watchworthy presents

The Best TV Shows Based on Books 

Ranker TV
Originally by
Updated March 27, 2020 55.8k votes 7.6k voters 180.1k views 127 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 shows like 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.

Data-driven recommendations based on voting from over 40 million monthly visits to Ranker. Try the free app
list ordered by
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

Number of Seasons: 8

Number of Episodes: 73

Network: HBO

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).

More Game of Thrones 

#1 of 802 The Best TV Shows To Binge Watch #2 of 263 The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time The Most Epic Insults From Game of Thrones

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

Number of Seasons: 3

Number of Episodes: 13

Network: British Broadcasting Corporation

Genres (Tv): Crime Fiction, Action/Adventure, Police procedural, Crime, Drama, + more

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

Sherlock is a British television crime drama that presents a contemporary adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes detective stories. Created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, it ...more

More Sherlock 

#4 of 802 The Best TV Shows To Binge Watch #1 of 391 TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate Ranking the Best Seasons of 'Sherlock'

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

Network: Starz

Genres (Tv): Romance Film, Drama, Science Fiction, Fantasy

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

Outlander (Starz, 2014) is a British-American television drama series based on the historical time travel Outlander series of novels by Diana Gabaldon and created by Ronald D. Moore and produced ...more

More Outlander 

#144 of 383 The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years #60 of 263 The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time

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

More The 100 

#136 of 383 The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years #115 of 263 The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time

5
The Vampire Diaries is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Nina Dobrev, Paul Wesley, Ian Somerhalder

Premiered: 2009

Number of Seasons: 4

Number of Episodes: 89

Network: The CW

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

More The Vampire Diaries 

#45 of 802 The Best TV Shows To Binge Watch #12 of 78 The Best Teen Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV Series The Best Seasons of 'The Vampire Diaries'

6
The Handmaid's Tale is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
jenc83 added Elisabeth Moss, Joseph Fiennes, Yvonne Strahovski

Premiered: 2017

Network: Hulu

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

More The Handmaid's Tale 

#35 of 133 The Best Current Dramatic TV Shows #126 of 169 The TV Shows Most Loved by Hipsters The Best Characters On 'The Handmaid's Tale'

7
The Originals is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Jennifer Barnwell added Joseph Morgan, Daniel Gillies, Claire Holt

Premiered: 2013

Number of Seasons: 1

Number of Episodes: 13

Network: The CW Television Network

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

More The Originals 

#119 of 263 The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time #17 of 78 The Best Teen Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV Series

8
Dexter is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, David Zayas

Premiered: 2006

Number of Seasons: 8

Number of Episodes: 96

Network: Showtime

Genres (Tv): Black comedy, Crime Fiction, Action/Adventure, Police procedural, Suspense, + more

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

Dexter (Showtime, 2006) is an American television drama series. Set in Miami, the series centers on Dexter Morgan, a blood spatter pattern analyst for Miami Metro Police Department who also ...more

More Dexter 

#7 of 383 The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years #14 of 263 The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time Dexter Morgan’s Infamous ‘Work’ Rooms, Ranked By Practicality

9
The Magicians is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Jason Ralph, Stella Maeve, Olivia Taylor Dudley

Premiered: 2015

Number of Seasons: 5

Network: SyFy

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

More The Magicians 

#66 of 314 The Best Sci Fi Television Series of All Time #26 of 78 The Best Teen Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV Series The Magicians' Jade Tailor Teases Kady Becoming More Of A Leader, Life After Quentin In Season 5

10
True Blood is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Sam Trammell

Premiered: 2008

Number of Seasons: 6

Number of Episodes: 63

Network: HBO

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

More True Blood 

#33 of 383 The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years #122 of 263 The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time The Best True Blood Characters of All Time

11
Pretty Little Liars is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Troian Bellisario, Ashley Benson, Lucy Hale

Premiered: 2010

Number of Seasons: 4

Number of Episodes: 72

Network: ABC Family

Genres (Tv): Teen drama, Mystery, Crime thriller

Based on the Sara Shepard book series of the same name.

Pretty Little Liars (ABC Family, 2010) is an American teen drama mystery–thriller television series developed by I. Marlene King, loosely based on the novel series by Sara Shepard. When their ...more

More Pretty Little Liars 

#124 of 263 The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time #29 of 78 The Best Teen Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV Series The Best Pretty Little Liars Characters

12
M*A*S*H is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Alan Alda, Wayne Rogers, Loretta Swi

Premiered: 1972

Number of Seasons: 11

Number of Episodes: 251

Network: CBS

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

More M*A*S*H 

#78 of 802 The Best TV Shows To Binge Watch #10 of 263 The Greatest TV Dramas of All Timelisted on The Longest Running US Sitcoms

13
Bones is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Emily Deschanel, David Boreanaz, Michaela Conlin

Premiered: 2005

Number of Seasons: 9

Number of Episodes: 166

Network: Fox

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

More Bones 

#68 of 383 The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years #72 of 263 The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time The Best Seasons of 'Bones'

14
Hannibal is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen, Caroline Dhavernas

Premiered: 2013

Number of Seasons: 1

Number of Episodes: 13

Network: NBC

Genres (Tv): Police procedural, Crime, Drama, Psychological thriller, 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. The series is based on characters and elements appearing in the novel Red Dragon by ...more

More Hannibal 

#170 of 802 The Best TV Shows To Binge Watch #133 of 571 TV Shows Canceled Before Their Time The Most Appetizing Meals From ‘Hannibal’ You Might Actually Try

15
Good Omens is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
David Tennant, Michael Sheen, Anna Maxwell Martin

Premiered: 2019

Network: Amazon Video, BBC Two (UK)

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
16
Orange Is the New Black ... is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Taylor Schilling, Danielle Brooks, Taryn Manning

Premiered: 2013

Number of Seasons: 7

Genres (Tv): Drama, Comedy-drama, Comedy

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

Orange Is the New Black is an American comedy-drama series created by Jenji Kohan and first released on Netflix on July 11, 2013. The series, produced by Tilted Productions in association with ...more

More Orange Is the New Black 

#39 of 263 The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time #69 of 391 TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate The Best Characters on Orange Is the New Black, Ranked

17
Elementary is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Jonny Lee Miller, Lucy Liu, Jon Michael Hill

Premiered: 2012

Number of Seasons: 1

Number of Episodes: 24

Network: CBS

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

More Elementary 

#149 of 802 The Best TV Shows To Binge Watch #128 of 383 The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years The Best Characters On 'Elementary'

18
Gossip Girl is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Blake Lively, Leighton Meester, Penn Badgley

Premiered: 2007

Number of Seasons: 6

Number of Episodes: 121

Network: The CW

Genres (Tv): Teen drama

Based on the Cecily von Ziegesar book series of the same name.

Gossip Girl (The CW, 2007) is an American teen drama television series created by Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, based on the book series by Cecily von Ziegesar. After a mysterious ...more

More Gossip Girl 

#162 of 383 The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years #43 of 129 The Best High School TV Shows The Most Ridiculous Storylines 'Gossip Girl' Writers Ever Came Up With

19
Little House on the Prai... is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
dreapress added Cameron Bancroft, Erin Cottrell, Kyle Chavarria

Premiered: 2005

Network: American Broadcasting Company

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.

More Little House on the Prairie 

#222 of 802 The Best TV Shows To Binge Watch #62 of 263 The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time #47 of 158 Shows with the Best Freakin' Series Finales of All Time

20
Anne with an E is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
reemsid added Amybeth McNulty, Geraldine James, R.H. Thomson

Premiered: 2017

Genres (Tv): Drama

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

Anne with an E (2017, Netflix) is a Canadian television series based on the 1908 novel Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Anne Shirley (Amybeth McNulty) is a good-hearted, earnest ...more

More Anne with an E 

#247 of 802 The Best TV Shows To Binge Watch #275 of 383 The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years

21
Goosebumps is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
R.L. Stine, Kathryn Short, Cody Jones

Premiered: 1995

Number of Seasons: 4

Number of Episodes: 74

Network: Jetix, Vrak.TV, YTV, Fox Kids, Cartoon Network, + more

Genres (Tv): Anthology, Suspense, Anthology series, Horror Film, Children's television series, + more

Based on the R. L. Stine book series of the same name.

Goosebumps is a Canadian horror fantasy anthology television series based on R. L. Stine's Goosebumps books. It was one of the two popular television horror anthology children's series in the ...more

More Goosebumps 

#69 of 78 The Best Teen Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV Series #138 of 145 The Most Annoying Kids Shows of All Time Fan Theories About 'Goosebumps'

22
Haven is listed (or ranked) 22 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

More Haven 

#263 of 802 The Best TV Shows To Binge Watch #98 of 314 The Best Sci Fi Television Series of All Time #46 of 78 The Best Teen Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV Series

23
Pride and Prejudice is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
reemsid added Colin Firth, Lucy Davis, Alison Steadman

Premiered: 1995

Number of Episodes: 6

Network: British Broadcasting Corporation

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

More Pride and Prejudice 

#171 of 802 The Best TV Shows To Binge Watch #12 of 118 The Best Historical Drama TV Shows The Best Books Inspired by Pride and Prejudice

24
House of Cards is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, Michael Kelly

Premiered: 2013

Number of Seasons: 6

Number of Episodes: 73

Network: Netflix

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

More House of Cards 

#8 of 802 The Best TV Shows To Binge Watch #9 of 263 The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time 32 Facts You Didn't Know About House of Cards

25
Altered Carbon is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Joel Kinnaman, Renée Elise Goldsberry, James Purefoy

Premiered: 2018

Network: Netflix

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

More Altered Carbon 

#87 of 314 The Best Sci Fi Television Series of All Time #52 of 92 Ranker's Bests Of 2018 The Best Episodes of 'Altered Carbon'