11 Shows Based on Literary Masterpieces (PHOTOS)

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HBO, Hulu & Starz
literary gallery my brilliant friend

My Brilliant Friend

The Neapolitan Novels — which chronicles the friendship of two women who meet as children in 1950s Naples — have sold more than 10 million copies worldwide, piqued readers’ curiosity about the author behind the nom de plume Elena Ferrante, and inspired an Italian-American co-production that aired on HBO.

literary gallery the miniaturist

The Miniaturist

This 17th-century-set BBC One drama, which aired stateside on PBS’s Masterpiece, stars Anya Taylor-Joy as a Dutch woman who receives a dollhouse from her new husband and populates the house with eerily prophetic dolls from a local miniaturist.

literary gallery the haunting of hill house

The Haunting of Hill House

This Netflix series gives a modern-day spin to Shirley Jackson’s 1959 haunted house story. In the show, the Crain family returns to the titular house 26 years after paranormal events forced them to evacuate.

Outlander Season 4 2018


Diana Gabaldon’s long-running series of award-winning novels serves as the basis for this Starz drama of the same name, starring Caitriona Balfe as a World War II nurse who travels two centuries back in time and falls in love with a Highland warrior played by Sam Heughan.

American Gods Season 2 2019

American Gods

This Starz series, based on Neil Gaiman’s 2001 Hugo and Nebula Award-winning book of the same name, stars Ricky Whittle as a man drawn into an epic war between the old gods and the new gods threatening to dethrone them.

literary gallery sharp objects

Sharp Objects

Before she penned Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn wrote this 2006 novel, which became an HBO limited series starring Amy Adams as a reporter who returns home to cover the murders of two young girls and confronts her family’s generational trauma.

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This BBC One series brings Arthur Conan Doyle’s famed crime-solver into the present, with Benedict Cumberbatch portraying Sherlock Holmes as a socially awkward “consulting detective” and Martin Freeman playing John Watson as Sherlock’s handler (and paramour, if you read fanfiction).

literary gallery war and peace

War & Peace

Leo Tolstoy’s 1869 epic of the French invasion of Russia has been adapted for television multiple times, most recently in a BBC One production starring Paul Dano, Lily James, and James Norton as Pierre, Natasha, and Andrei.

literary gallery roots 1


A miniseries based on the 1976 bestseller by Alex Haley, this generation-hopping slavery saga still ranks as one of the most-watched TV broadcasts of all time — and, it should be noted, marked the breakout role for Star Trek and Reading Rainbow star LeVar Burton.

literary gallery game of thrones

Game of Thrones

Dragons, Daenerys, direwolves — you may be familiar? HBO’s global phenomenon, which just aired its divisive series finale in May, is based on George R. R. Martin’s hugely popular and still unfinished A Song of Ice and Fire series of fantasy novels.

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Elly Dassas/Hulu

The Handmaid’s Tale

Hulu’s critical darling, which just started its third season, is an adaptation of the 1985 novel of the same name by Margaret Atwood, a dystopian vision of the future in which childbearing women are forced into maternity slavery.

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Bibliophiles can’t afford to be snobbish about television nowadays, not with the number of books being expertly adapted for the small screen.

Hulu recently announced it would partner with BBC Three on a television adaptation of the bestselling Sally Rooney novel Normal People, for instance. While we wait for that show, check out 11 books (or book series, as the case may be) that spawned successful TV shows in recent years and decades.