10 books to read before they become TV adaptations

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Literary adaptations continue to dominate television, with an array of eagerly-anticipated book-inspired shows due to hit our screens in 2017 and beyond.

If you like to read the book first, here are ten to try before their appearance on the small screen.

Canadian writer Margaret Atwood. Picture: PA

Canadian writer Margaret Atwood. Picture: PA

1. Big Little Lies – by Liane Moriarty

Liane Moriarty’s bestselling novel is told through the eyes of three mothers in the tranquil seaside town of Monterey, California, where nothing is quite as it seems. Subversive and darkly comedic, Big Little Lies weaves a tale of murder and mischief as it peeks behind our idealised facade of marriage, sex, parenting and friendship. Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club) and starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Alexander Skarsgård, the seven-part series will be screened on Sky Atlantic from March.

2. SS-GB – by Len Deighton

SS-GB is an alternate history novel by Len Deighton, set mostly in London which is occupied by the Nazis after Britain lost WWII. Published in 1978, the dystopian tale shows what life would have been like if the Axis powers won the Battle of Britain, and the King has been taken prisoner and Winston Churchill assassinated. Fans of Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle will no doubt be intrigued. The TV series stars Sam Riley, Kate Bosworth, James Cosmo and Jason Flemyng, and is being shown on BBC One, Sundays at 9pm, from the end of February.

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling). Picture: PA

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling). Picture: PA

3. American Gods – by Neil Gaiman

The eagerly-awaited TV adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s unsettling epic novel American Gods hits screens this April. Directed by Bryan Fuller – who brought us Hannibal and was producer on Heroes – the Starz TV show stars Ricky Whittle (as Shadow), Ian McShane and Gillian Anderson. The book was a huge bestseller – lauded by George RR Martin as ‘original, engrossing, and endlessly inventive’ – and viewers can expect a new god especially created for the TV adaptation: Vulcan, played by Corbin Bensen.

4. The Handmaid’s Tale – by Margaret Atwood

The eagerly-awaited TV adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s unsettling epic novel American Gods hits screens this April. Directed by Bryan Fuller – who brought us Hannibal and was producer on Heroes – the Starz TV show stars Ricky Whittle (as Shadow), Ian McShane and Gillian Anderson. The book was a huge bestseller – lauded by George RR Martin as ‘original, engrossing, and endlessly inventive’ – and viewers can expect a new god especially created for the TV adaptation: Vulcan, played by Corbin Bensen. The Handmaid’s Tale – by Margaret Atwood Portraying a dystopian future, Margaret Atwood’s powerful 1985 novel is set in the Republic of Gilead, a totalitarian and theocratic state that has replaced the United States, where Handmaids are assigned to bear children for elite couples that have trouble conceiving. The hugely-anticipated 10-episode TV series stars Elisabeth Moss, Samira Wiley and Joseph Fiennes, and starts on Hulu on 26 April.

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5. The Cormoran Strike series – by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling)

Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling’s crime pseudonym)’s three Cormoran Strike novels will be televised this autumn in a major BBC One series with Rowling as executive producer. The Cuckoo’s Calling will be adapted into three hour-long episodes, with the second and third books becoming two hour-long episodes. Tom Burke, who recently starred in BBC’s epic War And Peace as Fedor Dolokhov, will play Strike – a war veteran turned private detective operating out of a tiny office in London’s Denmark Street – alongside Holliday Grainger as Robin Ellacott.

6. The Black Moon and The Four Swans – by Winston Graham

The third series of BBC’s Poldark adaptation, already filming in Cornwall, sees Aidan Turner and Eleanor Tomlinson return to our screens, and could air as soon as spring. Based on Winston Graham’s fifth and sixth Poldark novels, new characters for series three will include Josh Whitehouse as aristocrat Hugh Armitage, and Demelza’s handsome brothers Drake (Harry Richardson) and Sam (Tom York).

7. Alias Grace – by Margaret Atwood

Alias Grace is based on the true story of Grace Marks, a housemaid and Irish immigrant who was imprisoned – perhaps wrongly – for the murder of her employer Thomas Kinnear and his housekeeper Nancy Montgomery in 1843. A six-hour miniseries adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s 1998 Booker-shortlisted novel is likely to air on Netflix this year, starring Sarah Gadon, Edward Holcroft, Anna Paquin and acclaimed Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg (making one of his occasional moves in front of the camera).

8. The Miniaturist – by Jessie Burton

Set in 1686, The Miniaturist unfolds as a young bride is given a miniature replica of her own house, the contents of which seem to mirror real life. Jessie Burton’s debut novel – about appearance and truth, love and obsession, betrayal and retribution – was one of the fastest-selling debut novels in a decade and went on to win Waterstone’s Book of the Year. The book is being adapted by Fleming and Sylvia writer John Brownlow for the BBC, scheduled for the end of the year.

9. When We Rise – by Cleve Jones

When We Rise is the tender and uproarious memoir of celebrated gay rights activist Cleve Jones, chronicling real-life personal and political struggles, set-backs and triumphs. The book has been made into a six-part ABC miniseries starring Guy Pearce as Jones, written by Academy Award-winning Dustin Lance Black, with the first episode directed by Gus Van Sant. Also starring Mary-Louise Parker and Michael K Williams, and with guest star appearances from Whoopi Goldberg and David Hyde Pierce, the series is expected to air in the UK this year.

10. Sharp Objects – by Gillian Flynn

Before the runaway success of Gone Girl, bestselling American author Gillian Flynn made her debut with Sharp Objects, which tells the story of journalist Camille Preaker, who is sent back to her home town to report on the murder of two young girls. Filming starts for HBO’s adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s 2006 novel this spring, with the show – starring Amy Adams – likely to air next year.

• This article originally appeared in our sister newspaper the i