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Have You Watched These Shows That Are Based on Books?

These shows have captured our hearts, but did you know you could have loved the stories sooner by reading the books?
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When a book is made into a movie or television show, the producers and fans usually make a big deal about it. But every once in a while, there’s a show that captures a lot of attention, yet the book it’s based on is left in the dust. Sometimes, the only way to find out that these shows are based on books is to look up the Wikipedia page or see the book with that little unremovable “sticker” on the cover.

So, I went looking for some of today’s most popular shows that I didn’t know were based on books. I’ll try to keep this spoiler-free, but just in case, here’s your one and only spoiler warning.

‘Gossip Girl’

Gossip Girl show and book by Cecily von Ziegesar
Little, Brown and Company | The CW | Warner Bros. | Alloy Entertainment | College Hill Pictures | CBS Television Studios | Fake Empire Productions

Most die-hard fans of the show already know that Gossip Girl was inspired by a book series by Cecily von Ziegesar, but many people skim over that fact. And while the show starring Blake Lively and Leighton Meester spawned a recent reboot, the lack of love for the books has stayed the same throughout the years.

The Gossip Girl books follow a group of female socialites at Constance Billard School for Girls. The books are similar to the show, but there are some differences that make the books stand out on their own. One of the biggest differences between the two is Blair and Chuck never dated.

Both the novel series and the original show have ended, but they are still timeless if you love this type of media. There are 13 books in the series, and the first book is titled Gossip Girl. All of the books are also pretty short, so it wouldn’t take too long to read through the series.


Maid show and book by Stephanie Land
Hachette Books | Netflix | John Wells Productions | LuckyChap Entertainment | Warner Bros. Television

Netflix’s hit miniseries Maid is already known to be based on a book, but did you know it’s a true story? Stephanie Land released her memoir in 2019, and Netflix was so moved by her struggles that they grabbed the film rights quickly.

Though the showrunner wanted to stick closely to Land’s story, there were four major changes for the show. The biggest differences were going more in-depth on the abusive relationship between the main character and her ex, plus all names were changed.

Land tells her story in Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive. She details struggling with poverty after leaving an abusive relationship with her daughter. In addition to the memoir, Land has written several related articles for various publications.

‘Orange Is the New Black’

Orange is the New Black show and book by Piper Kerman
Spiegel & Grau | Netflix | Lionsgate Television | Tilted Productions

Much like Maid, Netflix’s longest-running and most-watched series was based on a memoir. Piper Kerman’s memoir, Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison, describes her time money laundering, drug trafficking, and living in prison for 15 months.

Netflix’s show was nominated for many awards and incorporated a few changes to the series. One change was the last name of Piper to Chapman. Another major change was Piper’s relationship with Larry; she never left him in real life!

‘Sweet Magnolias’

Sweet Magnolias show and first book by Sherryl Woods
Mira Books | Netflix | Daniel L. Paulson Productions

As one of my newest favorite shows, I had to include Sweet Magnolias, which I didn’t know was based on a book series until after finishing the second season. Sherryl Woods wrote the series, and Netflix has stuck relatively close to the source material.

That said, there are quite a few differences – the biggest being that they combined the first three books to make the first season so each of the Magnolias would get equal spotlight throughout the show. Another change was the car crash that ended season one. Thanks for the stress, Netflix!

The Sweet Magnolias series consists of eleven books. The first three were released in 2007. Stealing Home, the first book, follows Maddie; the second, A Slice of Heaven, tells Dana Sue’s story; and Feels Like Family, the third in the series, follows Helen.

‘Firefly Lane’

Firefly Lane show and book by Kristin Hannah
St. Martin’s Press | Netflix | Curly Girly Productions | Stephanie Germain Productions

Netflix seems to just have a handle on adapting books into television shows. Firefly Lane, which is going to have a second season some time this year, follows Tully and Kate through the friendship from high school to adulthood.

While the last few series I’ve talked about tried to stick to the source material, this show is vastly different from the book. The biggest difference is we don’t follow a chronological story; the show jumps back and forth between the three decades the friends have been together.

The first in a duology, Firefly Lane starts in 1974 with Kate meeting Tully and becoming best friends. We get to read through the highs and lows of their friendship over 30 years. Even better, the show kept the time frame, so we get to see the 70s, 80s, and 90s fashion that’s described in the books.

See related: These Children’s Books Would Be Good on Screen, Too

‘Big Sky’

Big Sky, The Highway by C.J. Box
Minotaur Books | ABC | 20th Television | A+E Studios | Fineman Entertainment | David E. Kelley Productions

The first season of Big Sky was based on C.J. Box’s series Highway Quartet. And while the show skipped over the first book, there’s still hope the series adapts the rest of the books before starting on new stories.

C.J. Box’s The Highway is the second book in the Highway Quartet series. And because there’s been quite a bit of chatter since the show premiered, let me clear something up: no, the book is not based on real events. However, it was inspired by a case Box found where a murderer masqueraded as a trucker by day.

‘The Sinner’

The Sinner show and book by Petra Hammesfahr
Bitter Lemon Press | USA Network | NBCUniversal Television | Universal Content Productions | Midnight Choir, Inc. | Zaftig Films | Iron Ocean

While the book The Sinner is based on is German, the show is set in America. The book inspired the main storyline of the first season. The show went on for three more seasons with the same detective investigating murders done by the most unlikely people.

The book, originally published in German as Die Suenderin, follows an investigation into why Cora Bender stabbed a man to death in front of several people. Cora was typically kind to everyone, but when she stabbed a man in the throat, nobody knew why.

‘The Flight Attendant’

The Flight Attendant show and book by Chris Bohjalian
Vintage | HBO Max | Yes, Norman Productions | Berlanti Productions | Warner Bros. | WarnerMedia Direct

Kaley Cuoco’s latest live-action starring role brings us to another show I didn’t know was inspired by a book. And extra points to HBO Max’s show because those that read the book won’t have to worry about spoiling the ending for their friends. The show has taken several left turns so that even fans of Chris Bohjalian’s book will still be surprised.

The Flight Attendant follows Cassandra Bowen trying to piece together a night that ended in tragedy. The biggest problem: she can’t remember if she killed a man or if she is being framed. While there are some differences between the show and the book, the show is just as twisty and mind-bending as the source material.

‘The Alienist’

The Alienist show and book by Caleb Carr
Random House | TNT | Warner Bros. | Paramount Television | Studio T | Anonymous Content | Vanessa Productions, Inc. | Stuma Productions

TNT’s The Alienist has adapted two books from Caleb Carr’s Kreizler series so far, and I’m hoping there’s more to come. Described as a historical fiction detective series, Kreizler is called on by Teddy Roosevelt to solve a mystery in the first book and season.

The second season was titled The Alienist: The Angel of Darkness to mark that it would follow the storyline from the second book in the series. There are several changes made for the show that have annoyed audiences, but it’s an enjoyable show with an amazing cast for both seasons.


Mindhunter show and book by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker
Pocket Books | Netflix | Denver and Delilah Productions

Mindhunter fans, get ready because you’re going to want to pick up the book that inspired the show. Retired FBI agent John Douglas co-wrote the book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit based on his experiences with profiling murderers. Included in his book are profiles of various criminals, including Robert Hansen and Larry Gene Bell.

While the show is vastly different from the book, Mindhunter takes inspiration from Douglas’s time as an FBI agent, the lessons he learned, and his techniques to tell compelling stories. There are currently only two seasons, and a third isn’t planned. However, executive producer David Fincher said there’s always a possibility.

‘Altered Carbon’

Altered Carbon show and book by Richard Morgan
Del Rey | Netflix | Virago Productions | Mythology Entertainment | Phoenix Pictures | Skydance Television

Based on Richard K. Morgan’s trilogy Takeshi Kovacs, Netflix’s Altered Carbon tells the story of Takeshi, who investigates a murder in exchange for being released from prison. If you like sci-fi or cyberpunk, this is the show for you.

The books follow a similar storyline, but there are quite a few differences in the show. Most of the changes were regarding relationships, backstories, and affiliations that added to the drama and action that Netflix wanted for the show.

Altered Carbon, Broken Angels, and Woken Furies are the three books in Morgan’s series. In addition to the books and show, a graphic novel of the story was released in 2019. And for anime lovers, a prequel spin-off was released on Netflix, titled Altered Carbon: Resleeved.

‘House of Cards’

House of Cards show and book by Michael Dobbs
HarperCollins | Netflix | Sony | MRC | Trigger Street Productions | Wade/Thomas Productions | Knight Takes King Productions

I honestly had no idea this show was a book series until sometime in 2020, so I have to talk about it. House of Cards is based on the BBC show from 1990, which was inspired by Michael Dobbs’ book that was published in 1989.

Dobbs’ House of Cards tells the story of Francis Urquhart, who schemes his way into power in the Conservative Party of the United Kingdom, later becoming Prime Minister. The Netflix show takes the story, modernizes it, and places it within the United States government.