Small Screen, Big Reads

9 book-to-TV adaptations you shouldn’t miss

Think there’s nothing good on TV? You know nothing, Jon Snow. These days you can be sure that if there’s something good to read (and there always is), then there’s something good on the tube. The jump from book to big screen is old hat—from 12 Years a Slave to No Country for Old Men, four of the past seven Academy Award winners for Best Picture were book-to-film adaptations. But with runaway TV hits like Game of Thrones, Dexter, and Sex and the City, television has donned its reading glasses too. Check out these 9 brilliant Random House reads that might just beat their TV shows.


Written in My Own Heart's Blood

Diana Gabaldon

Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, Diana Gabaldon’s hotly anticipated eighth book in the historically sweeping Outlander series, was released in June 2014. The equally anticipated STARZ adaptation premiered on August 9, 2014, with Sam Heughan as steamy Scotsman Jamie Fraser and Caitriona Balfe as time-traveling protagonist Claire Randall.


The Firm

John Grisham

Though the best-known adaptation of John Grisham’s breakout legal thriller The Firm remains the 1993 film starring Gene Hackman and Tom Cruise, NBC aired a TV series of the same name in 2012, starring Josh Lucas as upstart attorney and whistleblower Mitch McDeere.


The hugely successful crime drama Rizzoli & Isles, starring Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander as a police detective and a medical examiner, hit season five in 2014 and shows no signs of stopping. As strong as its two female leads, the 10-book series by Tess Gerritsen on which the show is based is not to be missed.


Washington's Spies

Alexander Rose

AMC’s 2014 series Turn is based on historian Alexander Rose’s deeply researched 2007 book Washington’s Spies, which recounts the shadowy and often harrowing establishment of America’s first spy ring under General George Washington. Led by British actor Jamie Bell, the TV show is more thriller than nonfiction, but both are more than worth your time.


The Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

Arthur Conan Doyle

Watson and Holmes? Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch? (Bilbo Baggins and Smaug?) Keeping with the British theme, the BBC’s modern adaptation of the escapades of the great Sherlock Holmes is nearly as brilliant as the original stories. If you’ve skipped either Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classics or this most recent TV adaption, then you have your homework set.


The Spies of Warsaw

Alan Furst

Doctor Who fans will recognize the lead in BBC America’s Spies of Warsaw, which stars David Tennant as Colonel Jean-François Mercier, embroiled in the pre-WWII espionage and political intrigue that make Alan Furst’s novels so engrossing.



Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood’s post-apocalyptic trilogy—Oryx and Crake (2003), Year of the Flood (2009), and MaddAddam (2013)—is set for an HBO adaptation by film director Darren Aronofsky: Think Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan. Set in a dystopian twenty-first-century world where despotic corporations and ubiquitous genetic manipulation are the norm, this series should definitely be under your belt before its onscreen debut.


Orange Is the New Black (Movie Tie-in Edition)

Piper Kerman

Orange Is the New Black is Netflix’s hilarious, hard-hitting, and hugely successful take on Piper Kerman’s 2010 memoir Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison. Although there are key differences between book and show, as Word and Film has pointed out, neither holds any punches. The show stars Taylor Schilling as Piper, in prison for drug smuggling, as well as Laverne Cox as Sophia Burset, making Orange Is the New Black the first women-in-prison story featuring a transgender character portrayed by a transgender actress.


A Game of Thrones (HBO Tie-in Edition)

George R. R. Martin

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or a pile of unlucky George R.R. Martin characters, you’ll be familiar with Game of Thrones, the first book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series and a true masterpiece of modern fantasy. While the HBO show breaks ratings records almost as often as George Martin breaks necks, the books offer an even richer world of thrones, kings, swords, crows, and dragons (in that order).