i was faced with a conundrum when Outlander, the famous series of books Diana Gabaldon began writing 20 years ago, was turned into a TV show – because i hadn’t read them and i have always wanted to. i was saving it for one of those holidays where you devour 5 books in a week while lying on the beach and in between afternoon naps. but i can’t resist a good period drama, especially a steamy one at that.

i knew the basic premise of the story before going into it but won’t spoil anything for you in case there’s any chance you know nothing about the series. i really enjoyed the first two episodes, now i can say i am truly sucked in. but here comes that conundrum again – should i carry on watching, or start reading the books rather? perhaps those of you who have read them can weigh in here (but no spoilers, please!)



  1. I first read Outlander 16 years ago, and all the other books since. I was so happy to learn they were being made into a TV series, and that the author would be heavily involved. They seem to be sticking very closely to the books. The casting is also excellent!

    The first series covers the first book Outlander (published as Cross Stitch in some countries). It’s already been renewed for a second season, which will cover the second book Dragonfly in Amber.

    The books are huge, and just get longer through the series! The latest one (the eighth!!) Written In My Own Heart’s Blood came out a couple of months ago, and it’s absolutely magical, but nearly 900 pages. My vote is that you should start reading now, as there’s a lot for you to get through!!

    I believe the author plans one more book in the series…. but these usually come out every 4-5 years, so it will be a long wait to see what happens!


    • aah thanks so much for the perspective – it’s like Game of Thrones but with less blood and incest!

  2. Oh my god, stop watching! STOP WATCHING!! Get reading those books now, they are fab. Between Gabaldon and Sara Donati’s series, these books are on annual repeat when I don’t have other books on the go.

    Watch the series once you have finished reading. Sorry to be so bossy :)

  3. Hi,
    I’ve been a fan of Diana Gabaldon’s first three books for years (I’m not a fan of the rest really), and the TV series is really doing them justice – Diana Gabaldon worked really closely with the directors and screen writers so you’re in for a treat! Definitely read the books and try to read it before watching. However it’s definitely a book you can’t put down so if you’re a fast reader like me, you’ll be finished in no time whatsoever!!!
    Have fun reading and watching, I cannot WAIT for the third episode!

  4. Hi Diana,

    First off let me say that I’ve been enjoying your blog for years now and I love it! Very eloquent and nicely curated. Keep up the good work!

    I had to comment because I faced the exact same conundrum last week after I saw the second episode that left me wanting more. I was likewise vey charmed by the setting, the mood and costumes (OMG those amazing kilts!) in the first two episodes of Outlander that I started reading the first book this week. It’s true, they are very addictive! And hot. I did the same when the GoT started and found it didn’t impede my enjoyment of the series whatsoever.

    I find after having read source material more than once now, that reading the books (that are then adapted) fills in some blank stares or seemingly innocuous moments that can’t for the mediums sake of tv/film be filled in. A lot has been said about Claire’s voice-over. What did you think about it? I don’t mind it, I just hope they let the actors to the work, they seem more than capable.

    So my advice would be to read the books for the backstory and for a way inside the minds of Claire and Jaime, and you’ll subsequently more than enjoy the lovely mood, music and abs of the series ;-)

    I was so curious about the kilts that I watched this, the sound is not so great but you get the idea:



    • thanks so much for your great comment! that is exactly what i wanted to hear. makes so much sense about “filling in” the blanks. like for instance when she walks down to the apothecary’s room in the castle for the first time and she hesitates – i could only imagine what was written about that scene in the book…

      the kilts really are amazing, i could never really picture what “real” kilts in those days would have looked like, just being worn in every day life. they are really beautiful and not the kinda “silly” kilts you see worn as costumes these days.

      • Hi guys!

        Diana, you really opened a can of 18th century worms with this one eh?

        For anyone else interested, I found a link to costume designer Terry Dresbach’s site and it’s full of information about her research and character costume choices! Ahh..i love it!



  5. You must stop! The books are fantastic and so much fun to read. They are all consuming and you will miss so many details by seeing the show first. Save the show – you wont regret it. Besides, if the show really is that well done it will be a total treat when you do see it.

  6. Hello!

    I’ve been reading your blog for a few years now, but have only commented a handful of times. It’s such a lovely space and always feels like a breath of fresh air into my morning routine.

    I’m going to deviate from the pack here and say watch the first season, at least, before starting the books. I think you’ll enjoy all of the twists and turns much more if you don’t know what’s coming next. I almost wish I could watch the show without anticipating what scenes are coming next. When the first season is over you can then start the books (if they end season one where I suspect they will, then you’ll probably feel compelled to!). The books are absolutely fantastic–particularly the first three, as someone mentioned above.

    Happy reading and watching!


  7. Oh dear lord. You just changed the course of my whole day! I love this book, and so does my best friend, so we have already decided that she is coming over tonight and we are watching a few episodes together. I can’t get over this! Now I have to force myself to work and not watch them.

  8. I say read at least the first two//three books. You need to understand the motivations behind the characters, the emotions are so raw and you will read them so fast, I mean, crazy fast. Plus now that you have this beautiful show in your mind, your imagination will be so rich when you are visualizing as you read.

  9. I took one look at Jamie and was hooked.

    I read the first book but not the others, so I still have time to catch up; so far the series seems very true to Gabaldon’s writing and Claire’s voice in particular.

  10. I read the first book and, frankly, I found some aspects problematic. The Claire/Jamie relationship is quite literally abusive—he bruises her multiple times, and there’s an extended (non-consensual) beating/spanking scene. However, the writing is good and the author did her research about the time period. I am way, WAY more excited about the series because Ronald D. Moore (of Battlestar Galactica) is in charge. I don’t think you should stop watching the show. If anything, read and watch at the same time, because I’m hoping Ron will handle the violence far better than the book does.

  11. the show is excellent, isn’t it? honestly, the first book is not that much LIKE the rest of the series – i think she wrote it in a different frame of mind/genre from the rest, though i assume they’ll normalize the tone of the show. so my suggestion would be that you watch the rest of the first season, and then start on the books to fill the time till next season. they’re super long by now, so will probably take awhile to read.

  12. I L-O-V-E Outlander. I’ve read all of the books and am now watching the TV series. Now, I’ve picked up the books again and have started reading them with the show — for the 1st two episodes it follows very closely but there are slight changes… mostly regarding characters involved, but that’s understandable – it can’t be exact.

  13. I didn’t have the same conundrum as I hadn’t realised the books even existed (I must have been living under a rock), but now I absolutely do! I am sold when it comes to any kind of British period drama, especially if there are strong female leads, dramatic scenery and wonderful costumes!

    It’s been great reading the comments here, however, as I am now convinced I will adore the books and am going to wait and read them before watching – thanks for the lovely (and stunning post) and to all your other readers for their advice. I am certain I won’t be disappointed! xx

  14. Read them! But feel free to watch the show while you read or before you read because the slow burn between Claire and Jamie and the details and reading the Scottish accent words in your head is a completely delightful experience and totally different than watching it on tv, but watching it come to life with the perfectly selected actors is a whole other treat! Whatever order you do it in you’ll compare them to eachother in the best way. I’m about halfway through the series and they’re so so fun and addictive! The show is making me want to restart from the beginning!

  15. Jessie Matthews Reply

    The television production is fantastic, and I appreciate the care Ron Moore took with choosing his actors and developing this series. But you should read the books. Gabaldon can be an irritating writer sometimes, but her talent for metaphor and characterization is not to be missed.

  16. I’m such a sucker for period pieces. I was debating whether or not to start watching this but after your post I’m going to have to start! I haven’t read the books either but think I’ll start with the series. By the way I love your blog. It makes me want to go to South Africa.

  17. Hello. My advice, keep watching, but start reading immediately. The books are way better than the show. You’ll never get the images of the actors out of your head now, which is too bad, because while Jaime and Frank are pretty good, Claire doesn’t look anything like she’s supposed to in the books. Also, book Claire is pretty feisty, and TV Claire seems very reserved. I’m watching the show, but so far I don’t think it holds a candle to the books.

  18. Hello, I don’t normally write comments but having read your post about Outlander I thought I would – very quickly. I just wanted to say that I’ve been working on Outlander now for the past year as one of the assistant directors and I loved every minute of it. I’m so glad with the amount of positive remarks from everyone here as it truly has been a remarkable year for all of us working on the show. I can honestly say that it’s one of the best cast and crews I’ve ever worked with. Whatever you decide to do I hope that you do enjoy the programme the whole way through. And that you’ll enjoy season two just as much!! Judith.

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