15 TV Shows You Definitely Didn't Know Were Based On Books

David Giesbrecht/Netflix

It wasn't until last year when I was sitting down to watch the series finale of Fox's hit crime procedural drama Bones that I learned a show I had been watching religiously for over a decade was actually based on a book series (Kathy Reichs' Temperance Brennan novels, to be exact.) A firm believer that the book is always better than the adaptation, I quickly set out to find the original source material, and what I learned was there are actually a lot of TV shows you might not realize are based on books, including several critically acclaimed hits.

Book-to-screen adaptations have always been popular, but over the last few years, the TV trend of turning bestselling novels into fan-favorite shows has proved how well the formula works. HBO has found mega-success with both Game of Thrones and Big Little Lies, while Netflix and Hulu have made a name for themselves with several binge-worthy and critically acclaimed adaptations, including Orange Is the New Black and The Handmaid's Tale respectively. Beyond the titles everyone is talking about, though, are several other successful adaptations you might not have even realized were based off of some pretty great books.

Are you ready to add a few more titles to your adaptation reading list? Then here are 15 old, current, and upcoming shows you might not have known were based on books.


If you are a serious true crime buff, than you might have already known Netflix's hit series Mindhunter is based off of a book by FBI operative John Douglas by the same name. If you're like me, you had no idea this gripping show about the inner workings of the minds of famous serial killers was inspired by a law enforcement officer's memoir — but now that you do, you're probably going to want to read the book ASAP.

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Like another familiar zombie-centric show, The CW's iZombie is actually inspired by a comic book. Written by Chris Roberson and illustrated by Michael Allred, the series ran from 2010-2012, and like the show, was a welcome female perspective to a male-dominated world of flesh-eating undead.

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'House of Cards'

You might have know that Netflix's House of Cards was an adaptation of a BBC show, but did you know that original show was actually an adaptation of a book by the same name by Michael Dobbs? The series' finale season is set to premiere later this year, and will center around Claire Underwood, the ex-president's superior-in-every-way wife.

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'Queen Sugar'

If you're anxiously awaiting Ava DuVernay's film adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time, you're in luck, because the talented filmmaker is involved in another book-to-screen project that you can start binging on OWN right now. Based on a novel by the same name by author Natalie Baszile, Queen Sugar tells the story of Charley, a woman who inherits an eight hundred acres of sugarcane from her father in rural Louisiana, and her two demanding siblings. A fascinating and heartbreaking family saga, this show's first two seasons will leave you anxiously waiting for the third, whose release date is still TBD.

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If the titular character of Fox's Lucifer seems familiar, it isn't just because he is the devil. It's because he is based on a specific devil, namely, Neil Gaiman's version of the figure from his beloved Sandman comic books. Now in its third season, this show is just one of the many fun ways to see Gaiman's classic characters come to life on screen. The Starz network adaptation of American Gods is entering into its second season later this year, and Amazon's Good Omens is set to premiere in 2019.

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'The 100'

If you've already binged the first four seasons of The CW's fan-favorite sci-fi The 100, you know how addicting the show's thought-provoking drama can be. What you might not know is that it is based off a book series by the same name by Kass Morgan. Written around the same time, the TV show and the young adult novels are actually quite different, and don't share much beyond the basic premise: a group of teen criminals on a space station are sent back to Earth to see in the planet is inhabitable. Naturally, action, excitement, and plenty of drama ensue.

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'Hemlock Grove'

Although Brian McGreevy's debut horror novel Hemlock Grove only recieved lukewarm reviews, the Netflix series based on it became a hit among viewers. According to the streaming site, the show was seen by more members in its first weekend than House of Cards.

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'Famous In Love'

Brought to the small screen by Pretty Little Liars showrunner and author I. Marlene King, Famous In Love is the perfect show and book series for fans of teen dramas. Starring Bella Thorne, this new Freeform show, like the original book by Rebecca Serle, follows the adventures of Paige Townsen, an ordinary young woman whose life is turned upside down when an unlikely audition leads to the starring role of a lifetime... and a future in Hollywood she never expected. If you can't get enough of the glitz, the glamour, and the gorgeous romance, fear not, because there are more of both the show and the book series (supposedly) to come.

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It may have been cancelled in 2015, but Haven is still a cult favorite among TV fans and book readers alike. Based loosely on Stephen King's mystery novel The Colorado Kid, the series was a treasure trove for fans of the Master of Horror and regularly included details from his most famous works. If you haven't binged this SyFy show yet, now is your chance to see how many hidden references to your favorite King books you can find.

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Like so many of the best period dramas — Outlander, Call the Midwife, White Queen BBC One's Poldark is based on a series of historical fiction novels. In this case, the hit TV show about a British Army officer who returns home following the American Revolutionary War draws from Winston Graham's series of 12 books that follows the same characters. If you're a book or show fan of Victoria or Turn, you're going to want to add this to your reading and watch list ASAP.

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'Alias Grace'

By now, you should know that Hulu's smash hit The Handmaid's Tale is based off of Margaret Atwood's groundbreaking novel by the same name. You should also know that Netflix is taking a crack at adapting the celebrated author's work with their original miniseries Alias Grace. Both the book and the new adaptation (which is the third for the novel) are fictional accounts of the 1843 murders of Thomas Kinnear and his housekeeper Nancy Montgomery, and the lives (and deaths) of the two servants convicted of the crime. If you aren't watching, or haven't read, Alias Grace yet, what are you waiting for?

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'Midnight, Texas'

NBC's Midnight, Texas might not be the most sophisticated show on TV, but it certainly one of the most fun supernatural dramas currently on air. Based on a book series by the same name written by Charlaine Harris, the author of The Southern Vampire Mysteries that were adapted into HBO's hit True Blood, this action-packed show has plenty of source material to keep you busy until the second season premieres sometime later this year.

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'Altered Carbon'

Is it just me, or are all the best dystopian TV series based on science fiction novels? It might have only been released a few weeks ago, but Altered Carbon is already a hit among fans who might not have known it was actually based on a book by Richard K. Morgan. Although the book was originally written by a man, Netflix's thrilling science fiction series is here to show readers and viewers that women's voices matter.

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'Castle Rock'

True Stephen King fans will instantly recognize the name of Hulu's upcoming series Castle Rock as the name of a fictional town from many of the author's most terrifying, and most famous, stories. For others, however, it should only take one episode of the highly anticipated show to reveal that his web series — which will draw from books and stories like It, The Shining, Carrie, Salem's Lot, Needful Things, Misery, The Shawshank Redemption — has Master of Horror written all over it.


I find it hard to believe I wasn't the only faithful viewer of Fox's long-running procedural drama Bones that didn't know the series was based on Kathy Reichs Temperance Brennan series. The show may have aired its last episode in 2017, but luckily for fans who miss the adventures of the iconic forensic anthropologist, the book series is still going strong: A Conspiracy of Bones, the eighteenth installment, is scheduled for publication later this year.

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