For The Love Of Books: When Films Inspire You To Read The Original Book

It has been a common practice for Hollywood to turn to books for their next great movie project in the last few years. For every Harry Potter or Hunger Games that gets chosen to go from page to screen, you have to wonder if studios really can’t come up with their own ideas without falling back on authors, who are creating and publishing books daily, as their main source for an original story. Sometimes, the books’ movie counterparts wind up being a critical success at the box office, or they flop spectacularly. There’s really no magic formula to predict which adaptation will get a favorable response from audiences. It’s really the luck of the draw. Whether you’re for or against books being turned into films, one good thing to come out of Hollywood’s interest in the written word come to life is getting those same audience members to pick up and read the book the movie is based on, if they haven’t already.

Some book lovers or original source purists may scoff at the notion of watching a movie first before reading the book. Oftentimes, the book will almost always be much better than the film and it’s not difficult to understand why. Inner thoughts and dialogue flows better in a book than in a movie. There’s no restriction on how much we get to know the characters in a story through their development and backstory. Films usually have to condense or eliminate some aspect of the details for pacing and timing purposes. Or in some cases, endings of books get tweaked slightly for the film version for a variety of reasons. This is why book to movie adaptations can be tricky because not everyone will be pleased with the changes that need to be made, or it doesn’t live up to the vision readers have in their head of how a character or place should look like. But as much as some of us want to make an effort to read the book first before seeing the movie, it isn’t always possible.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone [Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures]
Director Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time, coming out later this week, is adapted from Madeleine L’Engle’s beloved children’s novel. While many may have fond memories of reading the book as a kid, I do not. I didn’t really appreciate the joy of reading books until I was in junior high, which means I missed out on a lot of classic books growing up. Not to mention some of these classics never made it into my mandatory reading list for school.

I have always known about L’Engle’s book, but the desire to read it didn’t become so great until I saw trailers for DuVernay’s movie and the star-studded cast attached to the film. I recently purchased A Wrinkle in Time on Amazon with the intention of reading the book before the movie releases. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to read the book before the movie’s March 9th opening. Between busy schedules and not finishing my current book fast enough, I’ll be watching the movie first and then reading the book. This isn’t the first time this happened to me.

A Wrinkle in Time [Credit: Walt Disney Pictures]
I watched A Walk to Remember, The Notebook, Howl’s Moving Castle, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Fault in Our Stars, Warm Bodies, and many others like these before I ever picked up the original books. But what all these movies have in common is that I read every single one of these books after having seen the movie. Aside from being an avid reader, I’m a big movie watcher. Usually when I see a movie I really adore and I know it’s based on a book, I always want to read the book to see how the original story unfolds. Naturally when you watch the movie first before reading the book, it can kind of taint your reading experience. Rather than come into a book with your own imagination of what you think the characters or place look like, you’ll reconstruct parts of the movie as you’re reading it. There’s a reason why there might be a benefit to coming into a book with fresh eyes and a clear imagination.

There are times I wish I was able to create the characters in my own mind without the influence of a film already being linked to the book in some way. Yet, even though I may be reading a book for the first time with the movie adaptation already eliminating any reason to use my imagination to a certain extent, at least it’s motivating a moviegoer like me to read a book I may not have thought to read myself. Films can also be a surprising source to create your next batch of must-reads to buy or borrow from your local library.

A Walk to Remember [Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures]
I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve discovered a book because of a movie I watched. There are way too many great books out there some of us haven’t heard of or learned about yet. When a movie is made because of the book it only makes my interest in reading it that much higher. I also like being able to compare the book with a movie, even after I’ve seen the film first. I always expect a movie to be vastly different from the book and manage to separate the two from each other and appreciate them individually. No book to movie adaptation will be 100% perfect, but it’s pretty close. And when you’re fortunate enough to read a book before it becomes a film, it’s hard not to want to see those same characters and world you fell in love with come alive right before your very eyes.

Did a book to movie adaptation make you interested in reading the book? Which ones have you read because of the film?

6 thoughts on “For The Love Of Books: When Films Inspire You To Read The Original Book

  1. I saw the Harry Potter movies before reading the books, and I saw Patriot Games and The Hunt for the Red October before getting into the books. Now a days its the anime adaptations that get me into light novels and manga, SAO and My Hero Academia for example. I hope that A Wrinkle in Time turns out well for you, because it doesn’t look all that interesting to me from the trailer that I saw.

    1. I never knew Patriot Games and The Hunt for Red October were based on books. It’s funny how many movies are based on books without even knowing it sometimes. I know I’ve watched plenty of other movies I enjoyed only to discover later that it was a book and not an original script. I do think that if the movies are getting people to want to read more, it’s very encouraging and a habit worth continuing.

      Thanks! I hope A Wrinkle in Time turns out to be everything I hoped for in a movie.

  2. I hate to admit that I’m bad at keeping up with media, but…I am. So often I’ve no clue when movie adaptations occur from books, and vice versa. That said, the recent TV show “Hannibal” did inspire me to pick up the first novel on which it was based, “Red Dragon.” It was a good read, but not enough to keep me invested in any further stories of Hannibal Lecter on paper. Having seen all the Hannibal Lecter movies (and the TV show) that are out there, it’s hard for me to re-imagine his stories in writing now. I guess that’s one of the downsides of not reading books before their movies. Once you have a set of images in your head about something or someone, it’s hard to forget them.

    1. Yeah, that is one of the downsides of watching a movie/TV show first. Your whole idea of how a character should look or what the setting should be really gets ingrained into your mind that you really can’t shake it off. But even though my imagination has been dictated by a movie, I still find a lot to enjoy in simply reading. We can never underestimate the power of words.

  3. I can go both ways like you in regards to books and films. There are a ton of films I walk into having loved their books and have to remind myself to try and critique them as separate works. It’s unfair to place all of my expectations from what I know in the written word onto a film or even television series. I did this for Narnia, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, The Hunger Games, many of Jules Vernes’ books, and, yes, will do so for both Ready Player One and A Wrinkle in Time.

    There are also tons of films that inspired me to go and read their books, and like you say it can taint that experience. The faces and settings I saw in the movie are what I see when I read the book. Despite that, I still tend to prefer the book by the end because of the depth of detail absent in the movie version. This was the case in Beautiful Creatures, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Stardust.

    If I were in your shoes, I know I would hold back from watching A Wrinkle in Time since you’ve already ordered it. But, if you already bought the tickets, there’s not much else you can do. The book was such a wonderful experience, as were the rest of the books in the series I hope you also read!

    1. Exactly. The movies will never really capture everything you love about the book. It’s more about the spirit and themes of the story. This is why I don’t get so bent out of shape about an adaptation not being as precise. Sometimes I agree with the changes and other times I don’t. I think as long as the movie was enjoyable that’s all that matters. I managed to read Ready Player One first, so at least that’s one book I got to read before a movie’s release! I’m excited to see what’s the same and different about the movie vs. the book. From the trailers, the adaptation looks really cool.

      I also agree that there was a lot missing from Beautiful Creatures, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Stardust. While I enjoyed the movies, I definitely loved all 3 books way more. After reading those books it did make me wish the movie was more than what we actually got. But if it wasn’t for the movies, I really would not have discovered those 3 books. I never heard of them until the movies! This is why I believe there’s some good to take away from all these books becoming a film.

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