Best books that turned into TV shows

There is a great tradition in the TV and movie industry of adapting literature, both old and new, into shows and films that delight us on screen. Since the beginning of TV, the great authors of our time have been a go-to source of inspiration for TV shows, and this is something that continues today across all of the major broadcasters and streaming services.

But as well as looking to the great authors of the past like Dickens, Austen and Bronte to name but a few, it has become quite common to see books that have hit the top of the New York Times Best Seller list in the past few years quickly have their rights snapped up to be adapted with big name stars.

And the great thing about book adaptations on screen is that there is often a huge part of the “universe” of a show that is left to be explored after you have finished watching the show. It’s impossible – sometimes to the frustration of fans – to include everything in a television programme that is in a book, and adaptations on screen are by their very nature a perspective on the original work. That’s why it’s great to sometimes go an explore the literary world of a show after you’ve seen the show on TV, or go back and re-explore the book (or books) again even if you were familiar with them before watching the show.

We have collated some great books that you can go and read right now as soon as you’ve watched the show. And, what’s even better, most of them have an audio book version too, so even if you’re not a big reader, or have a commute by car where you need to keep your eyes on the road – you’ll still be able to enjoy the books in a different way.

This collection includes titles from many different genres and has literature of varying styles – from historical drama to comic books and sci-fi, there is hopefully something for everyone to enjoy.

If you like the look of a book (or audiobook) we have provided easy links for you to buy the books via Amazon or listen to them on Audible. If you haven’t already you can get a free trial of Amazon Prime for 30 days including next day shipping on millions of items by following this link: https://amzn.to/3M6dExc and you can also get a free trial of Audible for 30 days where you fill find many of the audiobooks mentioned by visiting this link: https://amzn.to/3xrbZya.

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Right, let’s get started on the best books that have been turned into TV shows…

Poldark

If you love watching Aidan Turner and Eleanor Tomlinson embracing on the windswept cliffs of Cornwall, you probably already have a soft spot for the world of Poldark. Well, the good news is your journey doesn’t have to stop with the TV series as there are twelve (yes, you heard correctly, twelve) novels in the Winston Graham series for you to enjoy – published between 1945 and 2002. That should keep you busy for a while!

Watch on Netflix. Get the original books by Winston Graham here: https://amzn.to/37LOTHw Listen to the audiobooks here: https://amzn.to/3O70vpf

The Haunting of Hill House

Shirley Jackson’s 1959 gothic horror novel is considered by many to be one of the finest ghost stories published in the 20th Century and therefore it’s no massive surprise that the book has been adapted multiple times for film and the stage – as well as forming the basis for the Netflix series. If you want a truly spooky literary experience. Try this one.

Watch on Netflix. Get the original novel here: https://amzn.to/3uDwndg Listen to the audiobook here: https://amzn.to/3Oa39KY

The Witcher

Polish author Andrzej Sapkowki’s Witcher series began with a short story in 1986, but began to take the literary world by storm in the 1990s when he released the novel series. The supernatural fantasy has been translated into more than 30 languages and as well as forming the basis of the Netflix series starring Henry Cavill, has spawned a hugely popular video game franchise.

Watch on Netflix. Get the original books here: https://amzn.to/3ve5EmJ Listen to the audiobook here: https://amzn.to/3uDdDuw

A Discovery of Witches

Deborah Harkness’s 2011 debut novel is an historical fantasy that follows the story of a history professor at Yale as she engages in a forbidden relationship with a vampire. Adapted in recent times into a TV show starring Mathew Goode and Teresa Palmer, this New York Times Bestseller is well worth your time.

Watch on Sky / NOW. Get the original books here: https://amzn.to/3JJLlTs Listen to the audiobook here: https://amzn.to/3M04LFh

Watchmen

Created by writer Alan Moore, artist Dave Gibbons and colourist John Higgins, this was originally published in the mid 1980s by DC comics as a 12 part maxi-series. If you love Damon Lindelof’s HBO adaptation, you should definitely go back and enjoy the source material.

Watch on Sky/ NOW / HBO Max. Get the original comic books here: https://amzn.to/3uDuHR2

The Handmaid’s Tale

Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian novel set in the near future where fertile women are enslaved as child-bearing handmaids in a patriarchal totalitarian society is a chilling and deeply brilliant piece of literature. Brought alive in a Hulu series starring Elisabeth Moss, fans of the TV show should definitely read the book.

Watch on Hulu / Prime Video: https://amzn.to/3M6dExc. Get the original book here: https://amzn.to/3jBvBat Listen to the audiobook here: https://amzn.to/3KENxNi

Outlander

Long before Sam Heughan and Catriona Balfe were starring on our screens as Jamie and Claire, Diana Gabaldon was busy creating the Outlander series of books. With the first novel in 1991, there are now nine books to enjoy in the series if the on-screen “droughtlander” starts getting to you.

Watch on StarzPlay: https://amzn.to/3M6dExc. Get the original books here: https://amzn.to/3xnhD43 Listen to the audiobook here: https://amzn.to/3JG5sSk

Big Little Lies

A New York Times bestseller published in 2014, Liane Moriarty’s story has been praised for its ability to bring brilliant storytelling to serious and at times difficult subject matters. Adapted into a hit HBO series starring Nicole Kidman and Reece Witherspoon, this is a book for the reading list.

Watch on Amazon Prime Video / Hulu. Get the original book here: https://amzn.to/3rnXS8U Listen to the audiobook here: https://amzn.to/3rnXS8U

Dexter

Michael C Hall is probably who most people think of when you say the name Dexter, but the forensic blood splatter analyst turned serial killer actually finds his roots in a series of novels by Jeff Lindsay. Although the TV series goes off on its own journey for much of the show, if you like the character, these novels will open up a whole new world of Dexter.

Watch on Amazon Prime Video: https://amzn.to/3M6M0jB. Get the original book here: https://amzn.to/38Q5URu Listen to the audiobook here: https://amzn.to/3JGYyMG

Game of Thrones

One of the biggest television shows of the last few decades, it’s no secret that the programme is based on the world of George RR Martin. The adaptation of A Song of Ice and Fire series from Martin deviates from the source material at points, and so for those that want to discover more about Westeros and the people that inhabit it, we suggest you check out the novels of the author.

Watch on Sky / NOW / HBO Max. Get the original books here: https://amzn.to/3uAYqu2 Listen to the audiobooks here: https://amzn.to/3jCErVy

Tim Glanfield

Tim Glanfield is a journalist, editor and broadcaster with more than 15 years experience writing about television, film and the entertainment business. He has been editor of RadioTimes.com, a writer for The Times (of London) and the Guardian as well as a freelance contributor to newspapers, magazines and websites across the world. He is author of the book Digital Economy or Bust: The Story of a New Media Startup and makes regular appearances on TV and radio in the UK.

Tim Glanfield has 40 posts and counting. See all posts by Tim Glanfield