading the book without noticing all the differences between the two.

  136. Seeing the title of this blog post..i was thinking “I’m gonna comment and share my experience of GoT”!!
    I usually think reading the book first kind of spoils the movie. I watched GoT first before reading the book..and i found it annoying how many of the characters were preshaped for me by the TV show, making it slightly distracting. The books are much more rich and very enjoyable, but I keep referring them back to the ones on the TV show! It annoys me..

  137. I’d much rather read the book first and then possibly view the movie. Most of the time movie directors distort the author text in order to entertain the film audience by creating dramatic cinematic effect, which works sometimes as in the instance of the Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Other times authors speak of losing their intent and even their input once the book is converted to film.

  138. I was originally a hardcore book-before-movie devotee, with a few exceptions (Silence of the Lambs, The Princess Bride). But, like you, I got caught up in a wave of Game of Thrones viewing and finished the first season before I read the books. t was interesting to be able to pinpoint what was left out of the TV show, rather than trying to match up my imagery of the books to the TV show. Maybe I’m just mellowing out with age, but I can appreciate both ways of approaching it. But in most cases, I’m still going to harumph and wait for the library to lend me a copy before heading to the multiplex.

  139. Pingback: The book or the movie, what should come first? « ATEQ Links

  140. I consider the book and movie to be entirely separate things, and try hard not to let one inform my impressions of the other. In fact, I’ve often found the best movie adaptions of books are ones which do entirely different things–I would say ‘Fight Club’ the movie pretty much kind of did its own thing, while borrowing the basic plot.

  141. I vote for the book to come first. It’s hard for me to read a book after seeing the movie. For instance, I’ve seen the movie “Rebecca” about a dozen times, and so when I read the book, I found myself watching the movie in my head. Kinda distracting. On the other hand, I’d never seen the movie version of “Jamaica Inn” (by the same author) so I found it much easier to get into the story.

  142. The original article, and most of the comments (I admit not reading every one) seem to leave out two categories – movies based on video games and on comic books. If the movie is based on a video game, let us hope there is never a book. If there is, there is no reason to read it. If the movie is based on a comic book, the fans have probably read the book(s) first, but who cares?

  143. I’m another Go with the flow guy. I read or watch whatever I see first. Most of the times I’m disappointed with the movie adaptations of books but I have been impressed at times, but rarely. With movies to books I’m always satisfied and it’s a surefire way for me.

  144. Great post! I’m like you in that I usually think it’s always better to read the book first, but you brought up some good points from your experiences. I think with some books like Harry Potter it’s better to read them first because then you can imagine the whole Harry Potter world before you see it brought to life for you on screen. I remember my image of Harry, Ron, and Hermione was quite different than the actors’ images when I saw the first movie. Now I’ve gotten used to them and wouldn’t imagine them any other way, but before I had my own vision of them. That being said, I still think if you’ve seen the Harry Potter movies you should read the books. A lot of people don’t seem to understand how much they are missing out on by not reading the books. But with other stories, like movies you see once and then think it might be interesting to read the book, then it probably works fine to read the book afterward.

  145. Generally speaking i prefer to read the book first so that I have the opportunity to understand what is motivating the characters. But I have had the experience of not ‘getting’ the mindset of a character or even the context of part of a plot. In those cases I have found that seeing the movie has cleared up some of my questions and has not interfered with my enjoyment or imaginative experience of the book.

  146. I try to always read the book first, but I’ve found that so many times it makes the movie adaptation totally unenjoyable to me. I do get ensnared with shows like True Blood and Game of Thrones though and haven’t even made the attempt to read those books yet, haha.

  147. I always try to read the book first and then watch the movie, but I have done it the other way around too. The thing is, sometimes movies end up disappointing me because they missed X or Y detail. I guess it’s hard to put everything into film. Then again, some adaptations are very good, like The Da Vinci Code, the movie was exactly like the book. But, in other cases, I have seen movies that don’t measure up to the book, for example, my all time favorite, Wuthering Heights. I have never seen a proper movie adaptation of that one. They always change the end or add up something weird that was never mentioned in the novel, I don’t know. Since it can’t be helped, nowadays I tend to go with the flow… 🙂

  148. You do have the gift of making something like the chicken-or-egg question so incredibly personal and simple to understand and converse about.

    As an English teacher I always had this inherent (stubborn) belief that the written word should always come first, and the movies were simply “adaptations” of what are finer and more authentic versions of the story. But your point about how there are advantages and disadvantages to either reading or watching first has persuaded me. (Not that I wasn’t convinced previously, I just didn’t want to admit it I think.)

    The only issue here is that some may assume that watching the movie is equivalent to reading the book, and by doing the former, he/she loses the biggest incentive for reading the book i.e. to know the story. Granted, we all know the film and book versions are never the same, but it is much more convenient to watch the film (2hours of visual entertainment) than read the book (1 day, at least?) to know the story. That is one of my biggest concerns should we give in too readily to watching movies.

    • I would agree with you on your issue. I’m an extremely detail-oriented person and so I always feel that everyone needs to know all the details of a story…if they only watch a movie/TV show based on the book, I feel that I need to fill them in on what’s not being expressed in the show. (In fact, I did this with my boyfriend’s mother who watched Game of Thrones…I convinced her to read the books because I would give little tid-bits of back story that wasn’t in the show)

  149. I used to look for books that movies are based on and read them before I see the film but I found that when I read the book first I enjoy the movie less. I still go see movies based on books that I have read in the past but now after seeing a movie I often find myself searching for it’s book and enjoying both for what they are.

  150. I definitely used to consider myself a purist when I was a nerdy academic at school and uni, but have chilled out since then…since having a fulltime job and less time to tackle the written word! Not proud but there you have it 🙂

  151. Watched LOTR 1 first before reading the book. And I discovered that I love the story so much more in the book than in the film. Read the Two Towers before I watched the movie and I was amazed at how they have managed to bring the words of Tolkien into images. So, I agree with you that there realli isn’t just one way of doing it. Either you read the book first or watch the movie before buying the paperback. Although, I should be honest that before I was a total book before movie first. Until I realized what fun is there in that? So I mix it up.

    Great post. Congrats on making freshly pressed! 🙂

  152. I’d have to always go with the book, but discovering how much better a book is AFTER seeing the movie adaptation is kind of refreshing sometimes. Yes I just voted for both. 🙂

  153. When I read “Gone With The Wind” after the movie, I have to say, it added life to the whole reading experience. And over the chapters the image of the characters got different and detached from those presented in the movie in my mind. If you ask me, what is better? The movie or the book first? I’d probably give a retarded answer because I’m really not sure. I think an open mind is desirable in this situation. Sticking to one thing might result in disappointments. We should change often and see what works best for us.

  154. I prefer reading the book to watching the movie first, books have a depth that a movie can seldom capture. I find that in the beginning every civilisation is based on a book, Greece on Homer, Europe on the Bible, the Islamic Empire on the Qur’an. And the first things God created were a pen and a book with which the history of the heavens (or universe) and the earth were written… Books rule. Nice post 🙂

  155. According to me undoubtedly book comes first,because books not only share the knowledge but also thinking capability and think creativity.
    With books every one get knowledge like rich and poor but coming to movies few movies are useful which is helpful for all and poor people cannot able to watch movies,the fundamental thing is it’s an entertainment mean but not for learning human values and social ethics which we can learn through books,so my first priority goes to Books.

  156. I try and read the book before I watch the movie but I do agree with some of those that have commented previously that watching the movie sometimes enhances my reading of the book. 🙂

  157. Good you mentioned it: I’ve read The Lord of the Rings many, many times. When the film came I got curious and went to see it. I admire the great acting, the scenery, the script, and it’s respect for mr Tolkien. Books and film can very well live together. When I now watch it on DVD I’m watching Jackson’s Middle Earth. And yet I still read the books now and then, enjoying my very own Middle Earth again.
    But how about this: I meet a lot of people who only saw the film, yet pretending they have read the book…

  158. I would always enjoy the merits of both. Reading a book allows you to utilise your own very powerful imagination. However having a film allows the level of accessibility to all without needing to visualise the characters.
    I have found books have given me a want to see the film and vice versa. Enjoy your newfound freedom to choose which comes first.

  159. I think it depends on how closely together you’re going to do the two. If you read the book way ahead of the movie, it’s fine, but reading the book immediately before seeing the movie always sets me up for disappointment. I can remember all of the book’s details and compare the two too much.

  160. The only exception to that rule that I ever found was Hamlet. Watching Kenneth Branagh play Hamlet inspired me to read the play and love it.

    Apart from that I’ve never watched the film first and had it work out for me. A lot of the time I steer clear altogether of the films of books I read.

    • I’d say that Shakespeare is a great one to make an exception for–his works are plays, after all, and plays are primarily meant to be viewed, not read. I’ve read several of Shakespeare’s plays before seeing them performed, and while I was able to get the gist of the story by reading them, I found that watching a performance or a movie version helped me to understand his plays much better.

  161. In most cases, I’d rather read the book first because you get a lot more insight into characters and their motives. There have been a few times when the movie made it to me before the book (in this case, The Help). I loved the movie so much, I’m almost afraid to read the book.

    I am making sure to read The Hunger Games Trilogy completely before the movie comes out in March, but I have to admit it helped me visualize the characters better once I knew who’d been cast in the movies.

    • You should definitely read The Help! If you enjoyed the movie, I think you’ll really like the book as well. In my opinion, the movie version of The Help is among the small number of adaptations that was really well-done. I read the book first and found some discrepancies between it and the movie, but overall, I was very impressed with how well the movie represented the book.

  162. Book first, with few exceptions. I really enjoy creating my own reality around words rather than having someone’s vision thrust at me on a plate. Having said that, there are wonderful film adaptations out there, I loved 300, a brilliiant adaptation of “The Histories” by Herodotus.
    If the film inspires anyone to read the book – briliant.

  163. I prefer reading first. But it’s a bit frustrating that, once you saw the film, you can’t remember the faces you’ve had in your head before you’ve watched the film.
    Sometimes I think it would be better to see the film first, because often they are disappointing when you know the book…

  164. Great article.
    I don’t think it matters what comes first. I’ve read books then watched the film and felt let down. But I’ve also watched a film or TV series then read the associated books and felt let down. Equally, though, I’ve watched a film, read the book and felt better off for knowing more detail and getting a better backstory. I’ve also read a book, then watched the film and being able to see the character has helped me to engage with the book more.

    Game of Thrones is an excellent show but I’ve struggled with the books. I loved reading TLOTR and loved the films even more. I loved Jurassic Park when I was a kid and when I read the book by Michael Crichton it made me love it more.


  165. I generally fall in the book first camp. With the exception of ones where the mystery/twist/surprise is key to the enjoyment. Such as Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I find with these type of stories I like to have the surprise unfold during the film, and that knowing the plot points doesn’t spoil the book, as that will (it’s hoped) have other details that add to the experience. Whereas films are so distilled down that reading the book ahead spoils the surprises.

    Still, for most character-driven stories, I still prefer the book first.

  166. I had the exact same experience with Game of Thrones – although I’d never heard of the books. I’m usually really strict on reading the book before seeing the adaptation, but watching GOT definitely helped me to understand the book a little better.

    They’ve really done it justice, I think. I’ve read all of the parts that are out now, I just need the series to catch up with me! I can’t wait to see what they’ll do with some of the newer characters that are introduced. xx

  167. The book ALWAYS comes first. I’m actually reading Game of Thrones now, and I’m really enjoying it! It’s such a good book! It’s funny because my Grandmother has been watching the series and the characters that she likes are the characters that I don’t like because they are portrayed differently in the two (as most book to film/show do). You also get to know the characters better through the books. In my opinion.

  168. 99% of the time I’ll say read the book first. Most of the time, the movies are poor representations of the book (ahem Timeline ahem…I only watched about the first 15 minutes of that movie…AWFUL, but I love the book). And, like you said, sometimes certain ideas are set for you because of the writer/producer/director’s impression/vision of the story. But then you have The Godfather for which both the book and movie were brilliant. It’s a fine line, but I do find that more often than not I am disappointed in the movie version (like you, I’m a purist…every detail is important!) However, I also watched Pride & Prejudice first then read it and I felt that watching it helped me keep all the characters straight…sometimes I think it’s easier that way with older books because the language may be odd or there may be a lot of characters so if I have a face to go with the name it’ll be smoother reading.

    As far as Game of Thrones is concerned (and I’m sure you’ve heard TONS of stuff about it by this point), the books are amazing. I read them for the first time back in 2005 and when I heard they were making a TV show I was really apprehensive because I didn’t want it to be butchered (which is very easy to do with this particular genre). However, the producers of the show have done an incredible job…and I think it’s partly because they’re such fans of the books themselves. Also, they have the ability to essentially make each book a 10-hour movie, if you will (one hour per episode) and therefore explore more of the characters and smaller plot points that would have to be cut out if it was to be made into a movie. Overall, I’m very pleased with the portrayal (and I can’t wait for season 2…in April!)

    Whoa, sorry for such a long comment! 🙂

  169. Book first, except for game of thrones. There, you’ve got a cast of, literally, 1000s. It kinda helps to get the big players straight first…

  170. I think a book is always more detailed and intriguing than a book. The details of every movement, action and or emotion can be delivered best in a book and from there, depending on the director’s skills, can be put into a movie. Mental transformation first, then visual transformation. Make a book out of a movie and you make it repetitive and the skills required are not that immense, look-write-add value that is pretty much it.

  171. I’m not entirely sure which is better. In some regards like The Lord of the Rings series, I watched the movies rather than reading the books. In some other cases like the Twilight series, I read all the books before I watched the movies and was a little disappointed in how little most of the books were in the movies. I would have to say in my honest opinion, it really depends on the person and what they like to do. Lengthy books are in a way, much better in movies.

  172. I completely agree that it can go either way! I am a pretty hard and fast purist most of the time, because it drives me nuts picturing Hollywood actors in books rather than the other way around. (Like right now, I’m reading “The Hunger Games”…my opinion of the book aside, it drives me insane that I’ve already seen so many stills from the upcoming movie. I can’t get Jennifer Lawrence’s face out of my head, which feels unfair!) But there are occasional exceptions. As much as we purists want to read everything first, even a three-hour movie is often much more feasible than a thousand-page book. No sense beating ourselves up about it; movies can enrich our lives too.

  173. The majority of the time I like to read the book before it becomes a movie or television show, but there have been some instances when I have watched a show/movie and become intrigued about the writer…for instance, I didn’t start reading (or was even aware of) Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse mysteries until I had seen the first season of Trueblood on HBO. And now, I enjoy the books more than the television show mainly because there is so much more detail in them and they are so different from the show. However, I love the movie, The Color Purple, but didn’t care too much for the book…

    And there are some rare cases like The Kite Runner, The Help, Their Eyes Were Watching God, The Secret Life of Bees, All of the Twilight movies, and many others where I enjoyed the books as well as the adaptations of them. I really think it just depends on the circumstances…

  174. For me, almost always read the book first! Because I think adaptation movie mostly lack of details which–in the book–shape the characters and escalate the stories. Watching the movie afterwards is like visualizing your imagination and inspiration built-up from reading the book–if it’s a good adaptation. I made exception for Twilight series though. The books are not as rich and dreamy as Harry Potter or LOTR, so I didn’t bother to read the last one before watching the movie.

  175. I have the notion that it should always be book first but there are some stories I wouldn’t have contemplated reading if it hadn’t been for the movie.

    In the same way that the enjoyment of one can make you read/watch the other, it can also ruin the experience. I can’t bring myself to watch some movies as I know that, due to my love of the book, I’ll just be disappointed. And some novels have been completed ruined as I can’t get the movie images out of my mind whilst reading – although not necessarily a bad thing it can be quite disappointing to have someone else’s visions superseding yours before it even has a chance to develop.

    But generally it happens as it happens and a lot of the time it’s a case of one or the other for me.

  176. movies first.
    so it’ll be easier to read the book afterwards. heh.

    also people usually nitpick on the movie cos the book’s more developed.
    so i rather let the excitement build up then get disappointed.

  177. I completely agree. Especially with anything Shakespeare. Watching the movie first can actually enhance the book making it understandable and even more real. Sometimes the first time we read something we forget it. If something is good, we should study it, and see why it works and even, how others have interpreted it, and reflect on how we, ourselves feel. If you want to be a good reader or film buff, I believe, this deeper understanding is essential.

    • Yeah, but I still have Leo Dicaprio and Claire Danes in my head from Romeo and Juliet and I don’t think that’s what Shakepeare intended. 😉 But, in most cases I think that it does enchance understanding.

  178. Read the book and don’t bother with the movie..it’s not going to even remotely resemble the book. Sometimes, if it’s a catchy title, the movie producer wants only that and then makes the movie he wants.
    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

  179. I like to watch the movie first and read the book after because if I read the book first, the movie sucks! I have all these expectations for the movie and end up getting disappointed and noticing every little thing they left out or changed around. I’m a huge fan of the twilight saga so I had to watch each movie before I read the book so now I have to wait for the second part of Breaking Dawn to come out next year so I can finally finish reading the saga. It’s been quite a process but totally worth it!

  180. I think about this alot too! I thought I was the only one. I find that if I read the book first, I’m a purist and tend to look down at changes in the movie. If I see the movie first I usually end up liking it more than the book. The latter is what happened to me with North and South. I enjoyed the movie so much that I got the book and was disappointed in how the story was handled by Gaskell.

    With LOTR, I saw the first movie before reading the book. This is the only case where there seemed to have a synergistic effect. I fell in love with both the books and the movies! I had to re-read the books to understand some parts of the movies. That, I guess is the power of Tolkien (power to the nerds! 😉

  181. This is an interesting question. I don’t know how many times I’ve gone with friends to see movie adaptations of books (Harry Potter is the first one that comes to mind) and then have to listen to them complain afterward because it didn’t fulfill the expectation that the book sets up. I guess when I go to see a film version of a book, I already have the expectation that it’s not going to be EXACTLY like the book, though sometimes I get annoyed when some aspects of the book don’t get translated into the movie. (Like Harry’s eyes being green in the books but blue in the movies, though I guess that was due to the fact that Daniel Radcliffe couldn’t wear contacts.) I know I have seen movies before that were based on books, and I had no idea until I saw it mentioned in the credits. So, I guess I can agree with you in saying that depending on which book and which T.V. or film version, the “go with the flow” approach is probably the best way to do it.

  182. Im a book person myself….. I would much prefer to read than watch movies. 9 times out of 10, i prefer to read the book first then watch the movie… Rarely do I like the movie better.

  183. I always used to think that I was a purist, and would never watch a film first if I ever intended to read the book. I wanted to form my own opinions of the story before having someone else’s thrust upon me, and therefore influencing my opinions. However, like you, Game of Thrones completely changed my mind. I did not think I would be reading the books so I watched the TV show first. How wrong I was. The TV show was simply brilliant, and it actually enhanced my reading of the book. I am now really excited to read the rest of the books, and the purist in me is insisting I do it before the second season comes out 😛

  184. In all fairness i like reading books before they come out as films, however, some people won’t pick up the book until they have watched the film. Im sure a lot of Authers have had revenue from books after someone has brought out a film version….because it interests veiwers to read the book. I have done this on a few occations, but as i enjoy reading more i like to read before watching the films so that i get a true representation on what the writer wanted rather than the director of the film.

  185. I wish I’d stumbled across this post a few weeks ago, because I just finished teaching a course about writing through adaptation, and this was the major thread of our conversation all semester.

    As a general rule, I read the book first, because I really enjoy seeing how an adaptation enriches my own understanding of the story or challenges me to read it in a new light. But I also think there’s something to be said for the idea of “reading backward”, so to speak. Very often, adaptations wind up selling the book, drawing in more readers who might not have otherwise read a story by introducing it in a fresh, often easy-to digest way.

  186. I also think about should I watch the film first, or read the book first. I have a book club group with some friends, and we tend to read books and then think of watching the movie afterwards, however I always find that when I have read the book first, I am almost always disappointed in the film. The films never seem to meet up to my expectations. For example, we read: One Day by David Nicholls, and we all absolutely loved the book and just a couple of days ago I watched the film that was recently in the cinema and found myself complaining throughout the first half that they were rushing through and missing out a lot of details which I felt were important to the story.
    The second half of the film however focused in a lot more detail and really followed the book well and I wasn’t disappointed.
    I always feel, if I watch a film first I will enjoy it and then when I read the book I will be even more wow’d by that, therefor I am able to enjoy both.
    I did read all of the twilight books after I had watched the first two movies, and the books are absolutely fantastic and recently watched the fourth movie which is the first half of the breaking dawn book, and I have to say I found the film to be very “nothingy” (I know that’s not a word) and so I think definitely watching the film’s are best to do first, as long as your not the type of person who would think “oh I have watched the film there’s no need to read the book now”
    What I love about watching the movies first is that when I read the books, it makes it so much more real for me, I can see the characters and the places and the story really comes alive for me, but I also know that its nice to make it up with your own imagination sometimes.

  187. I usually like to read the book first, but in the case of Game of Thrones I had tried to read the book years ago but couldn’t get into it, because I was young and turned off by all the violence. People had been asking me for years if I had read the series, and I always said that I had, ashamed to tell them that I didn’t like it. So when the show came around I decided to see what the fuss was all about, and didn’t expect at all that I would fall in love with it. I enjoyed the show so much that I told myself I would only read the first book, and wait for the second season, but I couldn’t. Now I’m on the fourth book, and loving this series.

  188. I am a purist- have always been and am likely to remain so until the end of my days.
    I blame that on the Harry Potter movies actually, evn though I read the books first, the movies often make me cringe.
    I loved your post!

  189. I just had this debate with “War Horse”. I was invited to attend the Red Carpet World Premiere of “War Horse” and struggled with whether I should read the book or not first. My husband’s take on it was that I shouldn’t read the book first, or it would ruin the movie for me. If the book is fresh in my mind when I see the movie adaptation, I’m more likely to gripe, I think. So I listened to my husband and I saw the film first. It was so powerful, and I had no images in my mind of how I thought it should be based on the book (had I read it first). I don’t think anything was “lost” to me for not reading it first.

    I’m less excited about reading the book because the film is so incredible, but I will read the book eventually just because it is such a beautiful, heartbreaking story.

  190. Personally, I feel that nothing beats letting your imagination run wild while reading the book before appreciating other people’s interpretation of the story through the films! But films are certainly cool in helping to better comprehend the book, especially the classics. :/ Cheers!

  191. It’s really hard these days, I still think Books are better then the movies, but I think when it comes to Nicholas Sparks his movies tend to be better then the books.

    I like to escape into a book before I see a movie, but if it’s going to be a hard read like Lord of The Rings, or Narnia, or books by Dan Brown type sometimes I need a bit of help from the movie to help get me through.

    Books like Twilight, and Eragon series are so much better then the movies because you use your imagination more.

    One thing I must admit I didn’t like was Virginia Andrews series take on the mini tv version. compared to the book series the book was well better and the tv version was completely wrong in parts I don’t know if they wanted to do an updated version but surely they could have kept it more to the book.

  192. I agree with your statement that it is sometimes best to read the book prior to watching the TV show or movie based on it. Case in point the “Sword of Truth” series by Terry Goodkind. Had I not read the entire series prior to watching the Legend of the Seeker series that was adapted from it I would have dismissed one of the greatest fantasy series’ I have ever read as mindless drivel.

  193. MOSt of the time the book is better than the movie. You have more time to immerse yourself with the plot, characters, to feel what they feel – all of those happen too fast in the movie. For example, Atonement, the movie with K. Knightley and McAvoy was nothing like the book…

  194. Pingback: Weekend Special: It’s the most wonderful time of the year « Reel Librarians

  195. If you’ve read the book first, does that mean you can’t properly enjoy the dramatic plot twists because the element of surprise is missing?
    I went to see ‘The Ghost’ (Polanski, based on Robert Harris) and remember thinking how glad I was not to have read the book in advance.

  196. Book is a personal experience and prayer. Movie, going to church, temple, masjid or synagog for want of something, or to repay the debts.
    Good you started the discussion. I am glad that the comparison is close to many a people’s heart.

  197. Great post, agree… mostly with you. I’ve never read LotR and loved the movies, and watched GoT before reading the books.

    That said, while GoT was faithful to the book of the same name, Season 2 is set to be a lot less faithful. And, while George Martin tells a good story, I don’t think he’s that great a writer. I’ve stopped reading halfway through Dance with Dragons just because it’s so bad.

  198. Movies help to solidify a location in mind if you’re having problems picturing it from a book. However, letting your imagination run wild in a book is incredibly gratifying. For me, I’d have to say I sit in the middle. I’ve flip flopped between book/movie, movie/book, and found it’s almost like experiencing the same story from a different set of eyes–which makes it new all over again. In the case of “Titan A.E.” I’m a fan of the movie, but reading “Akima’s Story” and “Cale’s Story” along with reading the Titan A.E novel filled in the movie’s monster-truck sized plot holes. As with “LOTR”, I couldn’t actually get through the books, as I never had the patience for them. The movies turned out to be the best way for me –personally– to experience and wrap myself up in the fantastic phenomena that is Middle Earth. As a fantasy author, knowing where your roots come from is as important as how high your plot branches are reaching.

  199. I’m somewhere…in the middle. 😛 It’s hard to choose which way to go, book or movie first, but you are absolutely right about movies helping many times to expand your own understanding and imagining of the novels they’re based on.

  200. I always try to read the book first, but it’s not mandatory. I will always see the original before seeing the remake, but I will see movies before reading the book.

  201. I’ve enjoyed reading the book both before and after watching a movie or series. What I’ve never truly enjoyed, though, are books based on a movie. It seems to me that the movie must be the adaption, not the book.

  202. Great post! I love movies and books equally but for me it’s rare for a movie to equal or surpass a well loved book. A Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre that match the books have yet to be made for me. I’m always casting those two in my head and particularly trying to find the perfect Cathy and Heathcliffe. The Unbearable Lightness of Being movie was one that did surpass the book for me. And quite a few of the Jane Austin adaptations were at least equal, though different.
    Am going to add your post to my blog and link back to yours if you don’t mind as it’s such a thought provoking topic.
    Well done from Katy Press – a little publisher of very big books!

      • Maybe you could start a new post on casting characters in books Kristen? It would be fun. My latest Cathy (Wuthering Heights) is the actress Holliday Grainger who played Lucrezia in The Borgias and maybe Michael Fassbender or Jonathan Rhys Meyers for Heathcliffe – jury is still out on that for me!

  203. The book. Always the book. And then they shouldn’t even make it into a movie because Hollywood always blows everything out’ve proportion and twists the real story at hand.

    Always the story first.

  204. love your post, its like you stole the ideas out of my head. =D wherever possible i do try and read the books first but since my pile of books to read fills a whole standing shelf unit it isnt always possible! As for Game of Thrones ive been desperate to watch the series but cant get to the book so think im just going to have to give in and watch the series first. Although i am being good and not watching the Sharpe series before finishing all 20 odd books and short stories. lol

  205. I’d go with the review of the movie first along with checking out the author’s response to it. If its good, or really good – watching the movie before should work. Worked for me at least.

  206. I usually read the book and then don’t watch the movie at all. If a book is well-written, the fact that it is a book (and not, for instance, a movie) is inextricably linked to the work as a whole. So good books naturally tend to resist successful adaptation.

  207. As a generalization, the book a movie is based on is usually better (with certain exceptions). When you read the book, you form your own opinions as to what the characters and locations look like as well as being able to get into the characters’ heads. When a movie is made, many concessions are made: movie stars are cast whether they fit the character or not; budget restraints limit set pieces; director’s vision (as well as the contributions of other artisans working on the film) may differ from what you pictured while reading the book; screenwriters add their own flair to make the story their own; running time causes scenes to be cut or characters to be combined; and many other changes are made for random reasons.

    Many, many times people are disappointed with the movie that’s made from a beloved book. However, if you see (and enjoy) the movie and go back and read the book afterward, you may find a greater love for the book because suddenly the world you enjoyed on film has expanded. Look at the Harry Potter series, for example. The films are a pared-down version of the story, often cutting out material that is fun but can be seen as padding (S.P.E.W. anyone?); these are unnecessary for a movie, but a novel can take all the time it wants developing these things.

    Of course, there are novelizations of movies, but that’s another topic altogether.

  208. I used to believe that I should read the book first before watching the movie. With Harry Potter, that only left me frustrated; but you have a point when you said that it’s okay for directors/screenwriters to have different opinions about the book when it’s adapted.

    While I still prefer reading the book first before seeing the movie, having seen the film adaptation of David Nicholls’ One Day first before reading it, helped me appreciate the book more.

    And while some film/TV adaptations have left me frustrated, others are actually quite good, especially most of the book-turned-TV series, e.g. Gossip Girl and The Vampire Diaries.

  209. I still prefer read the books first. But, when I’m unsure about the quality of the written history, sometimes I get myself seeing the movie first, only for a “taste” of what waits for me on the book.

    Well, I guess that’s it…

  210. Mostly I just wish books were never made into movies. Well, that’s not true…90% of the time. I’ve never read a book after I’ve seen the movie rendition. I definitely have to read the book before the movie or just read the book and not see the movie at all 🙂

  211. I always read the book first. I feel like I owe it to the author. I would have been sad if I had not read the Harry Potter series and had my own magical images before the movies.

  212. It’s true, I believe in the strong rule of the book first. Alas, rules are meant to be broken. I am however currently trying my best to power through Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind in hopes to watch the movie for the first time guilt-free. I’m 790 pages in—300 more to go!

    Thanks for this,

  213. I personally always watch the movie first if at all possible. I’m a lot less likely to be critical of the book from seeing the movie and I hate being the person who is like, “Why didn’t they include those 2 characters, why is the color of the house wrong, why????” Which I totally can be. So I just avoid it altogether by either reading the book first or, if I’ve read it before, trying to make sure it’s been as long as possible till I watch the film. I’m still holding off on reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I’ve seen the Swedish version but I’m waiting on Fincher’s.


  214. Huh..interesting view point from both angles. Ok, I have stuck with the ‘read the book first, watch movie later’ theory – I really think it helps to create your own imaginings in your head and then see if they fit with the movie. I then discern whether the movie was good or not by how well they kept to the story line of the book, how loyal they were, and how much attention they paid to the little details, while remaining cognizant that they can’t fit every single detail into a movie. I just like the effort to be made. I’ve watched movies based on books that were just terrible where only the names of the characters seemed to be the same. However, the only time I switched around was with Twilight (yes, yes I know, its commercially famous, so it’s cool to hate it now, it seems 😛 ), I just decided to watch it months after it came out, fell in love with it and later found out there was a book for it!! Grabbed it, read it, fell in love, bought the rest and read them all in 5 days. But that is the only exception 😛

  215. I think that the book should definitely come first. It’s the Authors true vision. The roadmap for the film maker. The Blue print for the creatives. All that remains are the visions of the Producer and the Director. On our project we are working with the Author in this case ALAN DEAN FOSTER to create a film that will retain it’s integrity and the support of the readership which we feel is going to be the key to our success.

  216. It is my preference to read the book before the movie, but I decided to forsake that being a rule. As a kid I had the problem of comparing and contrasting the two, and nearly always found in the book’s favour. That attitude ended up ruining many movies for me. I would get very upset when Minor and Obscure Character B, didn’t end up getting his two lines of very funny dialogue, he wouldn’t even get a brief cameo! The outrage! Despite any pros the movie would have had I couldn’t forgive that tiny and very reasonable choice on the part of the film makers.
    My eventual conclusion that I had to come to was that movies and books shouldn’t be compared to each other. They are each their own work of art, and one may be inspired by the other but it isn’t meant to be the same. Or so I keep telling myself to avoid my own immature outbursts, because who doesn’t love Minor and Obscure Character B?

  217. I would say that reading the book before watching the movie would probably give you the best all around experience. But I know some who are disappointed after watching the movie to a book they’ve read. I think it all depends on the person. I personally may want to read a certain book before I go see the movie, but just simply may not have the time…so I’ll go see the movie cause I can’t wait, lol. Great blog!

  218. I am quite lazy actually, so I would just do one or the other. It is rare that if I find out a movie has been made that I will read the book. I do get excited when I read a book first and later find out there is a movie. Most often I find if I watch the movie first, then read the book, it is not at all the same and I lose interest in the book.

  219. Perhaps this gets at a deeper issue, which medium you think is “purer.” I think because we are conditioned to think of the medium in which it came first to be a more truer form, and because it is usually books that are adapted into film, we generally have this understanding that the movie should conform to the book; in short, the book serves as the standard of measuring the film.

    This does not have to be the case at all; Precisely because it is an adaption and not the book, the film is able to stand independently from its book, and one may critique the book through the film. Just because it came out first, does not mean it has to be the standard.

  220. I am a purist. For me it will always be the book that will come first. It helps you to create your own imaginary world. It is like following the pattern of creation. Since book get written first, I feel it is better to read it first. Sometimes movie gets better but most of the time it does not. It is rare that a bad book resulted in a good movie whereas there are too many examples of good book and bad movie.

  221. I always find myself disappointed if I read the book first. F you like the film you’lllove the book. It gives u so much more

  222. Unless I have absolutely no interest in reading the book, I make a habit of reading it first. I have found that I do like seeing a trailer before reading the book though. It’s nice having a vague picture of the characters and plot in mind before committing to a novel. So, I guess my ideal order would be trailer – book – movie.

  223. I must admit that I’m more of a purist. I always prefer to read the book before seeing the movie. I admit that it might influence me more than I think and that I might not be so open minded when viewing the movie, but I try to regard the movie as a stand-alone also. However, one of the things that bothers me most is that some directors have no intention of following the script even with the smallest details like, let’s say, the colour of the blouse a character was wearing. Well,that has nothing to do with time or money,does it? So when a detail of this kind is mentioned in the book and the film producers decide to ignore it for whatever reason, people like me, who immerse into the book completely and remember every detail,start disregarding the movie, because it is obvious that if the movie maker couldn’t respect tiny details from the book he didn’t bother with the rest of the book either.

    • Mariadinca, you have to understand how movies are made. A book is not a script, and usually the original novel is not even on set (“Lord of the Rings” is an exception, where they gave copies of the book to all the production personnel). When a producer or studio buys the rights to the book, they hire a screenwriter to figure out how best to tell that story in a cinematic manner. Since written fiction and film are two completely different mediums, what works in one may not work in the other. For instance, Stephen King refuses to sell the movie rights to his novel “Gerald’s Game” since most of the story takes place in the protagonist’s mind and King feels that it would be impossible to translate that effectively to film. There may be several screenwriters hired at various times, each one re-writing the work the previous one did, each one putting their own spin on the story. There may be other pressures as well, from the studio, producers, director, and actors. Once a script is greenlit, then it’s up to each of the department heads to break down the screenplay and, under the guidance of the director, to develop all the elements that best serve the story. This will most definitely result in details like the color of clothing being different than the source material. This doesn’t mean the filmmakers don’t respect the book, but it’s that they are interpreting the story through different artistic (or in some cases, business) eyes. When Disney adapted “Holes,” they hired the original author to write the screenplay, but the main character was no longer a chubby boy but a young Shia LeBeauf, who was on a hit Disney show at the time. The company cashed in on one of their actors who was sure to draw an audience–that changed the story, but did it ruin it? William Goldman’s screenplay for “Misery” was very respectful of the original novel, but he knew that the story was too closed in for a movie so he added the character of the Sheriff and his wife, which not only opened the scope of the movie but also added much needed comic relief and made the film an Oscar winner. This did not take anything away from the book, which was much darker and grim, but the changes made it a great movie.

  224. A very good questions, one that will constantly be debated. I’m a read the book first kind of girl, I find it more confusing the other way round. Although, with the Harry Potter series I watched the first three movies before starting on the books and liked the fact that I had the actors to use as pictures in my head. But then, book 4 (Goblet of Fire) was better than the movie.

  225. I always read the book first… if I watch the film first it kinda spoils the book for me, because I know what’s going to happen and even the tiny little details they didn’t include in the film become less interesting.

  226. I haven’t seen then Game of Thrones yet, but read the book in anticipation, because my Aunt (Gemma Jackson) is the Production Designer and to design the sets and choose locations she had to rely on the book, her imagination and experience – so I wanted to know a little of what she had as input before they went about designing that medieval fantastic world, I can’t wait to see it!

  227. To be honest I have my own little rule about always reading the book first and I’ve been really quite stubborn about that over the years, waiting for ages to see the film because I hadn’t read the book already! But, more recently I’m relaxing that rule a little. I think your example of LOTR is really well chosen. I read the book quite a few years ago and recently reread it as a group read along with a number of other bloggers – it was such a good experience because virtually all of us had seen the film and so we couldn’t help comparing them as we went along. The adaptation of LOTR to film was so well done though and sometimes that isn’t the case so seeing the film can spoil your own imagined version. I think the fact that movie making techniques have advanced so much have helped and without those advances some of the scenes in LOTR would maybe not have been quite so breathtaking. The funny thing reading along the second time though was you couldn’t help having the actor’s voices in your head – particularly Gollum.
    I also recently read GoT – I haven’t seen the on screen adaptation yet because I really did want to wait and read the book first, and I’m glad i did. I thought the book was really excellent with so much in-depth insight into each character – I’m not sure that’s always possible to portray because with a book you are able to read more about people’s motivations/feelings, etc. I am looking forward to seeing the tv production though.
    And, more recently I think I threw my own rule out because I finally read The Princess Bride – having seen the film many times – and I can admit that reading the book after seeing the film didn’t spoil the experience for me at all – in fact, I admit, I was absolutely picturing the scenes from the film and the voices and the faces of the actor – but, I felt like I was able to concentrate much more on the narrative and particularly the dialogue which is just so amusing.
    Thanks for your post – really interesting and obviously stirred up a lot of feeling given the number of comments.
    Lynn 😀

  228. I like what you say about viewing another artists interpretation of a work can bring you closer to the original work itself. Such as, Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series is now being remade in the American movie version. Some would say, why so soon after the Swedish versions. I say (and by the way, I’ve read all the books before I saw the Swedish movie series) – why not? Most Americans don’t want to see a movie with sub titles. So if a classic story can stand the test of being retold many times, then more people will see the American movies and embrace the series even more. Does that make sense? If done well, I see no harm in doing something over and over. And for some, a movie might draw them to the book series.
    But I still tell my kids- read the book first!

  229. Reading the book is the best option, then again its a personal opinion.
    I feel that the movies never do justice to the book form it had been adapted.

  230. I feel books comes first since any idea or movie sketch penned down first, and also the books give better idea and vision to make a great movie. It is not necessary that which is first or which is last, the expression that we see in he movie can be read in words with books. To me though book comes first, does it make a difference.

  231. The book should come first!:D
    hi;) Would it be okay if you help us “LIKE” this page: http://www.facebook.com/NOMADICRACE.TEAMTEAM pleeeeeaaaaaseee? we are participating in a 5day 4night camp around Singapore called The NoMadic (Make A Difference) Race- Green Edition. Yes, with our big bags sleeping near beaches, trying our hardest to complete tasks with limited transport and budget on food. do help us “LIKE” the FB page?;( we would really appreciate it 🙂 Thank you:)

  232. I guess I’m a purist. I have always read the book first whenever possible, so I can appreciate the original work before the movie adaptation nips and tucks the storyline and assigns faces of actors to the characters. 99.9% of the time I prefer the book to the movie. The only film adaptation I can think of that I preferred to the book was “The Notebook.” I think that the additions and changes made in the movie made the story much more poignant than Sparks’s original work.

  233. Got to say I’m a purist when it comes to adaptations such as Pride and Prejudice (I do not like the Keira Knightley at all but adore the BBC version with Colin Firth). But overall I go with the flow depending on how I feel about the story etc.

  234. I tend to think that you can harm the other one whichever way you go. You cannot unsee things once you’ve seen them and even if it doesn’t happen to bother you it is still there in your mind. So if you see the movie first, you will be living with the director’s movie take on the book while you read it. If however, you read the book first (and like it a lot), I find that your chances of enjoying the movie drop drastically.

  235. Lately, there have been a few movies I have come across that I had no idea were based on a book. Whereas before I think I was a purist when it came to reading the book prior to watching the movie adaptation of the book, simply because I’ve watched quite a few movies I had no idea were based on books I think I may have to throw that rule out of the window. Although, I must say that i prefer reading the book before watching the movie adaptation of the book. For me, the book is almost always better than the movie adaptation, moreover, I think reading the book first gives one the opportunity to use more of their imagination when envisioning the characters and the settings. Of course, this could be a double-edged sword in that one can be let down by what he/she imagined throughout the book versus what is realized on the big screen.

  236. I really loved the Analysis and thoughts on this piece. I like to watch the movie before the book, but that being the constant plan is not always the case. The reason I like that order is because the Book is always better than the Movie, and thus when you read the book later on, it feels like you are gaining more, instead of losing much which is the case with all book to movie situations.

  237. It’s funny that you wrote this post. I was just asking myself this question. I found that often times that when I watched the movie first it lead me to the books. This happened with Twilight and Harry Potter. But, when I read the book I couldn’t come up with my own thoughts of how the characters and setting looked. I’m reading the Hunger Games now and unfortunately because I saw the trailer I have Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss stunk in my head. LOL!! But, I’m starting to think it doesn’t matter. It makes for an enjoyable experience either way.

  238. If the subject in question is the ‘Great Gatsby,’ then neither book or film should see the light of day!

    But book first. L.A Confidential is far more complex (and rewarding) as a book than a film.

  239. With few exceptions, I find that if I want to like a movie adaption, I have to watch the movie first. Doing it the other way, I find never measures up. Though I did watch the movie after reading all of the Harry Potter books, but that is one of the few exceptions. I find that most of the time I find myself thinking, how could they leave this or that out or why didn’t the do this. Sometimes if I really love the book, I will still watch the movie, and if it is done well, then I can be satisfied, but a bad adaption should be avoided at all costs.

    However, I never bother with books based on movies. (Other than those made for children) those always seem to be trying too hard, and never worth the time. Books should be books based on their own story not some movie that they are just trying to make a few more dollars out of

    • I’ve recently had this problem. I was so excited when ‘Water for Elephants’ was coming to theaters. I accidentally reread the book a few weeks before seeing the movie. My friend and I saw the movie and I hated it. I know this is because I read the book too close to the movie, because I’m sure the movie was good. Not great mind you, but good and I hardly liked it at all.

  240. I usually read the book before I see. If I see the movie, because sometimes I just don’t bother watching. But sometimes I do. I read Twilight before I watched the movie (wasn’t impressed with either). If I watch a movie before I read the book, I pretty much picture things the way they appeared in the movie – characters, settings, voices. Books are usually better because they have more detail, just more stuff. But sometimes not. 😉 Some movies are better than the book – The Seeker was much much better than the books it was based on.

  241. I am more of a purist, I want to form my own opinions and get annoyed when the character that’s in my head as I read the story is the actor or actress I saw advertised for the movie. However, for more literary works, watching the movie definitely helps you to get a better idea for what the story is about. Oh and John Grisham movies are pretty much always better than the book. I love Grisham’s earlier works but I think after a while he just started writing screenplays instead of novels anyway.

  242. I think it’s really a tossup. I had the LOTR experience, where I read the books before I saw the movies. However, I’ve also had situations where I’ve watched the movie, then gone out and read the books. It happened to me when I saw ‘The Da Vinci Code’ in theaters. I immediately ran out and grabbed the book. I think whichever way you decide to go, It’s a good choice.

  243. Hey! i’ve thought about this question a lot too and i usually read a book before seeing the movie, but sometimes it can be distracting from the real worth of a film because you just keep thinking oh that’s not exactly accurate or that’s not what so and so really says in the book etc etc. So it can taint the movie-watching experience, however so can watching the movie first because when reading you are seeing someone construction of places and characters instead of the ones your own imagination conjures when reading a book. So there you have it! its a paradox to me!

  244. i usually prefer book first, then movie. w/ LOTR, it definitely helps, ’cause then you get all the story that helps you understand the movie.

    i’m currently debating this issue w/ ‘girl w/ the dragon tattoo’ – isn’t it coming out in theaters soon? i might not have time to read the book first… so then, should i watch it?

  245. I’m doing exactly the same thing with Game of Thrones right now. I was going to read it first and started reading it, but now I’m half way through book but have ended up watching almost all of the series. I’m studying a Literature degree and this is the first book I’ve read for pleasure and not study in a long time and even if I do finish the TV series first, I’ll love it just as much. 🙂

  246. I love this! It relates to the quality of the story as some things just cannot be put into words and have the same effect. I believe reading the book first, will often set you up with higher expectations. If you then follow it on with the movie, be prepared for disappointment! If you learn to appreciate the whole “artist’s work of another artist” though, it can be quite admiring – you just have to remember to keep this theory in mind! (Don’t be disappointed….) But I am off to dig out Baz Luhrmann’s take on “Romeo and Juliet” now!

  247. First of all, this Game of Thrones Series sounds very interesting. I keep hearing about it everywhere. I can go both ways with what you said. When I read Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, with both series I went back and forth between books and movies. Some of the stuff I formed with my own imagination and sometimes when I couldn’t figure something out or something seemed confusing, clips from the movie gave me an image that made sense. It will sometimes give you a better understanding of what you are reading.
    Right now, I’m going to be experiencing this with the book Julie & Julia. I will be reading the book first before the movie.

  248. Hi Kristen,

    My first response to your question would be to say “Read the book first” because books should be savoured and judged on their own terms not on some director’s idea of it. I’ve read over and over the books of L.M. Montgomery, Jane Austen and George Elliot and though I’ve seen the movie versions of them I’ll always recommend to anyone to read the books first.

    Yet though I try to do this as much as possible the reality is that sometimes I find that I appreciate some books better when I’ve watched a movie version first. This I think works for some works set in a historical context. The reason being that sometimes as a reader you can find it challenging to draw a setting or character if you don’t know the time period well enough. A good writer will obviously ‘paint’ the pictures through words. But I think a movie, with all the research done into costuming, setting, behaviours of the time etc., can really bring a book and its characters to life and help you the reader understand and appreciate a book more. Some people who watch a movie and then (try to) read the book complain that the movie isn’t like the book. I think they forget that the book came first and that they should “Never judge a book by its movie.” [J.W. Eagan] When it comes to contemporary works though, I think that they are best read before the movie is viewed.

    Interestingly I’ve found some really lovely books through watching movies. One that comes immediately to mind is Atonement by Ian McEwan.

    Just sharing my thoughts… This blog is filled lots of great bookish treats. I’m glad I found it through your post being Freshly Pressed!

    Best Wishes.

  249. When it comes to sci-fi or fantasy books, the movies usually just have to simplify some plot points and shorten certain scenes. But I read a lot of literary fiction, where translation to film is like translating the book to a different language. In that case, if both book and film are well thought of, I’d consider either one acceptable to start with. They’re separate artistic interpretations of shared material, equally deserving of attention. Doesn’t always go like this with book to film adaptations, of course.

  250. I am also a supporter of reading the book of an adaptation first, though, for various reasons I haven’t always followed those steps. With Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Twilight, I watched the movies prior to reading the books. I don’t break out in hives or anything very serious either way. 🙂 In any case, I still compare the two. I have found that my imagination is usually far greater than that of the director and producer of the adaptation. I do prefer to read the book first because when I see the movie first, I feel it limits the depth of my imagination when I read the book after watching the movie because my mind keeps inputting the characters I have watched on screen into my mind as I read versus allowing my mind to paint its own picture.
    Thanks for posting!

  251. It depends on the movie! I watch a lot of classic films that I find out (during the opening credits) are based on books or plays, so I like to track those down after viewing the movie or miniseries to compare mediums. However, if it’s something like the Harry Potter series, which I began to read before the films were created, it’s difficult to not be critical of what the film left out!

  252. I prefer to watch the movie first and then read the book. Just to avoid disappointment as the adaptation version usually will be less interesting in compared to the novel. Obviously they will shorten the story, eliminate most of the ‘they-thought’ small parts of the story while I think sometimes the small part could have brings a big impact to the whole story.

    e.g : the part when the novel describe the design of the house. at certain part of the story, the description could be related to what they will decide in the end.

  253. I think the best way to coordinate this is with a series of books that all become movies. I saw the first Harry Potter before reading all of the subsequent books (2 through 7), and the visual of all the characters made the story better in my head, but I would never have watched one of the movies before reading the book of the same title. It’s just not right…

  254. I normally like reading the book first but that’s because I like comparing My view to others. I guess it depends on your preference and the theme around the books/movies themselves.

  255. Since happening on The Poseidon Adventure at the library long after I’d seen the movie as a kid, I’ve always preferred to see the movie first. I’ve never been disappointed in a book I’ve read afterward, but can’t tell you how often I’ve been disappointed in a movie I saw post-book. The only exception was Twilight (part 1), although I’d heard lots of grumbling from others who found the movie lacking, especially the ‘meadow scene.’

    Fun post! Thanks for sharing this!

  256. My first experience with this was back when Jurassic Park came out. I’m not sure I even knew it was a book when I first saw the movie. Then I read the book and it was way better! And I’ve gone on to read many of Michael Crichton’s books since then.

    I think I like books more (I should be reading more books) because they have time to go into more detail than a movie does. Of course they probably need more detail as well because there are no visual effects.

    I think I prefer reading first now because like you say I get to use my imagination to picture the world and the characters in it. Once you’ve seen a movie it’s hard to read something and not see the character’s in your head as the actors on screen.

    And sometimes movies just don’t work. “Watchmen” was the first time I’d read a graphic novel. I have to admit the hype about the movie made me pick up a copy though. I was very excited too see the movie when it came out, but I left the theatre thinking “For the people in the audience who haven’t read it, that made absolutely no sense.”

    I suppose it’s a case by case matter on which type of media is better. To each his own!

    • Yes, I agree about Watchmen. Having read the graphic novel first, I enjoyed the film. But the film was quite different in many respects to the book. It couldn’t have gone all the places Alan Moore went with his amazing comic book script, but I enjoyed the film immensely on its own terms. I saw it, though, with family, who hadn’t read the book, and there was a fair amount of head scratching going on on the couch!

  257. An adaptation of a book must from necessity be an entirely different creature. Often movie adaptations bear little resemblance to their source material. Which isn’t always a bad thing. Too slavish an adaptation can be a disaster. Equally films that omit the heart of the book is doing that book a disservice. The truly horrible adaptation of The Golden Compass omitted key themes in the three books in the series – the death of God and the critique of organised religion. In this case it would have been important to read the books first. Often, though, if I see a film first, I rarely want to read the book, whereas, I’m likely to want to see the film adaptation of a book I’ve enjoyed. Conversely I don’t like the idea of writing a book based on a film. That seems like a waste of time, unless it’s an offshoot of some sort, taking characters and the world into books with entirely different storylines (such as the Star Wars books)

  258. I always read the book first, then watch the movie, books always came first. The first time I broke my trend was when I read Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park.I found out that I enjoyed the book more than the movie. I could see the whole thing even more clearly!
    Dont try it though with the Bourne Series of Robert Ludlum- The movies are not based on the books,though use the same names.

  259. I have to agree that it really depends! Sometimes it is better to read the book first and sometimes vice a versa. Unlike you, I saw the Lord of the Rings movies first (probably a dozen times, I, too, am a self-proclaimed LOTR nerd). After becoming borderline obsessed with the films, I decided to dive into the books. I definitely wish I could have done it the other way around. However, I will be very interested to see how it turns out seeing The Hobbit films after reading the book first. I was able to use what I have seen in the films to help imagine that book for myself so it wasn’t completely a blank slate but I am still very much anticipating the films and seeing how they coincide/differ with my visions.

  260. I think its back to the person himself… if I like reading maby I’ll enjoy the book more than watching the movie … but some people would like to see the story as a movie to understand it better .

  261. I think it’s a really interesting question, and FYI, awesome blog 🙂 I’ve kinda got criteria I use when deciding flick before book. You know when you’re reading a book that takes you on a rollercoaster ride through joy, pain, loss, redemption etc. that by about 2/3 of the way through you’re suffering from REI – Repetitive Emotional Injury. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an enthralling book, it’s just that I often get let down by endings. So, I think, why not save the crappy ending for the movie. This way I am genuinely interested in what’s going on, rather than a critique on how divergent it is from the original piece.

  262. If either is good, it should not generate interest in the media of the other. A good movie allows the watcher to intuit the parts which aren’t entirely clear. A good book needs no screen story to change what your mind has conceived. I am more inclined to go with the ‘read the book then see the movie’ ideal. The reverse is definitely not true for me at least.

  263. Mário de Noronha on December 19, 2011 at 3:29 am said:
    In a psychotherapeutic perspective, is seems to me that it is better to read the book first, understand the therapeutic principles and see later the correspondent movie or short film to implement the actions needed.
    Even without the film, I have been well succeded implementing in the minds if the patients the film of their lives, its comprehension and the future steps for their wellbeing.

  264. I’ve done both. My last series was “Hunger Games” and I read it first. If the books are complex then it’s easier to read them. The movies cut some things…the books have more details. Sometimes I read the book after movies or series comes out and you have always the pictures in mind.
    I prefer the reading….

  265. i love the movies of LOTR but i have to admit i read the books afterwards wich is strictly against my pattern. but when i read the books and discovered how differently the series ended, my first response was ‘omg thats so cool’ they should have put that in. and then of course i watched game of thrones… after my dad let me read the first book… the books i adored, the adaption… well… if winters comming why don’t women put some bloody clothes on? but it is a very good adaption…

    i use to always read the books first, but i just can’t get into some of them… i’ve dedicated myself to reading Charles Dickens’ Christmas carol before watching every version i could get my greedy little book lover hands on, yet i find the book is a little… difficult for me to get into… i suppose thats why their are film adaptions, so that everyone can enjoy such a complex yet beautiful piece of work.

  266. I like seeing the adaptation first, personally (Though- that’s only if I had no intention of reading the book before I knew about the adaptation. Nothing will get between me and a good book when it comes down to it). That way I get two happy moments. I get to squeal about how great the movie is without having any understanding of the bits they might have skimped on and then I get to go read the book and marvel at how so much -better- the book is. (Because the book is always better. Always.)

    Contrast that to the joy you feel after reading a book that turns very quickly into disappointment and annoying nitpicking when you see the movie and can’t help but compare it unfavourably.

  267. Interesting topic! For the most part, I prefer to read the book as I like to create my own ‘movie’ in my mind. I did watch ‘The Reader’ with the incredible Kate Winslet before reading the book and then found it almost impossible to focus on the book. I just wanted to watch the film again!

  268. I prefer reading the book first, sometimes book is enough because usually movies don’t have as much impact as book have. Book is more detailed, how much can you tell in 2 hours? But I’ve tried both, I’ve seen movies which are based on books but have not read those books yet. Still I prefer books because I’ve realized the influence books have on my imagination is far more than movies.

  269. I watched Game of Throne first and then started the books – I almost wish I had jumped right into the second novel after watching the series because HBO did such a great job I felt like I wasn’t learning anything new reading. I usually read books before watching the movie, but sometimes I just don’t have to time to crack open a tome before the movie comes out in theaters.

  270. Nice post. I also thought the same when I ended up watching Game of Thrones on a friend’s recommendation.

    If both must be done, I’d say watching the movie (/television show) first is preferable. If you watch the movie first, you’ll appreciate the book that much more. If you read the book first, you’ll realize that you just wasted ten bucks on a movie that will almost inevitably disappoint and perhaps disgust you.

    If you’re lucky and the planets align and you have a great screenwriter and/or director, the movie and the book will stand on their own independently. In my personal opinion, my top three examples of this are The Shawshank Redemption, Fight Club, and Old Boy (this one was adapted from a comic book).

    Cheers on being Freshly Pressed.

  271. For me, reading the book first. Though, there are times if the movie comes out and I hear there’s a book, I’ll watch the movie, then opt to read the book. Reading the book, though, whether before or after a film of the book, shares with readers more about what the character thinks, feels that the film can’t always portray.

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  273. I think I went down on the route as you did.

    I read Jurassic Park from Michael Crichton. It was ages ago, so I do not remember every detail. However I remember that I read it in a few hours, that it was very colourful, exciting, and I told everyone to read it. When the movie came out I took my family to the cinema. They loved it. They did not read the book. I was disappointed, and I promised I would never watch it again. I found that my imagination is far more “better” then those people’s who made the movie. A few years later when I studied photography I realized something. There is a huge difference between “seeing that image” while we are reading and “creating that image” after the reading. It is not easy. If I could I would move reality to be able to create what I see. In the meantime I move myself around a chosen concept that fits best what I see. And I watched many times Jurassic Park.

    I have an all time favorite. It is Bram Stoker’s Dracula by Francis Ford Coppola. I borrowed the book from my classmate at the college and read it during classes and breaks that day. Then I watched the movie. I was suprised how similar the atmosphere was to that what I felt reading. It is not particularly my favorite as a movie, but it is as an interpretation.

    The third one is The Lover by Jean-Jacques Annaud. In this case I watched the movie first. I started the book (by Marguerite Duras) a year ago. I do enjoy it profoundly. I am still reading it as I stop after a few pages giving it a few hours of thought. (I wish I had more time.) Now and then I revisit certain parts of the movie, analise it, digest itand compare with the book. I jump between the book and the movie. For me this book provides background to the story which is not entirely expressed in the movie. Annaud focused on the other aspects of the story. Same story, different viewpoint, both of them are satisfying.

    Thank you for your post.

    • Oh thanks for reminding me! I had forgotten about The Lover. It was one of my favourite books when we studied Duras in university. It took me ages to steel myself to watch the movie as I was so afraid that it would be terrible and then spoil the memory of the book too. The thing about Duras is that she writes as much with silence as she does with language, by that I mean she allows gaps, pauses, things unsaid and does this so beautifully and effectively that you begin to feel the book as much as read it. The movie didn’t disappoint me but felt to me more like a scene from the book rather than a movie which captured the book enough to exist as a stand alone movie. I think this is one of the times where you would have to have read and loved the book to really like the movie. Otherwise I think you could just see The Lover movie as a slightly strange overly explicit rompfest!

  274. The book and a cup of coffee should always come before a movie and a bag of Twizzlers. If you see the movie without reading the book, then don’t read the books. I saw the three Bourne movies and started reading the books and it was ruining the movies. Had I read the books first my Bourne Infatuation would be de-infatuated.

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  276. Unfortunately, I have bad news. I watched half of the first series before tucking into the books which I then consumed. I ask completely unable to stop once I have started! Sadly though the tv production is very faithful to the books and as a result I now am not enjoying the series as much brilliant though it certainly is. Nor am I sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for the next instalment. don’t do it! Leave the books alone or you’ll diminish the experience of one of the greatest tv series ever made! I’d not normally fall on this side of this particular issue- it may have something to do with the authors proclivity for killing off the principal characters-but trust me don’t do it!

  277. There was a time when I thought that a book or story should not be adapted unless every swingle little detail would go along with it. But ever since I saw Watchmen I changed my way of thinking and decided that a movie or TV show would never be the same to their source. They are completely different artistic mediums and both pieces of art (original and adaptation) should be judged in their own different ways. With this said I believe Watchmen, the Lord of the Rings films and the Harry Potter were all fantastic films. The only thing that bothered me was that in Watchmen a lot of the end was different from its original form so I would have changed it and left it the way it was.

  278. One of the most incredible ways I got to know someone had to do with reading the book before watching the movie. I had been put in touch with someone by email to help organize an event, and we started exchanging emails. Somehow we got to talking about the book/movie thing. The Constant Gardener was playing at the movies at the time, so we decided to both read the book then see the movie together. For two weeks, we both read and exchanged thoughts. We finally met for the first time to see the movie. It might sound silly but it was incredibly powerful. It was like we had already shared something and seeing the movie together tied it all together. One of the best dates I ever had.

  279. In general, I’m not a “movie” person, and only watch if forced to by my husband. So, obviously I prefer the book, and generally prefer reading the book first. That being said, I’m also not particularly visual, so there’s something really great about being able to see characters and settings on screen so that I can picture the action instead of just reading about it. I’m definitely the annoying person saying, “Hey, that’s not how it happened!” or “How could they leave that out? How are they going to explain it later?!?”

  280. I used to be a purist, reading all the books before seeing the movies. Then I realised what a dis-service I was doing to the movies and to myself. First, the movies had taken a lot of people quite a lot of time and money to create their vision of the book. And these were not rank amateurs, but often Hollywood professionals, though sometimes BBC or other British professionals. Second, to myself, this is more complex. I was enjoying the books unspoilt by any opinion about what was good or not in the movie, but I was also locking myself into a prison in my own mind.

    So, now, I read the book and then see the movie. And I let them each stand alone on their own merit. If pressed, I will comment on what I thought of the adaptation, but still let them each stand alone in my mind. That way, I can enjoy two artists’ visions of the story rather than despairing of any movie’s ability to capture the story of the best books – or wonder why the book didn’t have my favorite scene from the movie.

  281. I’m definitely still a purist-for me, watching the movie first takes the enjoyment out of the book. But somehow, reading the book doesn’t take the enjoyment from the movie. However, as a writing and film studies student, the thing I most appreciate about films and tv adaptations is the liberties that are taken. I look to “Twilight” as the most prime example of something that needed to diverge from the book. What reasonably passed on the page, fell completely flat on screen. Likewise, Harry Potter and LOTR had to be shortened to give the most concise story. Movies are nearly always plot driven. Books don’t necessarily need to be. Movies need much more of that entertainment value, the visual feasting than books. A movie kills two hours, a book many depending on your reading speed. Though I’m still a purist, I enjoy the different adaptations. I’ve found that comparing films and the books/short stories they came from, really opens up a more complex level of meaning derived from that state of omission, what stays in and what doesn’t. If I ever were to go to film school, I would love to study more of these contrasts.

    • A couple of interesting examples to compare the books vs. the movies: Pay it Forward by Catherine Ryan Hyde and Random Harvest by James Hilton.

      Pay It Forward, the book, was more about the concept of paying it forward. The movie was turned into an object lesson about addiction. The concept of paying it forward was downplayed in favor of showing the affects of addiction on dysfunctional families.

      There is a surprise ending in Random Harvest that relies on the non-visual aspect of telling a story through words instead of pictures. When I heard that a classic movie was made from the book, at first, I didn’t see how it could possibly work. But the screenwriters and director made subtle changes in point of view that actually worked and preserved the emotional impact of the ending.

  282. For me the book and the movie sometimes have barely anything to do with each other at least in terms of how I imagine the story to look and feel compared to the movie. So, I just consider it a completely different experience and do not think it really matters either way. Having said this, knowing the ending of a story kind of takes the motivation out of reading a long book, so I will go with reading the book first.

  283. The book should get made first because the movie dont tell everything it give less information.It also dont share the same features.The book is the original version. The movie is a scene that they make up and try to go by the book.

  284. It can go both ways. I agree that masterpieces like Lord of the Rings are a must read before seeing the films. Although sadly I doubt all that many of the younger generation have or ever will read them. At the other end you have good films based on less than great books. I loved the film “I am Legend” but had to put the book down after the first chapter. All that said, there is nothing quite like seeing a movie based on a book you’ve enjoyed. The exception is the garbage made out of Stephen King’s (my all time favorite writer) novels in the eighties and nineties (The Stand, It and Desperation to name but three) which butchered the books without mercy. Not until The Shawshank Redemption and the Green Mile did anyone do his books justice on screen. If someone finally gets it together and does something good with the Dark Tower books, I might just break one of my cardinal rules and camp out in front of my local movie theatre.

  285. My wife thinks it should always be book before movie/TV. But I personally feel that sometimes it just really helps to have seen someone’s visual concept of a story first. Interview with the Vampire was an example of me watching the movie first, and upon reading the book I felt really thankful for that. Anne Rice’s writing can be quite lengthy and difficult to grasp, and without picturing Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in my head, I am not sure I would’ve 100% understood the book.

    Likewise, I think Sex and the City had a lot of good ideas in the book, but it was all over the place and the characters weren’t really as 3-dimensional as their TV counterparts. Without the TV show as a resource guide, I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed that book much at all.

    That said, I read Let The Right One In before I saw the movies, and so much good material was missing from the films. Which isn’t to say the films are lacking, as they were definitely paced very well and the missing elements improved the viewing experience… but this was definitely a case where reading the book beforehand enhanced the viewing experience.

  286. I saw the first season of the series Game of Thrones two times. So when I decided to read the books I skipped the first volume entirely, since the show is based on it. I was happily surprised to find that I had no problem following the story, I was perfectly filled in on all of the different plots and knew all of the important characters.

  287. I usually read the book first, just because I’m so much of a bookworm and not much of a movie watcher. But whenever I watch the movie first I try to read the book later so that I can find out how much the movie changed the plot (or ruined it, from my experience…). I’m not really happy with the movie adaptations of books because they ruin the ‘moral’ and plot of the book, but that just might be because I have had some bad experiences with the movie adaptations of two of my favorite books: Bridge to Terabithia and The Thief Lord. Those movies totally ruined the book! So I still have room to change my opinion of movie adaptations. Hope I watch a good movie adaptation of a book I like someday.


  288. Like you I used to be a book-first person. I did catch quite a few good books after seeing the “Based on the novel by. . .” in the credits of a movie. I’ve had good experiences doing it either way. It helps to love and appreciate both mediums as works of art.

    I used to insist that people read Pride & Prejudice before watching any of the movies. But that changed recently. I love the newest version of the movie with Kiera Knightly. I know I may get booed and have tomatoes thrown at me, but I never tire of watching this version. The cinematography was so well done and the casting so right on.

    We played P&P during movie night at our small group. Afterwards I gave a copy of the book to a middle school girl who loved the movie. The book came to life for her because she had seen the movie. Her older sister missed the movie and just can’t get into the book at all. You have to admit that the beginning of the book does drag a little. I always have to tell people, “Persevere, it gets better. Keep going until you get to the letter.”

    Some scene changes in a movie version may even work better than the book. Two examples that come to mind are “The Flight to the Ford” in the Fellowship of the Rings, and the fight between Lizzie and Darcy’s aunt in the Kiera Knightly version of P&P.

    Another subject is reading the book based on the screenplay. I used to think this was really lame until I read E.T.The Extraterrestrial. The book just hilarious. Reading ET’s thoughts as he’s drinking beer add a whole level of appreciation to the movie.

    On a final note, I saw The English Patient years before I ever heard there was a book. I have tried three times to get through the book and just can’t do it.

    • You won’t hear any boos from me about the Kiera Knightley version of P&P! I saw it before reading the book, and even before watching the BBC version, and it was what started my Jane Austen obsession. Further proof that a good adaptation can get people interested in the book itself! For me, the KK/MF version of P&P is one of the main examples of a movie that I was glad I’d watched before seeing the book. It really helped me understand the dynamics and relationships between the characters better than I would have if I had chosen to read the book first. This was back in the time when I was a stronger purist than I am now, but I decided to make an exception that time, and was glad I did.
      Beyond that, I think it’s a very well-done movie. I do have my doubts about KK as Lizzie during some moments, but everyone else was spot on, in my opinion. And though they left out some things in the movie to streamline it into a feature film, I didn’t feel that the story was compromised. And everything about the film was so artistically and beautifully done! Like you, I really love it. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen it!

  289. Ah! One of life’s unsolved mysteries. I was definitely a book girl till I watched and fell in love with The English Patient, then decided to really appreciate it, I should read the book, but actually preferred the movie, this was also the case with Atonement and The Constant Gardener so I’m 50, 50 now, do many movies are based on films these days, it’s easy to watch before you read without realising

  290. Actually, I often find myself watching movies before. I’m not particularly biased one way or another, either. But still, I find watching the movie first to be rather convenient. I can see whether I like the plot and do better at processing the plot in words afterwards. I enjoy a movie MUCH better if I haven’t read the book (often better than the movie) before. Then I don’t get so angry at the movie makers.
    It IS annoying when the story is completely altered in the movie version, however, such as The Lightning Thief. Okay movie, but the book is WAY better. I’m glad I read it second, or I’d have been seething, right there in the middle of the theater.

  291. I always look at it from this standpoint, the book is shared experience between the author, the reader, and close friends of the reader with whom they discuss the book. The movie is in essence that discussion shared among friends, except in this case the director, screenplay writer etc are able to share with everyone on a grand scale their opinions and perspectives. Generally, though not in all cases I can enjoy both.

  292. This is a hot-button topic for me as I work in a bookstore.

    I read Jurassic Park at eight years old. Loved it, saw the movie a week later. When Crichton’s Lost World came out, I couldn’t revert back to the images of Grant and Malcolm that my imagination had provided. They were effectively replaced with Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum. This kinda bothered me as I (moreso now, even) am a purist when it comes to my mind.

    I read Beautiful Mind prior to seeing it and that was when I really began to critique the movie/book paradigm because the movie was so radically different as to be unrecognizable from the book. Akiva Goldsman (screenwriter) admitted as much. A “representation” I believe he said.

    And last but not least. I recently watched the adaptation of my favorite graphic novel of all time: All Star Superman. Animated, yes. They followed it to the letter. There were two scenes where they strayed from the panels and those were the only two scenes that worked, for me. Something was lost in translation. This has brought me to the opinion that some books should be left alone in spite of a (nearly) spot-on adaptation. Weird.

    Good post, good topic.

  293. I like to watch the movie first. In English class I have to read old classics that are kind of hard to follow. In the past month my class has gone through The Crucible and My Eyes Were Watching God. My teacher showed us the movies early on instead of waiting until after we read the books like most teachers. I found that, since I could see what was happening in the movie, it was easier to follow the story later when I had to read.

  294. Congrats on being freshly pressed! Loved your post and have also enjoyed reading the comments!

    I have to say that I am universally dissapointed in any movie I see after reading the book. It’s it’s not just that they always have to skip so many important details, they always cast the wrong actors. (It’s never who I pictured in my mind as I read the book! 🙂 ) So I am going to continue the trend set here by the last couple of commenters and say that I really think it’s best to see the movie first. That way, when I go to read the book I always get ‘more’ not ‘less’ – MUCH more satisfying! 🙂

    P.S. If you are interested – you can get a FREE eBook copy of my new novel, Defining Moments, at fayehicks.wordpress.com until Jan 2. It’s not a movie yet – so it seems like it should fit the preferences of the majority here! 🙂 Hope you give it a try and enjoy it! Happy holidays!

  295. For me it’s always better to read the book first so you’ll have a chance to imagine the look of the characters and the feel of the general environment of the book on your own. Then when you watch, you can compare how similar or different you thought or it to be.

    But to me movies and books are completely different. I think movies adapt novels or even comic book superheroes because they will have an audience already or the book is successful by itself which can even make more money if they made it into a movie.

  296. I believe it’s always better to err on the side of reading the book first. Not that the movies can’t be fantastic, but I think reading the book gives you a relationship with and understanding of the characters with which the movie can’t always provide you. You spend many times more hours with a book than you do with a movie. I think in your Game of Thrones example, maybe it’s just as exciting because it’s a series, and not a movie. It gives you the time to develop the plot and the characters that reading a book would give you.
    Great post! I just recently started a literature-type blog just like yours, I’m trying to do short book reviews. My first one turned out longer than I expected, but with topics as interesting as Thoreau and politics, I just couldn’t resist 🙂 If you want to check it out, here’s the link!

  297. It seems that books are being adapted into movies more and more these days….sometimes watching a movie helps me figure out whether or not I would be interested in the book, and watching introduces me to some authors that I might otherwise never have read!

    About ten years ago, Harry Potter seemed to be everywhere, but for some reason I had never had any desire to crack open the book. I thought it was a children’s story! Then my little cousins begged me to take them to see the very first movie in the theater over Thanksgiving, and I relented to go, bitter that I was about to waste 2.5 hours of my life. And….I was completely enchanted! Immediately after we got home from the theater, I was asking to borrow my cousins’ copy of the first book, and for Christmas that same year, I was purchasing books 1-4. I am a huge fan now….thank goodness I saw that movie! 😀

  298. Kristen,
    I appreciate you taking your time at writing this interesting article. I find myself reading the book before any thoughts of seeing the movie. Often, I find it disappointing to see the movie once I’ve enjoyed the book so much.

    Speaking of books, I have a children’s book coming out Feb. 29, 2012 (see http://www.PeteThePopcorn.com). I can only dream of it becoming a movie!

    Thanks for your time,
    Nick Rokicki

  299. Definitely read the book before you let the film destroy it for you! Haha. I remember reading “His Dark Materials” by Philip Pullman and I just loved it and was so excited when I heard it was getting released as a film – but then wow, it was just awful! I mean that was so not Lyra!

  300. Great post! I’ve always wondered that myself. What I like about watching the movies first is that I picture the actors in my mind for the book. So it gives me sort of a visual representation.

  301. I like to read the book first..although sometimes its strange when I go to see the movie and it is totally different than the way I imagined; like you would imagine someone one way and then the movie portrays that character in a different way…aniway book first!

  302. I prefer to read the books first. Though I never realised that Dexter was a series of books,so I’ve not got to kindle those. It’s rare that after reading a book I see the movie and think …amazing. many John Grisham titles transfer well to screen..A Time To Kill being a great adaptation, the Tolkein titles too.. But I liked the book, The Help, and hated the way they changed things around in the movie. When you read, you pretty much make the movie in your head as you go along, it’s just that those pesky actors, screen writers and directors never seem to peek into your head before they make the movie. lol

  303. Years ago I realized I had to watch the movie first, especially Stephen king movies, or else I was often disappointed by the movie, often because so much of the book is internal thought and emotion that you just can’t create in a movie the same way… BUT I watched game of thrones, then read the book and was thrilled by the level of detail they had kept in the series… I then devoured the next four books, TRUSTING that the producers will continue with the magic! The. Characters were also superbly cast and actually fit most of the descriptions in the books…

    • SO TRUE about the Stephen King movies. Compared to the books, they are TERRIBLE. His film adaptions never fully grasp the themes or the characters that his books contain. I am still waiting for a good re-make.

      (Although i would argue that The Shining mini-series was excellent in its own right).

      I ahven’t seen or read the Game of Thrones yet – guess I’ll have to get on that!

  304. I’m definitely a purist. I like to hear a story the way the author intended it to be heard first. I like to think I’m respecting the author’s creativity.

  305. I’d always love to read the book first, then watch the movie version of it. Did for some of the movies but for LOTR, I broke it by doing it the other way round, and guess what? I didn’t read the books yet! So far, by judging on most of my friend’s comment on their readings and watchings, hmm…I really want to read the book. Firstly because I wanna see for myself on what will happen to do it the other way round (movie first then book). Secondly, I just love to read books!

    Honestly, I love to read the book first simply to let my imagination goes wild on building up the characters and seeing them in my point of view. Then I will compare mine with theirs (film makers). It’s simply fun and amazing feelings! 🙂

  306. Excellent post. I prefer to read a novel before seeing it on the big screen. Hollywood has a way of screwing things up in regards to turning books into films that don’t work. Case in point;”Ask the Dust” “The Great Gatsby” The Scarlett Letter” “Dune” “A Wrinkle in Time” “The Turn of the Screw” and so on… This of course is not always the case but I remain hesitant. “On the Road” is due out next year. Walter Salles is directing the film, which is a good thing… but I think it is going to be extremely difficult to convey the magic of Kerouac onto the big screen. We shall see. I do love HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” The books are fantastic and the series is amazing. David Benioff and Brian Kirk have done a really nice job with it.

  307. I tend to do whatever comes first. I’m a journalism student, so I’m usually quite busy during the school year, which doesn’t allow me to read all the books that I wanted to. And if the movie comes out first, I’ll go see it. I agree with you with the fact that reading allows the reader to imagine everything right down to a T; but that also means that the reader will most likely never be happy with the movie version, because nothing is as perfect as it is in one’s head. I am happy I watched LOTR before reading the books (but believe me, I tried in grade six – I was just too young to grasp it all and quickly gave in to the new first movie). But with Harry Potter, I am thankful I read the books first. It helped me through the icky parts of the movies.
    I loved your post though, and it definitely got me – along with all these other people – thinking. Thank you!

  308. The book of course, because the book is the essentially the movie in your mind, it captures the imagination and you get to be a part of it and see what you want to see as opposed to being shown a particluar thing. Have you ever wondered why after watching a movie everyone says well, the movie was so much better?

  309. Pingback: Qu’est-ce qu’on devrait voir en premier… ? « Nothing To Say

  310. For me, it really depends on the story. With Harry Potter, both the movies and the books were excellent, but if you want a world with more detail — one you can construct yourself based on mere words — I’d read the books first. But some books are just… difficult to get through, in which case I would rather watch the movies and content myself with not reading the books. So really, it depends for me. Actually, I just go with the flow as well.

  311. It depends on my interest level really: I’ll usually watch the series / movie first and if I’m intrigued I’ll go forward and find the book. I use to do it the other way, but this makes me too critical when watching and it is difficult to enjoy the movie. Same with remakes – I tend to watch the newer version first before I attempt the original film.

  312. I usually aim to try to read the book first otherwise I find it difficult to actually get through the book. I find it harder to get through a book that I already know what’s going to happen in. I discovered this with the Harry Potter series. I saw the first movie and then tried to read the first book, which seemed to take me forever. That’s just the way I try to do it now, book and then movie. It doesn’t always work out, but I try.

  313. Hi Kristen,

    Book first over movie. The movie first just ruins the imagery in my head. But of course, I cant imagine Harry Potter any other way now except as Daniel Radcliffe and his woodish acting 🙂

  314. I have yet to enjoy the movie version of a story more than I did the book, so I always read the book first when I get the change. The book allows my imagination to take the scenes and descriptions the author provides and then build upon them.

    I will rarely, if ever, read the book after I have seen the movie for the reasons I mentioned above. My mind takes the sights and sounds from the movie and transfers them to the book, making it a much less enjoyable experience for me.

    I have learned that I can either watch the movie OR read the book, not both.

  315. I now flip-flop quite a bit. I used to be a die-hard ‘the book is better’ fan. And I would only see the movie if I read the book. NEVER, ever did I do the opposite. Welllll, life happened. I was no longer able to keep up with reading the books before the moving came out. Actually, I used to be really good at reading great books long before folks determined it would be a great movie. John Grisham’s A Time To Kill immediately comes to mind. But it seems that now it doesn’t take long before a book is on the NYT best seller list that it’s already been picked up as a screen play. Who has the time to keep up? I stopped being so hard on myself and just started going with the flow. I just can’t keep up like I used to.

    Another example is The Help. For many reasons, I wasn’t ready to tackle the subject matter even though everyone says it was great reading. Then before I knew it, they were writing the screen play, filming the movie and low and behold it was in the theaters. But there the book sat in a basket next to my bed, unread. I tried reading it, but my mind wasn’t ready. However, my mom wanted to see the movie. Soooo, I rented it and we watched it together. And in that case, I’m glad I did. Now, with that kind of subject matter (difficult subjects to discuss), sometimes you need the ‘entertainment aspect’ that a movie brings. Otherwise, my mind tends to wander with ‘what ifs’ and ‘i can’t believe she did that’ comments while I’m reading. Distracting. A movie allows you to ‘get it over with’. Sad, but true.

    I suppose that for those of us who appreciate great writing, nothing they can do in a movie will change the quality of the writing. For many of us, reading a great book is just as entertaining, if not more than, seeing the Cliff Notes version on the screen.

    I hit on this subject briefly on my post, Books and My Attention Span. It wasn’t about the movie, but more about not having time to read the book.

    Thanks for a great post! Very thought-provoking.

  316. A question, if anyone reads this far, lol.
    I read to Thai and russian kids who have ok English. They are 8.
    I want to both read and watch charlie and the chocolate factory.

    Maybe the movie first will help their grasp of the language in the book!
    Or maybe the movie first will make them lose interest in the written word…

    Maybe a crossover. Read and get them involved, if the feedback is that they are not grasping it, throw the movie in after a few chapters, then resume the reading…

    I would love some comments on this… Thanks!

    • I’ll add my two cents, for what it’s worth! I’d say it’d be better to have them read the book first in this case, though reading the book and watching the movie congruently might work well, too. The world that the book presents is so outlandish that I think it’d be best to let them form their own ideas about it first, and then use the movie to build on those ideas/present them with a new perspective on the story.

      Hope that helps! 🙂

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