Question – Are There Books That Should NEVER Be Adapted For Screen?

Posted July 3, 2014 by Jessica in Question / 70 Comments


I don’t think there are. But the reason I don’t there are is complicated . . .

I don’t much like going to movies based on books. Especially if the book said movie is based on is a book that I L-O-V-E-D.

Take the Harry Potter movies—I don’t think I’ve seen them after Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I know I haven’t seen them beyond Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Why? Well, for a multitude of reasons, but all of those reasons can be boiled down to:

Fred and George.

Fred and George Weasley are one of the consistent highlights in Harry Potter (the books). They’re mischievous, they’re hilarious, they are NOT TO BE MISSED.

But missing them is exactly what happens in the movies.

If you’ve never read the books, then you don’t know what you’re missing, but if you have read them . . . the movie versions of Fred and George who occasionally stick their heads into a scene with a snarky comment is not going to cut it.

And Dobby. I’ll bet you that not a single person who had not read the books shed a tear when the Bad Thing that happens in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows happened.

But I did.

Last year, I read the entire series out loud to my husband who had never read it. It was the first time I’d read them since the last book came out, and I was a bit fuzzy on some of the things towards the end.

I had actually forgotten about the Bad Thing.

Until it happened.

Then I remembered. And I SOBBED. Like a baby.

And no one who hadn’t read the books is going to feel anything from the movies that intensely. It’s not possible. Too much had to be cut, too many personal thoughts that readers alone are privy to can’t be translated onto the big screen.


That being said, there are people in the world—people who completely boggle my mind, but people nonetheless—who will NEVER read the Harry Potter books. Even if there wasn’t a movie they could easily watch, they still wouldn’t read the books. So for those people, better the movies than nothing at all.

And the same basic principle can be applied to any based-on-a-book movie.

What do you think?

Are There Books That Should NEVER Be Adapted For Screen?

Jessica Signature

My name is Jessica and I live in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I’m trying my hand at writing, but mostly I read. My favorite genres are Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy, and the YA versions of those genres, but if there is a book of a different color getting lots of buzz, I’ll read it too, just to be informed. If I’m not reading or writing, I’m probably on Goodreads or Pinterest or baking blueberry pies because I love them.



70 responses to “Question – Are There Books That Should NEVER Be Adapted For Screen?

  1. I books should only be adapted if the film team can commit to a certain degree of integrity in terms of maintaining the tone/major events of a story. Obviously changes must be made since film is a different medium than print and the methods of storytelling are so different, but preserving the central elements of a book is important imo. A good example is the 50 shades books, which are apparently being adapted into a PG-13 movie. I’m not a fan of the books, but I’m guessing that people who are will be disappointed with the final product if the studio has to commit to that kind of rating. If you’re going to adapt an erotica novel you better be able to make it sexy (just like I expect good effects for contemporary SFF movies, etc). Do I think movies should be porn-y? No, but with a higher rating (NC-17 or 18-A) at least some of the conversations between the main characters can remain unchanged. It’s not a child-friendly book, why make it a child-friendly movie? Plus who would want to see that with their parents present? Ugh.
    Danya recently posted…Graphic Novels, Tough Chicks: Vol. 2

    • True friggin’ story. That is a ridiculously good example, Danya. What is the point of making a based-on-the-book movie if the end result looks absolutely nothing like the original?

  2. I feel like sometimes, there are books that are so internal that it would be almost impossible to really translate them properly to film. One book I’m thinking of is Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi. So much of that is played out in Juliette’s mind, and along with the strikeouts and things, it would be so difficult to make a film which accurately captures that narrative voice.

    Then again, with an adaptation, I suppose it’s an independent medium, so if they can make it work (or even change the story e.g. The Hobbit) and still have a really entertaining film, I’m all for it.
    Nara recently posted…Review: Flirty Dancing by Jenny McLachlan

    • You’re much more open minded than I am, Nara 😉 I don’t think I’m capable of seeing a book that I loved completely rewritten on the big screen and not being upset about it, independent medium, or no independent medium 😉

  3. I know I never want to see the Fever series as a movie, I love that series, and the only person that could live up to being my Barrons is David Gandy, and he’s a model I doubt he he can’t act, so I don’t think it work.. This is from a purely selfish point of view..LOL
    Lupdilup recently posted…2014 Audiobook Challenge Update

  4. I honestly just get so excited when I see that a book I enjoyed is being made into a movie. I know it is unlikely it will stay as true as any reader would want it to be. Just keep everything and make the movie longer! I still get excited to watch them though. I just tell myself not to get my hopes up and then it is usually easier to pick the movie apart but enjoy it at the same time.

    • No, I almost always get excited too 😉 BUT I’m seldom able to keep from getting my hopes up, and am therefore almost always disappointed. But when I first hear about it? I’m all, “Oh, oh!” and stalking the actors on IMDB . . . YEP. I’m a dork, LOL.

  5. Ugh, I could agree with you more on this. The H.P. series is one of my all time favorites and I was so disappointed with how much emotion is left out with some of the characters. I think the movies missed it big time not only with the Weasley twins and Dobby but with Harry’s relationship both with Sirius and with Dumbledore. I hate to say it but the man that played Dumbledore was terrible. 🙁
    Books that are over 400 pages rarely translate well to the big screen. There is just too much info that gets lets out therefore ruining too much of the actual feelings you get while reading.

    There is only so much you can do to portray it all as well.
    kindlemom1 recently posted…Review: Through To You by Lauren Barnholdt

    • Oh yeah. Every time I saw one of the movies or even just a preview, I would think to myself, “Gandalf should be Dumbledore; why isn’t Gandalf Dumbledore?” And exactly—if too much gets cut, it’s a hopeless endeavor.

  6. OH GOD. I’ll never get over George and Fred and ahhhh. And Dobby. Oh, god. I’m gonna cry. I’m not gonna cry. Oh, shoot. Who am I kidding? Totally going to cry *starts sobbing* I do love the movies though! Perhaps it’s because I read the books when I was 14 and younger? It’s been, what? 7 years? That’s a lot and I don’t remember the tiniest details, but totaly agreed that the books cover much more than the movies ever could. I love the books so hard, but the movies? I love them too. But you’re so right with this line: “So for those people, better the movies than nothing at all.” Oh, and btw! Did you husband enjoy the books? 😀
    Siiri recently posted…Mini-reviews: This Girl and Finding Cinderella by Colleen Hoover

    • YES. If I’m going to attempt to see a movie based on a book I’ve read, I make a book of not (re)reading the book in advance. I did that a couple of times when I was younger, and it didn’t take long to figure out that that was part of the problem. And DH did enjoy the books. Not as much as I did, LOL. He’s an engineer and has one of those engineer brains—he doesn’t read for pleasure much (at ALL), unless it’s an owners manual (no, that’s not a joke), but he enjoys the attention 😉

  7. +JMJ+

    Only if there are movies that should never have novelisations! ;-P

    Seriously, I think that books and movies are such different media that it doesn’t really say much if a movie is not faithful to the book. A book has limitations that a movie doesn’t, and to impose those limits on the movie is unfair. Yes, not everything in the book’s plot is going to make it in. But if we tried to write a faithful novelisation of a good movie that could capture the same detail of art direction, sound editing, and nuance in the actors’ voices, we’d see that literature isn’t all that, either.

    I think the real conflict is over “our” personal visions of the story and characters clashing with the filmmakers’ more commercial visions–but the only power we have to resolve this is a boycott of all adaptations . . . which we don’t seem willing to do. LOL!

    • Which is why despite my personal dislike of most book-to-movie adaptations, I don’t think it’s fair to say that some books should absolutely not be made into movies 😉 You’re right, it’s very personal for some of us . . . *cough* me *cough* . . . but I am not the center of the universe, so I don’t try to dictate my thoughts and feelings to others.

  8. Ha. My opinion is that no books should be adapted for screen. For all the reasons you listed but… personally I always feel like it messes with my imagination. Like so for example, if I wasn’t happy with the casting,I wouldn’t be able to imagine the character as I had imagined them before and that would be made worse by the fact that I wouldn’t agree with this image so it would just bother the living daylights out of me.

    I mean I know a lot of people enjoy movies based on books but I can never bring myself to do so. I’ll become nit-picky and then that’ll lead to me being pissed and annoyed and then ragey. 😛

    Fantastic discussion, cupcake! 🙂
    Rashika recently posted…ARC Review: Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern

    • YEP. Me TOO. But just b/c I don’t like them, and avoid most of them like the plague doesn’t mean that I think they shouldn’t be made at ALL. Let the people that like them, watch them, and I’ll just be happy with my book 😉

  9. I personally am not a fan of the whole book to movie adaptations we’ve been seeing lately, but I would have a huge problem with some of my fave series being made into movies. The movie never lives up to the books (even Harry Potter) and it’s hard to watch any actor portray a character you’ve already created in your imagination.

    Sometimes its not too bad, take for instance the show Bitten. I wasn’t sure what to expect but they managed to pull it off even though I wouldn’t say it’s better than the books!

    The Fever series, BDB and the Hollows are just three that I would NEVER want to see on TV or the big screen. Some books, most books should just be that. That’s the reason we read to begin with isn’t it? To escape to new worlds and use our imaginations…
    Lori recently posted…Blog Tour: QUEEN OF WANDS by Katee Robert {Guest Post + Giveaway}

    • Oh, Lori . . . I love Clay Danvers too much to watch Bitten, LOL. I’ve been boycotting . . . BUT you’ve made me curious, AND the cast is going to be at Dragon Con, so maybe . . .

      And that is exactly why we read. I hadn’t thought about it in those terms, but now that you mention it, that is definitely a huge part of what I don’t like about book-to-screen adaptations. I don’t like be told what something I’ve imagined looks like. The too are almost never the same, so when I see it, it’s just WRONG. *frowns* I don’t like it.

  10. Although fantasy books IMO are the hardest to adapt, there are some that were “good enough” . We can only CGI so many people and events otherwise it’ll look like a 3D movie. That said, there are books that shouldn’t or couldn’t be adapted decently. Like Throne of Glass, it may be a fanfiction of sorts of Game of Thrones but the fantasy elements are too awesomesauce it set the bar too high. They should also leave BDB alone, I feel they will bastardize the series like they did with Sookie’s. I want to keep my Caldie vamps as is.
    Braine Talk Supe recently posted…Naughty Nooner: My Hunger by Lisa Renee Jones + Giveaway

    • I don’t know . . . ToG is currently my favorite YA fantasy series, and while I would probably be a movie version’s harshest critic, the idea (HOPE) that it could be done well is too marvelous a concept for me to completely ignore.<------this is precisely why I'm constantly disappointed by adaptations, LOL. BUT. If it was done well, how awesome would that be? Can you imagine what that beastie from book 1 would look like? And those honkin' spiders, and the witches, ZOMG.

  11. Are there books that should never be adapted for screen? Probably. There are books I love that are just too weird or complicated or epic or unique for a movie version to ever do it justice – at least not with today’s film technology. But that won’t ever stop Hollywood, so I guess it doesn’t matter 😉

    • Well, and beyond that, just b/c they make a movie, doesn’t mean you have to see it. Like I said, I’ve only seen 2, maybe 3, of the Harry Potter movies, and sometimes I feel like I’m the only person in the world who hasn’t seen them all. But a couple was all it took for it to be obvious that no way, no how were they going to live up to the books. So I didn’t watch them. But MILLIONS of people did, and loved them. I’m not narcissistic enough to say that just b/c I don’t like something, it shouldn’t be done 😉

  12. I usually don’t like when books are adapted for screen. I mean I’m glad that more people will find about the book, but then again reading the book and creating the movie in your head is much better than just watching someone’s idea of that book. So yeah. There are some good movies though. I liked TFIOS for example, but book always comes first. Great post, Jessica 🙂
    Tanja recently posted…ARC Review: Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen

    • I haven’t seen TFIOS, and I don’t know if I will (b/c SAD), but The Hunger Games: Catching Fire rocked my socks off, so I know that good adaptations are possible . . . just rare 😉 AND just b/c they make a movie doesn’t mean I have to see it, right?

  13. I don’t think any book that is part of a series should be made into a movie. TV show? maybe, but not TV show. It worked for Harry Potter because they started off as kids. But in YA books, the actors they choose are usually in their late 20’s. The James, who I love, will be how old by the time the series is done filming? Can he still pull off a 18 year old?
    I’d rather not see any book I love to be made into movies or TV’s unless they are going to do it right, which sadly, they don’t…
    Nereyda recently posted…Review: Sweet Revenge by Rebecca Zanetti!

    • My sentiments exactly. BUT again, just b/c they do it, doesn’t mean I have to watch it, or that I have to keep watching it, if it’s more than one movie or a TV series. I quit True Blood after the fourth season, but I actually liked the first two, and season 3 was bad either. That series is actually what convinced me that long-running series could be adapted well into TV series—even if the plot diverges from the original series, it’s easy to view it as just another installment. And like any series, all installments are rarely equal. After season 4, I called it quits b/c it had just gotten ridiculous. But I didn’t stop watching it b/c I was disgusted with the adaptation. I stopped watching it b/c the show itself had gone downhill. By that point the books and the show were almost completely separate entities in my mind.

  14. Hmm…this is a really good discussion question Jessica!:) I think only books that are action-oriented should be adapted to screen. If a book is character-driven, this makes it really hard to adapt to screen because the character can’t speak their thoughts out loud to the camera. However, action-oriented books usually turn out to be decent movies because you can scan sit back and see the action on the screen.
    Zoe recently posted…A Mad, Wicked Folly Review Swap!

    • True story. Not a perfect example, b/c the voice over is the result of a second personality residing in a single person, but The Host drove me batty. Even if you attempted to compensate for the lack of inner dialogue in a character driven book-to-movie adaptation that way, it just doesn’t work. Blah.

  15. I agree with ^^ LilyElement.

    I’m too nit picky, find too many faults and think important elements are always left out, the characters always end up being completely wrong for me so in the end I find myself trying not to watch movies that have been adapted from books (unless I haven’t read the book first).

    I loved the HP movies but do you believe I haven’t read the books :-0

    A series definitely shouldn’t be made into movies or TV shows ie. The Mortal Instruments, too much is left out and it ends up a big flop.

    A great post!
    Sharon – Obsession with Books recently posted…Review: Don’t Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout

    • I’m too critical of adaptations too. How can we not be? We book lovers LOVE our books. When someone starts messing with them . . . it seldom goes well.

      And YES, lol. I can believe it, b/c you said you liked the movies. If you’d read the books, I promise, you wouldn’t have 😉

  16. Ahhh I’m one that never wants to see books into movies. lol I did love one that was done PS I Love You but I’ve not actually read the book in that case. ::snort::

    Apparently one of my favorites has been optioned–the In Death series by JD Robb and gah dreading that. I don’t see how they’ll be able to capture those books at all.
    anna (herding cats & burning soup) recently posted…Interview w/ Yasmine Galenorn–All kinds of paranormal goodness, mac&cheese and camouflaged gnomes! + giveaway

    • Yeah, I typically don’t like movie versions much either, but just b/c a screen adaptation exists doesn’t mean I have to see it 😉 Let the people who like them have them, and I’ll be sitting in comfy chair, quietly reading my book.

  17. I think some movies aren’t truly as perfectly adapted as we may wish and some details/characters/scenes won’t feel the same or maybe will make us hate it (the movie) but I usually enjoy those adaptations and they give me another perspective of the story. I’m pretty open to those so, no, I think every GREAT, DETAILED and POPULAR book can be made as a movie. :)) Ugh, I used to be one of those person not wanted to read the HP series (but I finally did, except the 7th!)
    Lola recently posted…BOOK TOUR: Review + Giveaway of Going Down in Flames by Chris Cannon

    • I agree, but I try to read the book before the movie if I can help it. I haven’t read Ender’s Game (I know, don’t hate me 😉 ), and I refuse to see the movie until I have. Maybe I could see the movie first, and no big deal, but a couple of times I’m seen the movie first, and the book didn’t live up to the movie, and that . . . that is no bueno. But that’s just one of my quirks 😉

  18. There is just so much I can say about this topic, lol
    Some books (if done well and respectfully) can be turned into movies and end up being so,e great movies (Hunger Games, Silver Linings Playbook) but then there are others that are just so butchered that i hate.
    I think there are some fundamental lessons that some books teach that are so hard to be interpreted on screen so it’s just better to not make them jnto movies.–like Looking For Alaska. I don’t want that one turned into a movie. Too much complexity… I’m scared the movie will be dumbed down.
    Lily recently posted…Landline:Review

    • YEP. Movie versions are almost always dumbed down. It takes incredibly talented actors to convey what’s going on beneath the surface, and for books with particularly dense topics . . . yeah, it seldom works.

    • Huh. I’m really interested in knowing what those two movies are, b/c I can’t think of a single experience I’ve had in which the movie was better than the book. I’m not saying it’s not possible, I’m just saying it hasn’t happened to me yet 😉

  19. I’m torn! I KNOW movies get such a bad rap these days because they’re not 100% perfect to the book. But I kind of think of movies as fanfic of the book. x) lol It helps me when they’re not accurate anyway. I mean they do say ADAPTION. But there are some books I hope they don’t touch, just because it’d be too much. I think, for instance, The Lunar Chronicles wouldn’t fit into a movie…but a TV series? YES. Same with the Gone series by Michael Grant.
    Cait recently posted…Get your Party Hat. We’re Playing a Game.

    • Yeah, it’s hard to be unbiased if it’s a book you LOVED. I can’t help it most of the time, if I love something, I don’t want it adapted. It’s fine the way it is, LOL. But that being said, just b/c someone adapts it, doesn’t mean I have to read it, and I would never try to impose my opinions on someone else 😉

  20. I always get terrified when a book I like gets auctioned for a movie/tv show. I think the book I’d least want to be adapted is Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I LOVED that book to bits, so I don’t know if someone could really bring to life the wonderful creatures and settings and things.

    I’ve only read the first 2 books of the HP series… and I do agree about Fred and George, they’re always a bright spot.
    Marianne recently posted…Review: Locks: Rapunzel Unhinged by Sarah J. Pepper

    • And that’s it, right there—you LOVED it to bits, and you don’t want it ruined for the masses. Book lovers can’t help but feel a sense of ownership towards they’re favorite books, and this idea of someone messing with what we see as perfection . . . it HURTS. Leave it alone, LOL. It’s fine the way it is!

    • And that is why even though I don’t much like movie adaptations myself, I will never say a book should not be made into a movie. I don’t have to watch it, if I don’t want to, but for the non-readers in the world . . . ANYTHING that might raise interest in actual books is a good thing IMO.

  21. I think if you head into a movie with the understanding that some things were inevitably cut, it makes it a bit easier. I think the really difficult thing is to adapt a book that took place in the first person. How do you recreate that feeling of experiencing things through someone’s eyes?
    Lindsey recently posted…Review: Now I See You

    • Yeah . . . I pretty much always go into a book-to-movie knowing there will be differences, but that rarely keeps me from being disappointed. I always hope that it will be one of the good ones, but the good ones are few and far between. BUT again, just b/c a movie is made doesn’t mean I have to see it.

  22. CONFESSION: I’ve never read the Harry Potter books. *ducks for cover* *hangs head in shame* It’s a long story as to why but I swear, it’s a compelling one!

    The Twilight Series and Vampire Academy have to be the WORST movie adaptions ever. Like EVAH!!! First, CGI is critical and if you can’t get that the film is destined to fail and I’m referring to Twilight. And I loved that series.

    I think the authors need to be heavily involved in the the screenplay as well. Look at how successful TFiOS was and I think it had to do with John Green being immersed in the overall film.

    Who knows what the right formula is BUT I’m always thrilled to find out when a book gets adapted into film. 🙂 I can talk about this for hours. *shrugs* This was a great question to ask my friend! 🙂
    Cristina recently posted…Ruin and Rising (The Grisha #3) by Leigh Bardugo

    • ZOMG. I want to hear that compelling story, Cristina!

      And you are correct. With the addition of Mortal Instruments. That movie was so bad that we actually started laughing at it. In the theater. SO BAD.

      You are again correct 😉 The Hunger Games: Catching Fire blew my friggin’ mind. I think it’s important that not only are the authors involved in the screenwriting, but the actors READ the friggin’ book.

      Have you read If I Stay? If you haven’t, you NEED to. Like Kate Daniels NEED to. I’m excited and hopeful about the movie version.

      And yes, I know, LOL. I love movies too.

  23. Apart from the Hunger Games movies, I’ve mostly been very disappointed when books I’ve enjoyed have been made into movies… and it’s like it’s not the same thing at all!

    *whispers: I haven’t read Harry Potter… yet! – I own all the books in paperback, kindle version, in French AND in English, plus the audiobooks for the first four in French*
    Lexxie recently posted…Review: Perfect Lies – Kiersten White

    • Then what are you waiting for?! LOL. And yes, I was quite pleased with The Hunger Games movies, but unless it’s a BBC classic (like Emma or P&P), I’m mostly disappointed with movie versions of books.

  24. I think there are books that totally deserve to be adapted to the big screen, and they’ll be awesome. The problem’s Hollywood. They take out a lot of things – like Uriah from Divergent! >_<

    Of course, Veronica Roth, like John Green, was involved throughout the film. I think it really depends – and it was probably the same with Clare and City of Bones, but it didn't go out TOO well in the long run.
    Sophia recently posted…ARC Review: The Fire Wish by Amber Lough

    • True story. Even when Hollywood does allow the author to participate in the screenwriting and production, it doesn’t mean they have much creative power. I mean, “participate” could simply mean, hanging out on set, powerless to stop the train wreck that your book is being adapted to.

  25. I have to agree, Jessica. While I don’t often see movies based on books – because movies cannot do a book justice – I don’t think there are any certain books Hollywood should steer clear of. And I know that there are people – sadly, some in my family – who will never be introduced to a book other than through a movie. *sigh* My nephew once said to me “why would I read the book when I can watch the movie?” You’re absolutely right about a book making you feel things a movie just can’t.

  26. Great question!!! I agree some movies just don’t do the books justice. Like The Host by Stephenie Meyer. I loved that book when I read it. When the movie came out I was so excited. I had 2 friends go watch it with me… Well… I apologised to them for an entire day after that for letting them go with me.. Yes I thought it was that bad *cringe*

    Chanzie @ Mean Who You Are.
    Chene Sterckx recently posted…~ July MWYA Monthly Buzz ~

  27. I get so frustrated with film adaptations of books that I love, they rarely if ever seem to do it right. Most of the time we are left tearing apart the film, pointing out what wasn’t done right or saying “that’s not how it is in the book!” Occasionally, if I have seen the movie first then read the book, my disappointment isn’t as bad.