With winter approaching, it’s nearly time for one of my favorite cold-weather diversions: curling up on the couch with plenty of comfy blankets and warm tea to binge-watch lush and gorgeously produced classic miniseries. From romantic historical dramas to riveting true crime stories, most of my favorite miniseries are based on compelling and unforgettable books. Below I’ve compiled a list of some amazing works by illustrious authors such as Stephen King, Gillian Flynn, David McCullough, and more that were adapted into fabulous miniseries. Read and watch these programs on your next snow day!
11 Remarkable Books Behind Your Favorite TV Miniseries
Has there ever been an adaptation as faithful as the 1981 miniseries of this sumptuous classic? Probably not. Following the coming-of-age of Charles Ryder in 1920s and ’30s Great Britain, BRIDESHEAD REVISITED is an enchanting—and at times heartbreaking—tale of friendship, sexuality, religion, alcoholism, and lost love—and effortlessly reflects on the crucial importance of faith.
Evelyn Waugh’s delicious coming-of-age tale of star-crossed lovers and sexually ambiguous pretty boys drinking their way through guilt trips over religion and lost love provided an admittedly romantic backdrop to my own rocky adolescent journey to adulthood.
Before Hamilton made the Founding Fathers fashionable again, HBO released an acclaimed and popular miniseries inspired by this Pulitzer Prize–winning biography. An in-depth and enthralling work, it whisks you to the colonial and early days of the United States, bringing the brilliant and complicated second American president to vivid life.
Widely known thanks to the HBO series of the same name, this Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of John Adams is cinematic in its own right. Adams was a brilliant lawyer, statesman, thinker, and farmer, and McCullough captures him in all of his glory and failure, presenting a comprehensive portrait of one of the most compelling forces in the establishment of the United States.
This miniseries, directed by one horror master and based on the novel by another, terrified an entire generation in 1979. This Stephen King classic explores what would happen if vampires took over a small American town. With creeping tension and ghoulish frights, SALEM’S LOT makes one of our oldest monsters terrifying again. Warning: if you hear something scratching at your window at night, don’t open it.
One of the most ambitious and terrifying novels about the undead ever written, ’SALEM’S LOT explores what would happen if vampires existed in our modern world. When a young man returns to his hometown, he quickly realizes that it’s harboring something dark and evil. Can a small, insular town survive, or is it—and the rest of the country—doomed?
This celebrated fantasy novel that brought magic to the Napoleonic Wars was lovingly adapted by the BBC in 2015. With plenty of suspense, wit, and elegance, it follows two very different magicians as they struggle against the darker side of the magical world. Much more than just Harry Potter for adults, this is a spellbinding epic of the highest caliber.
This fantasy classic is the longest book on this list and the most recent material mined for a BBC miniseries. At the dawn of the nineteenth century most people believe magic to be long dead in England—until two very different magicians emerge who change England’s history..... Page Count: 1,024
Another Pulitzer Prize winner that got the HBO miniseries treatment, EMPIRE FALLS is a moving and evocative look at blue-collar America. Miles works at the local diner, and between slinging burgers, reflects on his life, his family, and the people who inhabit this small, seemingly inconsequential town. From his beloved daughter to the shrewd widow who owns the town, it’s filled with colorful and unforgettable characters.
I will never not recommend this book, and what a perfect excuse again! The winner of the 2002 Pulitzer Prize, Richard Russo’s novel EMPIRE FALLS follows Miles Roby (the owner of the Empire Grill), his family, and his friends in the small, blue-collar, and slowly bankrupting titular Maine town. —Julianna (Maine)
It isn’t every nonfiction book that can translate to television, but this Pulitzer Prize–winning exploration of the beginnings of Al-Qaeda and the men behind the September 11th attacks reads like a novel. Spanning over 50 years and from the United States to the Middle East and beyond, this expansive and gripping work is a compulsively readable modern classic of investigative journalism.
A sweeping narrative history of the events leading to 9/11, a groundbreaking look at the people and ideas, the terrorist plans and the Western intelligence failures that culminated in the assault on America. Lawrence Wright’s remarkable book is based on five years of research and hundreds of interviews that he conducted in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sudan, England, France, Germany, Spain, and the United States.
For those who prefer their miniseries starring headstrong heroines and broody love interests, the 2004 adaptation of this British classic is a perfect choice. Follow young Margaret as she struggles to adapt to industrial Northern England—a world of soot, disease, and economic unrest—and deal with romantic advances from the standoffish John Thornton in this intelligent and swoonworthy social novel.
The debut novel of the author who also gave us GONE GIRL, SHARP OBJECTS recently became an acclaimed and haunting miniseries starring Amy Adams. A young journalist returns to her hometown to cover a series of murders, unaware that she is about to discover the dark secrets that are hidden within her own family. With a shocking twist and white-knuckled suspense, this is an unputdownable thriller.
When a reporter returns to her hometown to cover two murders, she does not expect to confront her own demons—or her damaged family. A brutal mystery of paranoia, familial abuse, and the secrets we hide within ourselves, Gillian Flynn’s first novel is a thriller that haunts long after the last page is read.
An epic of staggering proportions, this exquisite work of historical fiction follows three men in the midst of social, political, and religious turmoil in twelfth-century Great Britain. At over 1,000 pages, THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH is a grand and mesmerizing depiction of medieval life that inspired a renowned 2010 miniseries starring Ian McShane and Eddie Redmayne.
This two-novel epic set in medieval England centers around a Gothic cathedral and the pride, love, and greed it inspires in the townspeople affected by its creation. Political, social, and religious upheaval make for a storyline that’s fast paced and action packed without sacrificing historical detail.
When a seat opens up in the parish council of a small, charming English village, tensions rise and truths are revealed that shake the community to its core. With a wide cast of richly realized characters and provocative overlapping plots, THE CASUAL VACANCY is an absorbing modern look at country life.
There are few genres as quintessentially American as the Western, and few authors as adept in this genre as Larry McMurtry. His classic novel, which inspired an equally classic series starring Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones, follows a group of retired Texas Rangers as they drive a cattle herd in the 1870s. Filled with action, authenticity, and heart, LONESOME DOVE is a masterful work.
A love story, an adventure, and an epic of the frontier, this Pulitzer Prize— winning classic is the grandest novel ever written about the last defiant wilderness of America. Journey to the dusty little Texas town of Lonesome Dove and meet an unforgettable assortment of heroes and outlaws, whores and ladies, Indians and settlers. Richly authentic, beautifully written, always dramatic this is a book to that will make you laugh, weep, and dream.
For many, the 1995 miniseries of Jane Austen’s masterpiece is the pinnacle of TV adaptations. After all, it inspired the creation of Bridget Jones and introduced us to Colin Firth. So, what isn’t to love in this classic tale of boy meets girl in Regency England, boy is rude to girl, and boy and girl engage in a charming battle of wits amidst annoying family members, romantic misunderstandings, and class divisions? This is a beloved social novel that you won’t soon forget.
In a remote Hertfordshire village, far off the good coach roads of George III's England, a country squire of no great means must marry off his five vivacious daughters. At the heart of this all-consuming enterprise are his headstrong second daughter Elizabeth Bennet and her aristocratic suitor Fitzwilliam Darcy — two lovers whose pride must be humbled and prejudices dissolved before the novel can come to its splendid conclusion.