Readers, every time I check the latest publishing news—or open my Netflix queue—I learn of a new literary screen adaptation. Turning books into scripts is a big business, one that’s steadily growing. Right now, there are 125 book to television projects in the works (and counting)!
With a few exceptions, I usually prefer what I experienced on the page over Hollywood’s blockbuster interpretation.
And yet, despite my bookish bias, I am curious to see how talented writers, producers, and actors bring new—and classic—literary works to the screen.
Today, I’m sharing my most anticipated book to screen adaptations—some movies, mostly TV. A few projects are ready and waiting to be released to your local movie theater (or living room), but many of the books on this list are in the very early stages of script development.
Forthcoming screen adaptations often serve as motivation for readers to pick up a book they’ve otherwise overlooked. I hope you find an intriguing title on today’s list—or an adaptation of a longtime favorite to anticipate.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on book to screen adaptations in the comments: which shows and movies are you looking forward to? Do you have any casting choices in mind for these titles?
20 highly anticipated book to screen adaptations
I’m eagerly anticipating both
adaptations (expected in 2022), one starring Sarah Snook and the other starring Dakota Johnson as Anne Elliot. This is the last novel Austen completed before her death, and it’s darker and more serious in tone than her earlier works. In this second chance love story, Austen explores themes of love, regret, and fidelity. The swoon-worthy romance between Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth makes this my favorite Austen novel—at least some of the time. If you’re looking for an excellent audiobook option, Juliet Stevenson is one of my favorite narrators for Austen’s works. More info →
This ten-episode HBO Max mini series was (ironically) pushed back due to the pandemic; I hope it’s worth the wait. In her haunting, wistful novel, Mandel imagines the end of the world as we know it, and it’s nothing like you’re expecting. Hours after a famous actor suddenly dies onstage during a performance of King Lear
, a global pandemic known as the Georgian Flu sweeps the world. In her signature style, Mandel weaves together the stories of five characters, featuring a traveling Shakespeare troupe whose members earnestly endeavor to maintain art and hope. (“Because survival is insufficient.”) Readers’ appetites for pandemic-related stories may vary, but rest assured this book is anything but depressing; I found it striking, sympathetic, and hopeful. More info →
Kunal Nayyar, Christina Hendricks, and Lucy Hale are set to star in the story of an endearingly cranky bookseller and how his life changes when an unexpected package shows up at his bookshop. For devoted readers, this book is a wonderful reminder of the power of books, and how they can bring people together. But be warned: this book can explode your to-be-read list. At the beginning of each chapter, the narrator recommends a book—or sometimes, a short story—to his daughter, describing what it’s about and why she’ll enjoy it. (He’s a bookseller: he can’t help himself.) More info →
With 17 titles and counting, this beloved series holds plenty of plot for its anticipated Amazon series—but it’s the characters and community that keep readers coming back. Readers, take note: these mysteries are meant to be read in order. The first installment, Still Life
, introduces Chief Inspector Armand Gamache as he investigates a murder in the small town of Three Pines, Quebec. Three Pines is the kind of place where people don’t even lock their doors. Serene small town life is disrupted when a beloved local woman is found in the woods with an arrow shot through her heart. The locals believe it must be a hunting accident, but the police inspector senses something is off. The story is constructed as a classic whodunit but it feels like anything but, with its deliberate pacing, dry wit, and lyrical writing. More info →
I waited far too long to read Kindred
by Octavia Butler, and I was riveted from the first page. FX ordered a pilot based on this modern science fiction classic, one of many Butler screen adaptations in the works. When Dana, a modern Black woman from 1976, gets transported to the antebellum south in order to save one of her white ancestors, she preserves her own history. But it doesn’t end there. As she keeps getting pulled back to the past, her trips grow more and more dangerous, and Dana must figure out how to survive in a reality far more terrifying than the history books ever suggested. More info →
Amazon is developing this wonderful biographical novel for an hourlong drama series, and the main character is sure to be a delight on screen. Clever, daring, and ahead-of-her-time, Constance has no interest in being traditional. Family secrets have kept the Kopp sisters—Constance, Norma and Fleurette—isolated from the world until an unfortunate buggy accident brings trouble to their doorstep. When a gang-member threatens her sisters and the family farm, Constance teams up with local law enforcement to take down the criminals. I love the way Stewart brings her leading lady to life in this mostly-true story about America’s first female sheriff. More info →
They’ve started filming the Apple TV+ adaptation of Min Jin Lee’s sweeping family saga, and I can’t wait to add it to my queue. This unputdownable novel traces four generations of a 20th-century Korean family back to the time when Japan annexed the country in 1910, affecting the fates of all. Lee portrays the family’s struggles against the backdrop of cultural and political unrest, as they endure fierce discrimination at the hands of the Japanese. Operatic and sprawling, every decision has a reverberating consequence in this intricate portrait of a little-explored period of history. More info →
Bennett’s sophomore novel barely made it onto bookstore shelves before a bidding war for the film rights began; it’s now set for adaptation at HBO. Identical twins Desiree and Stella grew up in a town so small it doesn’t appear on maps. They’re closer than close, so Desiree is shocked when Stella vanishes one night after deciding to sacrifice her past—and her relationship with her family—in order to marry a white man, who doesn’t know she’s black. Desiree never expects to see her sister again. The twins grow up, make lives for themselves, and raise daughters—and it’s those daughters who bring the sisters together, years later. It’s a reunion Stella both longs for and fears, because she can’t reveal the truth without admitting her whole life is a lie. Bennett expertly weaves themes of family, race, identity, and belonging into one juicy, page-turning novel spanning five turbulent decades. More info →
I can’t wait to hear the original music for the TV adaptation of this 2018 Summer Reading Guide favorite! The whole time I was reading the book, I tried to “hear” what the Six sounded like. The plot revolves around Billy Dunne, the tortured, talented lead singer for the Six, and Daisy Jones, the beautiful, soulful girl with a troubled past who catapults the Six to fame when she begins singing—and writing—their songs. Daisy and Billy’s chemistry is electric, and fans can’t get enough of it. We know from the beginning that the story is about why the band broke up, and the reasons are both expected and surprising, unfurled in an enthralling story of sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll. More info →
Rebecca Hall’s film-writing debut premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and now we wait for the public release. This page-turner was not at all what I expected. Written in 1929, set during the Jazz Age in Harlem, this is the story of two childhood friends who reconnect after choosing very different paths. Both women are Black and light-skinned. Clare has chosen to pass for white, and is even married to a white man who knows nothing of her heritage or history. Irene is married to a successful African-American physician. As the women spend more time together, Irene’s life starts looking better and better to Clare … and what unfolds is a battle of wits in a story akin to a psychological thriller. The story feels so fresh and unexpected, I couldn’t believe it was written nearly a hundred years ago. More info →
Jenny Han writes such delightful YA romances novels: humorous and charming, totally swoon worthy. With the success of Netflix’s To All the Boys I Loved Before
movie trilogy, she’s no stranger to screen adaptations. Casting was just announced
for the movie adaptation of her beachy book, The Summer I Turned Pretty
. Isabel “Belly” Conklin lives for summers at the beach with her family—and her mother’s best friend and her two sons: Jeremiah and Conrad. They’ve always been her summer companions, extra brothers to annoy her from June through August. But this summer, everything changes as Belly experiences a love triangle plot reminiscent of Sabrina
. More info →
Keep your Kleenex nearby whenever this devastating story comes to screen. In her award-winning novel, Maggie O’Farrell takes a few historically known facts about Shakespeare’s wife and family and, from this spare skeleton, builds out a lush, vivid world. The story centers on Agnes, Shakespeare’s wife, who is torn apart by grief when their son Hamnet dies at age 11. Soon after, Shakespeare writes Hamlet—and O’Farrell convincingly posits that the two events are closely tied. In her distinctive style, O’Farrell takes you to the heart of what really matters in life, making you feel such a deep sense of loss for Hamnet that you won’t look at your own life the same way. More info →
I’m so curious to see how HBO Max brings Philyaw’s short story collection to the screen. Some stories in this collection are quick five page reads, and others are closer to 40 pages—all of them make you feel like you’re right there in the main character’s life. These stories are about love, sex, relationships, work, mistakes and successes. Each story explores the unique predicament of one character, but they flow seamlessly from one woman’s life to another, thanks to Philyaw’s evocative prose and rich detail. I read my favorite story “How to Make Love to a Physicist” twice through because I loved it so much. More info →
Thanks to the team behind The Imitation Game
, Quinn’s latest novel is headed for TV. The novel follows three women in WWII Britain, where England’s pressing needs unite them in a common cause: breaking codes at Bletchley Park. Well-to-do Osla is a society girl, often accused of having more beauty than brains. Determined Mab grew up poor in London’s east end, and seeks a better life for herself and her young sister. And miserable Beth, doormat daughter to the overbearing mother who billets Bletchley Park girls to help the war effort. This book grabbed me from the opening pages, but I’ll admit I began turning them faster when we veered into spy thriller territory. Solidly entertaining—I especially enjoyed the story on audio, as narrated by Saskia Maarleveld. More info →
I don’t know if I’m more excited for the movie or the soundtrack for Crying in H Mart
‘s big screen adaptation. “Ever since my mother died, I cry in H Mart.” So begins indie rockstar Michelle Zauner’s poignant story. After her mother received a grim cancer diagnosis, Zauner realized her mother’s death would also mean losing her only tie to her Korean heritage, so she sought to shore up stories while she still has time. Whether she writes about the intricacies of preparing traditional Korean dishes or a hurtful misunderstanding, she explores moments from her tumultuous mother-daughter relationship with tenderness and love, often returning to the idea that our experiences of home, family and culture are viscerally rooted in what we taste, see and hear. An honest, lyrical, and life-affirming memoir about grief, growing up, and making amends. More info →
I wonder if they’ll change the ending for this Hulu adaptation to keep it fresh for readers whose jaws already dropped to the floor. Full of twists, turns, and biting social commentary, this highly original (and highly discussable) debut novel left me gobsmacked. Editorial assistant Nella Rogers is thrilled when Wagner Books hires another Black woman. Finally, she won’t be the sole Black voice at the publisher, she won’t endure microaggressions alone, and maybe she’ll even make some progress on her stalled-out racial diversity efforts. But new hire Hazel doesn’t turn out to be the ally and friend she expected. Meanwhile, threatening notes begin to appear on Nella’s desk, saying LEAVE WAGNER NOW. The atmosphere grows ever creepier as Nella tries to befriend Hazel, while surreptitiously investigating her past. More info →
This powerfully layered YA debut adroitly balances a thrilling crime plot, a fake relationship, and a thoughtful exploration of identity and belonging—and it’s headed for Netflix. 18-year-old hockey star Daunis dreams of leaving her small community on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and making a fresh start in college. But after she witnesses a terrible crime, Daunis is persuaded to go undercover to nail the dealers whose deadly new drugs are ravaging her Anishinaabe community. While seeking justice for her best friend, Daunis also grapples with burgeoning feelings for her handsome hockey player crush and navigates often-tense relationships within her own family. (While sensitively handled, triggers abound, including murder, suicide, sexual assault, and racism.) More info →
Reese Witherspoon’s production company scooped up the rights to this domestic thriller (perhaps she’ll star in it, as well?). A devoted husband disappears without a trace in this Summer Reading Guide selection. Hannah and Owen have been happily married for a year. She finds meaning in her job crafting bespoke furniture for high-end clients; he works at a tech start-up that builds privacy software. The only real sore spot between them is her fragile relationship with his sixteen-year-old daughter Bailey. Then one afternoon, Hannah receives a hastily scrawled note from her husband with just two words on it: “protect her.” Why must she protect Bailey—and from whom? She can’t ask Owen; he’s gone—and Hannah is determined to find out why. More info →
MGM quickly snatched up the film rights with Ryan Gosling to star in this VERY science-y, often funny, surprisingly poignant novel from The Martian
author Andy Weir. When middle school science teacher Ryland Grace wakes up from a coma on a spaceship millions of miles from Earth, his crewmates are dead and he can’t remember his own name. He knows he was working on the Petrova problem: the sun is dying, and if he can’t figure out how to revive it, a new ice age will end life as we know it. But all is not yet lost— by relying on his own wits and a new friend, he might yet save us all. More info →
There’s no shortage of Pride and Prejudice
screen adaptations, but I’ll always watch another one. Netflix announced their take on the famous classic: a teen romantic comedy titled The Netherfield Girls
. If Clueless
and 10 Things I Hate About You
are anything to go by, this is sure to be a delight, and perhaps a modern classic for decades to come. As far as the source text: Jane Austen herself called it her “own darling child.” Pick it up for the first time (or the tenth) and see why devoted readers keep coming back to this one again … and again and again. More info →
Do you have any book to screen adaptations on your “To Be Watched” list? Let us know in the comments!
P.S. Yes, I said it: these 8 movies are better than their books. For a twist on this theme, check out these 17 sparkling and suspenseful novels set on the screen or the stage.
P.P.S For up-to-date book adaptation news, I rely on Publisher’s Weekly announcements and our team of avid readers. Our spreadsheet expert Donna Hetchler keeps us in the know on her blog. Check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of her literary adaptation roundups to put even more titles on your “To Be Watched” list.
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