13 of the best TV shows inspired by books

HBOThere’s no arguing ‘Game of Thrones’ is a successful adaptation.
  • Some of our favourite TV shows were based on books.
  • The writers of “The Handmaid’s Tale” made a decision that will keep the show going long past the narrative of the novel.
  • We got to live vicariously through NYC’s richest teens on “Gossip Girl.”
  • Visit INSIDER.com for more stories.

Die-hard book fans will always be cautious of TV adaptations of their beloved favourites. But sometimes, books can be the perfect source material for some of our favourite TV franchises.

Here are some of the best TV versions of written materials that got it right, whether that meant deviating from the source material, or staying as close to it as possible.

“Orange is the New Black” turned the book characters into multi-dimensional people.

NetflixThe show has a lot of complex characters.

Based on the memoir by Piper Kerman, “Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison,” Netflix’s first hit television show takes Piper’s privileged experience and juxtaposes it with loveable fictional characters who may not be perfect but who have been wronged again and again by the justice system. The show’s willingness to focus on the ensemble, and not just Piper, has been its success.

The writers of “The Handmaid’s Tale” made a decision that will keep the show going long past the narrative of the novel.

KRAYCHYK/HULUThe show is critically acclaimed.

Based on the feminist dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood, the story is set in a totalitarian society that sees fertile women as property. The Hulu drama has been applauded for its incredible acting and its plot deviations have allowed the show to go on way past its book ending.

“Game of Thrones” kept viewers on their toes with its twists and deaths.

HBOThe show is incredibly popular.

The epic television show, “Game of Thrones,” is based on the best-selling “A Song of Ice and Fire” series by George R. R. Martin. Known for its dragons, betrayals, battles, and record-breaking Emmy nomination list, it’s so popular that even non-watchers know about the Red Wedding.

Readers of the books may have had an edge in earlier seasons, but by its end, the show had veered far away from the books it was based on.

“Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” turned a tricky plot into delightful fun.

BBC AmericaSamuel Barnett and Elijah Wood star in ‘Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.’

Adapting a Douglas Adams series will never be easy. Creator Max Landis was able to turn the science fiction material starring a time-travelling holistic detective in a yellow leather jacket into a fun romp that’s surprisingly easy to follow. The series was canceled after the second season, but a petition to renew it reached over 100,000 signatures.

The dark female-led “Sharp Objects” was a big hit.

Anne Marie Fox/HBOIt’s based on a novel by Gillian Flynn.

This Southern Gothic mystery follows Camille Preaker, an investigative reporter with a haunting past and personal connections to her town’s murders. It’s based on the novel with the same name by Gillian Flynn, whose other two novels “Gone Girl” and “Dark Places” were given movie adaptations. Lead actress Amy Adams, showrunner Marti Noxon, and director Jean-Marc Vallée deepen this 250-page mystery into a riveting and complex miniseries.

“Big Little Lies” is a surprising study of female relationships.

HBOThe show is getting a second season.

The second Jean-Marc Vallée directed HBO series, “Big Little Lies” is a dark mystery set in a California beach town that chronicles what happens when a new mum comes to town. The limited series was so popular, it’s getting a second season, that we know features Reese Witherspoon throwing an ice cream cone at Meryl Streep.

“Westworld” was revolutionary in 1973, but gets to be relevant now.

John P. Johnson/HBO‘Westworld’ is complicated but riveting.

The original novel was written by Michael Crichton, of “Jurassic Park” fame, but its significance is becoming more and more relevant as we head into the technological future. The HBO series touches on the morality of corporate boundaries and how androids should be treated.

“Jessica Jones” is one of the best superhero shows around.

David Giesbrecht/NetflixJones is a superhero favourite.

Marvel’s Jessica Jones is a superhero who’s reluctant to even be doing the job. Relatively unknown before the series, she’s become a favourite in the Marvel Universe. It returns for its final season soon.

We got to live vicariously through NYC’s richest teens on “Gossip Girl.”

The CW Network (The CW)The show is perfect for binge-watching.

The Cecily von Ziegesar series was turned into an addictive TV show that flooded blogs for Upper East Side wannabes. Although the TV ending was a tad unbelievable, the show gave us outfits, apartments, boyfriends, and exclusive parties to lust after. xoxo.

Dr. Hannibal Lecter is a perfect gentleman with a murderous streak on “Hannibal.”

NBCThere are brutal death scenes throughout the show.

Using the characters from Thomas Harris’ novels, Bryan Fuller’s television creation is a masterpiece in cinematography and character study. Before he became the flesh-eating monster in “The Silence of the Lambs,” Hannibal was a flesh-eating gourmet cook, esteemed colleague, and forensic psychiatrist in this prequel. Brutal death scenes were surprisingly elegant and gained major critical acclaim.

“A Series of Unfortunate Events” gets Count Olaf’s creepiness right.

NetflixNeil Patrick Harris is the perfect Count Olaf.

The decision to turn a 13-book series into an episodic version makes much more sense than cramming three books into one film. The morbid children’s novels have been turned into a darkly charming television show that’s allowed to be more at pace with the source material. Neil Patrick Harris understands the evil Count Olaf who views his three orphaned family members as dollar signs.

“Preacher” is able to bring the brutality of the comics to the silver screen.

AMCDominic Cooper stars in AMC’s ‘Preacher.’

The original comic follows Jesse Custer, a Texas preacher who becomes possessed with new powers that push him to travel the country with his girlfriend and a vampire. Developed by comic book fans, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, and Sam Catlin, the show is allowed to be dark and brutal, and not a watered down version of the source material.

“Call the Midwife” is an accurate depiction of life for nurses in London’s infamous East End.

PBSThe show is incredibly popular.

This British series is based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, a nurse in the 1950’s and 1960’s. The nurses and midwives of London’s East End are represented accurately, according to real-life contemporaries of Worth. It’s so popular, it inspired the characters’ real-life counterparts to come forward about their experiences. The highly-rated series covers the post-World War II baby boom and what that meant for the mothers and women delivering babies.

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