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Best Book to TV Adaptations of 2020

"Lovecraft Country," "Little Fires Everywhere," "The Haunting of Bly Manor," and more TV series based on books that are headed to the small screen in 2020.

Lovecraft Country

Courtney B. Vance, Jonathan Majors, Jurnee Smollett in “Lovecraft Country”

Eli Joshua Ade/HBO

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Pop culture’s love of adapting existing IP and the proliferation of streaming services means there are many, many TV shows based on books (and in some cases, book series) are in the works. In fact, dozens made it to the small screen in 2020 alone.

Long-running book-to-TV series come in all genres, from serious prestige (like the fantasy world of “Game of Thrones” or darkly prescient “The Handmaid’s Tale”) to frothy fun (Freeform’s teen mystery “Pretty Little Liars”) and everything in between (procedurals like “Bones” and “Elementary,” supernatural melodramas like “True Blood” and “The Vampire Diaries,” juicy interpersonal drama like “Big Little Lies,” time-travel romance like “Outlander”).

That’s why this list of some of the best recent book-to-tv adaptations contains shows that aired in 2020 or are scheduled to air in the coming months. That means: the second seasons of genre hits like HBO’s “His Dark Materials” and Netflix’s “The Haunting of Hill House” followup “The Haunting of Bly Manor,” delayed productions like Showtime’s “The Good Lord Bird” and HBO’s “The Undoing,” and more. Read on to find out more about the source material and where to purchase the novels.

“Lovecraft Country,” based on “Lovecraft Country” by Matt Ruff

Ruff’s novel explored the horror fiction of H.P. Lovecraft through the eyes of a young Black man contending with Jim Crow laws in the 1950s, and Misha Green’s critically acclaimed HBO adaptation stars Jonathan Majors (Atticus “Tic” Freeman) and Jurnee Smollett (Letitia “Leti” Lewis) as two friends who set out on a road trip to find Freeman’s missing father. It premiered August 16, 2020.
Buy the book on Amazon, and sign up for HBO via Amazon here.

“The Haunting of Bly Manor,” based on “The Turn of the Screw” by Henry James

The followup to Netflix horror hit “The Haunting of Hill House” features the return of the creative team and much of the cast, but a completely new narrative loosely based on James’ 1898 horror novella about a governess who becomes convinced that her two charges (and the mansion in which they live) are haunted.
Buy the book on Amazon.

“The Umbrella Academy,” based on “The Umbrella Academy” by Gerard Way

The sci-fi Netflix series is based on the comic book series of the same name by My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way. The second season, which premiered July 31, 2020, saw the supernaturally talented pseudo-siblings reteam to prevent the apocalypse (yes, again).
Buy the book on Amazon.

“His Dark Materials,” based on “The Golden Compass” and “The Subtle Knife” by Philip Pullman

Pullman’s fantasy trilogy follows a young girl (Dafne Keen) living in a magical kingdom who uncovers a conspiracy surrounding the kidnapping of her friends, and Season 2 of the HBO/BBC drama premieres in November 2020.
Buy the book series on Amazon, and sign up for HBO via Amazon here.

“The Undoing,” based on “You Should Have Known” by Jean Hanff Korelitz

David E. Kelley helms the adaptation of Hanff Korelitz’s novel about a New York City therapist whose life is upended when she discovers a secret about her husband in the weeks leading up to the publication of her book. Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant star in the miniseries, which premieres October 25, 2020 on HBO.
Buy the book on Amazon, and sign up for HBO via Amazon here.

“The Good Lord Bird,” based on “The Good Lord Bird” by James McBride

McBride’s novel won the National Book Award in 2013, and follows a fictional enslaved boy named Onion (Joshua Caleb Johnson) who teams up with abolitionist John Brown (Ethan Hawke) and eventually participates in the raid on Harpers Ferry that instigated the Civil War. Hawke is also an executive producer on the series alongside Jason Blum. It premieres October 4, 2020 on Showtime.
Buy the book on Amazon, and sign up for Showtime here.

“The Stand,” based on “The Stand” by Stephen King

The prolific novelist’s 1978 story about survivors in a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by a plague has been adapted for the small screen before in a 1994 ABC miniseries, but its first full series adaptation (starring Whoopi Goldberg, Alexander Skarsgård, James Marsden, Odessa Young, Jovan Adepo, and Amber Heard) premieres Dec. 17. on CBS All Access.
Buy the book on Amazon, and sign up for CBS All Access here.

“The Outsider,” based on “The Outsider” by Stephen King

Ben Mendelsohn plays a local detective investigating the gruesome murder of an 11-year-old boy in this King adaptation that aired on HBO in early 2020. Jason Bateman and Cynthia Erivo also star.
Buy the book on Amazon, and sign up for HBO via Amazon here.

“Defending Jacob,” based on “Defending Jacob” by William Landay

Chris Evans made his TV regular debut in the Apple TV+ series about a district attorney whose son is accused of murder. Based on Landay’s novel, the series makes a few small departures from the book, which is filled with moral quandaries for parents everywhere.
Buy the book on Amazon.

“Locke & Key,” based on “Locke & Key” by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodríguez

Hill’s comic series about a family that moves into a haunted house almost made it to TV several times before this adaptation premiered on Netflix in 2020. It was renewed for a second season a month after its premiere.
Buy the book on Amazon.

“Little Fires Everywhere,” based on “Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng

Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon starred in the eight-episode Hulu limited series based on Ng’s story about two mothers whose lives become intertwined in 1990s Suburban Ohio.
Buy the book on Amazon, and sign up for Hulu here.

“Snowpiercer,” based on “Snowpiercer” by Jaques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette

Another project that took many years to make it to the small screen, the TNT drama that premiered in May 2020 is based on the graphic novel of the same name (but also took inspiration from Bong Joon Ho’s 2014 film). When the Earth is plunged into a new Ice Age, humanity survives on an ultra high-speed train that circumnavigates the globe — but class clashes are just as deadly as the iced-over planet.
Buy the book on Amazon.

“A Discovery of Witches,” based on “A Discovery of Witches” and “Shadow of Night” by Deborah Harkness

“A Discovery of Witches,” based on Deborah Harkness’ “All Souls” trilogy, premiered in 2018 on Sky One in the U.K. and in early 2019 on AMC Networks’ streaming services Sundance Now and Shudder (it later went on to air on AMC and BBC America). Season 2, based on the second book in the series, has already completed production, and a third season based on book three, “The Book of Life,” has already been ordered. The series follows the illicit love affair between witch historian Diana Bishop (Teresa Palmer) and centuries-old vampire Matthew Clairmont (Matthew Goode), and Season 2 will see the couple travel back in time to Elizabethan London. It premieres in January 2021.
Buy the book series on Amazon, and sign up for Shudder here.

“The Flight Attendant,” based on “The Flight Attendant” by Chris Bohjalian

Kaley Cuoco stars as the titular character in this upcoming HBO Max series about a woman who wakes up on a layover hungover from the night before — and with a dead body next to her. Unable to remember what happened, she’s too scared to call the police and becomes embroiled in an international controversy when she flees home (and worries that she might be the killer). The series, which also stars Michael Huisman, Michelle Gomez, Zosia Mamet, and Rosie Perez, is set to premiere in 2020.
Buy the book on Amazon.

“Bridgerton,” based on “Bridgerton: The Duke and I” by Julia Quinn

Shonda Rhimes’ Netflix debut comes in the form of a period drama series created by Chris Van Dusen and based on Julia Quinn’s bestselling book series about the high pressure of high society Regency London. Julie Andrews plays narrator Lady Whistledown in the series, which is scheduled to debut on Netflix in 2020.
Buy the book on Amazon.

“Shadow and Bone,” based on “Shadow and Bone” by Leigh Bardugo

Leigh Bardugo’s fantasy series is headed to Netflix — and soon. The streamer hasn’t officially announced a premiere date, but the Netflix twitter did post in February when the first season of the drama wrapped filming. Eric Heisserer (“Bird Box”) is showrunner on the series, which follows orphan teenager Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li) after she discovers she can harness the power of the elements. Ben Barnes also stars.
Buy the book on Amazon.

“Dash & Lily,” based on “Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares” and “The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily” by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Set to premiere at some point in 2020, “Dash & Lily” is a holiday-themed Netflix series that draws from Cohn and Levithan’s YA novels. The series — which follows the titular New York City teens (played by Austin Abrams and Midori Francis) as they pass a notebook back and forth across the city, beginning a whirlwind holiday romance — was filmed in 2019.
Buy the books on Amazon.

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