Life within the words

Musing Monday highlighter

“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?

Source: Pantera

Source: Pantera

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.

Source:  LitStack

Source: LitStack

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!


17 thoughts on “Life within the words

  1. Brandie says:

    I used to love movies and would go every weekend, back when it didn’t cost a small fortune. It was fun as a kid and something to do. But now, as an adult, I much much prefer reading a book. Like you – I want to be completely sucked into the book world, and not just for a few cheap hours. No movie ever comes close to living up to it’s book version (ok, The Notebook came really close and that’s the only one I stand by). I always loved reading when I was younger, but I have a true appreciation of it now and would never go back to watching movies so much. I don’t even get the urge anymore – my love for reading always trumps it. 🙂

    Great post!!

    • It is so expensive to see movies now! Unless it’s Marvel or from one of my favourite books, I always wait until it’s on DVD. Even when I was younger I wasn’t a movie fan. I guess I’ve always had a short attention span for anything non-bookish 🙂

  2. Like most booklovers, I usually prefer the book to the movie–and for me, I think it’s because when I read I’m making the story my own by imagining the look of the characters, the sound of their voices, etc. Movies do that work for you, and you’re really watching someone else’s vision rather than your own.

    • Yes, it’s definitely an imagination thing. I slip right into any story I read and coming out of it is like coming up for air. That just doesn’t happen with movies. At least for me. I think it does for some people. We’re all different 🙂

  3. While I definitely prefer books over movies, I see value in both. I couldn’t forgo one for the other, but I can definitely escape into a movie almost as well as escaping into a book. The imagination factor of books makes it a better experience.
    The only time I’ve preferred a movie over books is with the first two Anne of Green Gables movies. I like how they developed the relationships–especially from Anne of Avonlea–better than the author did. The second movie added the love quadrangle of Gilbert Blythe and Christine Stewart and Anne Shirley and Morgan Harris. It meant some of LMM’s characters from the books didn’t make it into the movie, but I was okay with that.
    Hope you’ll visit today at

    • That’s interesting. When you escape into a movie is it the same as escaping into a book? Like you forget everything around you? When reading a book, it’s all I can see in front of me, but when I’m watching a moving there’s so much space between me and the TV, filled with distractions! The only difference is at the movies when it’s all darkness. I find that a slightly better experience, but I’m still totally aware of the people around me.

      • It really depends on the storyline and the characters. My hubby and I went to see The Monuments Men in the theatre. I was totally captivated by it. I also remember watching shows like Dawson’s Creek that were very dramatic and filled with angst that could catch my attention 100 percent.

  4. I have loved books since I could hold one, and for years, they were my only escape. I did not see a movie until I was an adult, because of my parents’ attitudes about them. Naturally, movies then became an obsession. I love books still, but movies are another addictive form of escape. I have a DVD collection of more than 800 movies. Does that tell you anything? LOL

    But I read four or five books a week.


    • Haha, rebellion against parents is how many obsessions start 🙂

      That’s an impressive collection of movies! I can’t even imagine what 800 DVDs looks like. It reminds me of the DVD collection Cameron Diaz (her character) has in the movie ‘The Holiday’.

    • I agree! I had a great example from the beginning of Beat The Reaper, where four pages are devoted to what would be a 30 second movie scene. In the action he basically meets a mugger, then dislocates his elbow, steals his gun and walks off. In the book you get so much more internal dialogue, and description of the anatomy of the arm and loads of character information. The only TV show/movie that comes close is Sherlock. I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but the best example is when Sherlock is shot and him falling down becomes a 3 minute scene.

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