Hollywood loves readers: The (sometimes) mutually beneficial relationship between books & movies

This is an essay by Chris Ciolli.

Books and movies need not compete for our attention and affection. They are two very different mediums, and they have, as explained in an earlier post on this site by Williesha Morris, different needs and goals and use different tools to do the same thing—share a story with the world. In fact, although many readers and writers may loathe to admit it, movies and the books that inspire them enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship in which one feeds off and grows from the other. Less than convinced? Let me explain.

Good and Bad Movie Versions of Books Create New Readers

When it comes to readers, Hollywood often gets a bad rap. But why? Because even with a blockbuster budget a la Lord of the Rings, or Harry Potter, directors, producers, makeup artists and actors galore cannot measure up to many book-lovers’ imaginations. Too often, the characters, the setting, the plot, are not how we experienced them in the middle of the night, huddled under the covers with a flashlight, no special effects required.

But that’s okay.  What matters most is a writer’s story reaching more people. Because when a movie waters down or modifies a tale drastically, readers complain to their friends and family about it. Moviegoers who enjoyed the film, but have heard more times than they can count about how the books are superior, or the screenplay was so different sometimes become curious enough to crack open the book and the writer gains a new reader.

And on those rare occasions when the movie version is sublime, perfect, and adored by all the book fans, they drag their non-reader friends to the premiere, and goad them into buying or borrowing the book, and again, the writer gets new readers. For me, one instance of this is The Perks of Being a Wallflower–amazing execution, beautiful in print and on the big screen—and don’t get me started on the soundtrack—the book talks about music a lot, and wow.

Movie Versions of Books Alert Readers

Films are good press for books. It may seem shameful to readers and writers, but new movies receive far more attention and word of mouth than most freshly published tomes. Savvy readers know that many movies are based on books, so if a movie being advertised looks intriguing, with a little research they can stumble into something even more intriguing to read.

Hollywood’s in-your-face advertising put books like The Silver Linings Playbook, The Cloud Atlas and The Life of Pi on my reading list, and I’ve not even seen the last two movies. The striking print and television ads piqued my interest, and now I plan to read the books and watch the movies.

In fact, a lot of books I’ve really enjoyed have come to my attention when the blockbusters based on them were produced and promoted. Slick ads produced for box office hits nudged me into reading the Harry Potter books, the Hunger Games, Beautiful Creatures, and the Immortal Instruments, just to name a few recent offenders—all fun, entertaining reads, well-worth a cozy afternoon spent turning pages and sipping coffee. The movies aren’t too bad, either, once you let go of the idea that they must exactly resemble the book world you and the author created in your mind.


Chris Ciolli is a Barcelona-based writer and translator. She’s an unabashed book worm and a bit of a coffee addict. She’s accepting new writing and translation clients. Look her up at ChrisCiolli.com.


  1. T. Lloyd Reilly

    Good point. Game of Thrones certainly fits in this category. I watched the first half of season one and went out and bought the books. It was a mixed blessing as the television series moved on. I am an extremely fast reader and had gotten through the first four and was impatiently waiting the fifth before the end of the first season. The books grew tiresome to a point with the long list of characters but still proved a worthwhile read. The Television show, while often drifting off from the exact storyline of the books, has truly been the cinematic delight reported in the news.

    1. Chris Jean Ciolli

      I’ve heard that about Game of Thrones. I haven’t seen it or read it, but may have to give it a go.

    2. Stephen K. Quinn

      Chris I enjoyed reading this post (it is very well written). I really enjoyed the theme. I believe you are correct – film versions of a book attract attention to the book – this is a good thing – and I never thought about this before.

      One time, I went to the library and borrowed the “Bourne Identity” by Robert Ludlum after watching the movie – because the movie was so good.

      As a younger man in the U.S. Navy my peers and I developed an interest in the Lord of the Rings series. So, it was great to see these books brought to the big screen, and all the movies were so well done.

      1. Chris(ty)

        Thanks, Stephen. I haven’t read all of the Lord of the Rings, but must confess that I have a rather unpopular opinion about the films. They’re too long. Also, I dislike the tendency to make things as gross and as graphic as possible as I have a very strong visual memory, and the images just won’t wash away.

  2. Renia Carsillo

    Good points. I do have one hard rule for myself though. If I know, or find, that a TV show is based on a book, I always read the book first. I want my imagination bringing the scenes to life and if I’ve seen a director’s version first, I can’t get his/her interpretation out of my head.

    1. Chris Jean Ciolli

      That makes sense to me, Renia. I find that I’m often disappointed with the visual chosen by the director not matching up with the one in my head.

  3. Stephen K. Quinn

    Renia this is exactly what happens to me when I watch a movie or TV adaptation before I read the book.

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