Books to watch and read

Seira Wilson on April 16, 2020

Books to watch and read

In recent weeks I've been swapping TV series recommendations with friends and colleagues, and many of them are actually based on great books.  Of course there are also excellent movies to view at home that started as books (such as Jojo Rabbit, adapted from Christine Leunens novel Caging Skies—I didn't expect to love it and absolutely did) but there's nothing like a series that you can binge-watch or spread out over a week or longer as something to look forward to each day.  Here are some of the series adapted from books that I loved or are on my watch list:

The Outsider by Stephen King

This one is pretty amazing and reminded me of watching the first season of True Detective. A spooky, supernatural detective story that even people like me—who can't handle watching horror movies—will enjoy.  A boy is murdered and the suspect is a popular English teacher and baseball coach in small town Flint City. The evidence seems irrefutable but then there's an unexplainable twist. I watched the first nine of ten episodes and held off on the last one until I'd listened to the audio of the book because I was so fascinated by the story.  Both book and series are highly recommended, the adaptation stayed very true to King's bestselling novel. Side note: bestselling author, Dennis Lehane, wrote the teleplay for a couple of the later episodes. 

The Plot Against America by Philip Roth

I loved this book when it came out back in 2004 and over a decade later it's still one I keep on my bookshelf. The Plot Against America is Philip Roth's alternate history of America in which Franklin D. Roosevelt loses the 1940 presidential election to Charles A. Lindbergh, who is quite friendly with Adolf Hitler. What follows is the rise of fascism that creeps in bit by bit. In the series adaptation we watch this frightening new political landscape unfold through the experiences of a Jewish family in Newark, New Jersey (in the book it's through the lens of a lone narrator). I'm excited to watch this newly released mini-series from HBO in no small part because it was created by David Simon and Ed Burns, co-creators of The Wire.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

One of our editors' picks for the top five books of 2017, Celeste Ng's novel is extraordinary.  The Richardsons seem like a model family, living in a sheltered, picture-perfect suburb. Then Mia and Pearl Warren enter their lives. The Richardson children are drawn to this artistic, bohemian mother-daughter pair, and soon fast friendships are made. In time, long-buried secrets that entwine the two families come to light. Ng's story of motherhood, and the false security in adhering to the status quo, is one I'll recommend for years to come.  Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington star in the Hulu mini-series adaptation, and it's next on my list on watch.

ZeroZeroZero by Roberto Saviano

ZeroZeroZero is an eye-opening work of investigative journalism that explores a power shift in the business of cocaine. From the cartels of Colombia to Mexico, to gang alliances across the globe, Saviano uses unprecedented access within law enforcement and other sources, gained from his previous work on the Italian mob, to give readers an inside look at this violent, dark economy that generates billions of dollars. "Zero zero zero" is a reference to one hundred percent pure cocaine, and the new series on Amazon Prime Video follows a shipment from Mexico to Europe, into the hands of the Italian underworld, and then across the ocean again to the U.S.  For all the Narcos fans out there—add this to your list of what to watch next.

The Stranger by Harlan Coben

I'm watching this one right now on Netflix, and it's so good! Based on Harlan Coban's thriller of the same name, The Stranger is about a mysterious woman who begins to upend lives in a close-knit suburban community by appearing at random to various people, revealing a shocking secret about someone they love, then vanishing again. The search to find this woman is driven by her first victim, a man named Adam. Each episode brings Adam closer but also throws something new into the mix.  I love the detective Johanna Griffin (played by Siobhan Finneran), who is involved in more ways than one, and I'm looking forward to episode five at the end my day today.  Season two hasn't been confirmed but I remain hopeful.

A Very English Scandal: Sex, Lies, and a Murder Plot at the Heart of the Establishment by John Preston

Based on British journalist John Preston's 2016 nonfiction book by the same name, this Amazon Prime Video series starring Hugh Grant and Ben Whishaw won a Golden Globe last year and was nominated for multiple other awards.  The series features the true story of Britain's 1979 "trial of the century" when Jeremy Thorpe, leader of the Liberal Party, was charged with plotting to kill one of his former lovers, a man named Norman Josiffe. A true story that has scandal in spades, it is well suited to be a binge-worthy series. Season one is available now and season two is set for 2021.

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