Monday Musings | Doing Things Backwards

Striped Book Spines Rereadable Books Monday Musings One More Page

One common thing I often hear from book lovers is that they prefer to read books before they’re adapted for screen. It’s a sentiment that I mainly agree with but don’t hold as a rule. And, to be honest, sometimes it has served me well.

Last month I wrote about seeing The Maze Runner in theatres before reading the books and how the experience surprised me. I was blown away. I loved the movie so much that I even started reading the books! Now, I’m not saying that one way to do things is better than the other, but I think there is something exciting (and rebellious, maybe?) about seeing an adaptation before reading the original work.

This exhilarating experience repeated itself when I saw Gone Girl in theatres before I had read the book. I’m sure many of you have either read the book or watched the movie (or both) by now, and can I tell you how much I got sucked into the movie? I think the fact that I hadn’t read the book made it even more shocking. I was stressed and scared the whole time, and considering that it’s a thriller, I think that’s a very good sign. Again, I think there’s a case to be made for both sides (reading the book first vs. watching the adaptation first), but in my experience, it sometimes pays off to do things backwards.

Here’s one last recent example: After watching the This is Where I Leave You trailer months ago, I was 100% on board. I love Tina Fey and I adore Adam Driver, and the trailer was endearingly comedic. I saw the trailer months before the movie was to come out so, knowing that it was an adaptation of a novel, I set out to read the book before I saw the movie. I know this may be an unpopular opinion, but I wish I hadn’t. I got around halfway through the novel before I went to see the movie and… I hate to say it but I really enjoyed the movie and didn’t really enjoy the book. Here’s why: Jason Bateman’s character, Judd, is going through a lot. This, I get. This is conveyed in both the movie and the book, but what the movie had over the book was that it didn’t have to focus on Judd’s thoughts. The reason why I didn’t particularly enjoy the book was because, honestly, I didn’t really enjoy Judd’s character. I felt like he was a little… self-pitying? I understand why he would be angry with the world, but eventually, in the book, we do see Jen’s (“Quinn” in the movie) side of the relationship breakdown and, while I won’t say it justifies her actions, it made me understand what she did a lot more. Because the book gave me this explanation, I started disliking Judd even more, which made reading the book from his perspective mildly frustrating.

The best part about This is Where I Leave You the book, I thought, was the banter between the Altman family. This comedic goodness translated perfectly to the screen, and, paired with the wonderful movie cast, really shone. Because we don’t hear Judd’s thoughts throughout the movie, I was able to enjoy it much more, after I was able to forget the things he said/thought in the book. This experience, unfortunately, made me wish I had seen the movie before reading the book.

So there you go! These are some recent examples where I did everything backwards or wish I had. Do you do this too? Or do you always read the book before seeing adaptations? Do you have any stories/experiences for one side or the other?

(I do feel like I should add an addendum that I am absolutely not against reading the book before a movie, obviously. The Harry Potter series would never be the same for me if I hadn’t read the books before seeing the movies. Also, because of this “rule,” I still haven’t seen The Giver because I haven’t read the book. So… take that as you will!)

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12 thoughts on “Monday Musings | Doing Things Backwards

  1. Charleen says:

    There are some genres that I prefer in one form or another, so in those cases I won’t worry about reading the book first if I’m probably going to like the movie better anyway.

    I do think sometimes reading a book first can “ruin” a movie that you might otherwise enjoy. At the same time, if you think you’ll like the book more, seeing the movie first can ruin the experience of reading the book for the first time. And since “the book is always better” is so ingrained, we’re reluctant to jeopardize that, I think.

    • kmn04books says:

      I agree with you that some things work better as movies and some are better as books (and some are great at being both!). It seems as though people don’t stick to the ingrained rule as much as I thought they did though – interesting!

  2. marieren says:

    I wonder if it has something to do with the medium? Maybe some stories are meant to be told in a much more visual way. While I love reading books, watching film is a totally different experience and a form of art and expression in its own right. It’s not that one medium is better than the other–it’s just that the one is different from the other. I think. Anyway, you just convinced to finally break down and watch Gone Girl. Without having read the book lol

  3. Amy Sachs says:

    I agree, sometimes the movie is just better! I haven’t read Silver Linings Playbook, but it’s one of my favorite movies and I actually don’t even want to read the book. Oops! Plus, I think if you see the movie without reading the book you go with fewer expectations. When I know what SHOULD be happening, I feel like I tend to focus on the differences.

    • kmn04books says:

      Yeah – I watched the movie (Silver Linings Playbook) and unfortunately have no desire to read the book. I agree with the expectations thing. I ALWAYS have such high expectations when I go see a movie of a book I loved!

  4. Naomi says:

    I often see a movie instead of read the book, especially if it a book I might not have read anyway. In that case, I feel like seeing the movie is helping me cut down on my to-read pile. This is often the case for popular novels like Gone Girl and some romantic comedies (a genre I don’t read a lot of), as well as all the YA novels that have been made into movies recently (like The Maze Runner and The Hunger Games), but I have to read the book first for classics and literary fiction like Harry Potter and The Giver, and many many more!

    • kmn04books says:

      I think I’m going to start doing what you’re doing! I’ll probably stick to reading the classics before watching their adaptations, but for popular novels I think I’m going to be more open to watching the movie before reading the book now. There’s just not enough time to read everything!

  5. Leah says:

    I think I tend to enjoy the movie more if I haven’t read the book, since I don’t go in expecting anything. However, if it’s a book I really want to read, I’ll try to read it first, since I would rather spoil a 2-hour movie than a book that takes a few days to read.

    I saw the Silver Lining’s Playbook movie before reading the book. I LOVED the movie, but then I HATED the book, I think for a similar reason to why This is Where I Leave You didn’t work for you; I couldn’t stand Pat’s internal narration.

    • kmn04books says:

      True. I definitely hold off seeing a movie if I’m really looking forward to a book, but I think if I’m unsure about the book I’ll just go ahead and watch the movie.

      That’s interesting that you bring up Silver Linings Playbook because Amy commented above about liking the movie and having no interest in reading the book! I definitely think that internal narration can either make or break a book, unfortunately. (But when it works it’s SO good!)

  6. Little Lindsey says:

    I used to read the book before watching the movie, but I haven’t had time to do that in recent years, so I’ve had to backtrack a lot. For instance, the last 2 Harry Potters were the only ones I read before watching the movies, because I was late to the Harry Potter train. And in a few cases, I’ve watched the movie first and then read the book, and ended up liking the movie a lot more, like in Beastly. But the more recent releases, I haven’t been able to watch the movie or read the book yet, so my netflix and TBR queues are getting super long! 🙂

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