Carrying on from my TV- Book related post ‘TV Tie-In Books’, I now want to question the one type of book I purposely neglected. The Factual Counterpart Book. What is that I hear you ask? Have you ever seen a factual documentary on the tele? Whether it is history related, geography related or some celebrity going on a self inspired journey, there always seems to follow, a book.
I have recently just finished reading non-fiction book Long Way Round, which follows actors Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman on the motorbikes from London, all the way around the world to New York. Sound familiar? The TV series aired in 2004, and this book followed the success of the show and became a number one bestseller.
What I loved about the TV show was the chemistry between the two actors; you could really tell that they were the closest of friends. Sadly, with the book being split in to two narratives, it fails to capture this ‘chemistry’ that I loved. But what the book did do was capture the thoughts and psychology of the bikers extremely well. You get a real sense of the real person behind the ‘actor’ self and it was great to read just how human these two really are, whether it be their struggles with their environment, arguments in the camp or their acceptance and take on how, no matter where in the world they went, as a Human race, we simply are one and the same.
Despite being heavily lacking in detail on the actual locations (locations which you can see and appreciate if you watch the show), Long Way Round was an enjoyable read and I’d probably read the follow up Long Way Down, if I happen to come across it sometime in the future. But apart from being a money making scheme, are books like this actually needed? And if so, how much effort actually goes in to them, for clearly the TV Show is the priority and the book secondary?
I also, as it happens, own Ancient Rome: The Rise and Fall of an Empire by Simon Baker. This book release also followed an interesting and widely watched BBC TV documentary about the Roman Empire. It has to be said that despite being well researched and neatly structured, I actually got quite bored of this book and gave up somewhere in the middle. It wasn’t the subject matter that bored me; I mean I studied Ancient Civilisation for A-Level, but more rather the voice. It was extremely stiff and rigid and sometimes with a heavily complex subject such as this, it requires a more softer approach and it has to be said, this book read more like a textbook rather than a TV – Book counterpart. This voice would certainly work as a narrator on the series, but isn’t effective for the book.
If I were to come up with an example of where the book counterpart actually plays a significant role, then it would probably be Walking with Dinosaurs. I don’t have an extensive knowledge of Dinosaurs and so for me, this book, full of pictures, statistics, information etc would be very interesting for the layman like me. It is a completely different type of book to the two aforementioned books and mainly because it serves a purpose. The reader can confidently read up on specific bits that interested them from the TV series; sort of cherry pick the bits that interest them the most and leave bits out they don’t really want to know. But then, you have to question, is there really a point to it? It becomes less like a book and more like an encyclopaedia that will undoubtedly collect dust on a shelf long after the reader’s interest dwindles.
Perhaps I am being too hard on a specific type/genre of book that covers a niche section of the market? And do they really need a purpose other than to entertain? I mean, who am I to question whether or not these types of book are really needed? I would love to know your thoughts? Perhaps, you know an example? Do you own a book like this?