Which First? Book or Television Show?


Elizabeth Moss as “Offred” in “The Handmaid’s Tale”/Hulu ©

It seems like every month brings news of another novel or comic book getting optioned for television. From hot new best-sellers to half-forgotten classics, works that might have never been considered by skeptical studios a decade ago (or less) are being snapped up by producers hoping to launch the next “Game of Thrones” or “The Walking Dead”.

It’s a great time to be a television viewer, but readers (and I know there’s a lot of overlap between these two groups) are facing a new and growing problem: Should I read the book before I watch the series? Back in the days before streaming, on-demand content, our schedules were at the mercy of television networks. Now we can choose how and when we consume our media, and in what form. So what’s the right choice?

Take Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, for example. I’m a big Atwood fan, but I’ve not finished the book as of yet. I’ve been meaning to, but now the premiere of Hulu’s television series is only days away — April 26. I can’t be the only person in this situation, and as I see adaptations for even more books I’ve meant to read coming down the pike, I’m starting to feel a little pressure. How do you respond to this situation? Which do you do first? Watch the show or read the book? Does it matter?