Adult Summer Reads: Page to Screen

Was the book better? Read before you watch, and see for yourself!

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How many times have you said “the book was better”? I know I’m guilty of this. But recently there have been some excellent book adaptations that are not only as good as their source material, they may even improve on it (blasphemy? Perhaps). In 2017 especially, we’ve seen a number of adaptations take off in popular culture and dominate social media. I’ll discuss some of the biggest newsmakers below, but I also recommend checking out our Page to Screen reading list, so you can get a jump on the year’s biggest adaptations.

This year, there was 13 Reasons Why—a teen show based on a teen book, but one that made a big enough splash that we included it on our adult lists. Is this a comment that the show is not actually appropriate for teens? Well, no, but there’s been plenty of discussion about that. I have my personal reasons for not loving the show (see: framing an entire story around suicide without once discussing mental health), and professional psychologists have theirs as well, but the show’s impact on its younger audience can’t be denied. “Welcome to your tape” became a meme during the show’s run, troubling some adults, although I see it as a good sign (the fact that kids are joking about that line means they’re not taking it seriously, which they absolutely shouldn’t, because it’s ridiculous). The show debuted to rave reviews, averaging a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes upon release, and the book is still sitting pretty at 4 stars on Goodreads.

Image result for handmaid's tale book coverTV network Hulu also made waves this spring with their adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. You might remember this book as required high school reading, but the story of women being held captive for reproduction has gained new life thanks to the TV series. And its release is depressingly timely; women throughout America have taken to donning the handmaids’ costumes in a message of protest against the American government’s treatment of women’s rights.

My favourite adaptation so far this year was less upsetting but still relevant to 2017, and that was Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. I don’t know if I’d call myself a fan of the novel—I found it a little rambling and never quite knew what was going on, although that may have been intentional—but I can say for sure that I’ve never forgotten it. And I’ve always said it would make a better TV show than a book, since the opportunities for stunning visuals are abundant. So I was excited to hear about an adaptation, and producer Bryan Fuller did not disappoint (does he ever?). The show captures the atmosphere of the book perfectly, and while I still never knew what was happening, the show is so captivating that I didn’t care. Fuller and Gaiman took the opportunity to expand on the novel’s story, incorporating all the main points but fleshing out side characters and adding bits here and there, tuning the story to fit our 2017 world (particularly, 2017 America). I highly recommend it, and the book as well, although with the fair warning that this story is weird.

Image result for stephen king it book coverAnd then there’s Stephen King’s It, being adapted for the second time into a movie. This is a touchy one for people who grew up in the 80s and 90s. The 1990 version is the kind of movie that everyone was aware of, even if they hadn’t seen it. I’ve never watched the whole thing (it’s over three hours, way too long for a sleepover movie) but even I know to check behind the shower curtain and stay away from storm drains. But it looks like this kind of legacy will help the newer adaptation: the trailer holds the record for the most views in a single day, reaching 197 million views in just 24 hours. And the online reactions were hilarious, to say the least. I admit I never bothered to read the novel since the movie always seemed to be a bigger deal. The new version comes out in September, giving me and I assume plenty of others time to actually read the book. But the question must be asked: how will anyone top Tim Curry as Pennywise?! Bill Skarsgård looks terrifying, but will he be as iconic? We’ll see. And let’s all hope this doesn’t inspire a repeat of 2016’s weird clown problem.

Have you read any of the books on our list, or seen their adaptations? What did you think of them? Have you ever seen a movie or show that you liked better than the book? Let us know in the comments!

Check out all our Adult Summer Reads picks here!


About Alyssia

Alyssia is an Information Assistant at the Vaughan Public Libraries. Nothing makes her happier than a great book and a great cup of coffee. She loves fiction in all formats - books, movies, television, you name it - and is always on the lookout for awesome new music.

5 thoughts on “Adult Summer Reads: Page to Screen

  1. I thought the TV adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale was very well done, and Elisabeth Moss was amazing. It is also visually compelling (the use of colours for the uniforms made some very striking images). Very disturbing, and timely, even though the book was first published in the 80s. It was also adapted before, although I only vaguely remember the film adaptation of the book that I watched in the 90s for school.

    I haven’t had a chance to watch the adaptation of American Gods. It wasn’t one of my favourites by Neil Gaiman, although I enjoyed aspects of it, so I’ll have to check out the adaptation!

    1. I’m glad to know you like The Handmaid’s Tale. I sometimes have a hard time convincing myself to watch things that I know are going to upset me. But the show is on my to-watch list for sure!

      For American Gods, I love the concept but not necessarily the novel itself. So you might like the show better!

      1. Yes – The Handmaid’s Tale is very upsetting and difficult to watch. But I think it is well worth it, even if the difficult and depressing feelings lingered after watching an episode… Same with the book itself. However, it’s important to challenge ourselves, and to always examine the world we live in (or could live in).

        Did you ever see the BBC miniseries for Neverwhere? I remember renting it back in university, but it’s been such a long time since then that I don’t remember much about it. Fun fact: Peter Capaldi played Islington. This makes me want to maybe revisit it at some point.

  2. I watched The Life of Pi before reading the book and was driven to read the book because the movie was incredible, but I found that the book fell short for me. Part of me thinks that it’s really just whichever version you come in contact with first is the one you subscribe to more – I’m sure there are plenty of horrible book-to-movie/tv adaptations that I simply cannot call to mind or have yet to be exposed to though – simply because from that point onward, you have your own version of events and how things are supposed to look and feel. Anything that comes after that fails to confirm the version of the story you know and love will most likely fall short of your expectations. Of course, there are always exceptions! I’m also reminded of the way that I’m generally let down by hyped up movies, precisely because of the hype.

    1. Absolutely–I find that in most cases, whatever you read or watch first is the one you’ll prefer. For example, I love the Lord of the Rings movies but I cannot get through those books for my life. Same with Game of Thrones. Sometimes if you already know the plot (and the adaptation is actually good), it feels redundant to read the book. I know this isn’t a super popular opinion, though! I have seen some terrible adaptations (lots of comic book movies, and movies based on classic books) and some adaptations that I like waaayyy more than their source material (e.g. The Hunger Games. Can’t stand the books, love the movies–and I read the books first). I agree about hype though. It’s always a letdown.

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