11 Book-to-Screen Adaptations We Can’t Wait to Watch in 2021

January 27 2021
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Watching our favorite books adapted to the screen is one of the greatest joys of life—besides the actual act of reading, of course! In an effort to find something to look forward to in this crazy year, we’ve rounded up a bunch of the book-to-screen adaptations that we’re anticipating the most in 2021—barring any delays due to COVID-19. Some are already out, while others are still in production and months away from release. So, mark your calendars, stock up on some popcorn, and get ready to watch these new movies and TV shows. And if you haven’t read these books yet, what are you waiting for?

This article was updated with new titles on June 25, 2021.

Lisey's Story
by Stephen King

Justin's Pick: When asked to name a favorite out of his vast bibliography, Stephen King often returns one answer: LISEY’S STORY. Luckily for us, it’s likely that affinity for Lisey Landon’s saga that led the prolific author to pen all eight episodes of Apple TV+’s new, chilling adaptation. As a Constant Reader myself, part of the fun I had reading LISEY’S STORY was never quite being able to nail it down, or describe it in one succinct sentence. One chapter it’s making your heart ache, and the next it’s sending a chill down your spine—and quite frequently it’s doing both at the same time. In the hands of acclaimed director Pablo Larraín, the small screen adaptation is an opportunity to experience the beautiful terror of one of King’s most personal novels all over again, with excellent performers (Julianne Moore, Clive Owen, and Dane DeHaan, to name a few) and beguiling visuals at its center.

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Lisey's Story
Stephen King

*Soon to be an Apple TV+ limited series starring Julianne Moore and Clive Owen*

The “haunting…tender, intimate book that makes an epic interior journey” (The New York Times), Lisey’s Story is a literary masterpiece—an extraordinarily moving and haunting portrait of a marriage and its aftermath.

Lisey lost her husband Scott two years ago, after a twenty-five year marriage of profound and sometimes frightening intimacy. Scott was an award-winning, bestselling novelist and a very complicated man. Early in their relationship, before they married, Lisey knew there was a place Scott went—a place that both terrified and healed him, could eat him alive or give him the ideas he needed in order to live. Now it’s Lisey’s turn to face Scott’s demons, to go to that terrifying place known as Boo’ya Moon. What begins as a widow’s effort to sort through the papers of her celebrated husband becomes a nearly fatal journey into the darkness he inhabited.

“Intricate...exhilarating” (The New Yorker), perhaps Stephen King’s most personal and powerful novel ever, Lisey’s Story is about the wellsprings of creativity, the temptations of madness, and the secret language of love. It is a beautiful, “rich portrait of a marriage, and the complicated affection that outlives death” (The Washington Post).

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The Lost Daughter
by Elena Ferrante

Emily’s Pick #1: I love any book by Elena Ferrante, but the Neapolitan Novels will always hold a special place in my heart. She explores the fickleness of childhood friendships, the dueling forces of ambition and poverty, and the transforming towns of Italy with nuanced and authentic writing. Her characters live in their heads and have such resonant insights that it makes the film adaptations that much more interesting; you feel like you know what the character is thinking—at least I do! I’m excited to watch this newest adaptation about a beach vacation that takes a dark turn when Leda, a middle-age divorcée, ruminates on her past and begins to obsess over another young family on the beach. Plus, the movie is written and directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal!

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The Lost Daughter
Elena Ferrante

THE LOST DAUGHTER is a compelling and perceptive meditation on womanhood and motherhood. A middle-aged divorcée is alone for the first time in years when her daughters leave home to live with their father and her initial unexpected sense of liberty quickly turns to ferocious introspection.

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MENTIONED IN:

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Nine Perfect Strangers
by Liane Moriarty

Emily’s Pick #2: The premise is simple: Nine strangers all head to the same wellness resort for a ten-day retreat. But the ensuing narrative is anything but simple, as they deal with past traumas. Each character’s desires, fears, and idiosyncrasies are all boiled together in this fabulous Liane Moriarty book. If you like stories about big, dysfunctional families, and characters you love to hate, this one will intrigue you. A friend of mine who also read the book thought each of the nine characters could match with different enneagram types, which definitely makes you read this book with a sharp eye. The movie adaptation comes out on August 18, 2021 so read the book to join in on the conversation!

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Nine Perfect Strangers
Liane Moriarty

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MENTIONED IN:

11 Book-to-Screen Adaptations We Can’t Wait to Watch in 2021

By Off the Shelf Staff | January 27, 2021

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Killers of the Flower Moon
by David Grann

Sharon's Pick #1: KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON is David Grann’s journalistic investigation into the Osage murders of the 1920s in Osage County, Oklahoma, and the newly formed FBI’s role in investigating the murders. After oil was discovered under Osage land, members of the nation became the richest people per capita in the world. Then, under mysterious circumstances, the Osage began to be killed off, one by one, with those daring to investigate the murders encountering the same fate.

Production has finally kicked off on the film adaptation of David Grann’s KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON; with a $200 million dollar budget and Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert DeNiro in starring roles, director Martin Scorsese’s first foray into the Western genre is already generating buzz as one of his most ambitious projects yet!

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Killers of the Flower Moon
David Grann

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Close
Beartown
by Fredrik Backman

Allie's Pick: BEARTOWN is one of those stories that I hold deep in my heart. I love the little town that Fredrik Backman created almost as much as I love the people he filled it with. Despite not being a sports fan, I devoured this story of a small-town hockey team who have all the hopes and dreams of their community pinned to their success. It is a stunning novel that I am constantly recommending to friends, and everyone should watch it on HBO Max.

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Beartown
Fredrik Backman

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The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Heather's Pick #1: If you couldn’t already tell, I’m a bona fide TV addict. I pay for more streaming services than is healthy, and I still subscribe to the print editions of Entertainment Weekly and TV Guide for no good reason. So while the Freeform network’s adaptation of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO is still in the very early stages of development (the project was only announced in September 2019), I’m already following it closely. Details are thin on the ground at the moment, but so far we know that its producing team includes The L Word alumni Ilene Chaiken and Jennifer Beals, and that the story will unfold in parallel timelines—present day and the 1950s. The novel spins the tale of 20-something journalist Monique, who’s hired to pen the memoirs of Evelyn Hugo, a famous actress whose career stretches back to the Golden Age of Hollywood. The experience of collaborating on the book encourages them both to be a little braver and will most certainly make for memorable television.

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The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
Taylor Jenkins Reid

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The White Tiger
by Aravind Adiga

Emily’s Pick #3: Based on THE WHITE TIGER, a novel by Aravind Adiga, this story follows a poor Bangalore driver and servant who longs to rise up through India’s impenetrable caste society to become a businessman. And he’ll do whatever it takes to get there, even if it means murder. With a darkly comic narrative voice, told against the backdrop of a fast-paced environment, it’s one I can’t wait to watch materialize on the screen.

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The White Tiger
Aravind Adiga

SOON TO BE A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE

The stunning Booker Prize–winning novel from the author of Amnesty and Selection Day that critics have likened to Richard Wright’s Native Son, The White Tiger follows a darkly comic Bangalore driver through the poverty and corruption of modern India’s caste society. “This is the authentic voice of the Third World, like you've never heard it before” (John Burdett, Bangkok 8).

The white tiger of this novel is Balram Halwai, a poor Indian villager whose great ambition leads him to the zenith of Indian business culture, the world of the Bangalore entrepreneur. On the occasion of the president of China’s impending trip to Bangalore, Balram writes a letter to him describing his transformation and his experience as driver and servant to a wealthy Indian family, which he thinks exemplifies the contradictions and complications of Indian society.

Recalling The Death of Vishnu and Bangkok 8 in ambition, scope, The White Tiger is narrative genius with a mischief and personality all its own. Amoral, irreverent, deeply endearing, and utterly contemporary, this novel is an international publishing sensation—and a startling, provocative debut.

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Anatomy of a Scandal
by Sarah Vaughan

Emily's Pick #4: Big Little Lies creator David E. Kelley is behind Netflix’s upcoming six-part anthology series adapted from the gripping thriller ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL by Sarah Vaughan. As the title suggests, this book looks at the innards of a messy scandal within a wealthy British political family. When Sophie Whitehouse’s husband (who also happens to be a friend of the prime minister) reveals a horrible secret, their pasts, fears, and relationships are put on center stage in this #MeToo courtroom and domestic drama. With an added element of multiple POVs, this will be riveting to watch on the screen as the scandal reveals itself from all angles.

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Anatomy of a Scandal
Sarah Vaughan

SOON TO BE A NETFLIX SERIES

Instant International Bestseller

“A nuanced story line perfectly in tune with our #metoo times.” —People, Book of the Week

“One of the season’s most buzzed-about thrillers.” —Bookish

“A strong choice for book clubs. Former political correspondent Vaughan makes an impressive debut with this savvy, propulsive courtroom drama.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Vaughan offers gripping insight into a political scandal’s hidden machinations and the tension between justice and privilege…Absorbing, polished.” —Booklist (starred review)

“Skillfully interweaving the story of the unfolding scandal, Vaughan gradually reveals just how shockingly high the stakes are…Sinewy…engrossing, twist-filled.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Some people’s secrets are darker than others.

Sophie Whitehouse has a lovely home, two adorable children, and a handsome, successful husband. In other words, she has the “perfect” life. But everything changes the night her husband James comes home and confesses an indiscretion. Suddenly, her neat, ordered world is turned upside down. Did she ever really know the man she married?

And, as it turns out, James’s revelation is just the tip of the iceberg. He stands accused of a terrible crime. But, the truth is even more shocking than anyone ever could have thought. Is James the guilty perpetrator or an innocent victim of a toxic agenda?

In this riveting story of love, revenge, and deception, no one’s motives are pure, but some people’s secrets are much darker than others.

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MENTIONED IN:

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By Jennifer Proffitt | July 28, 2021

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By Off the Shelf Staff | July 27, 2021

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By Chris Gaudio | July 26, 2021

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By Emily Lewis | July 22, 2021

Close
Always and Forever, Lara Jean
by Jenny Han

Heather’s Pick #2: The lovingly crafted movie adaptations of Jenny Han’s To All the Boys trilogy have been beams of sunlight piercing through an otherwise dark few years. Fans of the books and newcomers alike went crazy (understandably) over witnessing Lara Jean Covey and Peter Kavinsky’s fake-dating scheme evolve into a true-blue romance in Netflix’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. A year later, we all came together again to paper the internet with hyperbolic reactions to the Peter/Lara Jean/John Ambrose love triangle in the highly anticipated sequel, To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You. Now, finally, we have the adaptation of the third and final installment, ALWAYS AND FOREVER, LARA JEAN, in which our heroine must balance her blossoming high school relationship with her college aspirations. The world may be a mess, but To All the Boys: Always and Forever will be a welcome respite

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Always and Forever, Lara Jean
Jenny Han

Lara Jean’s letter-writing days aren’t over in this follow-up to the bestselling To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You. Soon to be a major motion picture coming to Netflix in 2021—the first two movies in the series are streaming now!

Lara Jean is having the best senior year a girl could ever hope for. She is head over heels in love with her boyfriend, Peter; her dad’s finally getting remarried to their next door neighbor, Ms. Rothschild; and Margot’s coming home for the summer just in time for the wedding.

But change is looming on the horizon. And while Lara Jean is having fun and keeping busy helping plan her father’s wedding, she can’t ignore the big life decisions she has to make. Most pressingly, where she wants to go to college and what that means for her relationship with Peter. She watched her sister Margot go through these growing pains. Now Lara Jean’s the one who’ll be graduating high school and leaving for college and leaving her family—and possibly the boy she loves—behind.

When your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?

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MENTIONED IN:

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By Off the Shelf Staff | July 30, 2021

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By Rémy Ngamije | July 29, 2021

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By Jennifer Proffitt | July 28, 2021

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By Chris Gaudio | July 26, 2021

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By Emily Lewis | July 22, 2021

Close
Shadow and Bone
by Leigh Bardugo

Heather’s Pick #3: Game of Thrones wasn’t a perfect book-to-screen adaptation by any means, but I miss the epic fantasy show’s cinematic action, thrilling plot twists, and sprawling cast of morally gray characters. Other shows have attempted to fill the void it left behind, yet it’s Shadow and Bone that I believe has the best chance of doing so. Based on two separate but interrelated YA fantasy book series by Leigh Bardugo—the Shadow and Bone trilogy and the Six of Crows duology—this Netflix adaptation has “massive hit” written all over it. Our entry into Bardugo’s Grishaverse is Alina Starkov, an unexceptional soldier who learns that she’s been unconsciously suppressing her once-in-a-generation magical Grisha abilities since childhood. This discovery then leads into a bigger, wholly addictive story about a lovable band of misfits determined to take down a power-hungry tyrant, the Darkling, before he destroys their vulnerable, war-torn country. And even that is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to describing the unique appeal of these books and characters, which is why I've been rewatching Shadow and Bone ever since it premiered this April. 

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Shadow and Bone
Leigh Bardugo

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MENTIONED IN:

The 10 Most Popular Books of July

By Off the Shelf Staff | July 30, 2021

Author Picks: My 6 Favorite Opening Lines of Literature

By Rémy Ngamije | July 29, 2021

10 Mystery Novels with Indomitable Female Sleuths

By Jennifer Proffitt | July 28, 2021

Editors Recommend: 10 Sizzling Reads for the Summer

By Off the Shelf Staff | July 27, 2021

10 Crowd-Pleasing Books That Are Easy to Love

By Chris Gaudio | July 26, 2021

9 Mesmerizing Books for Fans of All the Light We Cannot See

By Emily Lewis | July 22, 2021

Close
The Underground Railroad
by Colson Whitehead

Sharon’s Pick #2: Colson Whitehead’s stunningly original work of historical fiction follows Cora, an enslaved woman on a cotton plantation in Georgia. When Caesar, a new arrival from Virginia, urges Cora to join him on the Underground Railroad, Cora seizes the opportunity and escapes with him. In order to successfully claim her freedom, Cora must navigate a non-metaphorical Underground Railroad, complete with engineers and conductors. When Barry Jenkins, director of critically acclaimed films Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk, read Colson Whitehead’s THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD, he knew he had to make it into a series. This year, Jenkins’s adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel premiered on Amazon Prime Video to critical acclaim and it’s on my must-watch list for sure!

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The Underground Railroad
Colson Whitehead

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Image credit: iStock / Tero Vesalainen

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