Reading the book before its film adaptation should make a comeback

Spending time with a story gives us more nuance than quick and easy entertainment

The Great Gatsby, a novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald. (Flickr/ Wolf Gang)

Going straight for the movie via streaming or your physical DVD collection can be easier and faster options, but reading the book first before viewing its movie version should still make a comeback. If you’re an avid reader, your inner nerd and love for books may already force you to check out the written version before watching its film adaptation — but a lot of people out there never do.

Reading the book then watching its film is an enjoyable pastime that makes you develop a better understanding of the whole story. You explore the author’s original vision for the story’s world, themes, and characters, only to re-explore all this through a hopefully impressive film adaptation. 

The first takeaway from reading the book before the movie is that you learn to take things slow as you experience a story for the first time. Depending on your circumstances, it might take you weeks or even a year to get through a book rather than its film while also living through your everyday routines. However, amid having so much stuff on our plates, it can be quite a relief to be patient with yourself. 

A few years ago, I made a New Year’s resolution to read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, then watch the film based on it. I was eventually able to achieve this feat, while balancing my time with other commitments that take up a good chunk of my days. I took my time with each chapter and didn’t worry about finishing it or watching the film by a certain deadline. I hadn’t done this book-before-the-movie method for a long time, and engaging with stories this way was nostalgic and refreshing. 

I not only imagined what Jay Gatsby’s world of jazz and classy characters was like when reading Fitzgerald’s book. I also got to watch it for the very first time through the movie after knowing the whole story and imagining everything for myself. Because of this, I appreciated the narrative more than I usually would from the novel or film alone.

Admittedly, reading the book before watching the movie can be quite the long game, which may not sound appealing to most people. We’re used to receiving entertainment conveniently in our fast-paced world. We also prioritize developing new skills or knowledge through MasterClasses, YouTube tutorials, and podcasts — as fast as possible, too. 

As odd a practice as this can seem to some, immersing yourself in a book first reminds you that it’s okay to escape into something without feeling pressured to consume it quickly.

Plus, it’s fun to compare a story told in two different art forms and debate which version is better with friends or family. Your relationships with those you care about can grow, while you cultivate your passion for storytelling.

Whether as an e-book or a physical text you bought from that local book sale years ago, try reading the book before seeing the movie. Hopefully, you’ll have a nice and easy way of taking even more time with a story you love, which may be what we all need sometimes.