From the Page to the Screen

A minimalist photo of an open book with a film clapboard showing from the middle
Aug 25, 2022
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From the Page to the Screen

Whenever a bestselling book hits the screen, the debate starts again—Is it better to read the book first, or watch the movie? When the popular novel Where the Crawdads Sing hit theatres this summer, audiences were very divided on whether the movie adaptation did the book justice. We’ll let you be the judge of that one.

But with regards to whether to watch or read first, here’s our hot take: if both book and movie have merit, enjoy them in whatever sequence you prefer!

Watching a great book translated to the screen can take the story to new heights, dismissing subplots that would slow things down and amping up the action for the visual medium. Conversely, if you loved the movie, reading the book lets you explore the world further and take a deep dive into the minds of the characters.

Here are some great books and their equally good screen counterparts. Watch it if you’ve read it, read it if you’ve watched it. Do both in whatever order you please.

Read It & Watch It

The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey

Book cover of a young girl in silhouette with her arms outstretched. The background is yellow.

Taking place after much of humanity has been wiped out by a parasitic disease, The Girl with All the Gifts turns the zombie genre on its head. Interestingly, the book and movie version of this dystopian story were written concurrently by Carey, based on his own award-winning short story. As you’d expect, there aren’t a lot of differences between the two, but the movie is worth watching for the creepy visuals of nature taking back the land alone.

Read it | Watch it

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Book cover with a minimalist graphic of a Black girl holding up a sign that says The Hate U Give.

Both the bestselling YA novel and movie adaptation focus on themes of racism and police brutality. But the book has a lot more characters and backstory, while the movie streamlines the narrative in favour of upping the tension. The book also has a lot more swearing. To avoid making a YA film that teenagers couldn’t go see, the filmmakers were allowed just one F-bomb, a restriction that doesn’t apply to print!

Read it | Watch it

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

Book cover showing a photograph of 3 Black women in the 1960s in front of a rocket launch. They are looking straight at the viewer with powerful expressions on their faces.

This is the true story of how 3 Black women overcame misogyny, discrimination, and segregation to make history at NASA in the 1960s. The movie is gripping and the performances stellar, but it does take a few liberties with the details. The book is a great read for anyone who wants a more accurate version of the events. There’s also a junior reader edition and a picture book, both written by Shetterly.

Read it | Read it (junior reader) | Read it (picture book) | Watch it

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

A red book cover with an eye-catching black and white drawing of a young girl wearing a hijab. Originally published in French, this autobiographical graphic novel series tells the story of Marjane’s life during the Islamic Revolution of Iran and the Iran-Iraq War in the 1970s and 1980s. The striking black and white drawings translate beautifully to the screen, and both the book and movie are equal parts funny and poignant.

Read it | Watch it

Room by Emma Donoghue

A book cover with a white background and childlike handwriting that says ROOM

The main difference between the book and the movie is one of perspective. The book is told entirely from the point of view of Jack, a 5-year-old living in a windowless shed. The movie expands just enough for the story to unfold visually, while still leaving a fair bit up to the imagination of the viewer.

Read it | Watch it

 

While many diehard readers argue that movie versions often “ruin” books, we think there is room for both mediums, especially when you can borrow them from the library.

Angie Thomas, author of The Hate U Give, tends to agree. In an interview, she said she considers her book and the movie version to be like “fraternal twins,” an apt description for most book-to-screen adaptations. So what’s your take—do you avoid seeing the movie until you read the book? Or watch the movie first, to decide if you want to spend more time with the characters?