Read the Book First, or See the Movie?

There are certain subjects most hardcore book nerds agree on: A paper book is better than an ebook. Listening to an audiobook isn’t as good as reading the book. And you should always, always read the book before you see the movie.

I think my book geek credentials are pretty solid, but I actually disagree — about all of these, but especially the third one. Think about it: Reading the book first is often the very definition of setting yourself up for disappointment. It’s pretty much impossible to include everything about the book in the movie, and chances are your favorite subplot or character is the one that gets the axe. Maybe your favorite quote never made it into the script, or a flavor-of-the-month actor plays the best character badly. The way I see it, seeing the movie first gives you the best chance of enjoying both the movie and the book — you’ll like the movie because you have nothing better to compare it to, and you’ll get a deeper, richer experience once you get around to actually reading the book.

Of course, there are exceptions, and children’s and Young Adult books seem to fare the page-to-screen transition a little better, probably because their themes aren’t overcomplicated, and they tend to be a little more visual than cerebral in the first place. The success of franchises like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings seem to have convinced Hollywood that staying true to the heart of the story will have a big payoff with fans. That’s why the recent release of The Giver seems promising.

Lois Lowry’s classic story is one many of us read as children, but it’s also timely, especially considering the popular obsession with dystopian fiction lately (Hunger Games, Maze Runner, Divergent, etc.). This utopian society seems picture-perfect, but while the culture of sameness prevents bad things in society, it turns out cutting out the messy parts of life cuts out our humanity, too.


In the case of The Giver, it’s probably safe to read the book before you see the movie. The team making the movie seems committed to treating the material with respect, and the actors involved are solid: heavy hitters like Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges share screen time with Katie Holmes, Alexander Skarsgard, and even Taylor Swift. If you are planning to read the book before you see the movie on August 15, go one step further and come discuss it with us at Church Street — our book club is meeting August 11 to talk about The Giver. Want to whet your appetite? Check out the trailer of the movie below.

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