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To read or to watch

It’s an age old – timeless – debate of Books vs Films. Instinct tells me that of course the book is better than the film because nothing can ever beat your own imagination. But what if the debate wasn’t about which is better?

To read or to watch? As an avid reader this question will be answered time and time again with ‘to read’. But it is not always as clear cut as that.

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But there are times when we watch the film of the book. It happens much more than we think. From The Lord of the Rings to the Harry Potter series.

And there are more times than not that the book is better than the film. But what happens when we watch the film before reading the book? Does a cold sweat set in while we wonder if we’ve ruined the potential awesomeness of the book? Do we panic wondering whether we’d be able to picture the characters as they were meant to be – using our own imaginations – rather than the actor on the screen? What happens if the film turns out to be completely different from the book? We’ve missed the perfect opportunity to speak out in derision against the film-makers for changing what happened to be a great story.

While I tell myself that the book and the film have to be treated almost as separate entities – it isn’t always easy. And there are some films that I will never watch because I love the book so much. 1984, The Stand, The Count of Monte Cristo to mention a few. Yet there will be some films that I want to watch because I enjoyed the book, and vice versa. There will be – and has been – some films that I’ve enjoyed that have inspired me to read the book – Gone with the Wind, The Martian, Schlinder’s Ark (Schlinder’s List), and Psycho – again t mention a few.

It definitely is a pickle. The question of to read or to watch is not as straight-forward as it first appears. Instinct tells us ‘to read’ but it doesn’t always work out like that.

If, however, we only had one option: to read or to watch, and if we couldn’t have them both: then my answer would definitely follow my instinct, my gut reaction as a reader and as a writer: To Read.

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2 comments on “To read or to watch

  1. I doubt many avid readers will disagree with you, Louise; I’m firmly in the “read the book” camp. I’ve found the best option if I see the movie first is to read the book after several months have gone by. I don’t forget the movie, but by then I usually don’t have it playing in my head as I read. When I read the book first, I’m often disappointed by what the movie leaves out, even when it is well done. Take The English Patient, for example—the movie was gorgeous, but the book was breathtaking.

    • Yeah I generally read the ‘book to the film’ long after I’ve watched the film. But I tend to have a fairly good memory when it comes to watching films – so it does sometimes spoil the book – but you’re right often a lot of detail is left out in the film.

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