Books

25 books you need to add to your reading list before they come to the screen

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From Queenie and The Wonder to Foe and She Said, here are the 25 books you’re going to want to read before they hit screens. 

Anyone who’s ever been nervous about seeing their favourite novel being adapted for the screen will agree that adapting books for TV and film is a contentious issue (’did they really cast that actor as your favourite character? Why did they cut the best chapter?’). But last year gave us some brilliant book-to-screen adaptations. Just look at the success of Sally Rooney’s Normal People on BBC Three, season five of Outlander on Amazon Prime Video and the modern movie retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma

Yes, books continue to provide the inspiration for so many films and series. So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at the upcoming book-to-screen adaptations that are coming this year and beyond. Oh, and make sure you add them to your reading list.

  • Foe

    Foe by Iain Reid.
    Foe by Iain Reid.

    Paul Mescal and Saoirse Ronan will star in a film adaptation of Iain Reid’s bestselling novel, Foe. The psychological thriller is set in a future where corporate power and environmental decay are ravaging the planet.

    They will play Junior and Hen, a young married couple living a solitary life on their isolated farm, until a mysterious stranger finds his way to their home and knocks on their door, bringing news that throws their lives into turmoil: Junior has been randomly selected to travel to a large, experimental space station orbiting Earth.

    Filming has yet to begin on Foe, so we’re predicting a 2022 release date at the very earliest.

    Buy Foe by Iain Wright from Bookshop.org, £13.94.

  • The Wonder

    The Wonder by Emma Donoghue.
    The Wonder by Emma Donoghue.

    Emma Donoghue is the author of Room, a best-selling 2010 book that became an Oscar-winning film starring Brie Larson. She is now bringing her 2016 novel, The Wonder, to the big screen too, with Hollywood favourite Florence Pugh playing the lead role

    Inspired by numerous European and North American cases of ‘fasting girls’ between the 16-20th centuries, The Wonder follows the story of a girl who has survived without food for months.

    Buy The Wonder by Emma Donoghue from Bookshop.org, £9.29

  • The Underground Railroad

    The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
    The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead makes for an intriguing adaptation.

    Prepare to hear Thuso Mbedu’s name everywhere from this point forwards, because we predict that after the release of Amazon Prime’s highly anticipated series, The Underground Railroad, the breakout actor will be in big demand. 

    Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Colson Whitehead and directed by Moonlight’s Barry Jenkins, The Underground Railroad chronicles Cora Randall’s (Mbedu) desperate bid for freedom from a cotton plantation in the antebellum South. She escapes in pursuit of the fabled Underground Railroad, only to discover a secret, subterranean network which picks up fugitives wherever it can.

    Throughout her journey, she must navigate the unique terrors for Black people in the pre-Civil War era, and evade capture at the hands of her bounty hunter Ridgeway (played by Joel Edgerton), who will stop at nothing to bring her back to the plantation she escaped.

    All 10 episodes of the original series landed on Amazon Prime on 14 May and are still available to watch.

    Buy The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead from Bookshop.org, £8.36

  • The Pisces

    The Pisces by Melissa Broder
    Claire Foy will star in the screen adaptation of The Pisces by Meslissa Broder.

    Claire Foy might be best known for leading roles in excellent period dramas (Wolf Hall, The Crown) but her next project is something truly different.

    Foy will take the lead role in the movie adaptation of Melissa Broder’s The Pisces. The 2018 novel tells the story of Lucy, a PhD student in her 30s who has just broken up with her boyfriend. After trying to write her thesis on Sappho for nearly a decade, Lucy feels lost and disconnected. She agrees to dog-sit for her sister in Los Angeles for a summer, where she joins a love addiction group and goes on a string of Tinder excursions. But Lucy’s outlook starts to change when she meets and falls for a merman called Theo…

    It’s a darkly funny, erotic and, at times, uncomfortable story, which takes a refreshing and sharp take on what romance, fertility, ambition, identity, pleasure, boundaries and love all mean for women today.

    Buy The Pisces by Melissa Broder from Bookshop.org, £8.36

  • Nine Perfect Strangers

    Nine Perfect Strangers
    Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty.

    Big Little Lies fans will love this future adaptation of another Liane Moriarty book: Nine Perfect Strangers.

    Set at a remote wellness resort where nine stressed-out strangers go to get on a path to a better way of living, each has their own reasons for visiting from losing weight to getting over heartbreak. Nicole Kidman and Melissa McCarthy are just two of the series’ stars.

    The limited series is set to debut on Amazon Prime Video later in 2021.

    Buy Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty from Bookshop.org, £8.99

  • She Said

    She Said by Jodi Kantor and Medan Twohey.
    She Said by Jodi Kantor and Medan Twohey.

    Carey Mulligan will star alongside Zoe Kazan in a new film based on She Said by Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor (the two New York Times journalists who broke the Harvey Weinsten scandal). Mulligan and Kazan will play the two journalists as they work to break the incredible story. 

    Filming is yet to start so you’ve got plenty of time to get through this one. 

    Buy She Said by Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor from Bookshop.org, £9.29

  • The Woman In The Window

    The Woman In The Window by A.J. Flynn.
    The Woman In The Window by A.J. Flynn.

    We were gripped and slightly creeped out after watching the tense trailer for Amy Adams’ adaptation of psychological thriller The Woman In The Window

    Adams plays Anna, an agoraphobic psychologist who only sees the world from her window and sends people away if they arrive on her doorstep. She unexpectedly befriends her neighbour from across the road, Jane, who confides in her about her “complicated” family. But then, while looking out of her window one evening, Anna appears to see Jane being brutally attacked in her home. Did Jane just imagine things? Or did she really witness a murder?

    Woman In The Window landed on Netflix on 14 May 2021 and it is still available to stream.

    Buy The Woman In The Window by A.J. Flynn from Bookshop.org, £8.36

  • Spy Princess

    Spy Princess by Shrabani Bas.
    Noor Inayat Khan's story in Spy Princess by Shrabani Basu is being adapted for the screen.

    Freida Pinto will play war hero Noor Inayat Khan in this adaptation of the war hero’s biography. 

    Noor was the first female wireless operator sent to occupied France in 1943, where she was captured by the Germans and tortured. She was kept imprisoned for 10 months, never once betraying the British, before she was taken to Dachau concentration camp, where she was shot on 13 September 1944.

    Pinto has described her as “a fierce and amazing woman, the most unlikely heroine of World War Two”.

    Filming is yet to start but it looks like another brilliant series to wait impatiently for. 

    Buy Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan by Shrabani Basu from Bookshop.org, £9.29

  • The Time Traveler's Wife

    The Time Traveler's Wife book cover
    Rose Leslie will star in HBO's production of The Time Traveler's Wife

    The 2003 novel, The Time Traveler’s Wife, is a much-loved story about a man (Henry) with a genetic disorder that allows him to time travel and his wife (Clare), an artist, who must try to cope with his absence and strange experiences. 

    There is already a film version of the novel, released in 2009 and starring Rachel McAdams, but the story is coming to the small screen this year thanks to HBO who have secured the rights to adapt the novel into a series. The TV show will feature Game of Thrones star, Rose Leslie, as Clare and Theo James as Henry. 

    It’s unclear right now when we can expect the series to hit our screens but if you haven’t already read the book, it’s definitely worth immersing yourself into this timeless and moving love story.

    Buy The Time Traveler’s Wife from Bookshop.org, £8.36

  • Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret

    re You There, God? It's Me, Margaret book
    Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume, is getting a movie adaptation starring Rachel McAdams.

    Judy Blume’s coming-of-age novel Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret was first published in 1970 and it has been both challenged and celebrated for its frankness over the years. The young-adult novel tells the story of a sixth-grader who has grown up without a religious affiliation due to her parents’ interfaith marriage. Margaret is trying to balance navigating life as a teenage girl and finding her identity. Now, it’s being developed into a TV series.

    Abby Ryder Fortson, who previously starred in the Amazon Prime series, Transparent, will play Margaret and Rachel McAdams is portraying her mother. Speaking about the casting, Blume said, “Abby is funny and tender, strong yet vulnerable. She IS Margaret. And Rachel – wow! – does it get any better? A funny, loving, sexy, real woman who is also a mom.”

    Filming is yet to start on Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret so the release date will be at least a year away. But that gives you plenty of time to re-read or catch up with this book that so many women grew up with.

    Buy Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret at Bookshop.org, £6.50

  • Lady in the Lake

    Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman
    Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman

    Natalie Portman and Lupita Nyong’o are both set to star in a limited series adaptation of Laura Lippman’s murder-mystery novel, Lady in the Lake

    Apple TV+ are setting up the show that will see Portman play a 1960s Baltimore housewife and mother who becomes an investigative journalist in light of an unsolved murder. Nyong’o will play Cleo Sherwood, a woman balancing multiple jobs and a family, who is committed to advancing Baltimore’s Black progressive agenda.

    A release date is still to be confirmed.

    Buy Lady in the Lake from Bookshop.org, £8.36

  • Writers and Lovers

    Writers and Lovers by Lily King
    Writers and Lovers by Lily King

    Lily King’s Writers and Lovers became an instant New York Times bestseller when it was released last year and it’s now being adapted for TV by Topic Studios. The novel tells the story of Casey Peabody, an aspiring writer in 1990s Boston whose world is transformed by a love affair and her mother’s sudden death.

    Toni Collette will direct the series in her directorial debut and she describes the novel as “an empowering story that speaks to me as a woman and an artist”. The cast and release date are yet to be announced but that leaves you with plenty of time to read the acclaimed novel.

    Buy Writers and Lovers from Bookshop.org, £8.36

  • The White Tiger

    The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga.
    The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga.

    Priyanka Chopra stars in the film adaptation of New York Times bestseller and 2008 Man Booker Prize-winning novel The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga.

    It tells the epic and darkly humorous tale of Balram Halwai, a rickshaw driver’s son who ascends from servant to self-made entrepreneur in modern India.

    The movie arrived on Netflix on 22 January 2021 and it still available to stream.

    Buy The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga from Bookshop.org, £8.99

  • Black Narcissus

    Black Narcissus by Rumer Godden.
    Black Narcissus by Rumer Godden.

    Gemma Arterton returned to the small screen with an intriguing three-part drama adaptation of the classic 1939 Black Narcissus by Rumer Godden.

    The story of sexual repression and forbidden love takes place in 1934 on a remote clifftop palace in the Himalayas, once known as the ‘House of Women’. 

    Black Narcissus aired on BBC One last Christmas, but you can still catch up with all three episodes on BBC iPlayer.

    Buy Black Narcissus by Rumer Godden from Bookshop.org, £9.99

  • The Dig

    The Dig by John Preston
    The Dig by John Preston is coming to Netflix in January.

    John Preston’s The Dig, which was published in 2008, is an account of the most famous archaeological dig in Britain in modern times – the discovery of the Anglo-Saxon burial ship at Sutton Hoo, known as “Britain’s Tutankhamun”.

    Set against the intense backdrop of a nation on the eve of war in 1939, the story channels class tensions, love and loss through the eyes of those affected by the dig and its treasures.

    Lily James and Carey Mulligan starred in Netflix’s movie adaptation, which landed on the streaming platform on 29 January.

    Buy The Dig by John Preston from Bookshop.org, £8.36

Remember to check online independent booksellers and Black-owned bookstores to stock up your reading pile with. Happy reading!

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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…