Tons of movies have been based on bestsellers, but even the small screen has some pretty literary leanings. In fact, your favorite TV shows might be based on books. The next time you’re looking for a fresh read, some hit television shows just might serve as a great source of inspiration. The idiot box has never looked so smart.
In many ways, television shows work as a better adaptation of longer works than movies. After all, it’s pretty difficult to condense an eight-hundred page novel into something fit for a two-hour movie, and the serialized format of TV shows more closely follows the chapter structure of books. It’s difficult to imagine a story as massive as Game of Thrones chopped down to a feature length film or two.
And the many genres and periods that these shows draw from is impressive. From classic literature to first-person exposes to modern novels, these television shows demonstrate a remarkable range of literary tastes. So the next time you Netflix binge a whole series in two days, don’t feel bad: you’re just researching ideas for your reading list. In the meantime, here are seventeen books that inspired hit TV shows to get you started. Bonus: whenever these shows come up in conversation, you get to brag about reading the source material.
1. 'Boardwalk Empire'
Nelson Johnson's Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City inspired the HBO series of the same name. Johnson packs a tremendous amount of Atlantic City history into this work, delving into its powerful politicians, its American Mafia connections, and its thriving casino industry.
2. 'Darkly Dreaming Dexter'
3. 'House of Cards'
Michael Dobbs' books is officially listed as House of Cards: The Dark Political Thriller That Inspired the Hit Netflix Series on Amazon.com, so there is no mystery about the show that resulted from this tome. Follow Francis Urquhart, the keeper of political secrets, as he schemes to succeed at all costs.
4. 'Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell'
5. 'Jessica Jones'
Graphic novels are also becoming big news on the small screen. Like the Netflix series, Jessica Jones: Alias follows the complex and gritty heroine as she works as a private investigator. Written by Brian Michael Bendis and illustrated by Michael Gaydos and Bill Sienkiewicz, this series is a great way to pass the time while you wait for the next season to be released.
6. 'Orange Is The New Black'
Piper Kerman's Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison details the well-heeled author's experience in a federal correctional facility. Her depictions of prison culture, as well as the fascinating women who end up behind bars, served as the basis for the Netflix series of the same name.
7. 'Pretty Little Liars'
Sara Shepard's Pretty Little Liars series follows four high school girls in Rosewood, PA who harbor dark secrets. When their friend who went missing starts sending frightening and cryptic messages, the girls have to confront their deepest fears. These books inspired the long-running ABC Family show.
8. 'Sex And The City'
9. 'Sherlock Holmes'
How many Sherlock-inspired TV shows come to mind? There's the BBC series Sherlock, as well as the CBS show Elementary. Even the USA series Psych has some elements of the detective's hyper-awareness. Arthur Conan Doyle's stories in The Complete Sherlock Holmes are classics for a reason, clever enough to draw in even the most mystery-obsessed modern readers.
10. 'A Game Of Thrones'
George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones, the first book of his A Song of Ice and Fire series, spawned the massively popular HBO show. The story opens with the living dead and direwolves, but nothing can prepare readers for the cutthroat political environment that is more sinister than any monster in the realm.
11. 'Dead Until Dark'
12. 'House Of Lies'
13. 'The Walking Dead'
14. 'Gossip Girl'
15. 'Masters Of Sex'
16. 'Call The Midwife'
The popular PBS series is based on Jennifer Worth's Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times. This book covers the true story of the women who helped deliver babies in 1950s London. Funny and poignant, the book captures the reality of life for women in the Docklands slums at this time.