Novels are such a great place to find material for TV shows. They tend to have rich and imaginative stories with worlds in which you can easily lose yourself, full of rich and compelling characters that are well-suited to long-form serialized storytelling. It’s always exciting to see your favorite books come to life on screen, to see what changes the writers made, and to see how the actors have chosen to bring these characters to life. Whether the adaptation is a success or failure, it’s always fascinating to see the story come alive.
There are so many television shows out there that you may not realize some of your favorite shows actually started as books. Whether you’re into fantasy, history, drama, crime, or nostalgia, Netflix has shows based on books in all these categories and then some. Some of them follow the books closely, while others deviate quite heavily. If you love books, the shows below are sure to excite you as you see them come to life through television.
Created by: Chris Van Dusen
Cast: Phoebe Dynevor, Regé-Jean Page, Nicole Coughlan
The series Bridgerton is based on books by Julia Quinn. The first season primarily follows the first book titled “The Duke and I.” Daphne Bridgerton is the oldest daughter in the family, and the show begins with her making her debut into the marriage market of Regency London. Daphne is close with her seven siblings, and the story follows the group as they navigate this new world. With lavish costumes and beautiful sets, this show is a feast for the eyes. It has romance and intrigue. The series has been a huge hit for Netflix, as the streamer has already renewed it for Season 2 and Season 3 and ordered a spinoff.
Shadow and Bone
Created by: Eric Heisserer
Cast: Jessie Mei Li, Ben Barnes, Archie Renaux
Shadow and Bone is based on the Grishaverse novels written by Leigh Bardugo. This show is a fun fantasy series that is based on two different series of books, the Shadow and Bone trilogy and the Six of Crows duology. The Netflix show follows Alina, a mapmaker who discovers an ability to summon light which will be able to change the tide of the war against dark forces. Separately, a trio of non-magic thieves are tasked with kidnapping Alina and must make their way through treacherous territory. Season 2 is confirmed.
Created by: Frank Miller and Tom Wheeler
Cast: Katherine Langford, Devon Terrell, Gustaf Skarsgard
Cursed was created by Frank Miller and Tom Wheeler. It was originally an illustrated young adult book that presents a different point of view of the legend of Arthur. The show follows Nimue, a teenage sorceress who has a run-in with Arthur, and makes her the protagonist. Arthur’s story is told through her eyes as she moves forward in her quest and eventually becomes the powerful Lady of the Lake. It has not been announced whether a season two will happen or not.
Created by: Sheryl J. Anderson
Cast: JoAnna Garcia Swisher, Brooke Elliott, Heather Headley The TV series
Sweet Magnolias takes facets from three of Sherryl Woods’ books in the Sweet Magnolias series, Stealing Home, Feels Like Family, and Swan Point, and weaves them together in this fun romantic drama. It’s a story about starting over, how to navigate finding love again, and how to raise kids as it follows three women from South Carolina who have been best friends for life. The chemistry between the three women is entertaining to watch, and you can see how they have all remained best friends. The current season is now filming and is expected to come be released in 2022.
Created by: Derek Simonds
Cast: Bill Pullman, Dohn Norwood, Adam LeFevre, Carrie Coon, Jessica Biel
Though this show is just about to enter into its fourth season, the first season of The Sinner is based on Petra Hammesfahr’s 1999 novel of the same name. The story revolves around Detective Harry Ambrose, who attempts to solve crimes committed by unlikely criminals. In the first season, he looks into a woman’s past to figure out why she murdered a man. It was initially intended to be an eight-part miniseries, but due to its success, it was turned into a continuing series following Ambrose solving different crimes.
The Vampire Diaries
Created by: Julie Plec and Kevin Williamson
Cast: Nina Dobrev, Paul Wesley, Iam Somerhalder
The Vampire Diaries is another show that you can catch in its entireity on Netflix. All eight seasons are available for streaming. The idea came from a series of books by L.J. Smith. The story follows Elena Gilbert, a young girl falls in love with a vampire named Stefan Salvatore. This show is an addictive teen supernatural drama full of twists and turns.
Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce
Created by: Marti Nixon
Cast: Lisa Edelstein, Beau Garrett, Necar Zadegan
You can stream all five seasons of Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce, which was based on the Girlfriends’ Guides book series by Vicki Iovine. At the center of the story is self-help author, Abby McCarthy, who faces down an impending divorce from her husband. She finds comfort in her adventures and new friends.
Created by: Sera Gamble and John McNamara
Cast: Stella Maeve, Hale Appleman, Arjun Gupta
All five seasons of the Syfy original series The Magicians can now be streamed on Netflix. This show is based on the fantasy trilogy by author Lev Grossman that was first published in 2009. The story follows a college student named Quentin who discovers A. Magic exists and B. He’s a magician, and subsequently enters Brakebills University for Magical Pedagogy to learn the finer points of magic. What he discovers is far beyond his imagination: the magical world that was the setting of his favorite childhood book series is actually based on fact, and could be a danger to humanity.
The Frankenstein Chronicles
Created by: Barry Langford and Benjamin Ross
Cast: Sean Bean, Richie Campbell, Tom Ward
The Frankenstein Chronicles is a reimagining of the classic novel Frankenstein, written by Mary Shelley. The two seasons were originally shown on ITV Encore, but Netflix has them available for streaming. The story revolves around Inspector John Marlott in 19th Century London. He must investigate crimes allegedly committed by a scientist who is trying to reanimate the dead.
Created by: Maggie Friedman
Cast: Katherine Heigl, Sarah Calke, Ben Lawson
Based on Kristin Hannah’s popular book Firefly Lane, this Netflix’s original series follows the friendship of Kate and Tully. While the book is presented in chronological order, the TV series tells their story through jumps through time to give the complete picture of their friendship both past and present. It is a story of opposites attracting that Hannah based on her own life. A second season has been ordered by Netflix.
Created by: Sue Tenney
Cast: Alexandra Breckenridge, Martin Henderson, Colin Lawrence
This series is based on the bestselling Virgin River book series by Robyn Carr. The show is a contemporary romance that takes inspiration from the Harlequin book series and follows nurse practitioner and midwife Melinda as she moves from Los Angeles to a remote town for a new start after the death of her husband. There are two seasons in total on Netflix, with a third set to debut in July 2021.
The Queen’s Gambit
Created by: Scott Frank and Allan Scott
Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Marielle Heller, Bill Camp
The Queen’s Gambit follows Beth Harmon, a chess prodigy, from her time in an orphanage as a child to her fame playing chess as a teenager and young adult. While the story itself is fictional, it’s based on the novel by Walter Tevis. He drew inspiration from the world of competitive cheese during the 1950s and 1960s.
The Last Kingdom
Created by: Stephen Butchard
Cast: Alexander Dreymon, Eliza Butterworth, Arnas Fedaravicius
The Last Kingdom is based on a historical novel series that was written by Bernard Cornwell. It depicts the birth of England and follows Alfred the Great and Uhtred from the years 866 up through the early 1000s BC. The first eight novels of the series make up the four seasons of the show. A fifth season is planned.
Created by: Lauren Schmidt
Cast: Anna Shaffer, Henry Cavill, Freya Allan
The fantasy series The Witcher is based on Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski’s book series, which has previously been adapted into a popular video game series, a movie, a tabletop role-playing game, another TV show, and comics.. The story follows a mutant and monster bounty hunter named Geralt as he attempts to find where he fits in. Season 2 wrapped filming in 2021, but there are plot points thought out for a total of seven seasons.
Created by: Jason Rothenberg
Cast: Eliza Taylor, Bob Morley, Marie Avgeropoulos
All seven seasons of The CW’s sci-fi series The 100 are available on Netflix for you to binge on. This premise is based on a series of young adult science fiction novels written by Kass Morgan. It revolves around a post-apocalyptic world where Earth’s only survivors are living on a spaceship. Ninety-seven years after the nuclear war, they decide to send 100 people back to Earth to see if it is hospitable.
Anne with an E
Created by: Moira Walley-Beckett
Cast: Amybeth McNulty, Geraldine James, R.H. Thomson
This series is an adaptation of the novel Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. It follows Anne, a young orphan, as she begins a new life on Prince Edward Island in the late 1800s. All three seasons are available on Netflix and offer a fresh take on the classic story.
The Baby-Sitters Club
Created by: Rachel Shukert
Cast: Sophie Grace, Momona Tamada, Shay Rudolph
Folks who were kids in the 90s are sure to recognize this title. The Baby-Sitters Club is based on the books written by Ann M. Martin. The show does follow the books fairly well, but it has been modernized since they were originally written in 1986 — the Netflix show takes place in present day as it follows a group of young girls who start a babysitting service. There is only one season on Netflix, but a second season is currently in production. They will have plenty of material as there are 131 books in the series, with the first 36 having been penned by Martin.
The Shannara Chronicles
Created by: Alfred Gough and Miles Millar
Cast: Austin Butler, Ivana Baquero, Manu Bennett
The show The Shannara Chronicles is based on The Sword of Shannara fantasy series by Terry Brooks. In this series, Amberle must save the Ellcrys, an Elvish tree that protects the Four Lands from the Demon World. She teams up with a boy named Wil to find the lost magic. There are two seasons to enjoy on Netflix for this fun fantasy adaptation.
Created by: Ronald D. Moore
Cast: Caitriona Balfe, Sam Heughan, Duncan Lacroix
The wildly popular Starz series Outlander is based on a series of novels written by Diana Gabaldon, who is still writing additional books for the historical fiction series, so there is plenty of material for it to continue. It revolves around Claire, an English combat nurse from 1945, who travels back to 1743. She is forced into marrying a Scottish warrior, even though she has a husband back home in 1945. She struggles with being torn between the two men in her two different lives.
Created by: Hunt Baldwin and John Coveny
Cast: Robert Taylor, Katee Sackhoff, Lou Diamond Phillips
This six-season show is based on the Sheriff Walt Longmire novels by Craig Johnson. This show follows the sheriff of a northern Wyoming town, who was widowed a year before the start of the story. He struggles with the death of his wife, but needs to work past it as he has a daughter as well.