“Reading is so much more than the act of moving from page to page. It’s the exploration of new worlds; the pursuit of adventure; the forging of friendships; the breaking of hearts; and the chance to begin to live through a new story each time the sentence is devoured.”
It’s an age-old argument. Books or movies?
I found myself in a tutoring session recently, arguing with a student who had never ever finished a book (I nearly passed out from shock) over whether books or movies were better.
I firmly believe books are better. You will never change my mind. But when it came to explaining why, I was at a loss. I could sit and read an entire book in a day, but I lack the attention span to watch a whole movie. What is it about books that captures my attention?
Obviously books smell better, but more importantly each book smells unique. I sat next to my bookshelf last week and whiffed the overwhelming odour of Harry Potter (by far the smelliest books on my shelf). I didn’t have to pick the books up; the smell was enough to remind me not just of the story but the feeling of reading the book.
And that’s what it is. Books are better because of that feeling of being inside the story – being totally entranced, lost in another world, unable and unwilling to go back to real life. It’s difficult to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it. Reading is the ultimate form of escapism. You don’t just forget your problems, but when you’re reading a good book, you forget who you are. You don’t exist. You’re another entity, floating through the bookish aether, rooting for your favourite character and watching the story unfold.
It’s imagination. Seeing, hearing, feeling things that aren’t there. Feeling a character’s pain, hearing their laughter. Imagination is entertainment at its best.
For me, watching a movie doesn’t provide that. Because you’re literally hearing the character laugh or watching them fight the baddies. It’s handed to you on a platter. There’s no imagination. You’re not in the story. You’re an external viewer, unaffected by it and unable to connect. Movies are a quick fix. Two hours of mindless entertainment instead of six hours of true escapism. It’s lazy and it’s lifeless and it’s just not fun.
I’ve played Quidditch for Gryffindor, I’ve fought in The Hunger games and I’ve been re-educated by the Ministry of Love. But if you only saw those movies and not the books, I doubt you can say you did more than watch those things.
That is the biggest difference between books and movies, and to me, it’s the most important distinction in the world.
My student offered some thoughtful insights into the differences between our brains and imaginations and how he will never be able to picture a written story, because he expects his brain to imagine in movie-quality, vivid imagery. What do you think? Do you prefer one over the other? Do you see the value of both?
Musing Mondays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading, in which we muse about books and reading. Anyone can join in!