Fun fact: Game of Thrones isn't the only good TV show based on a book streaming on the airwaves! Though more and more people are complaining about sequels and reboots and re-imaginings at the movies, it's the golden age of television, with awesome shows inspired by books everywhere you look. The small screen has the benefit of being much more long form, and therefore a great place to showcase something based on a book or series of books. With television adaptations of books you have the ability to learn love and live with characters for the long haul, just as with a novel or series of novels.
Naturally as TV has been around for quite some time, there have been great book adaptations throughout the years. There have also been plenty of books adapted for TV in the form of the miniseries or TV movie, but that's another list and you won't find them here (otherwise Band of Brothers would most certainly have made the cut). Instead we are just focusing on traditional TV programs that are based on or inspired by books from genre like fantasy and sci-fi to mysteries, historical classics and more.
Be it current and recent shows like Nancy Drew or The Magicians, critically acclaimed shows that have ended such as Boardwalk Empire and Orange Is the New Black, a show that started out amazing while it was based on it's book series... then derailed (Dexter), or a classic TV show you might not have realized was based on a book at all (M*A*S*H*), this list has them all. What it doesn't have are comic book adaptations and superhero TV shows. This list is all about novels, book series and short stories. Even teen and YA book series - like the two times the Melinda Metz Roswell High book series has been adapted - count, as do shows that are based on books and movies, or that continue telling a book's story past the movie adaptation.
These are the best shows based on books to ever air on television! Vote up the best of these shows below - whether because they nailed the adaptation or because they were top-notch, quality programming in their own right. Maybe the best overall shows rise to the top.
Genres (Tv): Historical drama, Adventure, Romance, FantasyOutlander (Starz, 2014) is a historical drama television series developed by Ronald D. Moore,... more on Wikipedia
Based on Diana Gabaldon's novel of the same name and eight published sequels (since 1991).
Genres (Tv): Medieval fantasy, Drama, Adventure film, Epic, Action
Based on George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire book series (five published since 1996).
Genres (Tv): Crime drama, MysterySherlock (BBC One, 2010) is a British crime television series created by Steven Moffat and... more on Wikipedia
Based on the series by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, including four novels and 56 short stories (1887-1927).
Genres (Tv): Comedy, FantasyGood Omens (Amazon Video, 2019) is a six-part television serial based on the novel by Terry... more on Wikipedia
Based on the 1990 Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman novel of the same name.
Genres (Tv): Drama, Dystopian, Sci-fi, ActionThe 100 (The CW, 2014) is an American post-apocalyptic science fiction drama television series... more on Wikipedia
Based on Kass Morgan's series of four novels (2013-2016).
Genres (Tv): Supernatural, Drama, Horror, FantasyThe Vampire Diaries (The CW, 2009) is an American supernatural teen drama television series... more on Wikipedia
Based on the L. J. Smith book series of the same name.
Genres (Tv): Drama, Dystopian fictionThe Handmaid's Tale (Hulu, 2017) is an American web television series created by Bruce Miller,... more on Wikipedia
Based on Margaret Atwood's 1985 novel.
Genres (Tv): Comedy, DramaA Series of Unfortunate Events (2017, Netflix) is a black comedy-drama TV series based on the... more on Wikipedia
Based on the series of 13 novels by Lemony Snicket, AKA Daniel Handler (1999-2006).
Genres (Tv): Fantasy, Action, Adventure, DramaThe Witcher (Netflix, 2019) is a fantasy action-adventure series based on the series of short... more on Wikipedia
Based on the series of short stories and novels by Andrzej Sapkowski.
Genres (Tv): Miniseries, Drama, Costume dramaPride and Prejudice is a six-episode 1995 British television drama, adapted by Andrew Davies... more on Wikipedia
Based on Jane Austen's 1813 novel of the same name.
Genres (Tv): Drama, Coming of ageAnne with an E (2017, Netflix) is a Canadian television series created by Moira... more on Wikipedia
Based on the 1908 Lucy Maud Montgomery novel Anne of Green Gables.
Genres (Tv): Supernatural horrorThe Haunting of Hill House is the first season of the Netflix supernatural anthology... more on Wikipedia
Based on the 1959 Shirley Jackson novel of the same name.
Genres (Tv): ComedyBig Little Lies (HBO, 2017) is an American dramatic miniseries created by David E. Kelley,... more on Wikipedia
Based on the 2014 Liane Moriarty novel of the same name.
Genres (Tv): Crime drama, Comedy-drama, Police proceduralBones (Fox, 2005) is an American procedural comedy-drama television series created by Hart... more on Wikipedia
Based on the Kathy Reichs's Temperance Brennan book series (20 novels, since 1997).
Genres (Tv): Black comedy, Medical drama, Sitcom, Satire, MilitaryM*A*S*H is an American television series developed by Larry Gelbart, adapted from the 1970... more on Wikipedia
Based on the 1968 Richard Hooker & W. C. Heinz novel of the same name.
PoldarkAidan Turner, Eleanor Tomlinson
Genres (Tv): Historical dramaPoldark (BBC One, 2015) is a British-American drama television series created by Debbie... more on Wikipedia
Based on the novels of the same title written by Winston Graham.
Genres (Tv): Teen drama, Mystery, Crime thrillerPretty Little Liars (ABC Family, 2010) is an American teen drama mystery–thriller television... more on Wikipedia
Based on the Sara Shepard book series of the same name.
Genres (Tv): Fantasy, Horror, DramaTrue Blood (HBO, 2008) is an American fantasy horror drama television series created by Alan... more on Wikipedia
Based on the Charlaine Harris Sookie Stackhouse book series.
Genres (Tv): FantasyThe Magicians (Syfy, 2015) is an American fantasy television series created by Sera Gamble and... more on Wikipedia
Based on the Lev Grossman book series of the same name.
Genres (Tv): Fantasy, Drama, RomanceA Discovery of Witches (2018, Sky One) is a British fantasy drama series based on the All... more on Wikipedia
Based on the Deborah Harkness All Souls trilogy series.
Genres (Tv): Crime drama, Psychological thriller, Mystery, Dark comedy, Police proceduralDexter (Showtime, 2006) is an American crime drama mystery series developed by James Manos... more on Wikipedia
Based on Jeff Lindsay's novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter and seven sequels (2004-2015).
Genres (Tv): Crime, DramaThe Alienist (TNT, 2018) is an American television period drama event series created by Cary... more on Wikipedia
Based on the 1994 Caleb Carr novel of the same name.
Genres (Tv): Psychological horror, Psychological thriller, Crime drama, Crime thrillerHannibal (NBC, 2013) is an American psychological thriller–horror television series developed... more on Wikipedia
Based on the 1999 Thomas Harris novel of the same name.
Genres (Tv): Crime Fiction, Drama, MysteryElementary (CBS, 2012) is an American procedural drama series created by Robert Doherty, based... more on Wikipedia
Based on the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes book series.
Genres (Tv): Miniseries, Children's television series
Based on the Little House in the Big Woods (1932) and Little House on the Prairie (1935) by Laura Ingalls Wilder.