17 Books That Inspired Your Favorite TV Shows, So You Can Read Before You Binge

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.


'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.

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'Darkly Dreaming Dexter'

Jeff Lindsay's novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter served as the basis for the Showtime original series, Dexter. It follows the eponymous serial killer who only targets bad guys, and the fallout that results as he tries to balance the scales of justice himself.

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'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.

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'Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell'

Set against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars, Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell follow two magicians who are poised to change England's history forever. This witty take on 19th century literature is also a BBC miniseries.

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'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.

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'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.

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'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.

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'Sex And The City'

Candace Bushnell's Sex and the City follows Carrie, Mr. Big, and a cast of other New Yorkers as they search for love. This is the book that launched the massively popular HBO series.

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'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.

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'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.

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'Dead Until Dark'

HBO's show True Blood was based on Charlaine's Harris's Sookie Stackhouse series, which opens with Dead Until Dark. The story follows Sookie, a cocktail waitress in Louisiana who has to confront major mysteries — and of course vampires.

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'House Of Lies'

Martin Kihn's House of Lies reveals the author's experiences as a big-time management consultant and his impression of the industry's misleading and expensive services. This book is the basis for the Showtime series of the same name.

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'The Walking Dead'

Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead comic book series serves as the source material for the AMC show. This story of survival in a world ruled by the dead is a classic of zombie lore.

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'Gossip Girl'

Gossip Girl by Cecily Von Ziegesar follows the exploits of Blair Waldorf and her fellow rich kids in a privileged New York City private school. Their world of alcohol, sex, drugs — and tons of money — served as the basis for the CW series.

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'Masters Of Sex'

Thomas Maier's Masters of Sex details the real-life background of the prominent sex researchers. This book, like the Showtime series, details Masters and Johnson's unique approach to the study of sexuality in the 1960s.

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'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.

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'Friday Night Lights'

H.G. Bissinger's Friday Night Lights covers the story of a small town in Texas and the pressure on its high school football players to win at all costs. This real-life account served as the basis for the NBC drama.

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Images: Netflix