Why Books Are Better Than TV and Movies

By: Naomi Metoyer
Opinion Section Editor

It is often said that no one reads anymore. Despite living in an age where we are seemingly more able to express ourselves through words at a larger scale than ever before, it seems the written word has become even less meaningful or acknowledged.

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Before TV and film, before Twitter and Instagram, books were a main source of leisure time entertainment for a large portion of the population. Stories were exclusively unique to the pages of a novel, a poetry collection, a short story, a newspaper.

Yet recent societal and technological shifts have created less of a demand for books. TV and film have taken the place of literature in so many ways. The instant gratification they offer in the form of stories has decreased the desire or need for books.

It seems as if all of the great movies and TV shows that are coming out are the condensed versions of novels and book series.

Film seems to increasingly find their popular projects within the pages of a novel. From dystopian classics like Fahrenheit 451 and 1984 to newer ones like The Hunger Games and Divergent. From contemporary teen literature like To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before and John Green’s Paper Towns and The Fault in Our Stars to The Hate U Give, Me Before You, and even Fifty Shades of Grey. The Lord of the Rings series, IT and countless other Stephen King creations, and every Harry Potter adventure, pioneers of their literary genres, have all been translated to the big screen.

Television has continued to borrow from literature. Gossip Girl, Game of Thrones, and Orange is the New Black are some of the more famous examples of this trend. Others include The 100, Sherlock, The Magicians, Outlander, and The Handmaid’s Tale.

Although these adaptations are outstanding in their own way, for their own form of media, they lack what a book can offer. There are intangible and tangible perks of reading that cannot be replicated by the condensed and paraphrased visuality of their screen versions.

Movies and TV cannot touch books in the way of story. The depth and connection created within books is lost in translation when transferred into screen form.

Novels offer a look into the mind of each character, or at the very least the main one. It gives one more background into the motivations of the characters and a connection that is more than just visual, the one aspect of story that is emphasized in TV and film.

Books are also far more universal and accessible to all types of people.

My dad has been losing his sight for years, thus making TV and film much less desirable for him. Progress in these areas in respect to blind accessibility is slow, as not nearly enough of these offer audio description, an assistive technology that explains what is visually happening in the show or movie. This is why my father, and many others in his community, have turned away from screens and turned to stories that are more accessible to them: audiobooks.

I assume the same can be said for the deaf community as well, as captions seem far less desirable than the words of a book, where attention need not be split during their enjoyment.

Beyond this, books help improve and develop one’s reading comprehension, critical thinking, creativity, writing skill, grammar, and vocabulary in a way they could not be developed or improved by simply watching a screen.

I have to admit I didn’t read more than maybe a book or two every year before a couple years ago. Once I found a book I loved, however, I couldn’t be stopped.

The results were impressive, to say the least. My honors and AP English classes all seemed simple at that point, for I’d become so accustomed to the way words formed in books that is was almost natural to read the texts presented and to write my own words in the image of the authors I’d learned from.

My writing far exceeded that of my peers not because of any gift, but because I was so exposed to what it meant to truly write—through reading. My grammar and spelling increased tenfold, having so often seen them used as they were meant to be. When I took my ACT last year, at a time when I was only reading about a book each month, I received a perfect score on the English section.

Reading made my writing stand out amongst others’. By realizing the expansive possibilities of words, I could craft my own in a way that was more of an art form than anything else. I could only do this, however, because I had studied the works of better writers.

Beyond these skills, reading reaps benefits on intangible qualities such as heightened critical thinking and problem solving. Novels are not the straightforward textbooks within schools, but twisting narratives with intertwining and unconnected storylines that force the reader to think in different ways and at different levels, viewing pieces of information in unique and new ways they would not have before.

Books offer a sense of intimacy, as well, that has no comparison in the passivity of a TV show or film. “Certain studies have actually shown that reading fiction tends to make the reader more open and empathetic,” Mr. Jovanelly, who reads nearly every night and who himself was a professional writer, said on the topic. “I think books also get to higher truth that we are all searching for in some way, so everyone should read to help them on that journey.”

This is why books from generations before us are still revered, referenced, and taught to this day. Books detail our neverending exploration and defining of the human experience. They are the lifeblood of our species, the pieces of our endless whole that confront and expose our fears and inner truths, that paint the grim and the bright in the ever developing portrait that is our legacy.

Words, our shared experiences, are what make us who we are. They tell us, and ask us, and implore us to explore that definition. That is something movies and TV will forever fail to do in the same all-encompassing, classic way a novel can.