Puzzlingly, when a book is adapted into a film, the question critics and fans alike are prone to asking is not, "Is it a good movie?" but, "Is it better than the book?" The metric for "better" tends to involve whether or not the plot includes favorite scenes from the literary version, and, crucially, whether or not the ending is altered.
Cramming 200 pages into 100 minutes is no small task, and omissions must be made in order to do so, as was the case with the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings flicks, to the dismay of some diehard readers.
But not all books-turned-movies are bad! In fact, it's not uncommon for authors to enjoy the cinematic version of their stories -- P.D. James appreciated Alfronso Cuarón's Children of Men in spite of massive alterations; David Mitchell lauded Cloud Atlas, calling the reworking "a form of translation"; Philip K. Dick's response to Blade Runner was that the film "justified and completed" his "life and creative work." Less faithful adaptations can even serve a positive purpose, like offering the author of the book an opportunity to reimagine a more appropriate or satisfying ending (which might be the case for this summer's movie version of Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl).
In most cases, it would behoove viewers to think of the movie as a separate creative endeavor -- if you want to recreate the experience of reading the book, a better option might be to... well, read the book again. But there are some film adaptations that are so horrendous that there's really no sense in debating the issue. Most are attempts to turn thoughtful classics into faster-paced blockbusters, a formula that has repeatedly failed, while its inverse seems to be a recipe for success: so-so books often make for fantastic films.
Here are 13 books that are much, much better than their movie counterparts: