22 great books to read before Hollywood turns them into TV shows and movies
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Books are the fuel that make the Hollywood engine run. According to one estimate, 20% of the top 1,000 films in the past decade were based on novels, and countless more movies and TV shows are derived from short stories, nonfiction books, graphic novels, and other texts. Without books, we’d have nothing to put on our screens.
To that end, we’ve identified just a fraction of the major upcoming movies and TV shows based on books. The debate over whether to read a series or film’s source material before or after it’s released may continue forever, but we’ve tried to pick out a solid few that are definitely worth your time.
(If it’s available, we’ve provided the date that the film or TV series will hit, otherwise assume that all projects are in development and will hopefully come out in the next few years.)
Epic sci-fi and fantasy
Y: The Last Man
- Plot: A beloved comic series (also available as a graphic novel) by Brian K. Vaughan about the all-woman global society that’s created when every male creature on Earth (except one) is wiped out by a plague.
- Adaptation: Blade Runner 2049 and American Gods writer Michael Green is developing a TV series based on the comics for FX; Vaughn recently told the Hollywood Reporter that it will explore toxic masculinity.
- Plot: A deconstructionist satire on the myth of the superhero, Alan Moore’s Watchmen (another graphic novel) imagines an alternate history of the United States in which superheroes are very real and involved in world affairs.
- Adaptation: Lost and The Leftovers co-creator Damon Lindelof is developing a TV series for HBO.
- Plot: The sweeping, futuristic tale by Frank Herbert of noble houses clashing over control of a faraway desert planet, Dune is said to be one of the inspirations for Star Wars.
- Adaptation: Arrival director Denis Villeneuve is working on a film adaptation as his next project following Blade Runner 2049.
Annihilation (Feb. 23, 2018)
- Plot: Four woman scientists trek into a bizarre, uninhabited area in the coastal United States that’s been reclaimed by nature. (The book by Jeff VanderMeer is seriously amazing.)
- Adaptation: Natalie Portman is starring in a film adaptation by Ex Machina director Alex Garland.
A Wrinkle in Time (March 9, 2018)
- Plot: A young girl adventures through time and space to find her missing father in this famed sci-fi story by Madeleine L’Engle.
- Adaptation: Selma director Ava DuVernay is helming a Disney movie adaptation.
Ready Player One (March 30, 2018)
- Plot: In the near future, people escape their harsh economic reality to turn to a virtual one—the “OASIS,” a digital simulation of reality with its own quests and currency.
- Adaptation: The great Steven Spielberg is making a movie based on the novel by Ernest Cline.
Mortal Engines (Dec. 14, 2018)
- Plot: A post-apocalyptic world in which cities are literally outfitted with massive wheels and engines and can roam the Earth, battling other cities over resources and technology.
- Adaptation: Christian Rivers, a storyboard artist who’s worked with Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson for decades, will adapt Philip Reeve’s novel as his first feature film.
Crazy true stories
The Irishman (2019)
- Plot: Based on the book I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt, it depicts the life of Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, a mafia hitman who allegedly murdered American labor union leader Jimmy Hoffa.
- Adaptation: Mob-movie legend Martin Scorsese is adapting the book into a film for Netflix, starring the trifecta of Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Al Pacino.
- Plot: The harrowing chronicle of cult leader Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple, written by journalist Tim Reiterman.
- Adaptation: Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan is adapting the book into a limited series for HBO.
Molly’s Game (Dec. 25, 2018)
- Plot: A memoir by Molly Bloom, who ran a high-stakes underground poker ring that attracted a very famous and powerful clientele.
- Adaptation: The West Wing and The Social Network scribe Aaron Sorkin is making his directorial debut.
The Terror (2018)
- Plot: A fictionalized account of the very non-fictional Franklin’s exhibition, which disappeared in the Northwest Passage in 1845.
- Adaptation: AMC is turning Dan Simmons’ book into a TV series starring Mad Men and The Crown alum Jared Harris.
First Man (Oct. 12, 2018)
- Plot: A biography of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon.
- Adaptation: La La Land director Damien Chazelle and actor Ryan Gosling will team up again to take us into space.
The Disaster Artist (Dec. 1, 2018)
- Plot: A re-telling of the making of the worst film ever made, The Room, by Greg Sestero, one of the actors who starred in it.
- Adaptation: James Franco will direct the film adaptation as well as star as The Room director Tommy Wiseau, a mysterious figure who self-financed the infamous 2003 cult classic.
The Devil in the White City
- Plot: The horrifying true story of H.H. Holmes, a serial killer who trapped his victims in a “Murder Castle” at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago.
- Adaptation: Martin Scorsese and actor Leonardo DiCaprio are said to be working on a film adaptation of Erik Larson’s book.
Thrillers and espionage
20th Century Fox
The Little Drummer Girl
- Plot: A thriller by spy master John Le Carré, the book follows an Israeli spy and an English actress working as a double agent for the Israelis in their pursuit of a terrorist.
- Adaptation: The team behind AMC’s The Night Manager is adapting the book into another series for AMC, starring Big Little Lies actor Alexander Skarsgard.
Sharp Objects (2018)
- Plot: Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn’s first novel, Sharp Objects follows a journalist who returns to her hometown to report on a series of murders.
- Adaptation: Speaking of Big Little Lies, the HBO series’ director, Jean-Marc Vallée, will helm this adaptation of Flynn’s novel (also on HBO) which stars actress Amy Adams.
The Alienist (Jan. 22, 2018)
- Plot: A criminal psychologist tries to catch a serial killer in New York City at the turn of the 20th century using early forensic investigation methods and profiling techniques.
- Adaptation: Daniel Brühl will star in a TV series on TNT based on Caleb Carr’s novel.
Red Sparrow (March 2, 2018)
- Plot: A Russian spy falls for an American CIA agent in this popular thriller by Jason Matthews.
- Adaptation: Jennifer Lawrence (Russian spy) and Joel Edgerton (CIA operative) will star in a movie directed by The Hunger Games director Francis Lawrence.
More good stuff
Boy Erased (Sept. 28, 2018)
- Plot: Garrard Conley, the son of a Baptist preacher, describes his experience as a young man outed as gay to his parents and forced to undergo conversion therapy.
- Adaptation: Joel Edgerton is directing a film based on Conley’s memoir, starring Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, and Russell Crowe.
- Plot: A struggling college professor seizes the chance to write a profile of his estranged hippie mother in this blistering generational mother-son saga by Nathan Hill.
- Adaptation: All you need to know is: Meryl Streep is coming back to television.
- Plot: The classic dystopian novel by Ray Bradbury that imagines an American society that has completely banned books.
- Adaptation: An HBO movie starring Friday Night Lights and Creed actor Michael B. Jordan is in the works.
Call Me By Your Name (Nov. 24, 2017)
- Plot: The story of a romantic relationship between the teenaged son of an archaeology professor and the father’s student who’s staying with the family for a summer in their Italian countryside estate.
- Adaptation: Luca Guadagnino’s adaptation of André Aciman’s 2007 novel is one of the best films of the year. (See it this weekend!)