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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!
“Dune” by Frank Herbert
Release Date: Oct. 1, 2021 in theaters and on HBO Max
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 (with Timothée Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Jason Momoa, Charlotte Rampling, Josh Brolin, Dave Bautista, and Javier Bardem — among others) was slated for a Dec. 2020 release, but 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.”
“French Exit” by Patrick DeWitt
Release Date: Feb. 12, 2021
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, starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Lucas Hedges, 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.
“Always and Forever, Lara Jean” by Jenny Han
Release Date: Feb. 12, 2021 on Netflix
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.
“Firefly Lane” by Kristin Hannah
Release Date: Feb. 3, 2021 on Netflix
Kristin Hannah’s story of two inseparable best friends spans more than three decades and heads to the small screen in a Netflix adaptation starring Katherine Heigl and Sarah Chalke. 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.
“The Dig” by John Preston
Release Date: Jan. 15, 2021 on Netflix
Carey Mulligan and Ralph Fiennes star in this film, one of Netflix’s weekly releases in 2021 — the company has vowed to release at least one film a week throughout the year. The film, per its official synopsis, is set at the dawn of WWII when “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.
“Shadow and Bone” and “Six of Crows” by Leigh Bardugo
Release Date: Q2 2021 on Netflix
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. Ben Barnes also stars in the series, which comes from “Arrival” and “Bird Box” screenwriter Eric Heisserer.