The Great Book vs. Movie Debate

To read the book first? Or see the movie? That is the question.


(image courtesy

I find myself questioning my once sound logic. You see, I have always, ALWAYS, been a “see the movie” first kind of gal.

Hey! Stop running out of here, you bookworms! Let me explain!

I am a voracious reader too, and I love a good adaptation like the rest of you.

But if you really want to enjoy them BOTH – the book and the movie – then you’ve got to see the movie first.

Here’s why:

When you see the movie first, you are entertained, you enjoy the story, the cinematography, the effects, the ambiance. You have no preconceived notions of how a character looks or acts. You don’t know the order of events that will unfold. It is all new. Ergo, it’s exciting.

Yah, so if I’ve seen the movie, why should I care about the book, Smartypants? Huh?

Because often the movie IS different from the book! So reading the book, is like reading a new story. You may know the basic plot, but characters could surprise you, new faces may appear, added information becomes available! Therefore, it’s still exciting!


From my extensive research, this has proved to be true:

Saw the movie first, also loved the book:

Read the book first, hated the movie:

Where my conundrum occurs is the TV and graphic novel series The Walking Dead. Which is the right path?

Walking Dead Decision Making

The Show! No, start with the comic! But the show… Gah!!!

I’ve tuned in for all 3 seasons of The Walking Dead now, and just finished reading Book One in the graphic novel series.

You know what?


Characters I love on the show aren’t in the book for very long. Romances that never happened on TV are consummated in black and white!

What the hell?! Now what am I supposed to believe?

Walking Dead

Only that you are wrong.


I think I have to make an addendum to the rule.

Rule Addition When Dealing with Television Series: The person or persons may start the series by viewing the television version first, but may not proceed to a second season of said series until they have read the written work of the original, thereby not forming too strong of a relationship with TV created characters so as to be disappointed in the written ones.

What do you think?

Do you see the movie first? Read the book? Does it make a difference?


52 responses

  1. I absolutely read the book first! However, I must wait a little while before I see the movie so that the details fall by the wayside, and I don’t become overly critical of the film. Part of my reason is that if I see the movie first, then I imagine the actors as those characters in the book, and I would prefer to come up with my own mental versions of them. I have enjoyed plenty of adapted movies after reading the books (Sense & Sensibility, Harry Potter movies, Tess of the D’Ubervilles, The Outsiders, etc.).

    But I can see your point. As to Walking Dead, I’d neither read nor see them. Not interested, so I can’t help you there! 😉

    1. What about Pretty Little Liars? Have you read the books? Is it too late for me now that I’m 3 seasons in.

      1. I tried reading the 1st book, and I was bored because I knew everything that was going to happen and it wasn’t fabulous prose. I’m not saying she’s not a great author; indeed, I suspect the books get better later in the series.

  2. This conundrum kills me. I’d rather read the book first, but then the movie might just be a completely different story (I just did a post about the Percy Jackson series new movie). How can the movie be SO different?!

    I read the first couple of Sookie books before True Blood started. Now I can watch or read either.


    1. It’s so difficult to choose!!! I have the Sookie books on my to read pile too.

  3. I’m totally with you on this, Jess! Reading the book later is like the super special 4-disc collector’s edition dvd, just packed with extras!! Sorry about your Packers this weekend. I was pulling for them. I live in California, but am no 49 fan. Get ’em next time, okay?


    1. I was really hoping for a turnaround right at the end there. *sad face* Next time indeed!

  4. I like reading the book first because it adds extra dimension to the film for me. The film is a very, very abridged version of the book. There are times the filmmaker chooses to use the novel as only a very loose basis for the film. At those times, it does not help to have read the book. But, most of the time, I watch with a deeper understanding.

    WINTER’S BONE is one of those movies in which I read the book first. I still loved the movie.

    On the other hand, I read UNDER THE DOME before I ever even knew a series was on the way. I am not enjoying the series, but I also didn’t enjoy the book very much.

    I often find, if I watch the movie or TV series first, I’m unable to enjoy the books. THE VAMPIRE DIARIES is a good example of that. I watched the first season (back when it first aired on TV). I liked it so well, I went out and bought the first four books. I hated them. See, I had gotten the images and personalities of the TV characters set so firmly in my mind that I was disappointed the books were so different. (And they really are)

    Here’s another side of the book-to-TV thing. I had read all of Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse books before the HBO series, TRUE BLOOD, even started. I really liked the first three seasons of the HBO series. But, as it dragged on and got further away from the books, I grew to really dislike it. I no longer watch TRUE BLOOD.

    So I think we approach it backwards from each other.

    1. Or….are TV shows an exception to the rule? Maybe that’s where there’s fault in my debate! LOL.

      And thanks for the warning on Vampire Diaries.

      1. I’d be willing to GIVE you my copies of the VAMPIRE DIARIES first four books if you’ll pay the postage.

        1. Lol. Deal. Count me in.

          1. Excellent. Email me at catierhodes (AT) gmail (DOT) com with your mailing address, and we’ll get it worked out.

  5. You can be disappointed both ways. Either you like the movie and don’t like the book or like the book and dislike the movie. Sometimes, when you are in luck, you like both. I do wish that the movie people should adhere to the book version, so that we enjoy both.

    1. But that’s all subjective too. Where would you draw the line at how detailed they had to be? So hard to choose!!

  6. I almost always try to read the book first, especially since my track record proves that if I watch the movie first, I never read the book…

    1. Lol. Yah part of me has that problem too. For sure!

  7. It’s the age old struggle . . . good v. evil, white v. wheat, book v. movie. I have been angrily disappointed at a movie after reading the book first (because Hollywood sucks), but have found myself imagining the characters as the actors when reading the book afterwards. It is difficult. I, myself, remain in the book first camp, though. Despite my constant disgust over the screen writer and directors “visions” of many beloved books (i.e. butchering it to pieces), I need to read the source before I see the adaptation. It’s just how I roll.

    1. And I remain firmly in the pack wine in your purse camp when going to the theater. So maybe we’re more alike than we both know.

  8. Sorry, I’m a purist: gotta go with the book first. I figure it’s better that way because I’ll invest significantly more time in a book: I usually spend weeks reading it (even the best case scenario is still days), versus two hours for a movie. Hence, my reading enjoyment is enhanced for a longer period of time, because inevitably the book is always better than the movie (with rare exceptions such as The Lord Of The Rings, and even then, it’s a toss-up.

    1. Agree to disagree then. I still invest more time and enjoy the book when I see the movie first. Thanks for your strategy though. Good argument!

  9. ).

    (Forgot to close the loop. Drives me nuts. Carry on).

    1. Too late. The blog police have been notified.

  10. If I see the movie, I NEVER go back and read the book. For me, it’s fun to read a book, then see what is done with it in the movie (or TV show). Sometimes I’m disappointed, sometimes not. And sometimes you just want to smack someone. When I watch Rizzoli and Isles, I have to pretend like I’ve never read the books. Because Dr. Isles is NOT that weird in the books. LOL

    1. Kudos for allowing that barrier. I’m still struggling with The Walking Dead.

  11. We’re definitely movie first. The book has so much more in the sense of details and meatiness in general that leaves the viewer wanting should they read it first. This way, the book opens up more and you feel like you’re gaining rather than losing.

    1. Yes! I’m so with you. My belief exactly. Have any favorites?

      1. Well, we were both very pleased with the Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe film adaptation, The Hunger Games, (matter of fact, we actually preferred the movie to the book). *This is where we run from the hardcore Hunger Game fans* LOL, A Time To Kill and The Godfather.

        1. Ooh smart move on running from THG fans. They’re liable to go all Lord of the Flies on ya!

  12. My reason for movie first may be a little different. If I read the book first, I develop mental pictures of the characters. Then when I watch the movie and the actors don’t look like when I’ve envisioned, it drives me nuts. Ergo, movie first.

    1. Will you tell that to Julie? She says she has to read the book first so the movie characters don’t infiltrate the pages! LOL

      1. To each his own, I guess, but that ruins the movie for me.

  13. I’m strictly a “read the book first” kind of gal, although I will see a movie version of a book if I have no plans to read the book. One book I loved but refused to see the movie because I was afraid it wouldn’t meet my expectations was The Help. Anyone who has read and seen that title, tell me if I was wrong. 🙂

    1. Well, I saw the movie first, but I do think they did a great job. And the author was very present in the process. It was a friend of hers who directed so you should see it.

  14. I’ve come treat the book and the movie/TV show as separate entities. Like alternate realities of each other. I try to enjoy each on its own merits. I know that sounds like a cop-out, but it helps when there are obvious and drastic changes in the movie/tv show. Someone mentioned True Blood. *spoiler alert* Lafayette has been looking good and funny as h*ll for 6 seasons, when he was barely a character in book 1 and a corpse at the beginning of 2.

    1. Ohmygod say it isn’t so! I love Lafayette!

  15. Maybe I’m the odd girl out, but I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter what order I read/watch in. As long as I treat them like different entities, I can enjoy them both. The most I’ll usually remark is whether they’ve kept the story close to the book or not. The only exception to that rule? Gone With The Wind. LOVED the book. Hated the movie. And that’s a classic…so what does that tell you?

    1. You’re right Kitt. I don’t know WHAT to think of you now! 😉

  16. Books and movies are so different that I find it difficult to say which one “comes first.” A screenplay must leave out so much detail, backstory and leaves little to the imagination. The book, on the other hand, gives the full experience, the details often left on the cutting room floor.

    1. That’s why I generally really enjoy the book even after watching the movie. There’s “more”. When you do it the other way it feels like less.

      1. It is kind of fun to see what gets cut from the movie versions. Sometimes it’s little things like in the Hunger Games, then others seem like a completely different story like the Bourne Supremacy.

  17. You know… Let me admit this: I liked Twilight movie a little bit more than the book. And the book I hated. So sometimes you can get a slightly better movie out of an incredibly crappy book.

    1. That’s because the movie didn’t use the same adjectives over and over. And over. And over and over.

      1. Hahaha True! Those adjectives almost killed me.

        1. If I have to hear about Jacob’s RUSSET skin one more time! I swear to God, Meyer! We get it, he’s native, move on. #HeadDesk

  18. I always read the book first, like Jolyse, unless I don’t have time before a movie leaves the theater. But I almost always see the movie, too, even though I know it may not live up to he book. I try to look at it as a totally different story. I’m happier when there are years between the book and the movie. Then it’s like reliving the story.
    Jolyse, I loved both the book The Help and its movie. In both forms, the story was right up my alley and I wanted to “see” the characters from the filmmakers perspective.

    1. Agreed. The Help was well done in both formats. And I think that’s because the author had a lot of input.

  19. Learned to read before I was old enough to go to movies. Some movies are nice especially when the book is Dickens, Bronte or Austen. Some books just have to be made into movies.

    1. I still love to read Jane Austen!!!

  20. I always figure, read the book first when you’re equally interested in both, but the movie first if you’re not overly enthused. There are books I’m pretty sure I’ll never read, at least not in full (Harry Potter – don’t hate me!), and the movies seem like a great way to get a feel for the stories. As a side note, I dug the ending of Hannibal the film over the book’s ending. Crazy, right? (I won’t give either away, just in case. ;)) Fab post, lady!

    1. I haven’t read all the Harry Potter books either. I’m currently reading #2. I read #1 last year. So I figure that gives me until 2018 to finish the series. 😉

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