Every year, World Book Day aims to honor the joy of reading. With this year's global literary celebration upon us, let's review the best book adaptations on Netflix to read for World Book Day by taking a look at the novels, memoirs, and works of longform journalism that started them all.
Netflix has a reputation for doing book adaptations right. The streaming platform threw everyone for a loop in 2013, when it began airing Jenji Kohan's Orange Is the New Black — a series adaptation of Piper Kerman's bestselling memoir of the same name. Predated only by House of Cards and Hemlock Grove, Orange Is the New Black was one of the earliest Netflix Original Series, and it paved the way for other page-to-screen Netflix Original adaptations, such as Altered Carbon and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
Whether you're the type of person who always reads the book first, or you're looking to enjoy the novel that inspired your last Netflix marathon, there's something for you on the list below. Here are the best book adaptations you can watch on Netflix today:
Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
Based on one of Canada's most famous murder mysteries, Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace centers on Grace Marks, a young domestic worker charged with murdering her former employer and two of his employees. Living out her days as a model inmate, Grace finds herself interviewed by a young psychiatrist, whose goal is to exonerate her, once and for all. Is the maid really a murderer, or is there something else at play?
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Finch, a boy obsessed with death, is desperate to find a reason to live. Violet, a girl whose life has been marked by death, is determined to find a path away from all her darkest memories. When the two teenagers meet on a rooftop, both plan to kill themselves, but they manage to talk one another away from the edge. They've saved each other, but can they help one another heal?
Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan
Set in a world in which most people have "stacks" — implants containing their consciousnesses — that can be uploaded to a new body, or "sleeve," upon death, Richard K. Morgan's Altered Carbon centers on Takeshi Kovacs, an elite military officer turned criminal, as he investigates the murder of a re-sleeved man who has no memories of his previous life, but who believes that his former self may have been murdered.
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Dissatisfied by her marriage to a much-older politician, the vibrant Anna Karenina falls in love with a dashing cavalry officer, Count Vronsky, in this sweeping romance set in Imperial Russia. Anna embarks on a whirlwind affair with Vronsky, convinced that their love will be enough to overcome the public ridicule and potential legal ramifications related to their situation. Meanwhile, her brother attempts to patch up a marriage marred by his own infidelity, while his wife's sister weighs her romantic options with two suitors.
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
The aging Cuthbert siblings intended to adopt a young boy to help them on their farm, so you can imagine their surprise when a whimsy-minded, redheaded girl shows up at the train station. Anne Shirley wants desperately to stay at the Cuthberts' home, Green Gables, where every corner provides her hopelessly romantic self with endless opportunities to swoon. This 1908 novel was adapted into a Netflix Original Series, Anne with an E.
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer
Forced to leave boarding school when a famine ravaged his family's farm in 2002, William Kamkwamba grew determined to help protect his village from drought. He built two windmills to power lights and a water pump in Wimbe, Malawi, using nothing but local, scavenged materials. Kamkwamba tells his own story in The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.
Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan
Susannah Cahalan was a promising young journalist when she woke up in the hospital with no memory of the last month of her life — a month her friends and family claimed had been filled with delusions and erratic behavior. Scolded by her doctors for partying and misdiagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, Cahalan continued to exhibit an array of symptoms until someone began to look deeper into her supposed mental illness.
The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth
The basis for the Call the Midwife TV series, Jennifer Worth's The Midwife tells of her work as a nurse midwife at a charity hospital in London's East End in the 1950s. This memoir is at once a snapshot of mid-century England, a drama of the working-class, and a hopeful eye toward the future of social life and medicine.
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
You've watched the show, now read the comics. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina re-imagines everyone's favorite teenage witch with less bubblegum pop than in her previous incarnations. As her 16th birthday approaches, Sabrina must choose between her mortal and witch ancestry, but an old enemy of the family is preparing to raise hell for her.
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
Set in the midst of the Satanic Panic, Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn's Dark Places centers on Libby, a woman who survived a mass murder as a child. Her testimony helped to convict her brother, Ben, of triple homicide, but now she's not so sure he was guilty. Working with a group of people devoted to exonerating Ben, Libby finds herself thrust back into a past she can barely remember.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
The novel that inspired Blade Runner, Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? follows Rick Deckard, a San Francisco bounty hunter whose latest job consists of "retiring" — read: killing — six human-like androids. As he searches for his supposedly non-sentient targets, Deckard wonders where the line between human consciousness and android programming lies.
Dumplin' by Julie Murphy
Willowdean Dickson is fat, which is exactly what the daughter of a beauty queen isn't supposed to be. When her self-esteem takes an unexpected hit, however, Willowdean will do something she never dreamed of: sign up to participate in the beauty pageant her gorgeous mother still runs. No one thinks she belongs there, but with a little help from her friends, and a boost from the music of Miss Dolly Parton, she plans to prove everyone wrong.
Full Dark, No Stars and Gerald's Game by Stephen King
No one writes bad relationships like Stephen King. You'll find 1922, the uroxicidal novella on which the Netflix film is based, in King's short-story collection, Full Dark, No Stars. And in Gerald's Game, a woman is left handcuffed to her bed when her husband dies during a sexual escapade, pitching her full-force into a life-or-death race against time.
Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman
In the late 1700s, Georgiana Spencer — Princess Diana's great-great-great-great-aunt — lived a life stranger than fiction. From running social meeting spots to dabbling in politics, Georgiana defied expectations for women of her station. Her most shocking moment, however, came when she and her husband set up a polyamorous relationship with Georgiana's best friend, Bess. The biography that inspired The Duchess, Amanda Foreman's Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire is every bit the spicy read you'd expect.
The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo
Set in Colonial Malaya, The Ghost Bride centers on Li Lan, the daughter of a once-wealthy family, who has the opportunity to improve her station by marrying the recently deceased heir of another prominent household. The Lim family believes that marrying Li Lan will help their son's spirit find rest. Soon, the young heroine finds herself straddling life and death as she visits the afterlife by night and pines for her husband's replacement by day.
The Girl with All the Gifts by M.E. Carey
Melanie lives her life in two places: her cell and her classroom. When she's not in the former, she's restrained in a wheelchair, with guns pointed at her, and wary eyes watching her every move. Melanie cares deeply for the people around her, so why do they seem to hate her so much?
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
If you liked 84, Charing Cross Road, you'll love The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. In this poignant novel, set just after World War Two, an author receives a letter from a man she has never met, who claims to be in possession of an old book she once owned. Their correspondence takes off, and she soon finds herself writing to the man's friends to learn all about their interesting lives during the war.
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
One day, Hill House will belong to Luke, but he's just a guest for now, and a potentially unwelcome one at that. Desperate to learn whether the stories of Hill House's haunting are true, Luke and three paranormal investigators wander deep inside, looking for answers to the questions of the manor's strange phenomena. For one of them, this exploration of the house will be the end of the line, but whom will Hill House claim, and for what purpose?
Howards End by E.M. Forster
A broken promise leads to decades of misery in this insightful novel from A Room with a View author E.M. Forster. Knowing that her family do not appreciate the home they share, Ruth Wilcox writes a last-minute will that bequeaths Howards End to Margaret Schlegel, but her husband spirits the note away and does not inform anyone of Margaret's inheritance. Unbeknownst to Mr. Wilcox, that singular decision will heap misery upon his family, the Schlegels, and their acquaintances.
Kiss the Girls by James Patterson
Alex Cross' niece is missing, and she may be the victim of a woman-snatching killer known only as Casanova. Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, a murderer known as The Gentleman Caller has threatened the media with more frequent killings if they refuse to publish the rantings he sends them. When one of Casanova's victims escapes his bunker, Cross finds himself working with the victim to crack the case and save his niece before it's too late.
The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell
Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Stories have become Netflix's The Last Kingdom. If you're a fan, you should definitely read the books that started it all. Set in 9th-century Northumbria, The Last Kingdom centers on Uhtred, born Osbert, a young man whose brother's murder nets him a new rank and their father's name. But Uhtred's usurping uncle intends to take the boy's throne for himself, and even more intrigue awaits Uhtred at court.
The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion
Caring for her newly widowed father, a Washington Post reporter finds herself working as an arms dealer in this brief novel from Slouching Towards Bethlehem author Joan Didion. When a job goes awry, Elena finds herself stranded in Central America, with only her wits to protect her, in The Last Thing He Wanted.
The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny by Andrzej Sapkowski
The Witcher, Netflix's new adaptation of Andrzej Sapkowski's Witcher novels and stories, has been a huge success, so now's a great time to dig into the source material. Much of the story from the show's first season comes from these two books, The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny, so start there to read all about Geralt of Rivia's adventures and trials.
The Letter for the King by Tonke Dragt
This 1962 novel from Dutch writer Tonke Dragt follows Tiuri, a squire on the verge of knighthood, as he embarks on an unexpected journey to deliver a mysterious letter to the king of a distant land. Danger and disaster lie at every turn, but Tiuri's come too far, and has been taught far too much, to turn back now.
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
As the youngest of her mother's three daughters, Tita is bound by a family tradition that forbids her to marry. When her young lover, Pedro, approaches her mother to ask for Tita's hand, he leaves with an engagement to the family's eldest daughter, Rosaura, instead. As the result of her mother's cruel trick, Tita finds herself forced to live her life in constant, close proximity to the man she loves, barred by social mores from ever being his wife.
Locke and Key by Joe Hill
The Locke family patriarch is dead, having been brutally murdered as the result of his family's long and dark history. Now, his wife and children will move into Keyhouse — a deeply haunted structure full of deadly magic — and attempt to unlock its secrets for themselves. But Keyhouse is full of wily spirits ready to backstab those who help them, and the Lockes aren't at all prepared for what awaits them.
Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker
A Long Island serial killer has long evaded arrest, simply because he targets sex workers — women whose lives are viewed as expendable and irredeemable by many. Investigative journalist Robert Kolker digs into the case in Lost Girls, the basis for the 2020 Netflix film of the same name.
Mudbound by Hillary Jordan
In this debut novel from When She Woke author Hillary Jordan, a city girl living in rural Mississippi watches as an odds-defying friendship shapes the land around her husband's farm. It's 1946, and Laura's brother-in-law, Jaime, has just returned home from the war, and he's made an unlikely ally in Ronsel, a black sharecropper who lives on Jaime's brother's land.
Nappily Ever After by Trisha R. Thomas
When her longterm partner decides to get her a puppy instead of popping the question, Venus radically upends her life and image. She breaks up with him and changes her long, straight hair for a short natural. Those changes invite tons of unsolicited opinions, and Venus realizes that now, more that ever, she must decide how she'll handle the way others view her.
On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker by A'Lelia Bundles
The inspiration for the Netflix Original Series Self Made, A'Lelia Bundles' On Her Own Ground revisits the story of the first African-American woman to become a millionaire. Madam C.J. Walker was a domestic worker whose homemade products designed to treat textured hair made her a fortune. Written by Walker's great-great-granddaughter, On Her Own Ground is an eye-opening look at black women's lives in early-20th-century America.
Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison by Piper Kerman
Probably the first Netflix Original Series that everyone and their mother marathon-watched, Orange Is the New Black owes it all to Piper Kerman's prison memoir of the same name. If you're looking for a literary version of Netflix's series, look elsewhere, but if you'd like to follow a Smith College alumna into the heart of the U.S. prison system, make Orange Is the New Black your next weekend read.
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
While on a postwar vacation in Scotland with her historian husband, combat nurse Claire Randall finds herself magically transported back to the cusp of the Jacobite rebellion. Trapped in Scotland, or so she thinks, Claire begins a relationship of convenience with the young James Fraser, a Scottish laird whose claim to his ancestral home has been threatened by the machinations of a cruel English soldier.
Room by Emma Donoghue
Narrated by 5-year-old Jack, Emma Donoghue's Room follows the boy and his Ma as they escape from the titular Room, the place where the evil Old Nick — Ma's kidnapper and Jack's biological father — has imprisoned them, and reintegrate with mainstream society.
The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
Hired to recover his playboy friend from the debauchery of mid-century Europe, Tom Ripley, a young man of relatively few means, finds himself drawn into a new, high-class world. But when he grows jealous of his wealthy friend, Ripley commits a shocking act from which there will be no coming back.
To All the Boys I've Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han
To get back at her older sister, Kitty Covey mails a hatbox full of love letters — written and addressed but unsent — to the objects of her affection. Lara Jean must live with the fact that every boy she's crushed on knows how she feels, but when the chance to have a fake relationship with a popular and attractive boy presents itself, she realizes that Kitty's prank may have an unintended upside.
The Umbrella Academy by Gerard Way
Decades ago, 47 children with supernatural abilities were all born at the exact same moment. One man, Reginald Hargreeves, managed to adopt seven of them, six of whom he trained to be superheroes. On the occasion of their father's death, the Umbrella Academy will reunite, 10 years after they parted ways, with one last shot at saving the world.
Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman
Growing up in one of Hasidic Judaism's strictest sects, Deborah Feldman had few freedoms to choose her entertainment, clothing, housing arrangements, or even her husband. Married at a young age to a near-total stranger, Feldman found her voice, and the inspiration for her eventual escape, in literature. Read all about her story in Unorthodox.
Virgin River by Robyn Carr
Still recovering from the loss of her husband, Melinda Monroe pulls up stakes and moves to the tiny hamlet of Virgin River, California to become its resident nurse midwife. When the town doesn't turn out to be as idyllic as she'd dreamed, Melinda makes plans to leave, posthaste... but the discovery of an abandoned baby on her new front porch necessitates a change of plans.
The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry
The Giver author Lois Lowry shines in this hilarious look at the lives of four abandoned, precocious children living in less-than-wonderful circumstances. From what they've gathered from tons of old stories, Tim, Barnaby A, Barnaby B, and Jane figure that all they have to do to be happy is to be good children, and the Universe will reward them. Unfortunately, the Universe may have other plans for these four youngsters and their new nanny.
You and Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes
Joe Goldberg thinks he loves Beck. That's why he can't stop thinking about her, why he looks up all of her social media accounts, and finds out where she lives. It has to be love, right? So why doesn't Beck want to love him back the way he wants to be loved?