Our Reading Lives

Please, I’m Begging You, Watch the Movie Without Reading the Book

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There are a lot of books. You don’t need to tell a bookworm this. We already know. We want to read everything and anything. We buy books we don’t have the time to read or the space to store. We force ourselves to finish books we hate, even though life is too short. It’s in our blood. Books are an investment we hope will pay off in the long run. But in case you haven’t noticed, life is a pretty long run, and it goes by fast—which is why, more and more, I’ve been forgiving myself for not being able to read everything. Moreover, I’ve also been allowing myself to see the movie—even if I haven’t read the book.

I know, I know. I’m committing some kind of mortal sin. As not only a bookworm but also a film enthusiast, if a movie interests me and then I find out it was based off a book, chances are I’m going to want to read the book first. But, just like books, there are a lot of movies. And, unlike books, I can watch it within 90 minutes to two hours and be done with the obligation forever. And once your Netflix list becomes just a bunch of titles that are untouchable because you haven’t read the book yet, it starts to become an issue. So I asked myself, why is it an issue? Why haven’t I read the book yet? If I really wanted to, wouldn’t I have read it by now? Can’t I just watch the movie because I’m clearly not interested enough to also read the book?

In August, when the official trailer for Greta Gerwig’s highly anticipated Little Women adaption came out, my first thoughts were, “I’ve never read Little Women. This movie looks good. I should read the book so I’m prepared.” And yet, apart from pop culture references to it on Friends or Modern Family, I knew very little about it. Still, I decided I should get it from the library soon to “be prepared” for the new adaption coming out this Christmas. It just goes to show how little I really did know about Little Women since, upon realizing it is over 500 pages long, I very quickly turned on the idea of reading the book before seeing the movie. Not only do I not do well with books that long, but clearly I’m not interested in it enough to invest, and that’s fine. I’ll see the movie and be just as informed as anyone else. And yet, I still feel a sense of obligation to read the book before seeing the movie to “be prepared.” Why can’t I just enjoy things without this looming sense of obligation to feel smart?

I’ve often hidden what I lack in social skills behind knowledge—specifically that of books and pop culture. So when a movie based on a book is coming out, particularly one with a lot of hype, it’s like I feel automatically obliged to either have read the book or need to read the book soon, not only to appear informed, but to feel worthy of the oxygen I breathe. But as I’ve become an adult, I realize more and more that, even with a career based in books and pop culture, I don’t have time for everything. More specifically, I’m not even interested in everything.

The Price of Salt cover imageWhen I was younger, I guess I forced myself to appear interested in everything everyone else was, and then take it one step further by having read the book and knowing everything there was to know about it. But now, who has that kind of time? The Price of Salt sat on my TBR for years, merely because I was interested in Carol—and only this summer did I throw caution to the wind and just watch the movie. I realized I was going to appear less informed if I haven’t seen the movie four years later, because I still haven’t found the time to read the book.

There are a lot of books, and speaking from experience, I know we are all going to find time for the ones we are genuinely interested in. There might be thousands of books we might like to read in one lifetime, but whether we realize it or not, we will make time for the ones that we really want to read. And the others? We might get to them, we might not. In the meantime? Watch the movie. It’s been four years. You aren’t reading the book. No one will love you less for watching the movie without reading the book. Life is short, so we might as well find some sense of enjoyment while we can.