To reread or not to reread, that is the question {On Reading}

I generally have a policy. I think I’ve written about it here, but I couldn’t find an old post to link back to, so I’ll just repeat myself. It’s a policy about books and movies that represents my viewpoint well.

First, the viewpoint: I am not a purist. I believe that books and movies are totally different forms of media, and thus details might change, plot points might be altered some, and other things will be left out entirely. I don’t hold a filmmaker to exacting standards of sameness, but I do want the same feeling to come across.

So my policy that I generally keep to honor the difference between a book and a movie is not to read (or re-read) a book right before a movie comes out. I like to give myself several months, at least 6 usually, for the details to become fuzzy. That way when I’m watching a movie, I’m not plagued with the “injustices” of the changes. I don’t find myself thinking, “They met in the winter. It was at a Christmas party! That was so important to their relationship. Why are they on a beach???”

In fact, if a movie comes out, and it’s based on a book that I haven’t read but the whole thing sounds interesting, I don’t usually rush to read the book first. And if a movie comes out based on one of my favorite books, I don’t generally feel the need to reread the “real” story before seeing the movie.

After interviewing Markus Zusak, author of The Book Thief, in anticipation of the movie’s release, and being sent on a expenses-paid trip to interview some of the cast and production crew of the movie, I’ve been talking about it a lot. I had only finally read the Book Thief a couple of months ago, right before my interview with the author, and my friend who had read it ages ago kept saying “I probably need to reread it.” I sort of disagreed with her and was thinking “No, don’t ruin it! Just let it happen as a movie!”

But then I saw the movie, with the lovely background of the book still fairly fresh in my mind, and I found myself thinking “Were those exact words in the book?” in a good way, not a critical way (like if they weren’t, they certainly could’ve been!). But I also appreciated knowing more than what they could fit into a two hour movie.

When I was looking back for my post about my “strict policy,” I did find my post about rereading Hunger Games before I watched the movie. Aside from The Book Thief movie, this was probably the movie that was tied in with a book that I was most anticipating. Rereading my post I see that, I appreciated the 2nd look at the book I remembered before seeing the movie.

So maybe my policy has changed? Or maybe these two movies and books were both strong enough to uphold the scrutiny?

I want to hear from you. Leave me a comment and tell me if you like to reread favorite books before seeing the movie. What are some of the good book to film adaptations that you’ve seen?

You should also check out my post about finally reading the Book Thief to get your chance to win a copy of that book.

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  1. Cindy Brooks says

    I generally want to read a book before the movie comes out. If I don’t it’s sometimes hard to make myself pick it up. I do agree that it’s better to do it earlier than right before the movie debut. It keeps me from expecting something to be exactly as I remember it and then be disappointed.

  2. says

    It kind of depends. I do like knowing more about the story than they can get into the movie, as you said. Sometimes just a passing moment in a scene brings back the scenario behind it, and I find that enriching to the enjoyment of the film. I understand books and movies will differ in some respects but when movie producers and directors go too far afield from the original it looks more like fanfic and I wish they had produced their own characters rather than getting their stories out via someone else’s. Plus I hate to have those who are unfamiliar with the original book see a wildly different film “based” on it and think that was an adequate representation.

    When the LOTR films came out, I read one of the book after its film and one before. There are pluses and minuses each way.

    • says

      That’s an interesting point about it seeming more like fanfic, and you’re right. I guess they buy the germ of an idea and just make it their own, but you’re right, they could just write their own story if that’s the case!

  3. Stephanie says

    I like to read a book before seeing the movie. But if I’ve read it within the last year or so, I don’t always re-read. I am not strictly for or against it. In some ways, I think it helps, and in others, I think it hinders the view of the movie. I almost always want to re-read a book AFTER I’ve seen it in film though :)

    I just saw Ender’s Game last weekend, and thought it was spectacular! Many differences from the book (my brother-in-law was so pumped up for months, and then angry after seeing it), but I feel like they did a good job putting one of my favorite books to film, and I had no real complaints.

    • says

      Yes, I find that I’ve wanted to do that as well — to reread after I see the movie.

      But I am like you. I don’t mind small differences if the film is still good and if it has the same spirit of the book.

  4. says

    Speaking for myself, if I love a book enough to go see the movie, I usually have already read it so many times that no re-reading is necessary (I’m geeky that way).

    When it comes to good movie adaptations, I think the latest “Jane Eyre” (with Michael Fassebender and Mia Long-name-starting-with-W) is excellent. As an English teacher and Bronte fanatic, I’m picky about my Jane Eyres, and this comes closer than any other to capturing the spirit of the novel.

  5. Cynthia R says

    I try to read the book before the book, I generally found that when I really really love a book, I don’t really like the movie, exceptions being Harry Potter and Hunger Games, I think it depends on whether the book/movie has a lot of action and plot. I hope Book Thief is good, I really loved the book.

  6. says

    I used to rush to re-read a book before the movie, but have been so frustrated by the differences that I usually am disappointed in the movie right away. So lately I have put off rereading until after (or reading for the first time)

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