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 coming out this month, while others are still in production and months away from release. So, mark your calendars and get ready for these new movies and TV shows coming to a screen near you. And if you haven’t read these books yet, what are you waiting for?
Emily’s Pick #1: This movie already came out on January 13, and I’m all set to watch it this weekend. With Ava DuVernay at the helm as executive producer and starring Priyanka Chopra, it’s sure to be a hit. Based on THE WHITE TIGER, a novel by Aravind Adiga, the 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.
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.
Emily’s Pick #2: 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.
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.
Heather’s Pick #1: 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’re about to be treated to 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 if the movie is even half as warm ’n ’cozy as the book that inspired it, then I know that To All the Boys: Always and Forever will be a welcome respite
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?
Heather’s Pick #2: 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 the forthcoming Shadow and Bone show 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’m impatient for the wider world to discover them through Shadow and Bone when it premieres this April.
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 I can't wait to watch it on HBO Max in 2021.
Heather's Pick #3: 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.
Image credit: iStock / Tero Vesalainen