Oh My God. I Didn’t Read the Book.

I have a confession to make. I don’t read a lot (blogs excluded).

But I used to.

In fact, one of my earliest guilty pleasures was indulging in the Baby-Sitter’s Club “junior” series spin-off, the Little Sister series. By 9-years-old, I knew I was way too mature for these beginner chapter books about 7-year-old

An early guilty pleasure.

Karen Brewer, but I devoured every single one I could get my hands on. My best friends, “The Twins,” and I would sometimes sit on the floor of their small bedroom and each read an entire book. For years, I read a new book every single day. Friends’ parents would always ask, “What are you reading now?” when I came over.

When I was 13, they made the Baby-Sitter’s Club into a movie. I called up my oldest childhood friend, and slightly shame-faced but excited, we met at the mall to see it. By then we were way too old for that stuff, even though the baby-sitters in the movie were our age. We loved it.

By 13, I was definitely aware that you were ‘supposed’ to read the books first, and felt superior every time I fell into that category. Books were for smart people and movies were for…less smart people. Right?

As I got older, and books appropriate for my age became more and more dull to me, I rarely read anything. I worked at a book store in my late teens, and when people asked for recommendations, I pointed them to Oprah’s book club list and fed them lines from other customers. I hadn’t read any of the books on the counter, and I was constantly ashamed. Reading was suddenly a chore, something I’d need to do to prove I was smart, or worthy of intellectual conversation.

Then, of course, HE happened. I’m talking Harry Potter. Then David Sedaris. Bill Bryson. Twilight. Percy Jackson. It became easier and easier to allow myself to read what I wanted to read, just as I had done when I was 9-years-old. If it was popular, unpopular, meant for teenagers, I didn’t care. I naturally gravitated towards fantasy and humorous memoirs, and I gave myself permission to give up on a book whenever I wanted to if it wasn’t gripping. Oh, the freedom! I read more, but only when I wanted to, just as I do today.

Two weeks ago, I saw The Hunger Games and I loved it. I’ve never read any of the books. And guess what? I was GLAD I didn’t know what was going to happen. It was exactly what a movie-going experience should be; I was emotionally invested within the first 5 minutes, even though I had only just met Katniss and her younger sister.

I carry it with me everywhere.

I think both mediums, books and film, can produce magic. There are plenty of movies that inspired me to go back and read the book (and vice versa), and I’ve enjoyed them both for completely different reasons (The Basketball Diaries by Jim Carroll is a perfect example).

But I’ll be honest. I still carry a little of that old ‘The Book Is Best’ prejudice. Right now I’m reading The Help, and am enthralled. I won’t let myself see the movie until I finish.

I’m dying to know, where do you fall on the book vs. the movie argument?

Photo credit (Little Sister book): http://childrenofthenineties.blogspot.com

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55 responses to “Oh My God. I Didn’t Read the Book.

  1. I agree with you, I think it’s better to read the book first and then see the movie afterwards; however, sometimes I watch a fantastic film which then refers me to the book, which is great, too!

    • I definitely think it can work out both ways, too! I guess I just wish people wouldn’t look down on movies as if every book is better just because it’s a book, ya know?! Thanks so much for reading and commenting 🙂

  2. Usually I try to read the book before I see the movie. But then I always find myself thinking, “They forgot this” or “They changed that.” Maybe I should see a movie without reading the book and see how it goes.

    I think it shows that the movie is good if you still enjoy the movie despite the differences.

    • I know! It can be heart-breaking if you love a book and the movie doesn’t do it justice in your eyes. But I think going in with the expectation that they’re NOT going to be the same thing helps, and then sometimes you find you love them both as completely seperate creative endeavors. More like the movie was “inspired by” the book rather than “based on” the book.

  3. Tough question. I have no desire to read The Hunger Games, but I might go see the movie for the reasons you said.

    I guess I’d have to say I prefer to read it first. I like to form the characters in my mind and go with my own take on things. For me, it’s rare to have a book and the movie be equally as satisfying. I’m usually disappointed in the movie.

    I read The Help and didn’t like it that much. I know, I know, it’s crazy to admit that. I think all my friends hyped it to the point where I just couldn’t get into it. Maybe the movie will be better, I’ve heard it’s fantastic.

    • I still don’t want to read The Hunger Games, but I’ve already seen the movie twice 🙂

      You’re not crazy for saying you don’t like The Help! I went in with low expectations, which might be part of why I’m enjoying it so much (I was really surprised how into it I was/am!). One of the main reasons I wrote this post was [seeing The Hunger Games and] reading someone’s blog last week where they grouped The Help in with Twilight and all the other mainstream crap that people read just because everyone else is reading it. (I’m gonna vent now, but of course it’s not directed at you!) It’s one thing to not like a book as you’ve said, but to label it as bad writing for stupid sheep? That’s what charred my grits [about that blog post]. People like that need to accept that many things are popular because they HAVE MERIT. If you can connect with that many people through your writing and your characters? That makes you special; it doesn’t make other people stupid. I’m cool with mockery of my many (many) guilty pleasures, but c’mon! I don’t think THE HELP is one of them, for christmas’s sake. It’s about segregation! Okay. I’m done now. 😉

      • I know I’m going to take the walk of shame with Darla here, but I just couldn’t get that into The Help either. It’s not that I didn’t think it was well written – it just didn’t hold my attention after the first third. I think it has more to say about me and my short little attention span nowadays than the book itself.

        Having said that, I think I’d probably like the movie.

        • LOL There is no shame in that, Peg! I am shocked that I didn’t have the same reaction (that it’s too long).

          I can let you both know about the movie, since I’m dead set on watching it this weekend! 🙂

      • Agreed. Hey, I like to read Stephen King. Can’t get any more mainstream than that. And when I tell most people I like him, they say, “oh, god he sucks! His books are crap!” Oh well. I like him and that’s all that matters. Books are so subjective, it’s like musical taste.

  4. It was Leo DiCaprio that drew you to the Basketball Diaries movie, wasn’t it…

    The unfortunate thing, I think, in seeing the movie first is then you see the movie characters and landscapes in the book. You’re denied one of the best things about literature, which is constructing the entire universe of the book in your mind. Instead of the world you and the author have created, it’s the world the movie studio created, and it’s nearly impossible to break free of that.

    • Leo…who? 😉 The book and movie are so COMPLETELY different [to me] that I consider them almost unrelated, but I love them both! I was really into Jim Carroll for a while; I actually met him twice at poetry readings! (Poetry was my bag during that period when I wasn’t really reading ‘regular’ books.)

      I was so curious what you’d have to say in response to this post, since you teach film!

      Totally agree about the imagination factor – that’s absolutely one of the best things about reading. I want to say Hollywood is getting better at adaptations, but maybe I just haven’t seen too many of the bad ones. My favorite childhood book was “Bridge to Terabithia” and I think they did a WONDERFUL job with that movie (and hoo boy, I would have let everyone know if they hadn’t!); I just wish I’d gotten to see it as a kid!

  5. I think as an adult, for the most part, our brain is formed and we’ve developed the most critical skills for survival and development. Reading is essential as a kid for building thought processes and imagination.

    Maybe children are our second opportunity to reignite that love for adventure in books and wonderment of life that seems to fade out in early adulthood?

    I watched The Help first, and then read the book. I enjoyed both equally.

    Great post and food for thought!

    • Hiya, Country Wife! 🙂 I think you’re right about that, and I’m so glad there are a lot of excellent books out there for kids right now that can show them how fun reading can be. I NEVER wanted to be a writer growing up, but I’m convinced my appetite for reading throughout childhood is what led me to writing as an adult.

      Almost done with The Help – and cannot WAIT to see the movie!

  6. This post really made me smile. 🙂 Your story of Babysitter’s Club books made me think of my own childhood love of The Boxcar Children. They were the very first set of “chapter” books that I owned. I still have the original first 13 books from the series from my childhood (no, I’m not a hoarder! :)). A while back, my daughter’s boyfriend was talking about how much he loved those books when he was younger. This prompted me to dig out my old set and reread them. They weren’t nearly as thrilling as they were when I was 5 or 6, but the central theme of children surviving and problem solving on their own is still a favorite of mine.
    I think it’s adorable that you and your friends saw The Babysitter’s Club movie at 13–why grow up before you have too!
    As far as book or movie first; I usually read the book first, because I don’t ge to the movies that frequently. By the time something makes it to ON DEMAND, I’ve usually already read the book if it seems interesting to me.

    • Hi Sprinkles!! 🙂 I’m so glad it made you smlie (I was actually a little worried this post was too serious for my blog!). I definitely read some of the Boxcar Children books, but I never found a series that I could get into as much as Baby-Sitters Club (I did like those Ramona books by Beverly Cleary). That is so great that you were able to dig ’em up to enjoy again; I wish I had held onto more of my childhood books! Did you like the Little House series? I read Farmer Boy and Little House in the Big Woods over and over (those were my favorites).

      • I LOVED the Little House series!! I still have my old set of those, too (except for my original Farmer Boy that I gave to a student who was sick in the hospital and sad that he was missing story time in my class)! When I was little, I had a big canopy bed that I used to pretend was a covered wagon headed West and I was Laura helping Pa lead the horses with my jumprope. When I taught school, I read them to my students every day before lunch just like my old 4th grade teacher used to. One of my best teaching memories was running into a student from the very first year I taught. She had just had a baby and told me that she had already purchased the Little House series to read to her daughter as soon as she was old enough to enjoy them. Ahh, happy Little House memories! 🙂

  7. I used to read a lot and still read a fair amount when it doesn’t interfere with my TV watching =) I have read the Help and Hunger Games and seen the movies. I like to read the book first but I almost always still like the movie. Read Hunger Games they are amazing! Also the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series. Book and Movie.

    Also if you want humor I’ve loved ALL of Chelsea Handler’s books.

    • I love this comment, Marta! I DID read one of Chelsea Handler’s books and it was HYSTERICAL (I think she is so funny, and a Jersey girl to boot!). And I really want to read the Girl with the Tragon Tattoo!

      I will consider this a vote for the ‘read Hunger Games’ team. Maybe worth two votes, since it’s coming from you 🙂

  8. I love this post. For me, the ideal is to read the book first–as someone has already said, you then get to imagine the characters and setting! But I usually enjoy the films. I like to try to imagine how I would move the book to the screen–it is not an easy task and changes will undoubtedly be needed. I remember hearing the director of the movie The Firm talking about how much a challenge it was to turn page after page after page after page of someone standing at a copier copying files into something visually dramatic–not an easy task! The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency books and movies on HBO show the challenge of moving between mediums and making both work. I think both mediums hold up well–and capture the same feel and message, but there are some dramatic differences between the two. A whole new character is introduced in the film as a regular–and it works well! It is the quality of the writing and of the film making that makes something good! My bigger worry (prejudice?) is when I see a film is not based on a book–at times that can mean no structure, no character development, etc. Some screenwriters are masterful, but not all.

    • Thank you so much, Patti! And I am loving all of the thoughtful comments! It makes me happy to hear you mention the challenge of filmmaking and adapting the book for the silver screen. I get frustrated sometimes with critics (or anyone) who slam people/movies/books, when no matter how ‘thoughtless’ something might seem, the amount of work that went into it is staggering. Just to get to the point where we can even criticize it means there’s a certain amount of talent/uniqueness/effort behind it. Like it or not.

      Thanks so much for your (awesome) comment! 🙂

  9. Great post! I love to read…always have. (I read The Babysitters Club books too.) I usually like when books are made into movies. White Oleander is one of my favorite books…and movie. Right now I’m almost finished making my way thru the John Grisham series. His books are incredible. I wish there were more time in the day for me to read because he is addicting.
    What really sucks is when you read a great book and it’s made into a crappy movie. Boo to that!! Some things are just left better untouched.

    • Howdy, Sandy! I never read White Oleander, but I’ve heard good things about it! It’s funny, I never got into the big authors like James Patterson, Nora Roberts, John Grisham, Danielle Steele, etc. Or even Nicholas Sparks. I’m constantly drawn to things like Buffy/Harry Potter/Percy Jackson/Twilight, even though I’m not into Star Wars/Star Trek/Sci-Fi. I think the reluctant hero thing must be really appealing to me, and I like a little bit of humor and unrequited love tossed in. 😉

  10. I think some stories are enhanced with the visual effects of cinematography. I love books, always have. I enjoy movies if there is a strong story – and it is told well. I listen to audio books on my long, soul-sucking commute. I guess I just enjoy storytelling, whether conveyed by audio, video, or written means.

    • Hi Katy! How long is your commute? My husband loves audio books, too. (I find I have a little trouble paying attention since I’m a visual person.) I should get him some more because he has a long commute, but I’m not sure he’d be willing to trade that for Howard Stern (major bromance going on there).

      I’m with you on the storytelling, in whatever form. My best friend is an incredible storyteller – I feel so lucky to have someone like that in my life! Hmm. Maybe I should get her to do a guest post one of these days… (What are friends for if you can’t exploit their talents? ;))

      • I drive about an hour each way…and love my audio books. My library has them, I order them on-line, pick them up when they are delivered to my branch, and enjoy the heck out of them. I hate when I arrive at my destination at a “good part”. I want to keep driving and listening. I am applying for a job closer to home (same employer, different campus) so maybe my listening time will be reduced.

  11. I tried to read The Dragon Tattoo books and couldn’t get past all the Swedish names and gave up. Saw the movie, loved it, and went back and read the next two books in the series. The film helped move the story along to the point I could get past the durgenfurgen ossterblatan street names, cities, and characters and really enjoy the plot.

    • Hi Babs! That is a really good point. I’ve definitely felt held up by that kind of thing, too – if I have no idea how to pronounce key names, etc. Even in Harry Potter, when I saw the first movie, I was like, “Ohhhhh it sounds so much better in a British accent!” LOL

  12. Ooh, I love this post. I guess, as an English major, I’ve always been a bit more on the book snob side. But I’ve been trying to get over it and give movies a chance in their own right. I saw “The Hunger Games” this week, without reading the book first. It was really entertaining, and I was glad that I wasn’t making endless movie-book comparisons in my head like so many of my friends. The problem with reading a book first is that you will almost never be satisfied with the movie version. Books allow you to create your own visual world. That’s sort of why we read, isn’t it? To give our imaginations a chance to play? By the way, I completely forgot about “The Babysitter’s Club.” I loved that series. Thanks for the happy reminder!

    • Hi (again) Rian! Thanks so much! Yes, it was kind of a breath of fresh air to see The Hunger Games without any sort of existing ideas about it ahead of time. I did actually just finish The Help and then watched the movie last night – I didn’t like the movie as much (for exactly the reasons you mention), but it was definitely good!

      Oh man. I probably think about The Babysitter’s Club too much. I would totally watch that movie again. 😉

  13. Any time you create anything, a little part of you is left behind, out there for anyone to examine. Whether it be a movie, a book, a poem, a song or painting, your personality is engrained in that work, regardless of whether you want it to be or not. I admit to loving novels, short stories, or songs over the others because it is what I do. But a movie with a well-told story gets me as well.

    This blog makes for great conversation. Nice to meet you.

    • Hi Tim! Nice to see you and thank you so much for the kind words and blog follow! I was really excited to get feedback on this post, and I was not let down! Such thoughtful responses.

      I completely agree, and I think that’s what makes bloggers feel that special connection – we’re all making ourselves vulnerable by putting our thoughts/art out there for the world to see (and potentially judge).

  14. Thoughtsy and I just went to see The Hunger Games last week, and I don’t know about her, but I was disappointed. I usually am a read the book first and then nitpick at the movie person (although I thought the Help was a fantastic adaptation. I didn’t really have any complaints, and I LOVED the book), but I had heard The Hunger Games movie was a really great adaptation. I wished I had not read the book, because I think I would have enjoyed the movie a lot more. It was missing a lot of the depth of the novel and I felt a lot of the characters fell flat, especially Peeta and Haymitch. Plus, there is a lot of internal dialogue in the book where you really get to know Kat, and that was lacking in the movie. I just wasn’t really that impressed with what they did, but I think as a whole, the movie was enjoyable. But I read the book, so I expected a bit more, I guess.

    • Hiya Misty! I don’t know how I missed responding to this comment – oops!

      I really am curious to read the books now, because I enjoyed the Hunger Games movie so much. I do agree there is so much depth/inner monologue in a book that a movie usually just can’t capture, so if they can’t make up for it in other ways, it can be a disappointing experience!

  15. I don’t have an opinion generally, but you know how I feel as re: The Hunger Games!

    I’ve noticed that, among my circle of friends, folks who really enjoyed the books were a little less inclined to like the movie. I think it’s because they were able to fill in the emotional holes in Katniss’s portrayal and imagine her as being a fully formed human, who then ended up being a different person than they imagined.

    For someone like me, for whom Katniss from the novel was about as enjoyable and human as a cardboard box, the movie made a fascinating story come to life in a way that didn’t make me want to hurt the protagonist and/or myself.

    • Also, I did end up picking up Catching Fire. I dislike Katniss every bit as much as I did when I read The Hunger Games two years ago, except when I calm myself, remember JL as Katniss and remind myself it’ll all be better when I watch that movie down the road. 😀

      I do love the story, if not the exact words used to tell it!

  16. Book is ALWAYS better, but I agree that movie-going its own special experience. I liked the Hunger Games movie, but it was probably more exciting for those who didn’t know what would happen.

    Loved The Help. Enjoy! (And used to LOVE LOVE LOVE Babysitter’s Club!)

    • Hi Nina! Good to see you 🙂 I really am curious about the Hunger Games books, so I probably will give ’em a go! I just watched The Help, and I thought it was definitely good, but liked the book better. It IS rare that the movie trumps the book…I’d say some of the Harry Potter movies come close!

  17. I’m sometimes impressed that I read over 100 books in the span of a few years as a kid – all of them BSC and Little Sister books. I’ve actually considered picking up a Little Sister book again – nice ninety minute read 🙂 The Christmas one was my absolute favorite!

    • Remember when they came out with those ‘super’ BSC books (the longer one with the white covers), where they had different chapters with different girls’ POVs? Those were awesome. You’re making me want to read them again, too! 🙂

  18. Throughout my life I’ve gone through phases of reading and not reading. It’s a really weird thing and I can’t explain it. Sometimes I just don’t have reading focus because I’m thinking about other things…I am always reading articles and such, I am talking novels, and/or lots and lots of pages of prose. For some reason this is the way I work. Right now I am going to try to work my way through this giant pile of books I haven’t read, because even when I don’t read, I still collect books and a lot of them! I have about 200 unread books, so I better get to work.

    • I go through phases with reading too, Rose! Sometimes it just seems like there’s nothing I feel like reading (book-wise) or I’d just rather be doing something else, but I’ve read quite a few books so far this year.

      And don’t forget you have to add the Pop-Up Book of Phobias to that impressive collection! That’s an easy (if terrifying) read 😉

  19. Film and print are two seperate entities and should be treated as such…
    At least that’s what I told my daughter after we finished watching “The Hunger Games”!

  20. There should have been more Babysitter’s Club movies.

  21. In the book vs. movies debate, I prefer the books 99% of the time. But here’s the thing: I would rather see the movies first. That way I can watch the movie, and if I enjoy it, move on to the book, which I will probably like even more. (And seeing the movie first doesn’t usually affect how I visualize the characters.) If I read the books first, the movies are usually more disappointing.

    • I think that’s probably a good approach! Because you’re right, so often the movie IS disappointing if you’ve read the book first, and already created the world in your mind. I didn’t wind up liking the movie “The Help” nearly as much as the book (although it was good!). All of these great comments inspired me to go back and watch “Bridge to Terabithia” again, which was one of my favorite books as a kid, and also a great movie (I would have been so disappointed if it wasn’t). And, I didn’t realize until this past week, the star of that movie was also the male lead in “The Hunger Games”!

  22. I honestly like watching the movie before I read the book. Reading the book first always makes me hate the movie. If I see the movie first, I get to enjoy both.

  23. A comment just popped up in my WordPress filter, so I thought I’d hop on over here and add that I’ve been fully sucked into Mockingjay! Still, I’m open to seeing how the movie plays out and judging it on its own merits. 😀

    • Yikes, I didn’t respond to several comments on this post! Oops! Now I am tempted to pick up the Hunger Games series…as soon as I finish my latest book, The Bloggess’ memoir! 🙂

  24. Books for the win! 90% of the time they are more enjoyable for me. But that’s not to say I love the ease of just sitting back and spending two hours watching a movie instead of a week of reading for roughly the same experience. I agree that it is a touchy subject, many movies have been ruined by reading the book, and many books have been ruined by seeing the movie…I fear it’s an unsolvable dilemma, and we’re just going to have to live with it until they invent brain entertainment implants. xx

    • First off, so sorry for the delayed response, Hailey! Especially because we could’ve been talking more about these brain entertainment implants a lot sooner. 😉 I would love a brain implant that allows me to live out all of my various fantasy lives! Like, a “put yourself in any movie” chip. Yesss.

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