10 Popular TV Shows You (Likely) Didn’t Know Were Based on Books

From Left to Right: Robert Taylor in “Longmire” (2012)/Photo by Ursula Coyote; Michael C. Hall in “Dexter” (2006)/Photo by SHOWTIME; Joel Kinnaman in “Altered Carbon” (2018) © Netflix; David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel in “Bones” (2005) © Fox; Jonathan Groff in “Mindhunter” Photo by Patrick Harbron/Netflix

Bringing literature of all stripes to the screen is far from a novel endeavor. While movies have typically been the common adaptation vehicle, a fair number of books have made their way to the small screen as well. The book-to-TV formula has proven to be remarkably fruitful in recent years in particular. Projects like “Game of Thrones,” “Outlander,” and “The Handmaid’s Tale” have shown just how powerful the medium of television can be – particularly the prestige format – in adapting a book. Given the sheer number of adaptations making their way to the small screen and streaming services alike, it may come as little surprise that quite a few television favorites began life on the page. Here are few of our favorites that you (likely) didn’t know were adaptations.

  •  “The Expanse”

  • The cover of the book Leviathan Wakes

    Leviathan Wakes

    Fans were understandably dismayed when this gem was unexpectedly cancelled by Syfy this year. Fortunately, Amazon stepped in for a Season 4 pickup. Fans of the series looking for more of the conspiracy-laden, sci-fi noir have James S.A. Corey’s bestselling series of novels to fall back on.

  • “Mindhunter”

  • The cover of the book Mindhunter


    This slow-burn Netflix drama is based on the memoir of John E. Douglas and his twenty-five year career in the FBI Investigative Support Unit. Douglas, a legendary criminal profiler, dove deep into the minds of some of the country’s most infamous serial killers – Ted Bundy, Charles Manson, and Ed Gein among them. If you’re a fan of the series, Mindhunter is required reading.

  •  “The 100”

  • The cover of the book The 100

    The 100

    With this post-apocalyptic thriller heading into its sixth season on the CW, there’s no better time to discover the bestselling YA series it’s based on. While the novels by Kass Morgan also obviously center on a group of 100 teenaged prisoners dispatched to uncover whether or not a nuclear-war-ravaged earth is habitable, the CW adaptation takes its fair share of liberties with the source material, making the novels an intriguing and different experience.

  • “Alias Grace”

  • The cover of the book Alias Grace

    Alias Grace

    A Novel

    With Hulu earning widespread acclaim for its adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, a Maddaddam adaptation in the works, and Netflix’s take on Alias Grace, it’s a good time to be a fan of Margaret Atwood – of course, any time is a good time to discover the brilliance of Margaret Atwood. While both “Alias Grace” and “The Handmaid’s Tale” are excellent adaptations, there’s nothing quite like the original novels.

  • “Altered Carbon”

  • The cover of the book Altered Carbon

    Altered Carbon

    “Altered Carbon” proved itself to be one of Netflix’s more fascinating and thought-provoking original series. It’s a deft and intriguing sci-fi thriller with a gritty noir vibe. That also happens to be a pretty apt description of the eponymous Richard K. Morgan novel that provides inspiration for the series.

  • “Bones”

  • The cover of the book Speaking in Bones

    Speaking in Bones

    A Novel

    For many fans, myself included, eleven seasons just wasn’t quite enough for this longtime Fox procedural. Fortunately, you can find more than enough of Temperance Brennan for any “Bones” fan in Kathy Reichs’s bestselling series of novels, including her most recent, Speaking in Bones. The world of the novels is a bit different from the series, but isn’t that part of the fun?

  •  “Longmire”

  • The cover of the book The Western Star

    The Western Star

    A Longmire Mystery

    “Longmire” proved itself to be an atmospheric and moody cult favorite for its six-season run (three on A&E and three on Netflix). While the series reached its official end with season six on Netflix, bestselling author Craig Johnson keeps churning out more volumes in the Longmire Mystery series. At fourteen novels and counting, there is more than enough of Walt Longmire to keep fans happy and reading.

  • “Fresh off the Boat”

  • The cover of the book Fresh Off the Boat

    Fresh Off the Boat

    A Memoir

    “Fresh off the Boat” has become an anchor for ABC’s comedy lineup, and with a good reason. It’s both a humorous and subversive look at growing up in a family of Taiwanese immigrants pulled between two cultures. That’s largely due to Eddie Huang’s insistence that the adaptation keep with the spirit of his memoir.

  • “Dexter”

  • The cover of the book Darkly Dreaming Dexter

    Darkly Dreaming Dexter

    While the series finale of “Dexter” proved to be a controversial one, there’s no denying that the tale of Dexter Morgan, a sociopathic serial killer with a moral code, carved out a considerable pop culture niche. Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter Series, which begins with Darkly Dreaming Dexter and serves as the basis for the TV series, features everything fans loved about Dexter Morgan and a deeper exploration of Dexter’s “Dark Passenger.”

  • “The Magicians”

  • The cover of the book The Magicians

    The Magicians

    A Novel

    “The Magicians” was picked up for a fourth season renewal at Syfy, making this an excellent time to get acquainted with the Lev Grossman series that inspired the adaptation. Grossman’s Magician’s Trilogy is a brilliantly subversive take on both the coming-of-age tale and the wizarding school trope. In fact, the entire trilogy, beginning with The Magicians, is an exercise in upending the conventions of both contemporary and classic fantasy.