Adaptations The Best TV Shows Based on Books  

Ranker TV
Originally by
42.2k votes 6.2k voters 149.4k views 115 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.

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.

list ordered by
1
1,618 726
Game of Thrones is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke

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

Game of Thrones (HBO, 2011) is an American fantasy drama television series created by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, based on the series of fantasy novels by George R. R. Martin. Nine noble ...more
2
1,169 618
Sherlock is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Una Stubbs

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
3
633 398
The Handmaid's Tale is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
jenc83 added Elisabeth Moss, Joseph Fiennes, Yvonne Strahovski

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
4
1,155 389
Outlander is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Caitriona Balfe, Sam Heughan, Tobias Menzies

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

Outlander is a British-American television drama series based on the historical time travel Outlander series of novels by Diana Gabaldon. Created by Ronald D. Moore and produced by Left Bank ...more
5
698 611
Dexter is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, David Zayas

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

Dexter 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 leads a secret life ...more
6
584 499
Bones is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Emily Deschanel, David Boreanaz, Michaela Conlin

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

Bones is an American procedural comedy-drama television series that premiered on Fox in the United States on September 13, 2005. The show is based on forensic anthropology and forensic ...more
7
501 408
M*A*S*H is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Alan Alda, Wayne Rogers, Loretta Swi

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
8
765 499
The 100 is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Eliza Taylor, Paige Turco, Thomas McDonell

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
9
534 431
True Blood is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Sam Trammell

Based on the Charlaine Harris Sookie Stackhouse book series.

True Blood is an American television drama series produced and created by Alan Ball. It is based on The Southern Vampire Mysteries series of novels by Charlaine Harris, detailing the ...more
10
795 524
The Vampire Diaries is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Nina Dobrev, Paul Wesley, Ian Somerhalder

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

The Vampire Diaries is an American supernatural drama television series developed by Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec, based on the popular book series of the same name written by L. J. Smith. ...more
11
569 352
The Originals is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Jennifer Barnwell added Joseph Morgan, Daniel Gillies, Claire Holt

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
12
546 362
The Magicians is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Jason Ralph, Stella Maeve, Olivia Taylor Dudley

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
13
494 433
Orange Is the New Black is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Taylor Schilling, Danielle Brooks, Taryn Manning

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
14
202 194
Haven is listed (or ranked) 14 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
15
312 354
House of Cards is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Kevin Spacey, Michel Gill, Robin Wright

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

House of Cards is a 2013 American political drama television series developed and produced by Beau Willimon. It is an adaptation of the BBC's mini-series of the same name and is based on the ...more
16
348 322
Elementary is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Jonny Lee Miller, Lucy Liu, Jon Michael Hill

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
17
524 291
Ranker Video
jenc83 added Neil Patrick Harris, Patrick Warburton, Malina Weissman

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
18
444 379
Hannibal is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen, Caroline Dhavernas

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

Hannibal is an American psychological thriller–horror television series developed by Bryan Fuller for NBC. The series is based on characters and elements appearing in the novel Red Dragon by ...more
19
614 425
Pretty Little Liars is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Troian Bellisario, Ashley Benson, Lucy Hale

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

Pretty Little Liars is an American teen drama mystery–thriller television series loosely based on the popular book series of the same title, written by Sara Shepard. The show premiered on June ...more
20
153 156
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

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

Sleepy Hollow is an American supernatural drama television series that premiered on Fox on September 16, 2013, that aired on Mondays at 9:00 pm ET. The series is considered a "modern-day ...more
21
211 291
Justified is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
Timothy Olyphant, Nick Searcy, Joelle Carter

Based on the Elmore Leonard novels Pronto and Riding the Rap.

Justified is an American television drama series developed by Graham Yost. It is based on Elmore Leonard's short story. Timothy Olyphant portrays Raylan Givens, a tough U.S. Marshal enforcing ...more
22
272 233
Little House on the Prairie is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
dreapress added Melissa Gilbert, Michael Landon, Lindsay Greenbush

Based on the Little House in the Big Woods (1932) and Little House on the Prairie (1935) by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Little House on the Prairie, also known as Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie, is a five-hour miniseries which was broadcast on ABC as part of The Wonderful World of Disney ...more
23
538 353
Shadowhunters is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
febelanianastasha added Katherine McNamara, Dominic Sherwood, Alberto Rosende

Based on the book series The Mortal Instruments written by Cassandra Clare.

Shadowhunters (Freeform, 2016) is an American fantasy television series based on The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare. Clary Fray (Katherine McNamara) has just enrolled at Brooklyn Academy ...more
24
637 439
13 Reasons Why is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best TV Shows Based on Books
kslot added Dylan Minnette, Katherine Langford, Kate Walsh

Based on Jay Asher's 2007 novel Thirteen Reasons Why.

13 Reasons Why (Netflix, 2017) is an American television series based on the 2007 novel Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher and adapted by Brian Yorkey. Told through a series of flashbacks, the ...more
25
263 172
Ranker Video
jenc83 added Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley

Based on the 2014 Liane Moriarty novel of the same name.

Big Little Lies (HBO, 2017) is an American dramatic miniseries created by David E. Kelley, based on the novel by Liane Moriarty. While Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) and Celeste (Nicole Kidman) ...more