Books To Films

Do you read a book and then go to watch the movie, or vice versa? Have you enjoyed a film and then rushed to buy the book for a more in-depth experience? I am more of the latter persuasion. I’ve bought a number of books based on movies/TV shows I’ve seen first.

For example, I became a fan of Legend of the Seeker, a fantasy series on TV based on Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth books. It interested me enough to try his first title, Wizard’s First Rule. What’s it about?

        Wizard's First Rule (The Sword of Truth)

Richard is a simple woodsman until his father is killed and he learns of his destiny as The Seeker of Truth. Reminding me at times of Star Wars (Episode IV) due to the hero’s journey structure of the novel (see Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey), I didn’t want to put the book down. The world building is so detailed that you feel you’re there. What keeps you turning pages, aside from the evil Darken Rahl’s attempts to kill Richard and the other nefarious creatures he encounters, is the forbidden love story between Richard and Kaylan. This weaves a spell on you to see if they can defeat the magic that keeps them apart. Their love is the driving force throughout the entire series. I’ve read everything Goodkind has written to date and eagerly await the next installment in his newest series.

I am happy to be a fan of some YA shows, too. Both my husband and I were enthralled by City of Ember, a YA scifi story and book one in The Books of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau. Twelve year olds Doon Harrow and Lina Mayfleet live in a mysterious city that depends solely upon a generator for light and power. When the lights begin to flicker and the city experiences blackouts, they know something is terribly wrong. They discover an old document that may provide clues to the city’s origins and an escape route beyond the forbidden boundary.

 City of Ember                       The City of Ember (Books of Ember)  

The Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz is another one my husband and I both got hooked on after seeing the film, Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker. Alex Pettyfer was cute as the teen spy in this action flick reminiscent of James Bond. Teenager Alex Rider is recruited by British Intelligence after his uncle, a spy, is murdered. Coerced into completing Uncle Ian’s mission, Alex proves his aptitude for the job. With his martial arts training, language skills, and courage, he is more than worthy of the role. We ran out to buy Stormbreaker, the first book in the series, after seeing this movie and now have all the rest of the books on our shelves.

 Alex Rider             Stormbreaker (Alex Rider)

After a glimpse at The Hunger Games, I am tempted again to read the book to fill in the thoughts and emotional reactions that are not evident in the film.

So which comes first for you—the movie or the book?

25 thoughts on “Books To Films

  1. I prefer to have the book be my first impression of a story, but there are times when I see a well done movie & see it was based on a book. Then I have to read it.

    The movie HUNGER GAMES stuck fairly close to book #1 but tweaked some things for the sake of the film storyline. The author, Suzanne Collins, also co-wrote the screenplay. But I would recommend you read the books. They are dark, but you’ll get a better feel for Katniss, the main character.

    Thanks for all the YA recommendations. Alex Pettyfer is always a YA favorite on the big screen.

  2. Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments YA series will be the next big movie coming soon. I highly recommend the books. I devoured them. Her character story arcs for her full cast are impressive.

  3. Nancy, in most cases, I’ve been disappointed in movies based on books. The obvious drawback is that the movie makers must cram 120k words into 120 minutes. It’s just next to impossible to even tell the story in such a short time much less convey the emotions and backstory. A couple of exceptions for me were THE GODFATHER, LORD OF THE RINGS, and RED DRAGON, all of which told the stories quite well on the screen.

    • A young girl finds out she’s not as normal as she thought when she can see a sexy band of shadow hunters (angel warriors) who have cornered a demon posing as a human boy in a dance club. Its way more than that. Its filled with demons, fights, fun characters, serious battles, and romance. Loved every book.

  4. Joe, Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter stories were wonderful in film. But one has to take the movie versions of any book with a grain of salt and evaluate them as separate art forms. Legend of the Seeker deviated quite a bit from Goodkind’s series, but I enjoyed the world and characters he created nonetheless.

  5. I have to read the book first–where you get your best glimpse of the characters and what makes them tick. Then I see the movies.

    Of course that makes it very irritating when the movie isn’t in line with the book. Though in The Hunger Games they did a very respectable job of sticking with the story, even if they couldn’t provide all the nuanced details in film form.

  6. I would definitely recommend reading the Hunger Games – though I enjoyed the movie I do think books allow you to become move emotionally invested. One instance where I went from screen to book was Game of Thrones – though I fear that is now a slippery slope into some pretty intensive reading! Usually, however, I go from book to film and sadly, many times, I am disappointed with the screen version.

  7. As I was thinking about this–my all time favorite movie was and still is Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. I’m assuming the book came first but not sure. That is the one movie I can think of where the movie far surpassed the book.

    There is no way any arrangement of printed words could’ve taken the place of Ricardo Montalban and the regular Trek crew on film.

    BK Jackson

  8. Nancy, this is an interesting post and one I wrestle with. I find when I see the movie first that I cannot get through the book, as my mind knows what will happen (even though we know Hollywood changes much!).

    I too LOVE City of Ember and wanted to indulge in the book. I have tried 3 x to get into it and cant, because there is no surprise for me. Same with Harry Potter. Yes, I am the only person on the globe who has NOT gotten all the way through even the 1st Harry Potter. Because I saw the movies first.

    However, I find reading the book first inspires me to see the movie and that’s ok with me as I always enjoy seeing the interpretation of the book. Lesson learned. Always read the book first for me!

  9. having not read hunger games, harry potter or the twilight series, i can’t comment on them. i am boggled by the choice of cruise to play rough-hewn jack reacher. you have gotta be kidden’ me!! what bonehead came up with that plan….pretty boy cruise as reacher. my worst book to movie [made for tv] was scarlet….sequel to gwtw. as if anyone could replace leigh and gable. another bonehead move. best movie based on a book was sophie’s choice. imho. i’d rather read the book, and then see the movie….kathy d.

  10. I’ve had it go both ways, and sometimes it ain’t pretty. When I saw the Swedish Girl with the Dragon Tattoo I was so enthralled I stopped at an all night store on the way home just to buy the book and start reading it right there and then. Groooaan! IMHO that book is so plodding and awful that I am fascinated by its success. Needless to say I didn’t read the other two books, but I did see the films based on them.

    I read The Hunger Games long before the movie came out, and it made me want to see the movie. I was content with some of the changes made for the movie, but not others.

    I’m sure I’ll still go see the Jack Reacher flick, even though Tom Cruise will never BE Jack Reacher.

    But seeing the movie doesn’t mean I’ll read the book, or vice versa. I’ve never read The Godfather, the Harry Potter series, Red Dragon, etc., but I’ve seen the movies, and I’m sure if I look at my shelves I’ll find books I’ve read that have been made into movies I’ve never seen.

  11. Clare, I tried to get into Game of Thrones and found it confusing with so many characters. The Hunger Games sounds like more my speed. And Terry Goodkind’s books fulfill my need to read fantasy.

  12. Donna, it’s okay if that way works for you. If I like a movie, and the book is similar, for me it’s experiencing the pleasure again. I do think in the City of Ember that the film is remarkable. As for Harry Potter, I read the books first.

  13. Catfriend, I’ve read books too where I don’t feel the need to rush out and see the film. Or sometimes the book is not as good as the movie, as you say, because the pacing plods along. In some series, even though I’ve read all the books, I wish MORE movies were made. Like Legend of the Seeker. Even though it deviated from the books, I still really liked the show. It lasted only 2 seasons.

  14. Sounds interesting, Jordan. I don’t mind angels and demons, as long as there are no vampires or werewolves. I’m tired of those already. I’ll take a look at the series.

  15. Actually there are werewolves & vampires but this is really different. You really should try book 1 to see if you like it. I wasn’t even half through & I hit a bookstore to buy the next two. Loved them.

  16. Rarely found books that were as good as the movie, but that’s pretty much a given. As a kid, I remember seeing the original Disney “Escape to Witch Mountain” and then eagerly looking for the book at the library (by Alexander Key). I think the movie was better for me.

    I had always longed for Susan Cooper’s 5-book “The Dark is Rising” series to make it to film. The movie that came out in 2007 was beyond unfaithful and abysmal to boot!!!

    Finally, I thought both of Elizabeth Marie Pope’s YA books “The Sherwood Ring” and “The Perilous Gard” would’ve been great one-shot films.

  17. Vogler is too basic. Campbell is better than Vogler. Kal Bashir gets this like nobody else. Watch his youtube videos and sign up to his mailing list, which has great tips.

  18. I nearly always read the book first and it’s the best way in almost every case. The one exception for me was Jurassic Park, because the dinos on screen were like nothing I had seen before and the screen images helped make the book more vivid.

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