Book versus movie


The setting is a jet airliner thousands of feet above the ground, winging its way from a dreary, cold spring day in Harrisburg to sunny Orlando. There are six seats, three on each side of the aisle, all occupied, with each occupant engaged in a different activity: one is asleep with his head propped using a new-fangled travel pillow; one is watching a movie on his iPad; another is playing a video game on his phone; the next one is reading a book on his iPad; and there is the young man reading a book on his phone. The last person in the row is me and I am blissfully turning the pages in a good old fashioned hard cover book!

Everyone is enjoying their experience and the time passes quickly on the nonstop flight. I delighted in seeing the diverse ways technology was used (remember the new-fangled travel pillow!) and I appreciated that reading was a popular choice.

When I am sitting in proximity to someone for a period of time it is easy to notice what they are reading. Oftentimes, if it is a title that I know, I engage in conversation about my reaction to the book. Such was the case on my recent plane ride.

My seatmate (the one with the book on his phone) was reading “A Dog’s Purpose,” by A. Bruce Cameron. I had also read the book and found it to be entertaining and very touching. The book is written from the dog’s perspective and, if I am honest with myself, I now look at dogs and feel like I can hear them talking to me!

Anyway, since I had first seen the movie and then read the book, I was curious to see if my fellow traveler had seen the movie already and what he thought of the transition from book to screen.

You see, one of my pet peeves in life is how often I am disappointed by the way screenwriters change pivotal plot points when they write the movie scripts!

Allow me to digress from “A Dog’s Purpose” for a moment. Call me strange, but if it is at all possible, I prefer to read the book before I see the movie. The author is the expert on the story and I feel they tell it best!

How many times have you experienced the phenomenon of seeing a movie after reading the book it was based on, only to find that a maniacal screenwriter manipulated the main theme or allowed a character to live/die opposite of the actual story in the novel?

Yes, this happens and I often wonder how the author, who is listed as the consultant on the movie, could allow it!

If it is a bestselling book, then the movie should also be a hit if it follows the same storyline, right?

The movie “Forrest Gump” is a prime example. There was a lot of buzz about all the brilliant technology that was used in making it. So I went to my local Mifflin County Library and checked out the novel by Winston Groom and read it in preparation for seeing the film. I went to the movie with some friends and I know I embarrassed them more than a bit when I stood up at the end and declared, “What did they do to the story?” or something to that effect. The book had some main characters and themes that were not depicted in the movie.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have come to love “Forrest Gump,” the movie, over time, but my initial reaction was disappointment.

Which brings me back to “A Dog’s Purpose” and my seatmates’ response. He had not seen the movie yet and he was enthralled with the book’s premise. Being a dog owner himself he embraced the concepts the book extolled about the love of a person and their pet.

So after my rant about typically reading the book first I imagine you are wondering why I did the opposite for “A Dog’s Purpose?” Blame it on my daughter! We had planned to see the movie together when I visited her in San Diego, but somehow with the beautiful weather and other activities, we never made it to the theater.

So I went to see it alone when I got back to Pennsylvania. Somehow I managed to hold it together as I exited the Cineplex in State College and did my crying in my car and videotaped a message to my daughter to warn her to have tissue on hand!

And then, to continue the serendipity, she gave me the book to read when I next traveled out to see her. Did I like the book as much as the movie? Yes! I did!

The Sunday Parade magazine gave the list of the 100 Best-Loved Novels in America and asked for us to vote our favorites as part of the PBS’ The Great American Read that Susan Miriello mentioned in a recent column. When you look at the list, take note of how many books were made into movies!

What’s your feeling about the question “Which was better the book or the movie?” Send me an email and let me know your thoughts!


Margy Zook is a Mifflin County Library Board member. She is currently reading “The Shell Seekers,” by Rosamunde Pilchner, a favorite author. And she loves the book better than the movie version!

Margy can be emailed at