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In Defense of Books (and Why They Should Always Come Before Movies)

Graphic by Sophia ’22

So Marlborough, let’s talk books. And no, I do not mean “Jane Eyre,” “The Great Gatsby” or the dozens of other books that you read for school but also somehow use as an answer when an extended family member asks, “So what have you read for fun recently?” No. I’m talking about books completely unrelated to your English class. When I glance over at my bookshelf, “Divergent,” “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” and “Pride and Prejudice” are just a few books I have loved reading, unrelated to any class. But what do all these books, Marlborough affiliated or not, have in common? They all have movie adaptations. 

Ever since the birth of films, books have been frequently adapted for the screen. The hard part is done, you already have a plot! But I’ve spent a lot of time over quarantine thinking about how much it angers me when someone watches a movie before reading the book it’s based on. One of my friends mentioned to me over the phone a few days ago that she never read “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” but she did watch the movie when it was put on Netflix. Another friend said she never read “Little Women,” but she has seen the recent movie twice. I honestly was shocked, because in my opinion, books are better than their movie counterparts 99% of the time.  When you think of Romeo and Juliet, do you immediately think about Leonardo Dicaprio, the lead in a movie adaption of the book, or do you think of William Shakespeare, the author? I think most people around the world’s minds would go to the latter, because the book is much better (and much more famous) than any film version could be.

So I have made it my life goal, my moral imperative, to always read the book before seeing the movie. Yes, it can get very hard sometimes, and yes I have also broken this rule on occasion, because I’m not going to be the person who leaves her friend’s house just because “To All the Boys I Loved Before” is the movie of choice and I haven’t read the book yet. I’m also not going to force myself to read a mediocre book in a matter of a few days if the new movie adaptation is getting extremely positive reviews on its opening weekend, and I want to see it in theaters. But for the most part, on my own terms, the rule applies, and I’ve been doing it for so long that it just feels right. It has, however, led to a few interesting stories. For example: “Crazy Rich Asians;” I read the book first and then watched the movie, as according to my rule. I had just gotten the book from my sister and was beginning to read it, when I found out my entire family was watching the movie together without me. It was devastating to hear them laughing and commenting on the movie while I was on my bed furiously reading as fast as I could in hopes that they would somehow pause and wait for me even though I was on page five. But, when I finally did watch the movie, it was one of the most rewarding experiences, because I knew I upheld my morals. Additionally, the movie was incredible, which made it all even more satisfying. On the other hand, after reading “Percy Jackson,” elementary school Lucy’s favorite book series, I was so disappointed by the movie that I was thrilled and completely relieved that I had read the book first, because my friends who skipped straight to the movie didn’t know what they were missing out on. But who knows, maybe the new Percy Jackson TV series that was just announced will finally give us the adapted masterpiece we all deserve! 

While yes, I do believe the majority of you have read “Harry Potter” or “The Hunger Games,” have you read “Ready Player One” or “Call Me By Your Name,” or did you jump straight to the movie? I’m not suggesting you dive into research about a movie and whether or not it’s based on a book every time you watch TV during quarantine, but I will leave you with this: there is something so magical about reading a really great book, and then getting to relive it after by watching the movie adaption. So maybe log out of Netflix and Disney Plus for a day, and read a book first before you jump right to the screen.