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While release schedules might be in flux, there are still hundreds of films and TV shows coming out in 2021 — and because Hollywood loves nothing more than existing (and proven) intellectual property, plenty of those projects are based on books.
If you’re one of those people who likes to read the book before you watch the movie, this list is for you — we’ve rounded up a few of the highest-profile literary adaptations hitting screens this year and included synopses, links to where you can read the books, and where you’ll be able to watch said projects when they come out. (And if you’re looking for books that should become TV shows, click here.) Now get to reading!
Book: “Cherry” by Nico Walker
Release Date: Feb. 26 in select theaters and March 12 on Apple TV+
Starring: Tom Holland, Ciara Bravo, Michael Gandolfini, Jack Reynor, Forrest Goodluck
Walker wrote his semi-autographical novel, about a veteran who struggles with PTSD and addiction and ultimately turns to robbing banks to fund his habit, while in prison for bank robbery (he has since been released after serving his sentence).
Release Date: March 5, 2021 in theaters
Starring: Tom Holland, Daisy Ridley, Mads Mikkelsen, Cynthia Erivo, Kurt Sutter, David Oyelowo, Demián Bichir, Nick Jonas.
Set in the dystopian world, Ness’ young adult novel follows protagonists, Todd Hewitt and Viola Eade, on the run from a world where their thoughts are subject to invasion. “The Knife of Never Letting Go” is the first novel in the trilogy which includes “The Ask and The Answer,” and “Monsters of Men.”
“Shadow and Bone”
Book: “Shadow and Bone” and “Six of Crows” series by Leigh Bardugo
Release Date: April 23, 2021 on Netflix
Starring: Jessie Mei Li, Ben Barnes, and many more
Not one but two series by YA author Leigh Bardugo serve as the inspiration for this sci-fi/fantasy series, which is due in the second quarter of 2021 on Netflix and stars Jessie Mei Li as a teenage orphan who discovers that she possesses a dormant power to harness the elements and potentially unite a divided country. The series comes from “Arrival” and “Bird Box” screenwriter Eric Heisserer.
Book: “Without Remorse” by Tom Clancy
Release Date: Friday, April 30 on Amazon Prime Video
Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell, Jodie Turner-Smith
CIA operative John Clark is a part of Clancy’s Jack Ryan universe, and one of the agency’s most brilliant, cold-blooded, and efficient agents. The film, an origin story for the popular character, follows Jordan as the titular character, a man who uncovers an international conspiracy while seeking retribution for the murder of his pregnant wife.
Book: “Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss & Love” by Matthew Logelin
Release Date: Friday, April 16, 2021
Starring: Kevin Hart, Alfre Woodard, Lil Rel Howery, Anthony Carrigan, DeWanda Wise
This memoir by Matthew Logelin recounts the tragic loss of his wife, Liz — his high school sweetheart — just hours after giving birth to their first child. Instead of surrendering to devastation, he vowed to forge ahead and make a life for their newborn daughter, Maddy.He recounts that journey in this book, which also chronicles his and Liz’s relationship and the community that rallied around him after her death. Hart stars in the film, which was directed by Chris Weitz.
Book: “The One Hundred and One Dalmatians” by Dodie Smith
Release Date: May 28 in theaters
Starring: Emma Stone, Emma Thompson, Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser, Emily Beecham, Mark Strong.
Smith’s 1956 novel follows the story of a pair of Dalmatians on a quest to rescue their litter of puppies from the devious Cruella deVil. The Dalmatians are owned by a couple named, Mr. and Mrs. Dearly. The novel introduces the deVil’s character as a former schoolmate of Mrs. Dearly who hatches a plan to steal the newborn pups.
Book: “The Reincarnationist Papers” by D. Eric Maikranz
Release Date: Friday, May 28, 2021
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Dylan O’Brien, Chiwitel Ejiofor
Evan Michaels possesses the complete memories of two other people who lived before him, and thinks he’s the only one with such a problem — until he meets Poppy, a woman just like him who can remember seven consecutive lives. She’s also a member of a secret society called the Cognomina, whose members possess total recall of their past lives. In order to join the group, he must pass their tests to prove he is their equal.
Book: “Dune” by Frank Herbert
Release Date: Oct. 1, 2021 in theaters and on HBO Max
Starring: Timothée Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Jason Momoa, Charlotte Rampling, Josh Brolin, Dave Bautista, Javier Bardem
Frank Herbert’s sci-fi saga has made it to the screen before, but Warner Bros. and Legendary’s big-budget, star-studded adaptation from Denis Villeneuve was slated for a Dec. 2020 release and will now hit theaters and HBO Max in late 2021. Prepare for the film by reading (or re-reading) Herbert’s 1965 novel, which George Lucas has cited as an inspiration for “Star Wars.” Five sequels — “Dune Messiah,” “Children of Dune,” “God Emperor of Dune,” “Heretics of Dune,” and “Chapterhouse: Dune” — have also been published since then. Purchase the first three in a handy combo package, or just the first solo. The official synopsis for the original novel, if you want a vague description of what you’re getting into: “’Dune’ is set far in the future, amidst a sprawling feudal intergalactic empire, where planetary fiefdoms are controlled by noble Houses that owe allegiance to the Imperial House Corrino. The novel tells the story of young Paul Atreides, heir apparent to Duke Leto Atreides and scion of House Atreides, as he and his family relocate to the planet Arrakis, the universe’s only source of the spice melange.”
Book: “French Exit” by Patrick DeWitt
Release Date: Feb. 12, 2021
Starring: Michelle Pfeiffer, Lucas Hedges
This 2018 novel from Patrick DeWitt, about a wealthy widow and her son who head to Paris from New York in the wake of scandal served as the basis for comedy of the same name that closed out the 2020 New York Film Festival. IndieWire’s David Ehrlich praised Pfeiffer’s performance in the film, which could put Pfeiffer and her on-screen son, played by Hedges, in the Oscar conversation. The Sony Pictures Classics release hits theaters in February.
“To All the Boys: Always and Forever”
Book: “Always and Forever, Lara Jean” by Jenny Han
Release Date: Feb. 12, 2021 on Netflix
Starring: Lana Condor, Noah Centineo
The third installment of Netflix’s wildly popular YA “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” trilogy hits Netflix on Feb. 12, just in time for some Valentine’s Day crushing over Internet heartthrob Noah Centineo and sweetheart Lana Condor. The book, which follows Jenny Han’s “To All the Boys” and “P.S. I Still Love You,” sees Lara Jean (Condor) headed into her senior year faced with some major life decisions as she prepares to head to college.
Book: “Firefly Lane” by Kristin Hannah
Release Date: Feb. 3, 2021 on Netflix
Starring: Katherine Heigl, Sarah Chalke
Kristin Hannah’s story of two inseparable best friends spans more than three decades and heads to the small screen in a Netflix adaptation. Their lives diverge when one achieves fame and fortune and the other a quiet life of marriage and motherhood, but when an act of betrayal tears them apart their friendship is put to the ultimate test.
Book: “The Dig” by John Preston
Release Date: Jan. 15, 2021 on Netflix
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Ralph Fiennes, Lily James, Johnny Flynn
At the dawn of WWII, “a wealthy widow (Mulligan) hires an amateur archaeologist (Fiennes) to excavate the burial mounds on her estate. When they make a historic discovery, the echoes of Britain’s past resonate in the face of its uncertain future.” The film is based on John Preston’s 2007 book, which is set during the real-life 1939 Anglo-Saxon ship burial excavation at Sutton Hoo, Suffolk, England.