Books or movies: which is better?

Books and movies are very different forms of entertainment, yet the two are compared often. Books require the reader to imagine the world and characters for themselves, while movies want the viewer to focus more on the visuals. However, for the sake of argument, it can be fun to debate which medium is better. Here I will be explaining why books are much more enjoyable, but movies can be good as well.

I think it is important to get my inherent bias for books out of the way first. I have been an avid reader since my earliest years in grade school, and while I have slowed down since then, I still consider myself a fan of literature. I also consider myself somewhat of an amateur collector, but I will not lie and say that I have multiple full bookshelves worth of books. That being said, I do think there are some aspects of books that are objectively good, regardless of bias.

I believe the strongest aspect of a book is how it makes the reader think. When watching a movie, it can sometimes be easy to let your brain go into autopilot. For books, reading without thinking is nearly impossible because you are actively engaging with the text the entire time. If you are not reading and therefore engaging, you cannot be progressing in the book. Books are also able to get the reader to imagine marvelous worlds and scenes, especially in genres like fantasy and fiction. In film, you do not have to imagine the world because it is right in front of you.

Books are also more rewarding to experience and finish. With movies, you typically sit down and finish the film in one sittings. Books are a completely different story.

Books are also more rewarding to experience and finish. With movies, you typically sit down and finish the film in one sitting. Books are a completely different story. Depending on the piece, it could take multiple days or even weeks to finish one. Finishing a huge 900 page book like “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt is one of the most satisfying feelings in my opinion. 

This next aspect is backed up by nothing but my own personal experience, but I feel it important to note anyway. I find myself having more fruitful discussions about books than I do movies. For example, when I read “Slaughterhouse-Five” by Kurt Vonnegut, my friends and I discussed it for well over two hours afterwards. In comparison, when we watched the 1972 film adaptation, we discussed it for maybe 10 minutes. One could argue that the movie just was not very good, and while I would agree, I do think it is a common trait that most movies share. “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, legitimately one of the best books that can be read, is a favorite of mine. I watched the highly regarded 1962 film adaptation, and I had hardly anything to say beyond praise for the acting. To me, there is something special missing from most movies.

Now, while I think that books are better than movies, that is not to say that movies are always worse in every aspect. For instance, some genres work much better as visual stories than written ones. The horror film genre completely outclasses the book genre purely because things are scarier to see than read. Movies can also be beautiful in their own way. Appropriate music choices, interesting shot composition and casting choices are all missing in books, and they can make or break some films. 2022’s “The Batman” took all these strengths and used them to create a movie that was just as good as any book, but in a completely different way.

Speaking of differences between books and movies, I think it is time to address a big topic of debate: movie adaptations of books. While I could spend an entire op-ed on this alone, I will try to keep it brief here because it depends on the director’s vision. J. K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series worked better in film because all of the wacky spells that the wizarding world used looked better when they were actually seen. Rick Riordian’s “Percy Jackson” series failed in the film industry because the film was radically different from what the fans expected. Stephen King’s “The Shining” was a 1980 film directed by Stanley Kubrick, but the two are so disconnected from one another that they may as well be different stories with the same characters. There are a lot more examples that I could pull from, but I think that I made my point. There are just too many variables to really determine if the books are always better than their film counterparts.

While I ultimately prefer books over movies, I do think that there is an argument to be made for the opposite opinion. Books and movies are both great forms of entertainment in their own special and unique ways. Even though I am more inclined towards books, I still watch movies somewhat consistently. Both are valid ways to spend your time, and as long as you think that your time is being spent well, that is all that matters.