For the Reluctant Reader: Movie to Books

Any self-respecting bibliophile will express horror at the idea of watching a movie before you’ve read the book it has been adapted from. However, in the case of reluctant readers, I propose that a shift from movie to books will have greater chances of successfully converting a non-reader to a reader than the other way around. This tactic (ploy? plot? mwahaha?) would, in my opinion, be the most effective in a classroom setting though I think parents/friends could actually try this out as well.

Because I am writing this at 1:33 a.m. (when I am the most awake), let me break the following down into steps.

  1. First, find a movie that has everyone excited whether they have read the book or not. Something that has been hyped and has accrued millions/billions of money at the box office. Oh, make sure the screenplay has been adapted from a book. This sneaky tactic doesn’t work if the movie has an original screenplay. And pick something that is easy to read which means I wouldn’t suggest Les Miserables. Ya know?
  2. Watch the movie. Maybe once. Maybe twice. It would help if the reluctant reader enjoys the movie.
  3. Read the book. Now, you may face some resistance from the reluctant reader who might see no point in reading the book when he/she has already seen the movie. In this situation, it helps immensely if the reluctant reader has liked the movie because then he/she will be more willing to further immerse him/herself in the fictional world created in the movie/book.
  4. Suggest some questions the reluctant reader might keep in mind while reading. For example: what aspects/elements of the novel were changed in the movie? Or, did you prefer the movie or the book and if so, why?
  5. Once the book has been read, discuss.
  6. Rinse and repeat.

If you’re lucky, the reluctant reader will realize that the book is indeed better than the movie and will be more willing to try reading different books next time. If not, you got him/her to read at least one book and for that you deserve a pat on your back.

Here is a Goodreads list of some YA book to movie adaptations though I dare say you will find a lot more on IMDB.

Good luck!

  • Sometimes I wonder which is worse, spoiling the book by seeing the movie first, or having read the book and complaining (even if only quietly in your own head) about what the movie got wrong.

    There are a few instances, though, where the pacing and format of a movie adaptation is preferable to that of the book. For instance, while my mom, who is an avid reader, loved the Name of the Rose with Sean Connery, but found the hundreds of pages Umberto Eco devoted to detailing heretical christian schisms of the 14th century (a red herring in the book, and left entirely out of the film) to be somewhat of a slog. I mean, I live for that sort of stuff, but not everyone does.

    • I’m not much a fan of adaptations though there are some that I like and some that I loathed. Actually, I don’t watch much Hollywood stuff at all. I did try an Umberto Eco book but gah, it was so convoluted and full of jargon that I gave up before the first chapter was done. I do think my young age had some hand in me giving up so earlier so I should probably go back and re-try.

      • If I had to recommend one of his to someone unfamiliar or not as big on long historical/theological digressions, I’d go for Baudolino. It’s a strange beast of a book that is half historical fiction (the protagonist is a fictional adopted son of the Frederick Barbarossa) and half adventure fantasy (the heroes go on a quest to the mythical kingdom of Prester John).

        • Thanks. I don’t know that I’ll ever feel the need to try out Umberto Eco again but if I do, I shall go with that one.

  • I have a friend who does something very similar: she refuses to read the book before she’s seen the movie simply because then not only will the ending of the movie not be spoiled, but when she goes to read the books she will find so much more to the story. this is in place of reading the book first and then finding the movie empty of details, characters and plot points that she loved, ect. she finds it enriches rather than detracts from the story being told

    • I think that’s a good way of doing things too. There can be greater pleasure in doing things this way than the other way around. I know people who’ve watched The Hunger Games first and then read the book and then liked the book so much more. I think it’s a sneaky way to get reluctant readers to read anyway.

  • I prefer reading the book first so that I enjoy the movie with a depth of background knowledge, but I can see it working in reverse as well.

    • Yeah, the advice is for reluctant readers. I, too, prefer to read the books first.

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  • Whenever I see news about adopting a book into a movie with good casting I try to read the book first, it feels great when you watch the movie after words. Amazing blog! would you check mine? I’m new at this..