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Binge-Watching Literature: Which Books Turned Into Television Shows Should You Read?

June 21, 2015
It's almost impossible to write a caption without SPOILER ALERT!

MISLEADING COVER!!!  I would be outraged, but I just watched Season 5, and I’m outraged out.

It’s not easy being a book snob and a television binge-watcher.  There’s not enough time to be both, and to make things worse, a bunch of books like House of Cards, Orange Is the New Black, and Game of Thrones have been turned into pretty good television shows.

Unless you have more than 24 hours in your day, it would be impossible to watch all of the television shows AND read all of the books AND watch the binge-worthy shows that AREN’T based on books.

Since there isn’t enough time to read and watch everything, we book-reading binge-watchers have to make some rules about what to read and what to watch.  And if there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s making rules.

THE HOUSE OF CARDS RULE

See?  I told you it was a book.  Nobody believes me when I tell them it's a book.

See? I told you it was a book. Nobody believes me when I tell them it’s a book.

House of Cards by Michael Dobbs

If the television series is based on a single book, then read the book.  For example, House of Cards is based on a single book by Michael Dobbs.  Since the book is less than 400 pages, we book snobs can easily read it, and then we can brag that we don’t need to watch the television series.  When we go into book snob mode, we can point out that literature is superior to television.  Yeah, we might be missing out on a great show, but we’re still better for having read the book.  Plus, we don’t have to order Netflix just to binge-watch a show.

Be careful when you say that you’re superior to everybody else just because you’ve read the book.  Sometimes people think we’re not kidding.  I’ve lost friends that way.  Of course, they’re the friends who don’t read books, but still…

THE GAME OF THRONES RULE

Call it A Song of Ice and Fire, and watch the novices get confused.

Call it A Song of Ice and Fire, and watch the novices get confused.

Game of Thrones by George RRRRR Martin

People who have read A Song of  Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) are great examples of book snobs (That’s not an insult; I’m a book snob too).  They like to point out which characters have died on the show but didn’t die in the books or which characters on the show are composite characters of which characters in the book.  They like to be outraged when the show does something vastly different from the book.

Game of Thrones book snobs think they’re superior to the rest of us because they’ve read the books, and we haven’t.  The rest of us believe we are superior to the Game of Thrones book snobs because we haven’t wasted our time reading thousands of pages of a convoluted story that might never get finished.  I’m not sure who is superior to whom, so if you’re reading this and you’ve read the Games of Thrones books, you might be superior to me and I just wouldn’t know it.  I want to feel superior, but if I ever read A Game of Thrones, I’ll read it when/if George RR Martin finishes writing the series.

THE HOUSE OF CARDS/GAME OF THRONES RULE- RECAP

1.  If the television show is based on a long book series, watch the show.

2.  If the television series is based on a single book, then read the book.

Follow these rules, and you’ll save a lot of time and still be knowledgeable about pop culture.  You will even have more time to binge-watch worthy shows that aren’t based on books.  Most importantly, you will be superior to those who haven’t read the books because reading books is always better than watching television.

Following The House of Cards/Game of Thrones Rule, here is a list of popular shows/books and what to do:

Now it's time to demonstrate our critical thinking skills by applying the House of Cards/Game of Thrones Rules to other books.

But a month of Netflix is cheaper than buying the book!  Ugh! Now I’m torn.

House of Cards- Read the book (of course).

Game of Thrones- Watch the show (of course).

Orange is The New Black– Read the book.

Bosch– Watch the show.

The Musketeers– Read the book The Three Musketeers.

Elementary (or any Sherlock Holmes series) – Read a Sherlock Holmes novel or a couple short stories.

Dexter– Watch the show.

Sex and the City– Read the book.

Friday Night Lights– Read the book.

Under the Dome– Read the book.

True Blood– Watch the show.

Boardwalk Empire– Read the book.

Of course, these rules aren’t perfect.  Quality isn’t taken into consideration, and quality does matter. But quality is subjective, so I can’t make an objective rule for it.  In other words, if you think the show sucks, don’t watch it.  If you think the book sucks, don’t read it.  If you really want to read the books AND watch the television shows, go ahead.  But be warned; doing both will be very time-consuming.

*****

What do you think?  Which of the above books are worth reading?  Which of the above shows are worth watching?  What other books/shows could be included?  Have you ever felt superior because you read a book before it got turned into a television series?

31 Comments
  1. I thought House of Cards was based on a series, not a single book: House of Cards, To Play the King, The Final Cut. In any case, the Netflix series has gone beyond events covered in the first novel.

    • Thanks. I guess that means I have to come up with a new name for the House of Cards Rule.

      My thanks wasn’t sarcastic either. I’m actually glad somebody corrected me. I can’t have my rules misnamed or mismatched.

      And I have to come up with a new trilogy rule too. I hadn’t thought about trilogies. Trilogies, that’s a tough call. Should I read them or watch them?

  2. I feel superior because I started reading A Song of Fire and Ice before they made Game of Thrones 😛
    But seriously, I agree with your point: I don’t watch the show because I’m already invested in the books and I’d rather use my time to watch other things.

    • If you read the books before the series even started, you’re superior AND a trendsetter… and very patient. You have to wait 5-7 years between books. We only have to wait ten months for the next season.

    • I have read the books and thought exactly the same thing. But then I watched the show, and honestly, I still recommend it. It is a great show. In fact, I’m not so sure I am glad that I read the books now, because I feel like the books have spoiled it for me, since I have pretty good idea who’s going to die and when – which, thanks to the show creators’ meddling, is not always accurate.

      • I’ve heard very good things about GoT, I just feel like my time would be better spent on things I haven’t already read/seen. I tend to be wary when I’ve read the book before I see an adaptation because I’ll have my own picture of the characters, and it can be jarring when it doesn’t match up.

  3. Haven’t read the books or watched Game of Thrones, even though it’s totally taken over the world, it seems! Both series and books are tooooooo muuuuch. Call me a butterfly brain, but I don’t want to spend the reast of my life feeling I have to catch up with either. And what if the books do go on forever. And what if the TV show suddenly gets cancelled? Let’s just not go there.

    As for quality, I’d say watch True Blood rather than read the books – there’s quality in the series … how shall I say it? It’s just not quite there in the books.

    My favourite at the moment? In the UK the BBC are showing an adaptation of ‘Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel’ a weird, rambling tome written like a faux nineteenth C novel, all about English magicians who help the Duke of Wellington defeat Napoleon and then fall out in a major way. Odd and rambling, but I loved it.
    Mind you, it was only the length of ONE installment of GOT…

    And I never knew Game of Cards was based on a book either, and I remember watching the original, landmark Beeb series years ago. You live and learn

    • Haha. And I didn’t know House of Cards was a trilogy.

      I’ll have to check out Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell. Since it seems to be only one book and only a few(?) episodes so far, should I read it or watch it?

      • A trilogy? Blimey, my ignorance grows deeper by the day.
        I’m biased- having read the book first I’d say read then watch. But then being a bit of a book snob myself, I guess I would say that 🙂

  4. thechroniclehunter permalink

    I am a bit torn between suggesting either the reading of the series for True Blood or watching the series…They really are just so completely different, and yet both are good in their own way. Thanks for the other suggestions though, I try to cram entirely too much into my days. Sharing this post for other that feel our anguish…book or show or both?

    • They may be good in their own way (I hear after Season 1, the show becomes completely different), but that’s a lot of books to read. On the positive side, the books aren’t that long (not like a Game of Thrones book), so they might not take that much time. Still, like you said, it’s a tough choice.

  5. I’m not sure I agree on Sex and the City – the show had a lot of good episodes not covered by the book, before it dissolved into a daytime soap opera (but occasional night-time sweating and nudity, because HBO) with barely any humor in the later seasons. So my recommendation would be Watch, but not to the end.

    • That’s another category to add: Which season to stop binge-watching each show.

      We could save a lot of time (and emotion) if we knew ahead of time where the shows hit their peak and when they truly start to decline. That might save more time than deciding which books to read and which shows to watch.

  6. Lack of time means given a choice between reading and watching, it is always reading. I love it when a TV show is made from a book or books I have read already…eg Blood Ties and Dresden and Hornblower etc. I have found that I often like the show if I liked the books…it is like reading fan fiction. On the other hand, I read the Rizzoli & Isles and Bones books after getting hooked on the shows and found I could not read the entire series because the books were so much more graphic and darker than the series and the characters in the book were so different from how they were portrayed on the screen. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Gollum was as I imagined when I read the book, Tom Cruise overwrote my vision of Lestat acceptably. I wish a series was made from Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series. If there were a book on the series Forever I would be curious. if a series is ongoing and I have no plans to watch it…I will not dig out the book. If I am watching a series already and find there are books…like Castle…I will check out the books. If I have already read a series of books and loved them and a movie or a series is made…I have to check it out. I bought my first betamax so I could buy a copy of the movie Conan because I loved that they made a movie out of my favourite character (I had dozens of Robert E. Howard books). It is always a connection, never a substitution.

    • Conan could make a great television series if they followed the Robert E. Howard stories and then stopped. Maybe use a couple stories from the other authors just to connect Howard’s, but that’s it.

  7. After rereading my previous comment I realize that I can enjoy a show made from a favourite book but not enjoy books read for the first time after seeing them on film. Now I feel the urge to go back through and check to see if that is correct. So, do first impressions count so heavily that I am always disappointed? I also wonder if reading a book written from a movie or TV series works better for me…I think so…I remember loving the Star Trek books and Dr. Who books…again that is merely professional fan fiction and the purpose is to write the character as close to what is on screen as possible. The difference in reading an original novel on which a show is then based..after seeing the filmed version is screenwriter’s change the original until it is almost unrecognizable. Must put their own fingerprint on the material. I recently wrote about watching a movie based on Rita Mae Brown’s series of Mrs. Murphy novels. I was so disappointed in the movie because of what I felt were totally unnecessary changes that didn’t serve any relevant purpose except to ruin the movie for anyone who had ever read the books first. For example: in the book the deputy was blonde, the movie black, the dog Tucker was female, gave him a male voice, the main character was fit and slim, they made her chunky, her assistant at the post office was a smart older woman, they made her foolish, her rival was busty and smart and beautiful, they wrote her as stupid and even her boobs were not big enough to justify calling her Boom Boom. The original material and story were good enough to stand on their own and what ended up being made was crap.

  8. What I wouldn’t give to have enough hours in my day to watch and read until I’m stuffed to the brim. I keep putting some monumental and epic novels or TV shows off until I get really sick and find myself bedridden. But damn it, I’ve not even come down with a cold in the last four years. This is ridiculous. I’m thinking I should just cross the threshold of a kindergarten class and get it all over with. 24 hours later I could be joyously surrounded by all of Martin’s books.
    Wish me luck, a full recovery, but maybe not a speedy one.

    • I don’t think 24 hours is enough time for Martin’s books. Then again, 24 hours barely gets you through two seasons either.

      Ugh. Time forces us to make tough choices.

  9. Tom Hyland permalink

    They’ve pretty much taken Game of Thrones in a different direction from the books from what I’ve heard. The series I’m waiting for is SYFY channel’s EXPANSE series based on the novels by JAMES S,A. COREY. That is the sci-fi answer to Game of Thrones (I hope).

  10. What about Longmire? I say read the books. Yes, it is an entire series of books, ten or so at this point. But the books are so AMAZING, and the show is just not true to them. I loved the first two seasons of the show and then I found the books. Read the books.

    • I’m not familiar with Longmire, but this looks like a tough decision.

      3 seasons of a highly regarded show, or 10 books from a highly regarded series?

      If I follow my rules, I have to go with the television show (especially since I have a rule about not reading more than three books by the same author). But I’m allowed to break my own rules sometimes.

  11. Reblogged this on kittyp85.

  12. Sarah permalink

    I’ve both read and watched Game of Thrones and I prefer the show (despite the changes here and there). My reasoning is basically because there are so many characters and stories in the books that just fizzle into nothing. There are a lot of ideas, great ones, that just aren’t followed through. It’s really frustrating! The show cuts a lot of these out

  13. Your logic is bang on. You truly are a book snob, though I’ve never considered that to be an insult

  14. I enjoyed the first few True Blood books. Their tone is entirely different from the series, though. So, you can read and watch this one without feeling too much repetition.

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  16. I’ve read the book AND seen the show, and I say it’s vastly different, but I still love the story line!! There wasn’t a moment in A Song Of Ice And Fire which I did not enjoy! But your point about being a book snob is interesting. I’ve often held in contempt some movies which went a completely different way from their books (like Harry Potter), but I’ve never thought that I COULD be a book snob!

  17. P.S. But Warner Bros ruined the entire Harry Potter series. I hated the movies they made! They cut out ALL the interesting parts, and they made Ginny look like a wimp, Harry a stumpy man, Hermione a sweet and humble girl who follows everything Harry does and Lupin a diehard romantic!! Where was the part when Harry tells Snape that there was no need to call him sir? Warner Bros really made a pile of garbage of the beautiful and amazing series written by J.K. Rowling.

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