Are books better than movies? Almost always. If a movie comes out based on a book, should you read the book first? Well, that’s up to you, but consider the following:
“Hey, I just found out about this really awesome movie based on a book!”
“Man, you should read the book first, it’s so much better!”
How many times has this conversation occurred between friends? I’ve been on both sides of that conversation many, many times. In fact I can’t think of any movie/show* where the book(s) aren’t better. (*One exception: Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer.)
My question is: why do we tell people to read the book first? In what situation have you read a book, watched the movie, and were happy you’d done it in that order? Never? Likewise.
I started thinking about why we do this. Why do we want other people to read the book first, so they can be disappointed by the movie? Because misery loves company. Because we were disappointed in the movie/show, and we want others to feel the same disappointment we did.
My first few times seeing movies based on books, it was books I had read. I was exclusively disappointed.
Then I read a few books based on movies I had loved. In this case, I hated the book. It stepped away from the movie in ways that, had they been released the other way around, I could have understood, but I don’t know why they strayed so far from the movie. I realized books and movies are different media, with different capabilities and limitations for what they can accomplish. I began judging movies based on how they adapted the story to the screen, and was (mostly) able to understand the choices made.
I was still guilty of telling people to read the book first.
My first time reading a book after watching a movie/show based on it was amazing. Having seen the movie, I was grounded enough in the world to jump right into the book. Even with the movie characters in my mind, I built different images in my head for each of the characters and settings.
Right now I’m reading Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind. It’s the first book in the Sword of Truth series, and had a TV show based on it that aired 2008-10 (2 seasons). Each season was based on a book (first season Wizard’s First Rule, second Stone of Tears), and I watched it last year. I loved the show! Because of that, I purchased the first seven books in the series a few weeks ago (birthday gift card).
I only started reading the first book a few days ago, and I’m about halfway through now. I love having a good basis in the world, characters, and even the over-arching plot. However, even more, I love how different the book is from the TV show. Multiple things surprised me because in the show they were greatly simplified.
Books are better, but watch the movie first.