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Small Screen, Big Reads: 9 Book-to-TV Adaptations You Shouldn’t Miss

Small Screen, Big Reads: 9 Book-to-TV Adaptations You Shouldn’t Miss

Think there’s nothing good on TV? You know nothing, John 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 last 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.

1. Game of Thrones (HBO), A Song of Ice and Fire (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).


2. Orange Is the New Black (Netflix), Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Woman’s Prison (Piper Kerman, 2010)
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 Woman’s Prison. Although there are several 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 real transgender woman.

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3. MaddAddam (HBO), Oryx and Crake (Margaret Atwood, 2013)

Margaret Atwood’s post-apocalyptic trilogy of Oryx and Crake (2003), Year of the Flood (2009), and MaddAddam (2013) is set for TV adaption on HBO by film director Darren Aronofsky – think Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan. Set in a dystopian 21st-century world where despotic corporations and ubiquitous genetic manipulation are the norm, this is definitely a series to get under your belt before its on-screen debut.

4. Spies of Warsaw (BBC America), Spies of Warsaw (Alan Furst, 2008),
Dr. Who fans will recognize the lead of BBC America’s adaptation of 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.

5. Sherlock (BBC), The Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)
Watson and Holmes? Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman? Bilbo 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 originals. If you’ve skipped either Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classics or this most recent TV adaption, then you have your homework set.

6. Turn (AMC)Washington’s Spies (Alexander Rose, 2007)
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 non-fiction, but both are more than worth it.

Washington's Spies

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

8. The Firm (NBC), The Firm (John Grisham, 1993)
Though the best known adaptation of John Grisham’s breakout legal thriller The Firm is likely 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.

9. Outlander (STARZ), Outlander series (Diana Gabaldon)
Diana Gabaldon’s hotly anticipated eighth book of the historically sweeping Outlander series, titled Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, was released in June 2014. The equally anticipated STARZ adaptation airs August 9th 2014 with Sam Heughan as steamy Scottsman Jamie Fraser, and time-travelling protagonist Claire Randall played by Caitriona Balfe.