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The Best TV Series Based on Books

Updated July 28, 2021 66.3k votes 9.0k voters 212.1k views185 items

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

There's something about the written word that feels super satisfying when adapted to the screen and this list of the best TV shows based on books ranks television adaptations of novels from best to worst based on your votes. Even as 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 miniseries or TV movies, 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 genres like fantasy and sci-fi to mysteries, historical classics, and more.

Fun fact: Game of Thrones isn't the only good TV show based on a book streaming on the airwaves!  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 its 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. Some shows, like Shadow and Bone, combine multiple books from the same universe into one TV series.

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.

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