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

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From Queenie and Daisy Jones & The Six to The Underground Railroad, here are the 22 books you’re going to want to read before they hit screens over the next year.

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. 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 and the modern movie retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma

Yes, books continue to provide 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.

  • The Underground Railroad

    The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
    The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead is coming to Amazon Prime in May.

    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 ten episodes of the original series land on Amazon Prime on 14 May.

    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

  • Daisy Jones & The Six

    Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid.
    Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid.

    Back in 2019, Reese Witherspoon announced she is adapting the best-selling book, Daisy Jones & The Six

    The book follows the story of lead singer Daisy Jones, who is born into privilege but ignored by her selfish parents. She is a spirited and enigmatic singer/songwriter who comes of age and rises to rock superstardom against the backdrop of the LA music scene in the 1970s.

    Riley Keough will play Jones in the Amazon Prime Video limited musical series. Although there isn’t a release date yet, it’s likely to be released in 2021.

    Buy Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid at Bookshop.org, £8.99

  • Americanah

    Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

    Americanah, the award-winning book by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, is being turned into a mini-series by Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira

    It of course follows the love story between Ifemelu, a bright, young Nigerian woman who shows great academic promise, and an ambitious boy in her class called Obinze. The pair discuss their dreams for the future, and with Nigeria being under military rule, find themselves believing that western cultures may have more to offer.

    Sadly, this production is on pause due to coronavirus, and we’re unsure when it will resume. But we know it will be worth the wait when it hits our screens.

    Buy Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie from Afrori Books, £8.90

  • 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

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

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Images: various publishers

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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…