Summer reading! This yearly ritual designed to make sure your brain doesn't liquify in the July heat hasn't changed much over the last half-century. Sure, the lists may have been updated (if you're lucky), yet the process remains the same. Why not start a revolution?! TV is basically the greatest invention in the history of mankind (I'm not even being hyperbolic), and the staff here at SideReel is firmly of the opinion that it's time to start treating it as the literary medium that it is. We've put together suggestions for replacements to popular entries on summer reading lists. Binge away!
Book: Catcher in the Rye
Watch Instead: Bunheads
Why: Catcher is about how a self-indulgent boarding school runaway doesn't want to be a "phony." As a self-indulgent boarding school graduate, I can tell you that we're not really that interesting. Teen problems, while seemingly all-encompassing, are actually usually pretty boring—and so is this book. Bunheads, on the other hand, is about serious teen (and adult!) problems, but it's also a goddamn delight to watch, with its snappy, pop culture-y dialogue, dance sequences, and legitimately great performances. Plus, there are only 18 episodes, so you'll breeze through it (and then you'll be sad that there isn't more).
Book: The Hunger Games
Watch Instead: The 100
Why: Why skip The Hunger Games, you ask? "I mean, it's a for real cultural phenomenon and the movies are great, and they star my girlfriend, Jennifer Lawrence!" — You. I'll let you in on a secret! You should skip reading this best-selling trilogy because we, as a species, have evolved past reading. According to this CW show, in the near-future, instead of pitting teens against each other in a sad, weird, battle to the death, we'll simply jettison 100 of the most attractive ones from our overcrowded and material-lacking space station and see if they survive on the surface of the planet we abandoned after destroying it! I mean, what?! That's some way crazier stuff right there.
Book: The Fault in Our Stars
Watch Instead: 16 and Pregnant
Why: There's teen tragedy and there's teen tragedy, and while 16 and Pregnant may not have makeout sessions at the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam, it WILL leave you with an uncomfortable ulcer on your soul. Real problems on this show include: poverty, homelessness, parental abandonment, and not being able to attend prom. In search of a happy ending? Read the book about teens facing their mortality. Want to feel like society is dying? Watch 16 and Pregnant.
Book: A Song of Ice and Fire
Watch Instead: Game of Thrones
Why: Honestly? You're never going to finish these books. It is literally impossible.
Book: Gone Girl
Watch Instead: True Detective
Why: Shifting crime narratives and unreliable narrators are great, and the first season of True Detective can stand up there with any of the best such novels. It's got innovative cinematography, beyond fantastic performances from Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, and much like Gone Girl it wants to destroy your faith in humanity! The book may indicate what evil lurks in the hearts of men (and women!), but this show will… uh… show it to you—and you'll like it.
Book: The Kite Runner
Watch Instead: Broadchurch
Why: Fathers and sons, familial disintegration, guilt, obligation, soul-crushing violence: Broadchurch has it all (with the notable exception of kites). OK, it doesn't take place against the tumultuous backdrop of Afghani politics (it takes place in Britain), but it's all pretty horrifying nonetheless. As a bonus, it stars the internet's favorite Doctor, David Tennant, as a sad, guilt-ridden detective in search of redemption, so… yay(!)(?)
Book: The Help
Watch Instead: Mad Men
Why: The entire history of America before the 1960s was pretty awful for everyone who wasn't white, male, and Christian. And then, as my mom likes to point out, the Baby Boomers (aka The Most Boastful Generation) changed the world! Both The Help and Mad Men focus on those changes, and if you're really into the idea of revenge via pies made of poop, The Help is for you! If you prefer a more subtle examination of society, Mad Men is the easy choice.
Book: Life of Pi
Watch Instead: Adventure Time
Why: Magical realism has a long and proud literary tradition, but this mostly comes down to issues of geography. Life of Pi is a tale of morality that takes place almost entirely in the middle of the ocean. While, I mean, sure, who doesn't love being left alone on a raft with nothing but a tiger and her thoughts, some of us might prefer a frozen, post-apocalyptic wasteland that can be wandered in the company of a smart-mouthed, size-shifting dog. Questions of ethics and morality just go down better when vast landscapes (and cartoons) are involved.
Book: Pride and Prejudice
Watch Instead: Trophy Wife
Why: I'm pretty sure that one of Jane Austen's most famous quotes is "Every single person in the world is a mortifying mess, especially when trying to impress a romantic partner's family and/or when simply existing." I wouldn't Google that or anything, but just take my word for it (I have a lit degree—two actually). Pride and Prejudice is aces as books go, don't get me wrong, but the gone-too-soon Trophy Wife is what Austen wouldhave come up with today. Malin Akerman as a third wife and step-mom who just wants people to think she's cool? A universal story if there ever was one.
Book: The Great Gatsby
Watch Instead: House of Cards
Why: Beautiful, powerful people doing bad things? Complete corruption? Trials of love and devotion? Moral decay? Cool kid parties? The greatest of Great American Novels might have all of these things, but here's something it doesn't have: bonafide national treasure KEVIN SPACEY WITH A SOUTHERN DRAWL. End. Of. Discussion.
Watch Instead: Penny Dreadful
Why: Mr. Penumbra is a book that totally wants to have a cool, vaguely creepy mystery at its core. It utterly fails! Go back to the era of epic gothic weirdness with the terrifically sexy Penny Dreadful. It's got demon sex, vampires, Frankenstein, and it takes place in foggy Victorian London instead of foggy present-day San Francisco. And when was the last time we got to watch a character waste away from tuberculosis? Tuberculosis > no tuberculosis when it comes to creepy mysteries.