Books vs. TV: If Done Well, Each Has Merit

Awards Issue 2016

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As summer approaches, even the most studious and focused students are thinking about warm weather, beach days, and an abundance of summer activities. Many students have jobs to do, camps to attend, and vacations to take. However, within the season, everyone is bound to have some down time. Whether it’s settling into a full-season Netflix binge, or picking up a best- selling novel, everyone has a preference for summer entertainment.

Many say that reading is superior to television, however, that might not always be the case. It’s true that reading is a mental exercise. Reading often involves interpreting new words, analyzing the author’s choices, and predicting events in the plot. This explains why some feel that finishing a novel is more rewarding than completing a season of a show. Mary Woodward expressed her opinion, “you sink into the characters more often, you feel like you’re watching it and you visualize it happening to you,” Woodward elaborated, “I feel like I’ve experienced a lot more: living in different centuries, living in different places and countries, having different skills, being different colors. It’s like you sink into it and you become part of the book, where movies or TV, you’re watching it, and enjoying it, but it’s not as deeply.” As Woodward mentioned, the immersive nature of literature is another reason why many prefer reading to watching. Vivid detail is present in series such as J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings and Stephen King’s It, in which the authors use elaborate description to captivate their readers. “[Reading is] much more intellectually stimulating,” says a very enthusiastic Ryan Fischer ‘18, “Reading just tickles my funny bone! Oh boy! It can be just so provocative and mind-broadening! I do declare, I love reading!” In addition, books are also more portable than a television show. They require no technology and can be used anywhere. A book is also unique to whoever the reader is. While it’s true that everyone who picks up the same book will read the same plot, the images in their heads will be different thanks to the powers our  our respective imaginations

Though many share Fischer’s and Woodward’s opinions, the effort required to read a book can be discouraging to others. Marie DeVoll ‘18, offered her opinion: “Reading can be more enriching, but watching a show, in my opinion, is quicker and easier. I prefer watching TV shows on Netflix, because I like having a visual.” If one considers the ease of reclining on a couch and enjoying a few episodes of a TV series, they might conclude that watching television is a superior form of entertainment. It’s often true that reading can be more time-consuming, especially if one makes a comparison between reading a series of novels or watching their on-screen adaptations. Woodward used the popular book and television series, Game Of Thrones, as an example: “There’s a lot more details in books, you can really sink into the characters. By the very nature, television, since we don’t want to watch movies 10 hours long, you know they have to cut a lot of things. Something like Game of Thrones. I started reading those books many years ago, and I was so excited when I heard it was gonna be a series, and I’ve enjoyed it tremendously. But, they had to leave out tons.” One could argue that, if well-crafted, television shows have the potential to be much more efficient forms of storytelling. For example, programs like The Sopranos and The Wire (which are widely considered the greatest shows of all time) are praised for their depth and masterful writing. Nonetheless, they might contain less detail than novels, leaving the viewer with mostly the essentials of the plot to follow. Is it superior to reading? It all comes down to personal preference; it is the audience that decides which entertainment medium is better.

Summer break is right around the corner, and everyone is eagerly awaiting its arrival. Three short months to try and carry out plenty of exciting activities. However, when one has some down time, they have the opportunity to curl up with a novel or lay down on the couch catching up on a TV show. Regardless of which medium is preferred, summer is meant for relaxation and fun. So if you’re enjoying yourself, you’re doing something right.

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