Read The Book Before The Movie or Vice Versa?

As I was doing my 9 mile training run this weekend, I got to thinking about my not-so-written in stone policy of reading books first prior to the movies they are based upon.  I have followed this policy for most movies based upon books.

I like to follow this policy for a few reasons.  One of the more important ones I feel, in my opinion, is that generally speaking the books are so much better than the movie adaptation.  For me, there are some examples that come to the front of my mind.  The first being J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  While I truly enjoyed the movies, and thought, for the most part, they were true to the written books, I found the books to be more enjoyable than the movies.

The Harry Potter books also strike me as another solid example.  Four years ago, I had never read or seen a Harry Potter movie.  In the summer of 2007 The Order of the Phoenix was coming out and my sister was hoping that I would see it with her.  Well, I told her that would be fine, but I wanted to read the books first.  I’m glad I did because I found the books significantly better than the movies.

Now, there are some cases where I’ve seen the movie before the book.  The Twilight series comes to mind.  I’ve seen all the movies so far, but have never read the book.  But I’ve talked about vampire books in this post.  That example is one of the exceptions to the rule.  Another example is The Hunt for Red OctoberThe Hunt for Red October is one of my ultimate favorite movies.  I had never read the book until a couple of years ago, and when I read it, while I found the book to be good, it could be a toss-up as to which is better.

While I know, with the number of books out there these days, and especially as more and more movies are based off best seller books, it will be difficult to keep up with this unwritten policy I have.  But fortunately for me, it’s not a hard written rule, and I’m pretty comfortable with the idea of seeing a movie before reading the book it’s based on.

Do you like to read books before seeing the movies they’re based upon, or does it not really bother you which way or the other.  Let me know!


About Jeremy

Husband, book lover, Civil War Buff. If I could read for a living I would, but unfortunately, it doesn't pay the bills!

15 Responses to “Read The Book Before The Movie or Vice Versa?”

  1. I agree the book in most cases are better than the film….What really bothers me is when a character doesnt live up to your own interpretation of them…great post..Eliza Keating

  2. I used to always try to read the book before the movie. But then I found that one didn’t really ever “ruin” the other. Sometimes the movie version of a book you love sucks, but often you see a movie and enjoy it and then enjoy the book even more. Or the book is completely different, and that’s okay.

    • I’ve found that to be the case most of the time as well, Robyn. 🙂 I don’t think a movie has ever ruined a book for me. Well, I think there is one case, Battlefield Earth by L. Ron Hubbard. I could only get through half the book before I had to put it down due to how bad the movie was.

  3. I often will see a movie before reading a book, but for the same reason you mentioned: the book is usually so much better than the movie. If I see the movie 1st, I’m more likely to have 2 enjoyable experiences rather than 1. If I read the book first, I tend to be much more critical of the movie.

    • I have found that to be the case with myself as well! When those times do happen to me, I discover to find that I’m telling myself I should read the book. That was definitely the case with me with Jane Austen’s Emma when I saw the movie with Gwyenth Paltrow.

  4. Like you say the book is usually better than the movie so I think I usually prefer to see the movie first. Just about every time I’ve seen a film version of a book I’ve read I’ve been disappointed. If I’ve seen a movie and liked it, my enjoyment of the book is usually heightened. Examples:
    Loved the books Wiseblood by Flannery O’Connnor and Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by Tom Robbins but thought the movies were very disappointing.
    Saw the movies Deliverance and The Poseidon Adventure(the original version) and loved both of them–reading the books afterward was a real joy as I felt like I was reliving the movie but in great detail and depth.

    Tossing It Out

  5. I agree with your examples. I was so disappointed by Viggo Mortensen’s Aragorn, simply because he was far too attractive. I’d always imagined a Harry Dean Stanton type in that role.
    Some movies are as compelling as the book, because they thrive on their own terms. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly comes to mind. Although on research, I was disappointed to learn that the saintly wife of the film is a manipulative hussy in real life…thus the demonizing portrayal of the dead protagonist’s lover. My Salon entry this week is about a movie I saw without first reading the short story, I don’t feel the least bit guilty.

    • Yeah, there were moments in the film where Viggo seemed out of place, I’m thinking more in The Two Towers that was more the case.

      There is another movie that I saw and hadn’t read the book. I saw The Importance of Being Earnest based on Oscar Wilde’s short story. Now I don’t know if I will ever read the short story, but I can’t imagine it being as witty as the movie portrayal.

  6. For the most part, the book has been better then the movie. Don’t get me wrong, I am huge movie person and enjoy movies whenever time will allow. Jeremy mentioned earlier Harry Potter, one summer I decided to read all the books to see what the hype was; I had already seen all the movies up to that point. And, I have to say that the books are really good. The movies are good as well; but something that I want to point out is the Order of the Phonix was one of my favorite books; after reading the book I was excited to see the movie and was dissapointed that there was so much information left out of the movie. This is why I am glad that Deathly Hallows is being done in two parts.

    Oh, by the way you are not missing much from Twilight. I tried to read the first one, and could not get past the first chapter; perhaps that is just me, but I could not stand reading about a teenage girl complaining that her life sucked.

    • Definitely agree with you on the movie adaptation with The Order of the Phoenix. The book was quite dark, and while the movie wasn’t happy, it wasn’t quite as dark as the book portrayed the mood of the main characters.

      Well aware of Twilight. 🙂 I believe I’ll be very happy once the movies are done being released in the theater!

  7. I like reading books before watching the movie versions, because books have so much detail that gets left out in movies.

    My sister likes watching movies first before reading the book and when I asked her why, she said, so if she liked the movie, she can look forward to getting more details about it in the book. I think she has a valid point too.

    • There are definitely pros and cons to either approach. I definitely like the point your sister has made with watching the movies first. Although, there are some examples where I’m glad I read the book first. Two books come to mind where the movies would’ve ruined the book: John Grisham’s The Firm and Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park.

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