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The Best TV Shows Based on Books 

Ranker TV
Originally by
Updated May 14, 2020 59.9k votes 8.1k voters 188.5k views 132 items

List Rules Vote up the best TV series based on novels or short stories. No comic book adaptations.

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.

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.

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1
Game of Thrones is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke

Premiered: 2011

Genres (Tv): Medieval fantasy, Drama, Adventure film, Epic, Action, + more

Based on George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire book series (five published since 1996).

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2
Sherlock is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Una Stubbs

Premiered: 2010

Genres (Tv): Crime drama, Mystery

Based on the series by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, including four novels and 56 short stories (1887-1927).

Sherlock (BBC One, 2010) is a British crime television series created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, based on stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The brilliant yet insensitive detective ...more

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3
Outlander is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Caitriona Balfe, Sam Heughan, Tobias Menzies

Premiered: 2014

Genres (Tv): Historical drama, Adventure, Romance, Fantasy

Based on Diana Gabaldon's novel of the same name and eight published sequels (since 1991).

Outlander (Starz, 2014) is a historical drama television series developed by Ronald D. Moore, based on the novel series by Diana Gabaldon. A married former WWII nurse (Caitriona Balfe) is ...more

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4
The 100 is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Eliza Taylor, Paige Turco, Thomas McDonell

Premiered: 2013

Genres (Tv): Drama, Dystopian, Sci-fi, Action

Based on Kass Morgan's series of four novels (2013-2016).

The 100 (The CW, 2014) is an American post-apocalyptic science fiction drama television series developed by Jason Rothenberg, loosely based on the book by Kass Morgan. 97 years after a nuclear ...more

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5
The Handmaid's Tale is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
jenc83 added Elisabeth Moss, Joseph Fiennes, Yvonne Strahovski

Premiered: 2017

Genres (Tv): Drama, Dystopian fiction

Based on Margaret Atwood's 1985 novel.

The Handmaid's Tale (Hulu, 2017) is an American web television series created by Bruce Miller, based on the 1985 novel by Margaret Atwood. In a dystopian future where women are brutally ...more

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6
The Vampire Diaries is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Nina Dobrev, Paul Wesley, Ian Somerhalder

Premiered: 2009

Genres (Tv): Supernatural, Drama, Horror, Fantasy

Based on the L. J. Smith book series of the same name.

The Vampire Diaries (The CW, 2009) is an American supernatural teen drama television series developed by Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec, based on the book series by L. J. Smith. In the ...more

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7
Dexter is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, David Zayas

Premiered: 2006

Genres (Tv): Crime drama, Psychological thriller, Mystery, Dark comedy, Police procedural

Based on Jeff Lindsay's novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter and seven sequels (2004-2015).

Dexter (Showtime, 2006) is an American crime drama mystery series developed by James Manos Jr., based on the 2004 novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay. When he's not doing forensic work ...more

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8
True Blood is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Sam Trammell

Premiered: 2008

Genres (Tv): Fantasy, Horror, Drama

Based on the Charlaine Harris Sookie Stackhouse book series.

True Blood (HBO, 2008) is an American fantasy horror drama television series created by Alan Ball, based on The Southern Vampire Mysteries, a series of novels by Charlaine Harris. Telepathic ...more

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9
M*A*S*H is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Alan Alda, Wayne Rogers, Loretta Swi

Premiered: 1972

Genres (Tv): Black comedy, Medical drama, Sitcom, Satire, Military, + more

Based on the 1968 Richard Hooker & W. C. Heinz novel of the same name.

M*A*S*H is an American television series developed by Larry Gelbart, adapted from the 1970 feature film MASH. The series, which was produced in association with 20th Century Fox Television for ...more

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10
Good Omens is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
David Tennant, Michael Sheen, Anna Maxwell Martin

Premiered: 2019

Genres (Tv): Comedy, Fantasy

Based on the 1990 Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman novel of the same name.

Good Omens (Amazon Video, 2019) is a six-part television serial based on the novel by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. After being accustomed to life on Earth, the demon Crowley (David Tennant) ...more
11
The Magicians is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Jason Ralph, Stella Maeve, Olivia Taylor Dudley

Premiered: 2015

Genres (Tv): Fantasy

Based on the Lev Grossman book series of the same name.

The Magicians (Syfy, 2015) is an American fantasy television series created by Sera Gamble and John McNamara, based on the novel by Lev Grossman. Training to be a magician at Brakebills ...more

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12
Bones is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Emily Deschanel, David Boreanaz, Michaela Conlin

Premiered: 2005

Genres (Tv): Crime drama, Comedy-drama, Police procedural

Based on the Kathy Reichs's Temperance Brennan book series (20 novels, since 1997).

Bones (Fox, 2005) is an American procedural comedy-drama television series created by Hart Hanson. Forensic anthropologist Dr. Temperance "Bones" Brennan (Emily Deschanel) and cocky ...more

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13
Elementary is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Jonny Lee Miller, Lucy Liu, Jon Michael Hill

Premiered: 2012

Genres (Tv): Crime Fiction, Drama, Mystery

Based on the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes book series.

Elementary (CBS, 2012) is an American procedural drama series created by Robert Doherty, based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's character Sherlock Holmes. Following his fall from grace in London and ...more

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14
Anne with an E is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
reemsid added Amybeth McNulty, Geraldine James, R.H. Thomson

Premiered: 2017

Genres (Tv): Drama, Coming of age

Based on the 1908 Lucy Maud Montgomery novel Anne of Green Gables.

Anne with an E (2017, Netflix) is a Canadian television series created by Moira Walley-Beckett, based on the 1908 novel Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Anne Shirley (Amybeth ...more

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15
Orange Is the New Black ... is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Taylor Schilling, Danielle Brooks, Taryn Manning

Premiered: 2013

Genres (Tv): Comedy, Drama

Based on the 2010 Piper Kerman book, Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison.

Orange Is the New Black (Netflix, 2013) is an American comedy-drama web television series created by Jenji Kohan, based on the memoir by Piper Kerman. Convicted of a decade old crime of ...more

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16
Hannibal is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen, Caroline Dhavernas

Premiered: 2013

Genres (Tv): Psychological horror, Psychological thriller, Crime drama, Crime thriller

Based on the 1999 Thomas Harris novel of the same name.

Hannibal (NBC, 2013) is an American psychological thriller–horror television series developed by Bryan Fuller, based on the characters created by novelist Thomas Harris. A gifted FBI profiler ...more

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17
Little House on the Prai... is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
dreapress added Cameron Bancroft, Erin Cottrell, Kyle Chavarria

Premiered: 2005

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.

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18
Pride and Prejudice is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
reemsid added Colin Firth, Lucy Davis, Alison Steadman

Premiered: 1995

Genres (Tv): Miniseries, Drama, Costume drama

Based on Jane Austen's 1813 novel of the same name.

Pride and Prejudice is a six-episode 1995 British television drama, adapted by Andrew Davies from Jane Austen's 1813 novel of the same name. Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth starred as Elizabeth ...more

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19
Haven is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
ewill0413 added Emily Rose, Lucas Bryant, Eric Balfour

Loosely based on the 2005 Stephen King novel The Colorado Kid.

Haven is an American/Canadian supernatural drama television series loosely based on the Stephen King novel The Colorado Kid. The show, which deals with strange events in a fictional town in ...more

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20
Sleepy Hollow is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
kslot added Tom Mison, Nicole Beharie, Lyndie Greenwood

Premiered: 2013

Genres (Tv): Drama, Horror, Action, Procedural

Based on the 1820 Washington Irving short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow."

Sleepy Hollow (Fox, 2013) is an American supernatural drama television series created by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Phillip Iscove, and Len Wiseman, and loosely based on the short story by ...more

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21
Altered Carbon is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Joel Kinnaman, Renée Elise Goldsberry, James Purefoy

Premiered: 2018

Genres (Tv): Sci-fi, Mystery, Action

Based on the 2002 Richard K. Morgan novel of the same name.

Altered Carbon is an American science fiction television series created by Laeta Kalogridis, based on the novel by Richard K. Morgan. In a future where human minds are digitized and downloaded ...more

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22
House of Cards is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, Michael Kelly

Premiered: 2013

Genres (Tv): Political drama, Political thriller

Based on the 1989 Michael Dobbs novel of the same name.

House of Cards (Netflix, 2013) is an American political drama television series developed by Beau Willimon, and an adaptation of the BBC mini-series based on the novel by Michael Dobbs. ...more

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23
Poldark is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Poldark Aidan Turner, Eleanor Tomlinson, Ruby Bentall

Premiered: 2015

Genres (Tv): Historical drama

Based on the novels of the same title written by Winston Graham.

Poldark (BBC One, 2015) is a British-American drama television series created by Debbie Horsfield, based on the novels by Winston Graham. Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner) returns home after American ...more

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24
Ranker Video
jenc83 added Neil Patrick Harris, Patrick Warburton, Malina Weissman

Premiered: 2017

Genres (Tv): Comedy, Drama

Based on the series of 13 novels by Lemony Snicket, AKA Daniel Handler (1999-2006).

A Series of Unfortunate Events (2017, Netflix) is a black comedy-drama TV series based on the children's novel series of the same name by Lemony Snicket (author Daniel Handler). The Baudelaire ...more

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25
The Originals is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Jennifer Barnwell added Joseph Morgan, Daniel Gillies, Claire Holt

Premiered: 2013

Genres (Tv): Romance Film, Supernatural drama, Teen drama, Suspense, Drama, + more

Based on characters created in L. J. Smith's The Vampire Diaries series of four novels (1991-1992).

The Originals (The CW, 2013) is an American television series created by Julie Plec, and is a spinoff of The Vampire Diaries. Vampire-werewolf hybrid Klaus Mikaelson (Joseph Morgan) and his ...more

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