Books on Film–Are we obligated to read before watching?

I’m about to fork over some mulah for HBO just so I can watch season five of True Blood, premiering next week. It figures that most of my favorite shows and movies are based on books. And yet I’ve never read any of the books in the Sookie Stackhouse series. As a writer, I’m a little shamefaced about this. It’s okay for other people to say, “Why read the book when I can watch it on film?” But we’re supposed to favor the written word, right? We’re supposed to do everything in our power to read before watching, and heaven forbid we like the film version better than the print!

I often hear a symphony of scoffs amidst throngs of theater-goers wearing their “I Read the Book,” wordscout badges. They enlighten their uninformed friends by listing key moments unforgivably left out of the movie. They mourn the loss of Tom Bombadil in the translation. Their friends roll their eyes and inexplicably forget to invite them to the next movie outing. And, yes, I have been known to play piccolo in that symphony. I’m not guiltless.

But the reason I haven’t read the Sookie Stackhouse books is that some part of me thinks I might not enjoy them as much as I do the TV series…and the only reasonable consequence of a preference for the cinematic is a public stoning by my peers.

For now, I’m safe. I have yet to watch a movie or show I liked better than the book.

Do you try to read the book before watching it on film? And have you ever preferred the movie or TV version? I promise I’m not asking because I have a pocketful of stones I need to unload.

More books on TV: Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin), Dexter (Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay), Gossip Girl (Gossip Girl by Cecily von Ziegesar)

See my top five list of book-to-film adaptations on my Facebook page.

8 thoughts on “Books on Film–Are we obligated to read before watching?

  1. I enjoy reading books before films, but the books are almost ALWAYS better, so it kind of ruins the films. But, I can say you are safe to read the Sookie Strackhouse books, as I have read all but the last one, because they are nothing alike after the 3rd book. I enjoy both the Series and books because they are 2 total different entities now. 🙂 and I cannot wait for True Blood to start!

  2. I usually try to read the book before I see the movie and I usually like the books better than the movies, but sometimes I like the movies just as much as the books. Case in point: Pride and Prejudice. And in that case, I actually like both the Colin Firth version and the Keira Knightley version in equal measures, though I know not everyone does.

    As for True Blood, though, I’ve noleither read the books nor seen the show. I hope you enjoy!

    • I am a Colin Firth/BBC P&P fan! I think BBC usually hits the mark on adaptations. I agree that the adaptation and the book were equally enjoyable.

  3. There are some books I feel compelled to read before I watch the movie/tv adaptation. Some I just cannot…..The Lord of the Rings, for example. I know it’s brilliant and all that, but it just reads like a history textbook to me. So, I just watched the movies instead.

    • I guess there is a movie I liked better than the book because I also couldn’t finish reading LOTR! I could only get through the first volume before tossing it aside. I intend to get through that damned behemoth one day, just because it’s such a major work in the history of the written language, but I predict it’ll take some time.

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