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, Fantasy
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, Mystery
Based on the series by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, including four novels and 56 short stories (1887-1927).
Genres (Tv): Comedy, Fantasy
Based on the 1990 Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman novel of the same name.
Genres (Tv): Drama, Dystopian, Sci-fi, Action
Based on Kass Morgan's series of four novels (2013-2016).
Genres (Tv): Supernatural, Drama, Horror, Fantasy
Based on the L. J. Smith book series of the same name.
Genres (Tv): Drama, Dystopian fiction
Based on Margaret Atwood's 1985 novel.
Genres (Tv): Comedy, Drama
Based on the series of 13 novels by Lemony Snicket, AKA Daniel Handler (1999-2006).
Genres (Tv): Fantasy, Action, Adventure, Drama
Based on the series of short stories and novels by Andrzej Sapkowski.
Genres (Tv): Miniseries, Drama, Costume drama
Based on Jane Austen's 1813 novel of the same name.
Genres (Tv): Drama, Coming of age
Based on the 1908 Lucy Maud Montgomery novel Anne of Green Gables.
Genres (Tv): Supernatural horror
Based on the 1959 Shirley Jackson novel of the same name.
Genres (Tv): Comedy
Based on the 2014 Liane Moriarty novel of the same name.
Genres (Tv): Crime drama, Comedy-drama, Police procedural
Based on the Kathy Reichs's Temperance Brennan book series (20 novels, since 1997).
Genres (Tv): Teen drama, Mystery, Crime thriller
Based on the Sara Shepard book series of the same name.
Genres (Tv): Black comedy, Medical drama, Sitcom, Satire, Military
Based on the 1968 Richard Hooker & W. C. Heinz novel of the same name.
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).
Genres (Tv): Fantasy
Based on the Lev Grossman book series of the same name.
Genres (Tv): Fantasy, Horror, Drama
Based on the Charlaine Harris Sookie Stackhouse book series.
PoldarkAidan Turner, Eleanor Tomlinson
Genres (Tv): Historical drama
Based on the novels of the same title written by Winston Graham.
Genres (Tv): Psychological horror, Psychological thriller, Crime drama, Crime thriller
Based on the 1999 Thomas Harris novel of the same name.
Genres (Tv): Fantasy, Drama, Romance
Based on the Deborah Harkness All Souls trilogy series.
Genres (Tv): Crime, Drama
Based on the 1994 Caleb Carr novel of the same name.
Genres (Tv): Crime Fiction, Drama, Mystery
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.