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Features | Reading the Book First


At the end of my first term at university, one of my lecturers asked us all what our favourite text from that module had been and why. When it was my turn I totally panicked and said, "My favourite was The Great Gatsby because I'm a big Baz Luhrmann fan so it was great to get to read the book before the film comes out." It was pretty obvious from the look on her face that this was not the sort of answer my lecturer had had in mind.

We've all insisted on reading a book before we watch the tv or film adaptation though, haven't we? We've all wanted to experience the story the way the author intended, using our own imaginations, and forming our own opinions, before watching someone else's interpretation play out. I increasingly find it a lot less important though. Sometimes I think it's better to watch the film first. There have even been a few times I've read books that films I loved were based on, only to find that I enjoyed the films a lot more.

One great benefit of watching the film first is that you aren't constantly waiting for certain things to happen and you don't get that annoyance when you find that your favourite part has been cut out. Much as I love the Harry Potter films I'm not sure I will ever get over Harry not finding out who the Marauders actually were. That's partly why I won't even think about reading A Game of Thrones until the tv series is over. I'd rather just enjoy it for now.

Another benefit to watching the film first is that it can help you to understand the book better. When The Great Gatsby finally came out I saw it with a friend who hadn't read the book. She borrowed my copy afterwards and said she was glad she'd watched the film first because being able to visualise scenes from the film had helped her to understand what was happening when her dyslexia slowed her down. That isn't something I had ever thought about before but it makes perfect sense.

I used to think a book would always be superior to its adaptations but now I think of them as more parallel. They tell the same story in different ways, and so they can help you to understand and appreciate the story in different ways. Sometimes I read the book first and sometimes I watch the film first. Sometimes I watch the film and never read the book at all.

What about you? Are you as lenient as I am, or do you always insist on reading the book before you watch any adaptation?

1 comment

  1. I definitely prefer to read the book before I watch the film but I'm open to either way. I watched the DUFF before I read it and much preferred the film and I'm finding that I can't get into the Maze Runner because it's nothing like the film which I really enjoyed! And I definitely know the pain of a poorly made adaptation that misses out key points over the books, I'm not sure I'll ever get over the Vampire Academy adaptation...

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