Book or movie?

Top ten books and their movies, so you can decide which reigns supreme


Katie Mott

BOOKS VERSUS MOVIES. While there may never be a true winner to the everlasting battle between the craft of an author’s paper and pencil or the moving artistry of a director’s camera and editing, you can decide for yourself with these ten titles. Whether you are looking for teen romance or a gripping adventure, this list has you covered. And maybe, just maybe, you can determine if the novel or film comes out on top.

I am a book lover. To me, there is nothing more comforting than curling up on the couch with a new read from Barnes and Noble and a mug of hot chocolate, slowly transporting myself into the fictional or real world that I hold in my hands.

My sister, on the other hand, always chooses the movie. Seeing the action on a screen within a two-hour time frame has forever been her medium of choice—even when I insist that she reads the book first because I have it on my shelf.

But at the end of the day, it all burrows down to one question: is the book or the movie better?

While I frequently prefer the book, I wanted to try to find a more general answer to this question. Using an Instagram Poll, I took ten of my all-time favorite books and their movie adaptations, and simply asked whether the survey participants preferred the book or the movie.

Below, I have compiled the poll results and my personal reviews of these book and movie combinations. Find yourself bored over the summer? Read the book, and then watch the movie. Watch the movie, then read the book. No matter which order you choose, I assure you that none of these titles will disappoint.

And, maybe you can decide for yourself: is the book or the movie better?

*Disclaimer: I chose not to include any series in this top ten list as I did not want rankings to be impacted by various books/movies.*

  1. “Room” by Emma Donoghue
    1. Poll results: 75% book, 25% movie
    2. My take: This is one of those stories that once you start reading, you cannot stop until someone physically pries the book from your hands. This novel details the riveting story of a young woman who is kidnapped off her college campus and forced to live in a garden shed by her captor, whom she bears a child with. The child, Jack, narrates the story, giving the novel a unique perspective on the conflict at hand. For this title, I definitely prefer the book, as the movie fails to include some pivotal plot points and characters. However, the film is definitely still worth the watch to see Brie Larson’s stunning performance, and if you are into the Academy Awards, to see a 2016 Best Picture award nominee.
  2. “The Princess Bride” by William Goldman
    1. Poll results: 40% book, 60% movie
    2. My take: While the plotline may be slightly inconceivable, and we may never know if S. Morgenstern’s full version was better than Goldman’s abridgment, this take on a classic fairy tale is perfect for filling that craving for a novel that is the opposite of serious. Indulge yourself in joining Princess Buttercup, Fezzik, Vizzini, Inigo, and a mysterious man in black on their wild adventures, and allow yourself to channel your inner child. Based on the survey, this is the only title for which people preferred the movie over the book, and, while the movie does a fairly solid job following the plot, it does not contain all of the wit that Goldman bestows upon you in the novel.
  3. “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green
    1. Poll results: 72% book, 28% movie
    2. My take: Of the combos on this top ten list, this one might just be my favorite due to the fairly accurate book to movie adaptation. If you enjoy stories that are destined to produce tears but also reveal what it means to truly love someone, you must read this book immediately. Green tells the story of Hazel Lancaster and Augustus Waters, two cancer patients who fall in love with each other, discovering both the meaning of love and life along the way. While I believe that you should give both the book and movie a chance, I would read the book first, and allow the meaning of Green’s words to resonate within you. But I am warning you now, I cried at the end of the novel, and every time that I have watched the movie, so consider keeping a box of tissues close by if this becomes your next read or watch.
  4. “The Outsiders” by S.E. Hinton
    1. Poll results: 82% book, 18% movie
    2. My take: As you look at this title, you might be wondering why I included this in the top ten list, as it is commonly assigned as a mandatory read for your English class; however, this is no ordinary required book. Ponyboy Curtis narrates the story of his life in the Greasers gang and their constant rivalry with the Socs. Through his adventures, Ponyboy uncovers a deeper meaning of friendship underneath the conflicts resulting from gang violence. I believe this is a great read for anyone looking to pick up an exciting yet meaningful novel, and the movie is also a fun watch— and not just because the star of the original “Karate Kid” is in it.
  5. “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini
    1. Poll results: 88% book, 12% movie
    2. My take: This is probably my favorite book on this list due to the gripping story that Hosseini crafts, while giving detailed insight on past and current conflicts in Afghanistan. The novel tells the story of Amir and his adventures growing up in Afghanistan, all the way through his adulthood journeys. Through both tragedy and triumph, Hosseini pulls you in from the first page and keeps you hooked through the last. While I found the book to be better than the movie, if you are looking for a unique film to watch, I suggest giving this one a try as most of it is in subtitles due to the actors and actresses speaking their native languages.
  6. “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio
    1. Poll results: 81% book, 19% movie
    2. My take: I believe that “Wonder” is one of those elementary and middle school classics that continues to impact every reader that decides to take-in this beautiful story. Auggie Pullman, a young boy with a severe facial deformity, enters school for the first time as a fifth-grader. Aside from the early challenges, Auggie’s story gradually teaches everyone that we should all choose to be kind. I really enjoyed reading the book as the main characters take turns telling the story from their point of view, which I believe helped thoroughly develop every detail of the novel. While the movie does not follow the book exactly, Jacob Tremblay does an incredible job playing the role of Auggie, and the ending will still bring tears of joy to your eyes.
  7. “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas
    1. Poll results: 71% book, 29% movie
    2. My take: Out of all the titles on this list, I thought the film adaptation of the book did the best job portraying the characters as I saw them in the novel. The story revolves around 16-year-old Starr Carter and her life in the predominately African American community of Garden Heights. After one of her friends is shot by a police officer, her world turns upside down as she finds the courage to speak out against racial violence. I really enjoyed reading this book because the protagonist and I are the same age, making the story more relatable. This allowed me to truly grasp Starr’s perspective on the events that occured in the novel. Moreover, as previously mentioned, the movie is definitely worth a watch for the characters, specifically the spot-on casting.
  8. “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls
    1. Poll results: 76% book, 24% movie
    2. My take: Oddly enough, I watched the movie before reading the book for this one; however, I enjoyed the film so much that when we had to pick a memoir to read my freshman year, I was excited to see “The Glass Castle” as an option. This memoir tells the incredible, crazy stories of the Walls family as they try to make their dysfunctional life work and overcome a myriad of challenges. Jeannette Walls’ beautifully crafted story conveys a key message of resilience, which is why I believe her story continues to have a profound impact on every reader. While the film adaptation does not perfectly portray every wild adventure of the Walls family, I thought the casting and sets captured the descriptions in the book very well, and still triumphs in showcasing Walls’ unfaltering determination to surpass any obstacle that stood in her way.
  9. “Everything, Everything” by Nicola Yoon
    1. Poll results: 70% book, 30% movie
    2. My take: If you are looking for a classic teen romance novel with a handful of drama, then this book is definitely for you. Madeline Whittier, the protagonist, is a 17-year-old girl with a severe immunodeficiency disorder that forces her to spend her entire life inside of her house. One day, a moving truck appears on the drive-way next door, only to reveal Olly Bright, the teenage boy moving in. As per the typical teen romance, they develop a liking for one another, and the story continues from there. I enjoyed this novel as the characters had fairly unique personalities once you get to know them a bit better, and I also liked the format of the book. The combination of shorter chapters, Madeline’s doodles, and a fast-moving plot make it a fun read for a summer afternoon. While I enjoyed the movie, as per my usual opinion, it missed some of the plot points from the book, and lacked some character development.
  10. “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak
    1. Poll results: 79% book, 21% movie
    2. My take: A gripping take on historical fiction, I highly recommend this book to anyone, and everyone. The novel follows the story of Liesel Merminger, a teenage girl growing up in Germany during World War II. From stealing books to keeping a secret about what is hiding in her basement, Liesel’s story will keep you hooked from page one. What I found unique about this novel is how emotionally attached you become to the characters once you meet them, and just how hard it is to wish them goodbye when Zusak ends the book. I was elated to find this same feeling while watching the movie, even if it did not follow the book exactly. While the ending is definitely a tear-jerker, both the novel and film grant a riveting perspective of what it was like to be a teenager in the midst of World War II chaos.