RS Recommends: 10 of The Best Books Turned Into TV Shows
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In the era of the Streaming Wars, the number of TV shows available to us is limitless. It can be hard to navigate through the masses of content and determine what shows to devote our time to. Luckily, the book-to-show pipeline has never been more reliable. We’ve rounded up ten of the best books that were turned into movies that you can add to your reading list – and then your streaming queue.
From dramas like Sally Rooney’s Normal People and Elena Ferrante’s My Beautiful Friend, to modern classics like Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice (a.ka. Game of Thrones), we’ve chosen ten great books whose small-screen adaptations will leave you just as enthralled as their literary origins.
1. Normal People: A Novel
Sally Rooney’s 2018 novel Normal People tells the story of Connell and Marianne – two young people who are opposites in their small Irish town yet are drawn together. The novel follows Connell and Marianne through their years studying at Trinity College, and how they oscillate again and again between coming together and pursuing other people, fueled by their magnetic connection and their own personal demons.
Rooney’s novel was adapted into a Hulu series in 2018.
2. The Handmaid's Tale
Since this TV show hit Hulu in 2017, audiences have been captivated by season after season of the dystopian series. It takes us into a not-so-distant (and not-so-unbelievable) future in which fertile women are subjected to child-bearing slavery. While the show has racked up its share of awards, its literary source is also one of great acclaim. Margaret Atwood’s companion novels The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments are worth reading even if you’ve already binged the show.
3. My Brilliant Friend: A Novel
Elena Ferrante’s My Beautiful Friend has sold millions of copies across 40 different countries since its publication in 2011. The novel takes us to 1950s Naples, where childhood friends Elena and Lila grow up poor in a troubled neighborhood. These are the times when young girls aren’t expected to be educated beyond elementary school. When Elena’s father agrees to pay for her continued education, the friends’ paths face an inevitable divergence. The novel was adapted into an HBO limited series, which beautifully portrayed the emotional complexities of female friendship.
4. A Song of Ice and Fire Series
Already re-watched Game of Thrones five different times, not counting quarantine binges? Re-visit the TV masterpiece in a different way — by reading the books.
There are currently five books in the epic A Song of Fire and Ice series, which George R. R. Martin says is a seven-book series. It’s been over a decade since Martin started working on book six, so set a slow pace with your reading.
5. Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman
Lindy West’s memoir takes readers on the journey of how a once-painfully shy child bent on invisibility became just the opposite: a woman unafraid of the provocative, comfortable with a little uproar.
Whether she’s writing about internet trolls, feminism, or her body, West’s essays are both ceaselessly funny and self-aware. The Hulu adaptation, developed and starred by Aidy Bryant, captures the same authenticity that makes West’s writing so appealing.
6. Made for Love: A Novel
In Alissa Nutting’s Made For Love, things get weird in the best way. The novel follows Hazel, who moves into a trailer park for senior citizens with her father and his sex doll for roommates. Why? Her conglomerate CEO husband wanted to wirelessly connect her to him with the first-ever brain chips. Options were bleak.
While the circumstances of Hazel’s life are strange to say the least, the novel itself is a sharp exploration of marriage and monogamy. HBO released the small screen adaptation this year, and the dark comedy is set for a second season.
7. Big Little Lies
Liane Moriarty’s best-selling novel has been one of the most popular TV adaptations in recent years. It balances humor – even if you’re sometimes laughing at the characters instead of with them – with the seriousness of abusive relationships, all the while unveiling the lives of three very different but equally compelling women. Like the novel, the two-season HBO show was equally binge-able, with Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon at the helm of a murder mystery.
8. High Fidelity
Like most people, Rob wonders where he’s gone wrong in his romantic relationships. Unlike most people, Rob decides to track down his top-five exes, get in touch, and re-examine the old relationships. No wonder he’s going through an existential crisis.
While the book was made into a film in 2000, it was also reinvented as a Hulu show in 2020, with some present-day changes. In the Hulu version, Rob is not a man but is instead Zoe Kravitz. The show is naturally set in Brooklyn.
9. Little Fires Everywhere: A Novel
Elena Richardson lives in a suburban neighborhood where everything is meticulously planned – just like her life. With her tight grip on the reigns of her life, nothing can go wrong. Right? Not quite.
Celeste Ng’s novel shows that even the most valued of orders can be disrupted when obsessions with the past – and secrets – take over. Ng’s novel was made into a Hulu miniseries starring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington.
10. Sharp Objects
Camille is a reporter with a grisly assignment: she must cover the murder of two pre-teen girls from her hometown. While that would be troubling for anyone, it’s especially hard for Camille to stomach. She’s just been released from a psych ward and has plenty of her own demons that are all too happy to resurface. As Camille gets more and more invested in her story, she realizes that the murder isn’t the only mystery she’s trying to solve. Amy Adams plays Camille in the Emmy-nominated HBO miniseries.
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