The Book Was Better.

So, tonight, I wasted too much time on a reddit thread about books you hate with a passion, having come across a few classics that I absolutely adore but I could understand why people weren’t fans. This mostly hit me when I came across Little Women and Anne of Green Gables, two classic staples that I realized I never actually read until after I saw the mini-series or the movie (Christian Bale will forever be Theodore Laurence, SORRY BATMAN). That put an instant thought in my head: do I love these books more because I saw the movie first?

Now, I’m going to admit something that may be shocking. I’m actually a little nervous to admit it, because it may lead some of you to never look at me the same way again, but here we go. I do not like Jane Austen. Yeah, yeah, I know, but every since my father bought me a set of her books when I was in high school, I have been diligently trying to force my way through them, but I just cannot understand the appeal. The Regency era is interesting and I love them as little slices of history, but as literature, I’m not a fan. The only one I’ve remotely enjoyed so far is Emma, and I will admit that was only because I grew up on Clueless, and so it was really fun for me to draw the connections between the original book and the way fun modern retelling of it.

This really makes me wonder: does seeing the movie before reading the book enhance your experience of it (assuming, of course, you liked the movie)? Something about having that visual retelling and that immediate connection with the characters in a short space of time already sets you up to explore them in greater depth in a movie. So many of my favorite books (Battle Royale, Little Women, Alice in freaking Wonderland) were books that experienced as a movie first. A lot of the movies I love are books I look forward to finally getting to read (The Hunger Game, The Secret Garden, A Little Princess). Are there books that I hated (Anna Karenina comes to mind…Pride and Prejudice as well) that I would have loved if only I’d seen a film version of it first?

This also brings to mind how much I loved the A Song of Ice and Fire series because I was reading the books and watching the show simultaneously. It was so much fun reading something, then seeing it portrayed on the show (and sometimes vice versa), and taking note of the differences. I also stopped reading the series…just as I stopped watching the show. Granted, both of those were due to things beyond my control (no access to the show, and Dance with Dragons was on my now dead Kindle), but it’s still an interesting coincidence.

What do you think? A lot of times, I find myself saying, “Oh, I want to see that, but I want to try to read the book first.” Perhaps I shouldn’t. Perhaps I should go ahead and see the movie, because it’ll set me up to already enjoy the characters and the story and just enhance the experience so much more. Do you feel being exposed to a visual media version of a story enhances it, too, or do you find that it lessens it? In a way, it’s almost like creating a multimedia experience, and I am a child of the multimedia age…

On the flip side, though, seeing the movie first lead me to read Twilight. Not because I enjoyed the movie, of course, but out of morbid, horrible, sadistic curiosity, so the point is probably moot.

What are some movies or shows that helped you appreciate a book better? Which books have you read that you hated the movie for? And, on the reverse, any books that you hated but thought the movie was pretty good? How about books that you’d love to see turned into movies?

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5 responses

  1. I’m not a Jane Austen fan either. I think her characters, even the ones who are supposed to be the strong ones, are brainless and kind of silly. I try to get into her books, but every time I end up thinking “Oh dear god kill me now.”

    1. Thank goodness. I always feel so alone in those feels. Maybe we should form a support group.

      1. I like that idea. Everyone always seems to think it’s sacrilege not to like her.

        Of course, I’d still take Jane Austen over Mark Twain. Huckleberry Finn is probably my least favorite book that I’ve ever read, and I read a lot of books.

  2. I also am not a huge Jane Austen fan! You are not alone. As a fan of strong literature, the classics are way up there on my list. However, her books are not. I’ve seen the movies and read the books, nope, not my thing! While the time period of her stories is interesting, there’s just some element of her female characters I cannot relate to on any level, and thus, I immediately lose interest. I was also not an Anne of Green Gables fan nor the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House series, though I admit I loved the television show Little House on the Prairie.

    As far as reading a book before a movie, I stand by that. Not only do I have the images already in my mind, it saves me a bunch of money! You know, now that tickets are $12/seat, popcorn and soda and twizzlers are close to $20, that’s a pricey night for my family of 4!! And if I don’t enjoy the book, I won’t have to spend time or money watching the movie! Go figure…I MUST read the book first, one of my few unbending rules.

  3. I’m not a fan of Jane Austen (I hope Susan Bischoff isn’t reading this). I read Pride and Prejudice, and sometimes a little humor came through that I enjoyed, but I wouldn’t want to read any more. However, I love the actual stories. Just not the writing. I absolutely loved the movie, Sense and Sensibilities, but I don’t want to read the book. I guess, basically, Jane Austen stories make better movies than books.

    As a general rule, I won’t read a book if I’ve already seen the movie. I like to read the book first. I think the book I’ve read where the movie is the closest to it is “The Langoliers” by Stephen King. It’s almost word for word. I loved that. The one where the movie was so different that it was very disappointing…Eragon.

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