Read the book first #1

Read the book first #1

I know I’ve said many times how much I don’t like spoilers…my favorite thing in entertainment is to be surprised.


If I’m going to both read a book and see a movie, I want to read the book first. Oddly, I’ve never had a book spoil a movie for me, but I’ve had the reverse be true.

That might not be true for you. I know part of it probably is that I don’t visualize when I read. I’ve written about this before, too, but I don’t see the characters (or hear their voices) when I read. I also know that puts me in the minority (again). 😉

I remember when my Significant Other and I saw the first Harry Potter movie. My SO said Harry’s chin was wrong. I didn’t think that, because Harry’s chin hadn’t been described in the book. Messy black hair, glasses, and a scar…check.

The time when I found out that I was unusual in this was when I had read a book (back in the paper days), and then my SO was reading it. I asked my SO about how the book was going and I was told, “I’m having trouble reading it because when I hear this one character, I hear [the actor] Darren McGavin.” I said, “What do you mean?” “When I hear the voice, I hear Darren McGavin.”

Me: “You hear the character’s voice?”

SO: “You don’t hear the character’s voice?”

We had one of those classic committed couple “discussions” about which one of us was crazy. 🙂

Well, as you know, I like to do the research.

I was teaching different groups of people most days at that point, training computer software.  I started polling them.

It turned out that about fifteen percent of the people didn’t visualize the characters or hear the voices when they read.

So, that meant I was the weird one. 🙂

Actually, it varied quite a bit. In an advanced PowerPoint class, pretty much everybody would visualize. In an advanced Excel class, not very many people would.

I’ve had long discussions about this with people, and some of them seem to think it’s impossible for me to enjoy books without seeing the events. I get involved in it…it’s just all conceptual.

Oh, I do admit that sometimes I visualize a scene…if it’s poorly written. That surprises people, too…they think a well-written book is more likely to take you “into the scene”. For me, though, if something is not well-written, I may have to work out the logistics of the scene…where’s the window out of which that character jumped? Why couldn’t somebody stop that person…what was in the way?

The upshot of this long introduction is that, if I’m going to see a movie, I try to read the book first. 🙂

Here are some books that have upcoming adaptations…in case you feel the same.

The Hunger Games (book)
The Hunger Games (movie)

Suzanne Collins’ trilogy has been wildly successful (Collins is a member of the Kindle Million Club). The movie is headed to the big screen in a big way. Gary Ross (Seabiscuit, Pleasantville) directs Jennifer Lawrence, and a host of stars: Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, and more. Scheduled for release March 23, 2012 in the USA.

The Hobbit (book)
The Hobbit: An Unexpected (movie, part 1)
The Hobbit: There and Back Again (movie, part 2)

The book is being broken into two movies (December 14, 2012, and December 13, 2013).  A lot of the creative team from the hit Lord of the Rings movies has been reassembled, including director Peter Jackson, co-screenwriter Fran Walsh, and many of the actors. Hard to see how they couldn’t be big hits.

A Princess of Mars (book)
John Carter (movie)

There have been many movies and multiple TV series based on Burroughs’ Tarzan, and a series of movies based on Pellucidar series (in the 1970s). His Mars (or Barsoom, as the locals call it) series of books has been popular. However, making a movie out of it is a challenge…important characters are humanoid, but not human…which is tough to pull off. In 2009, there was a version with Antonio Sabato, Jr. and Traci Lords…but I’m betting you didn’t see it. The March 9, 2012 big screen version is different.  It’s being directed by Pixar’s Andrew Stanton (WALL-E, Finding Nemo), and was sort of thought of as Pixar’s first live-action movie…but it won’t be released as a Pixar production (but as a Disney one). The stars are big: Willem Dafoe, Thomas Haden Church, Mark Strong, and Samantha Morton, among others. Taylor Kitsch (Friday Night Lights) plays John Carter, and Lynn Collins (True Blood) is Dejah Thoris. They’ve worked together on a movie before: X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (book)
Oz: The Great and Powerful (movie)

The Wizard appears in several of L. Frank Baum’s Oz books, and in fact, his character evolves a great deal. Since this is a prequel to the first book, though, I’m only linking it to that one. Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead, the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man movies) directs James Franco and Mila Kunis (and yes, Raimi fans, Bruce Campbell appears). The March 8, 2013 release may be pretty dark…the first book (which is actually one of my least favorites in the series…I’m a big Oz fan) is harsher than the later ones, so that may not be inappropriate (even though it could surprise some people).

The Woman in Black (book)
The Woman in Black (movie)

Susan Hill’s 1983 novel has been made into a long-running play, and had a television adaptation written by Nigel Kneale. The big buzz here is about Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) having the lead. Movie buffs will also be interested to know that this is from Hammer, the studio that made the Christopher Lee Dracula movies. Release date: February 3, 2012

Cogan’s Trade (book)
Cogan’s Trade (movie)

George Higgins has been adapted before (The Friends of Eddie Coyle). Now, this 1974 novel re-teams director Andrew Dominik and star Brad Pitt (the worked together on The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford).  Other stars include Ray Liotta and James Gandolfini…I’m guessing they aren’t going for the Yo Gabba Gabba! crowd. 😉

What to Expect When You’re Expecting (book)
What to Expect When You’re Expecting (movie)

This one is a bit odd. The book, by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel, is a non-fiction work for expectant mothers. I sold quite a few of them when I managed a brick-and-mortar bookstore. The movie is a romantic comedy, with Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Chris Rock, and Matthew Morrison (from Glee), among others. It’s due to be delivered on May 11, 2012.

Les Misérables (book)
Les Misérables (movie)

This is a movie of the musical of Victor Hugo’s 1862 classic. Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) directs an all-star cast: Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, and his King’s Speech star, Helena Bonham Carter. Geoffrey Rush (also from King’s Speech) and Emma Watson are rumored to join the cast.  Since this one isn’t released until December 7, 2012, Watson won’t be in a box office battle with her Harry Potter co-star Radcliffe.

Robopocalypse (novel)
Robopocalypse (movie)

Steven Spielberg directs from Daniel Wilson’s science fiction novel…that’s enough to guarantee a hit. 😉 It’s not due until 2013, and no real casting news yet.

Life of Pi (book)
Life of Pi (movie)

Yann Martel’s Man Booker prize-winning novel is being directed by Ang Lee and stars Tobey Maguire. David Magee, Oscar-nominated for Finding Neverland, takes on the difficult task of adapting a book known for the richness of its language…never an easy task.

There are literally hundreds of other movies based on books in the works. I did limit myself to books with Kindle versions (and where text-to-speech access has not been blocked by the publisher). Let me know if you found this interesting…if you did, I may do another one later. 🙂

Oh, and I’ve had some interesting discussions about whether movies are ever as good as (or better than) the book…I say yes. That’s for another time, though.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

7 Responses to “Read the book first #1”

  1. Stetson Says:

    I normally read too fast to “hear” the characters’ voices in my head. I would sometimes slow down for particularly epic speeches (in fantasy, or thrillers, mostly), or exceptionally elegant prose (e.g. when savouring Wodehouse), and then I’d find a voice for them.

    And yes, I’m currently avoiding the Game of Thrones series until I’ve found the time to get through the books.

  2. Kim Says:

    Hi Bufo,
    Thanks for the (informal) statistics on people who visualize when they read. My theory is that it may be related to whether you are a “word person” or a more “number-oriented person”, which would somewhat explain the difference in the Powerpoint class vs. the Excel class (although not entirely).

    I find it interesting because this very discussion has happened in our house too. 🙂

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Kim!

      It’s not just us? Cool! 🙂

      I don’t know about it being words versus numbers, though. I’m a very word oriented person…I can do math, but that’s not my natural inclination. I would suggest it has to do with being visually oriented or not. I’m not very visually oriented…I don’t care much about the way things look. I also have some color vision deficiency, which might contribute to that, I suppose.

      It’s also possible there is a gender bias, but I don’t know that. When I was teaching them, Advanced Excel classes were heavily male an Advanced PowerPoint classes were heavily female. However, I know that there were people of both genders who identified in both groups, when I asked.

  3. Laura Says:

    I asked my husband last night. He does not visualize when he reads – “it’s all about the information”, he said. I was as astonished as your wife – how could he NOT? (But actually not SO astonished, when I heard through your blog it was even possible, I thought my husband might be “one of them”. 🙂

    I’m a little torn on the book vs movie first question. The problem is that it’s my experience that the majority of book adaptations aren’t very good. This is often because they try to follow the book too closely. Since it’s basically impossible to reduce most good books into a two hour movie, the movie ends up trying to cram in too many characters, or the plot becomes very episodic. It’s usually not a satisfying experience, whether or not I’ve read the book. Reading the book can make it even more frustrating (if they leave out favorite characters, storylines, or plot points, or totally butcher the whole thing) or better (I can fill in the gaps), but it’s difficult for me to predict which is more likely.

  4. Edward Boyhan Says:

    I’ll mention two: The Wizard of Oz — I saw the movie first when I was very young (maybe 7 or 8) — remember hating all the singing and dancing and wished they’d get on with the story. Saw it many times later when music and dances were much more to my taste. Read t the book when I was 9 or 10 — didn’t have much connection for me to the movie — seemed almost two different stories.

    Then “Blood Work” by Michael Connelly — read the book when it came out; saw the moviev (starring Clint Eastwood) when it came out several years later — was almost to the end of the movie before I realized movie was that Connelly book.

    I guess I don’t worry too much about book vs movie and which comes first.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      For me, the 1939 version of the Wizard of Oz is a case where the movie is better than the book. The movie is informed both by the subsequent books and earlier stage and movie versions. Baum was quite the hyphenate…the snow storm, for example, comes from the 1902 stage musical (also by Baum). I saw Blood Work, but hadn’t read it, so I can’t comment on that one.

      I think this is one of those things that is just different for different people.

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