Like Chocolate And Peanut Butter

When a TV show or movie is based on a book, there’s always the debate of which is better and why. Issues like if the actors look the way the characters are described, scenes that may be left out or added in, and other issues of fidelity to the story are discussed. But something I never really thought about until recently is how a TV show or movie can complement the book it’s based on and actually enhance a reader’s/viewer’s experience.

That has been my experience with the Song of Ice and Fire series and the TV show based on it, Game of Thrones. I had not planned on reading the series, mostly because it’s fantasy (I’ve never really been into reading fantasy) and they’re really, really long (I may have a problem with commitment). The TV show premiered in 2011, but I didn’t get around to watching it until January of this year. For reasons I’ve not yet analyzed, I love fantasy/sci-fi TV shows (Battlestar GalacticaBuffy the Vampire SlayerFireflyFringe, Quantum LeapTorchwood, the list goes on), but don’t normally read any fantasy/sci-fi books other than the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher (I checked my Goodreads account and the only fantasy/sci-fi books I have rated other than the Dresden Files books and the Song of Ice and Fire books are To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis and Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.).

I liked the show and watched two seasons pretty quickly. Even then, I still had no real desire to read the books. But I had two friends pushing them on me. “Read them!” they said. “The books are better than the TV show!” “If you’re concerned about the length, each chapter is from a different character’s perspective so you can skip ones you don’t want to read!”  “READ THEM!” I broke down and checked out A Game of Thrones at the beginning of June, started the second book, A Clash of Kings, in mid-June, and just started the third, A Storm of Swords. I obviously enjoy them.

Game of Thrones

One doesn’t have to be better than the other.

Game of Thrones

They can complement each other.

If I absolutely had to decide which I liked better, the books or the TV show, I’d probably say the books, but I would say it with reservations since I don’t think I would have read and enjoyed the books had I not watched the TV show first. I tend to be more visual. I’ll remember your face long before I remember your name. Being able to see the characters on the TV show has helped me put faces to names while I’m reading the books. Had I not seen the TV show and for some reason, decided to read the books, I probably would have frequently used the appendices Martin puts in the backs of the books to remember who is Tywin and who is Tyrion, who is Varys and who is Viserys. I also think that listening to their voices and seeing their faces has given me an emotional foundation for reading the books. I feel more invested in the characters than I might have been with just reading the books.

I am interested in how this might work for other books made into TV series. Justified is based on a character in Elmore Leonard‘s books, Riding the Rap and Pronto, and a short story, Fire in the HoleThe Vampire Diaries is based on the series of the same name by L.J. Smith. Rizzoli and Isles is based on the Tess Gerritsen series. I enjoy all those TV shows so would having the knowledge of the TV shows enhance my enjoyment of the books? I don’t know. I may give it a try.

How about you? Have you ever had a TV show or movie enhance your enjoyment of the book it’s based on? Do you usually find yourself liking one more than the other?

-Aisha, very close to starting to panic that the sixth book isn’t out yet


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21 responses to “Like Chocolate And Peanut Butter

  1. I have watched the Games of Thrones Series and really enjoyed them but not read the books yet which is weird for me. I nearly always read the books first as I love reading and there is usually a lot more to a book that there is a series. I am very tempted to give these a go though :-)

  2. The Road. By Cormac McCarthy. I saw the movie first, and I feel it enhanced my reading experience in a big way. I would recommend to anyone that hasn’t seen and read those to see the movie first.

  3. lectorconstans

    One problem with reading the book before seeing the movie is that when I read a book, I get a picture of what the characters look like. They rarely look like the ones in the movies. Extreme example: Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher. Not even close. Reacher is described fairly precisely in the books. So I didn’t see the movie.

    One example of a not-so-good book made into a good movie is “The Devil Wears Prada”. I read some of the book; it wasn’t all that good. The movie is great – mainly because of Streep, Hathaway and Tucci. (I suppose the screenwriters and the director also played some small part.)

    Like you. I;m wary of committing to a few thousand pages of story. I did read the whole Lord of the Rings (in college, of course) and the Hobbit books. The movies were a bit of a let-down (yet I see another one looming over the horizon), too much focusing on battle scenes.

    • I remember hearing a bit of outrage when Cruise was cast as Reacher.

      Now I’m intrigued by the Lord of the Rings books. I saw the movies and enjoyed them, but if you think they were a let-down, it makes me want to read the books and compare.

  4. Megan

    It’s funny because I just had this conversation with someone today. I had tried reading Tolkein in high school and just couldn’t get into it. Fantasy was (and still is) not a genre I really enjoyed. But once the Lord of the Rings movies came out, I gave the books another chance and found that seeing the movies first completely changed my interaction with the books.

    Like you mention, it helped me differentiate characters who had been muddled up before because now I could clearly picture them. I cared about the story in a way I just didn’t before.

    • I had never thought about if a movie/TV show made me care more about the characters in a book until I was writing this piece, but it does. There is something about seeing faces and hearing voices that makes them more real even if the author does a good job writing them.

  5. I had this feeling with Game of Thrones as well. Usually I prefer the books, which was definitely the case with Lord of the Rings (the movies leave out too much, though the environment is great), but with Game of Thrones I don’t have a preference for either medium and in some cases I prefer the movie (Inkheart for example).
    When reading books, you make images in your head of how characters and places will look, and possibilities are virtually endless. Movies or series make the images more concrete, hampering imagination when I reread a book after watching the movie. Even though, nowadays locations are more beautiful and grand than I could ever have imagined reading the book, which actually adds to the experience!

  6. The book was on my TBR list, then I watched the first season with my husband. My foot was hurt – I’m blaming my lack of willpower to resist on that. But after…hmm, how to do this without spoiling something….the second to last episode they do something to a main character and it made me so MAD! I felt betrayed by this loss, silly I know but I was just irritated. Still think I should read it? I’ve heard that Martin doesn’t really take much consideration with whether his characters live or die….

    • I knew what happened to the character you’re referring to before I saw the show so I wasn’t surprised. I’m reading the third book and I already know that something tragic happens in it and I’m sad about it, but still willing to read it. I think if you go into the books or the show knowing that your favorite character might end up dead, then you’ll be okay. Martin does kill off people other authors probably wouldn’t.

      I think you should still give it a shot.

      • I didn’t know, I was totally surprised – and flabbergasted! I think that, as a reader, I get unnaturally attached to characters.

        This being said I am still going to read the books!

  7. Right, decision made, I will somehow, get a hold of series 1 and watch them first! I asked myself which i should start with pretty much two days before you blogged about thank you!

    • You’re welcome. I hope it works out for you.

      Right now, because I don’t have cable, I’m reading what happens in the third season of the show without having seen it yet. I do wonder if I should wait until the DVD comes out so my brain doesn’t get confused, but I really enjoy the books so I’m pushing forward.

  8. I love this series so much, it has philosophical questions that question religious dogmas, but at the same time it is supportive of spirituality. In season three Stark’s youngest daughter is asked, “Who is your god?” Where she aptly replies, “Death.” The script is amazing, a must watch and read.

    • Yes, it does have a lot of deep thought questions in it about religion and leadership and family and loyalty. Sci-fi/fantasy books tend to be really good at addressing those issues.

  9. PS: My nomination for the most extreme case of not-all-that-good-a-book turned into a great move: Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Capote’s short story is a real downer. Among other things, in the story, Holly really does to to South America in search of a rich husband. At the end of the story, Paul gets a postcard from her , from South America.

  10. My husband and I have become quite addicted to the series Longmire on TV. It is based on the Walt Longmire series by Craig Johnson. I must now read them. Darn it.

    Another series that enhances each other is the Dexter books and series. I also enjoy Bones based on the Temerance Brennan series by Kathy Reichs.
    I have loved the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris but have not watched the show. It’s so popular though, I might break down and do so eventually.

    For literature lovers, I highly recommend Once Upon a Time. The writing is excellent, and it’s fun to see how the writers tweak the stories of famous fairy tale characters we all know and love. It’s also highly addictive with interwoven story lines and must-see-how-this-turns-out plots.

    • Longmire! I got a sneak peek of that on Hulu and adored it. I love stories that take place in the West.

      I don’t really like True Blood, but I’ve heard from friends that my favorite character in the show, Pam, is even better in the books so that’s tempting.

      I’ve not seen Once Upon a Time, but maybe I’ll give it a go.

      • I think you will love Once Upon a Time. Especially from a lit lover and bookie such as ourselves.

        The books are SOOOOO much better than True Blood. I would recommend you read them.

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