Read, Watch, Discuss: Book and Film Discussions

townOne of the most successful reading programs at The Kansas City Public Library is Read It/Watch It. This program is designed to encourage thoughtful reading as well as thoughtful viewing.

KCPL includes Read It/Watch Its in many of the larger reading initiatives and adds this special program to regular book group schedules. KCPL has done RIWIs for Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson, Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley, Mystic River by Dennis Lehane, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, Children of Men by P.D. James, Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim, Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg, and Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell.

We let participants know that reading a book for discussion in a book club is not the same as reading the same book for individual pleasure and the same goes for watching a movie. We encourage viewers to pay the same attention to a film as they would a book if tprinceofthieveshey know they will be discussing the film at a later date. We try to guide viewers to pay attention to the film’s elements and how they come together to make a cohesive whole. The point is not to turn all the group members into the next version of Siskel and Ebert, just as discussing a book isn’t meant to create NYTBR book reviewers. The goal is to have viewer-readers experience a discussion that enhances their enjoyment of a work or improves understanding of it and in some cases have viewer-readers discuss why and how a work is lacking in some capacity due to the transition from one medium to another.

I’ll be posting summaries of our previous RIWIs with discussion topics, but for this post I wanted to introduce a book/film pairing that KCPL has not done.

Chuck Hogan’s crime thriller, Prince of Thieves, was brought to the big screen by Ben Affleck who directed and starred in the movie. The film had a name change, The Town, to emphasize that environment had as much to do with the criminal nature of the major characters. A fantastic comparison of the two works can be read here.  It’s a thorough comparison of print and celluloid. For KCPL Read It/Watch It participants, we’d ask viewer-readers to keep the following in mind while reading/watching:

1. How does the viewer learn about the film character in a shorter amount of time than the book provides? What does the director do to help the viewer understand elements of the character quickly?

2. Which parts of the book were left out and why do you think the director did this? Is the overall tone and intent of the book’s translation to film lost due to the trimming?

3. For this pairing of book and film the endings are dissimilar. Why would the director make the decision to change the ending? How does this change affect the overall tone of the work?

This pairing would work well for a debut RIWI. Post your experiences below if you use this duo.

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About the Author:

Kaite Mediatore Stover refuses to give up her day job as director of readers' services for The Kansas City Public Library to read tarot cards professionally or be the merch girl/roadie for her husband's numerous bands.

1 Comment on "Read, Watch, Discuss: Book and Film Discussions"

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  1. ckubala@columbiactlibrary.org' CarolK says:

    Our book groups have included the film version of the book as part of discussions at times. It is interesting to see how Hollywood translates the book. I’ve often thought about hosting a series of film discussions but have never gotten around to this. I love the idea of pairing both book and film for discussion.

    Tell us more about how your program works? Do participants read the book and watch the film on their own and then gather to discuss both or do they read the book, get together to watch the film or some other scenario? If viewing is done at home, how do you provide the film?

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