But the Book is Better . . . Or is it?

The Hunger Games and John Carter are just the latest to prove that books are a profitable source for movie material. The practice goes back a long way but many believe that the book is always better. I thought I'd look at that bit of folk wisdom to see if it's true.

Die Hard AKA Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp - This is a case where the movie was a definite improvement on the book. McLane's wife doesn't even appear in the book. Instead, that spot is filled by McLane's bratty grown daughter. In the scene where McLane saves Holly from falling at the end of the movie, he fails to save his daughter, so you don't even get the possibility of a happy ending, but given how bratty the daughter was... okay, so maybe that was the happy ending.

P.S. I Love You - There are differences between the book and the movie but the simple truth is I love both of them for mostly different reasons. The book is set 100% in Ireland (Cecelia Ahern is the daughter of the former Prime Minsiter of Ireland), but the movie changes the heroine to an American. Since I saw the movie first, this didn't bother me, but it does rather smack of pandering to the US audience. Still both are excellent.

Shining Through - This seems to be a sleeper movie, but I love a good spy story, and I loved this. The book? Not so much. If I remember correctly (and it's been quite a while), the "hero" of the book is married, so the heroine is sleeping with a married man. That completely put me off (yes, deep in my little black heart lurks the ghost of a puritan) but even had that not been the case, I just didn't enjoy the book. If I'd read the book first, no way would I have bothered with the movie.

The Lord of the Rings is a book many people hold almost sacred. Far be it for me to argue with that. I first tried to read it when I was 13 or 14. As much as I loved fantasy, I thought it moved too slow. (I was an avid Andre Norton fan and her books MOVE.) There have been a number of attempts at making this into a movie, but those never grabbed me either. Not until the technology to do it right came along and met Peter Jackson. I love the movies. Still can't get through the books though.

I was in high school when I first saw Gone with the Wind. I thought Scarlett was a spoiled brat. As far as I was concerned, I never needed to see it again. So I can't say what made me think reading the book a decade or so later was a good idea. Scarlett is just as spoiled in the book, and yet . . . Something in Margaret Mitchell's writing makes Scarlett sympathetic. I could see that this young woman, who had been raised to never be more than a spoiled southern belle, had a streak of steel in her that made her able to do whatever she had to to save herself and her family. Wrong-headed as she often was, still spoiled enough to take the easy way when she could, stubborn enough to never back down from the unpleasant decisions that were necessary for her survival, in Mitchell's book, Scarlett is someone to be admired for overcoming her upbringing and surviving in a world she could never have imagined before the war. Mitchell deserves the kudos she received for this story.

Please share your favorite comparisons (good and bad).


  1. Excellent post, enjoyed the comparisons. They're about to make one of my favourite books, A Confederacy of Dunces, into a movie with Zach Galifinakis. Will be interesting to see how well they do.


  2. They made Michael Shaara's classic The Killer Angels into Gettysburg, and I think the film stands up just as well as the novel itself.

    I did read the Thorp novel years ago, and Die Hard was certainly an improvement. And the second Die Hard movie got adapted from another novel, one that I also read, by a man named Wagar. The film worked better, I thought.

  3. I didn't realize that Die Hard 2 started out as a book. I wonder how they paid the authors for that material.