Book or movie? Those of us who relish the title of “avid reader” might consider it no choice at all – clearly, the book is always better! But what about those of us who love them both equally? Asking us to choose whether we prefer the book or the movie is impossible!
So that’s exactly what I asked my colleagues at the Yardley-Makefield branch.
I asked if they typically prefer the book vs. the film and to tell me about book-to-film adaptations that were surprising or prompted a second look at a book or movie. After some in-depth discussions, here’s what I learned.
Books That Are Better Than the Movie
You only need Google “is the book better than the movie” to see the overwhelming preference for Team Book. The books we love invite our imaginations to flourish, crafting new worlds and putting ourselves in the fictional shoes of characters who are drastically different from ourselves. We create the visuals and imagine the characters as we read, investing in the journey. Our favorite books are in and of themselves mini movies each time we read them – noticing something new or gaining a deeper perspective over time.
Here are some books that are generally preferred to their cinematic counterparts.
The After series by Anna Todd
This bestselling series that started off as fanfiction ultimately grew into a five-book series and two films.
The books tell the story of a recent high school graduate, Tessa, who crosses paths with a brooding rebel, Hardin, in college.
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
This Newbery-winning book is a smart retelling of Cinderella. The young heroine, Ella, works to break a curse placed on her at birth: she must do anything that she’s instructed to do, by anyone. A film based on the novel was released in 2004.
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
One of the novels that defined the fantasy genre! The Hobbit follows the quest of Bilbo Baggins and a company of dwarves to raid the treasure guarded by a dangerous dragon in a faraway mountain. Following the success of the Lord of the Rings films, The Hobbit was adapted into a three-part film series as well.
The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
The five books in the Percy Jackson series are set in a 21st-century world inhabited by Greek gods and Titans.
The first and second books were adapted into films to mixed reviews, and a television series based on the books is being developed for Disney+.
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
This tale follows Clare and Henry, a man whose genetic clock resets and misplaces him in time. The novel depicts the effects of Henry’s time travel on their relationship as the two attempt to live normal lives.
A film version starring Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams was released in 2009, and a television series based on the book has just been released on HBO.
Movies Better Than the Book
As readers, we love our favorites for a reason, and no two readers will share the same reason. And so, when a beloved piece of literature is adapted into a new medium (film, TV series, or stage production), there’s bound to be disappointment when their interpretation of the source material differs from that of the readership.
There are times, however, when another medium (whether film, TV, or theatrical presentation) enhances the original source material and creates a finished product more beloved than the novelization. These films are generally thought of as better than their books.
One of the most loved movies of all time! Starring Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan and many other film legends, this mob drama has enjoyed commercial and critical success for decades.
One of the most popular romance movies in recent memory, The Notebook was adapted from Nicholas Spark’s bestselling novel of the same name.
The Princess Bride
As a movie the whole family can enjoy, The Princess Bride is a heartwarming fairytale adventure that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s based on a novel by William Goldman, who also wrote the screenplay for the movie.
The Shawshank Redemption
Critics called this adaptation of Stephen King’s novel “simply marvelous entertainment” and “cinematic alchemy of a kind that’s all too rare.”
Books Just as Good as the Movie
There are those golden instances when the film is as good as (and as beloved as) the book. Take for example J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings books and films. In an informal survey of Yardley-Makefield branch staff, we rated both formats as equally excellent. The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins also rated high on our “favorite book to film adaptation” list. Others include…
Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
We liked the classic book as much as the 1995 mini-series and the 2005 film!
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The 1960 book and 1962 film are both beloved classics for good reason.
Dune by Frank Herbert
The 2021 film adaptation is as impressive as the original novel.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel was wonderfully adapted into a 1985 film starring Whoopi Goldberg.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
The movie and the book are equally chilling and sharp-edged.
This Movie Was Based On a Book?
Sometimes, you might read a book because you loved the movie. Here are some of the books my colleagues read (or want to read) because they enjoyed the film.
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
“The film adaptation is so different from the book that it’s difficult to compare them.”
The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger
“The movie is much better!”
Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx
“I’m tempted to read Brokeback Mountain because I loved the movie. It just hasn’t occurred to me until now.”
A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick
“When the movie was released, I rushed to read the book before seeing the movie, as I was excited for both. It was a very loyal adaptation, not only in plot but in tone and mood as well.”
The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman
“I thoroughly enjoyed the film as it featured my ideal blend of fantasy, creativity, and some of my favorite stars. When I realized it was based on the first book in trilogy, well then, I had to read it! The book and film version are quite different (as many devoted fans have since pointed out emphatically), but that did not make me hesitate in my appreciation for either version. The movie led me to read the novel, and I could not stop there. Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy has become my favorite novel series ever!”
Kelly D., Yardley-Makefield branch