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.

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