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21 books to read before the TV adaptation

Wished you'd read Normal People before watching the series? Felt like you'd missed out on the hype surrounding His Dark Materials by having not read the books by Philip Pullman first?

Well fear not, because I've scanned the many TV shows coming up in the next 12 months or so, and picked out the books they're based on, so you can get ahead of the hype.

Here's a list of 21 books to read, before they make their way onto the small screen, alongside information on their upcoming adaptations...

The Amber Spyglass

Philip Pullman

Pictured: Actor, Dafne Keen in His Dark Materials

His Dark Materials, has been a huge hit for BBC One with lead screenwriter, Jack Thorne taking on the seemingly impossible task of bringing Philip Pullman's award-winning trilogy to the small screen. After two hugely successful series, His Dark Materials will return with an adaptation of the third volume, The Amber Spyglass.

The series stars Dafne Keen as orphan Lyra, who is fighting the battle over a mysterious particle called Dust. We know from the novel, that in this upcoming series, Will and Lyra, bound together by powers beyond their own worlds, have been violently separated. But they must find each other, for ahead of them lies the greatest war that has ever been. and a journey to a dark place from which no one has ever returned.

Returning to the trilogy are; Dafne Keene as Lyra, Amir Wilson as Will, Ruth Wilson as Mrs Coulter, Simone Kirby as Mary Malone, Ruta Gedmintas as Serafina Pekkala, Jade Anouka as Ruta Skadi and James McAvoy as Lord Asriel.

Of course, if you're yet to watch any of His Dark Materials, and want to read the books first, then do make sure that you start with Northern Lights, followed by The Subtle Knife and then finally, The Amber Spyglass.

His Dark Materials will air on BBC One

The Confessions of Frannie Langton

Sara Collins

Pictured: Author & Writer, Sara Collins

"I know how powerful it is to see yourself represented on-screen in fresh stories that stamp all over stale old stereotypes."

Sara Collins, Author & Writer

The Confessions of Frannie Langton, a brilliantly searing depiction of race, class, and oppression, is the bestselling debut novel from writer Sara Collins and now she's adapting it into a new four-part drama for ITV. It's a haunting tale of Frannie Langton, a woman born into a life of slavery who is fighting to tell her own story.

Set against the dazzling opulence of Georgian London, The Confessions of Frannie Langton, narrates Frannie’s journey from a Jamaican plantation to the grand Mayfair mansion of celebrated scientist George Benham and his exquisitely beautiful wife, Madame Marguerite Benham.

In a misguided and monstrous gesture Frannie is gifted to Benham by the man who owns her, John Langton, and she is employed as a maid in the household much to her chagrin. As the plot twists and turns, events take a fateful turn as the Benhams are found murdered in their beds, with Frannie lying next to Marguerite.

Frannie is accused of murder; a murder she can’t remember. Dragged away to prison, Frannie attempts to piece together the events of that night. She is deep into a laudanum addiction and unable to recall what happened. Will Frannie recall the haunting events of that night? All she knows is she loved Marguerite passionately and cannot believe she would have hurt her.

But if not Frannie, who did commit the double murder? Others have motive, but only Frannie is accused and she will hang if found guilty. What hope does she have?

The Confessions of Frannie Langton will air on ITV

Conversations with Friends

Sally Rooney

Pictured: Actors, Alison Oliver & Sasha Lane

"I feel so excited to be collaborating with four such superb actors to bring Sally’s brilliant novel to the screen."

Lenny Abrahamson, Director

Following the success of Normal People, Sally Rooney's debut novel and modern love story, Conversations with Friends is now also being adapted into a complex, coming-of-age drama for BBC Three. Written by Normal People writer Alice Birch, alongside Mark O’Halloran, Meadhbh McHugh and Susan Stanton, the 12-part series will see Normal People director Lenny Abrahamson, share directorial duties with Leanne Welham.

Conversations with Friends follows 21 year old college student Frances, played by emerging talent Alison Oliver, as she navigates a series of relationships that force her to confront her own vulnerabilities for the first time. She is observant, cerebral and sharp.

Her ex-girlfriend, now best friend, Bobbi, played by Sasha Lane, is self-assured, outspoken and compelling. Though they broke up three years ago, Frances and Bobbi are virtually inseparable and perform spoken word poetry together in Dublin.

It’s at one of their shows that they meet Melissa, an older writer, played by Jemima Kirke, who is fascinated by the pair. Bobbi and Frances start to spend time with Melissa and her husband, Nick, a handsome but reserved actor, played by Joe Alwyn.

While Melissa and Bobbi flirt with each other openly, Nick and Frances embark on an intense, secret affair that is surprising to them both. Soon the affair begins to test the bond between Frances and Bobbi, forcing Frances to reconsider her sense of self, and the friendship she holds so dear.

Conversations with Friends will air on BBC Three

The Distant Echo

Val McDermid

Pictured: Actor, Lauren Lyle

"Val is the queen of crime for good reason and I’m honoured to be bringing her creation to a TV audience, especially for ITV which has been home to some of my favourite detective shows."

Emer Kenny, Writer

New three-part ITV drama Karen Pirie, is based on Val McDermid’s first Karen Pirie novel, The Distant Echo and has been adapted by Emer Kenny. Lauren Lyle takes on the lead role of DS Karen Pirie, a young and fearless Scottish investigator, with a quick mouth and tenacious desire for the truth.

In the first episode Karen is tasked with reopening an historic murder investigation that has been the subject of a provocative true crime podcast.

When teenager Rosie Duff, played by Anna Russell-Martin, was found brutally murdered in the Scottish university town of St Andrews in 1996, suspicion fell on the three drunken students who were discovered at the scene of the crime, claiming to have found her body; Sigmund ‘Ziggy’ Malkiewicz, Tom ‘Weird’ Mackie and Alex Gilbey. But with a lack of forensic evidence, no charges were brought and the police investigation floundered.

25 years on, someone appears to be willing to risk everything to keep the secrets surrounding the case hidden. Do the three men know more than they previously revealed? How flawed was the original investigation? And can Karen uncover the truth of what happened to Rosie that fateful night?

Karen Pirie will also star the show's writer, Emer Kenny as Karen’s friend River Wilde, Chris Jenks as Jason ‘Mint’ Murray, Michael Schaeffer as Tom 'Weird' Mackie senior, Ariyon Bakare as Alex Gilbey senior, Alex Newman as Sigmund ‘Ziggy’ Malkiewicz senior and Zach Wyatt as DS Phil Parhatka.

Karen Pirie will air on ITV

Everything I Know About Love

Dolly Alderton

Pictured: Author & Writer, Dolly Alderton

"It’s a messy, boisterous, joyful, romantic comedy about two best female friends from childhood and what happens when they move in to their first London house share and the first phase of adulthood."

Dolly Alderton, Writer

Dolly Alderton is adapting her Sunday Times bestselling memoir, Everything I Know About Love, for a new BBC drama. Besties since school, Maggie and Birdy finally land in London to live it large, when the unexpected happens – dependable Birdy gets a steady boyfriend.

Described as 'a generous, funny, warm-hearted and uplifting Sex & The City for Millennials' Everything I Know About Love, covers bad dates and squalid flat-shares, heartaches and humiliations, and, most importantly, unbreakable female friendships.

Everything I Know About Love will air on the BBC

The Gallows Pole

Benjamin Myers

Pictured: Writer, Shane Meadows

"The Gallows Pole is an incredible true story, little known outside of Yorkshire, about a group of very naughty men and women who started clipping and counterfeiting coins out in the Moors, as a way to keep themselves and their community alive."

Shane Meadows, Writer

This is England writer and director Shane Meadows is bringing Benjamin Myers' novel The Gallows Pole, to the BBC in a new period drama - marking his first project for the broadcaster. It fictionalises the remarkable true story of the rise and fall of David Hartley and the Cragg Vale Coiners.

Set against the backdrop of the coming industrial revolution in 18th century Yorkshire, the compelling drama follows the enigmatic David Hartley, as he assembles a gang of weavers and land-workers to embark upon a revolutionary criminal enterprise that will capsize the economy and become the biggest fraud in British history.

The Gallows Pole will air on BBC One


Graham Norton

Pictured: Author, Graham Norton

"A beautiful piece of writing with a great story and fantastic, full bodied characters. All this with glorious West Cork as its setting proved irresistible."

Kathy Burke, Director

Upcoming ITV drama Holding, based on Graham Norton's debut novel of the same, is being adapted by Dominic Treadwell-Collins and Karen Cogan and directed by Kathy Burke. Filmed on location in Ireland, it will star Conleth Hill as local police officer, Sergeant PJ Collins with further casting yet to be announced.

When the body of long-lost local legend Tommy Burke is discovered, PJ is called to solve a serious crime for the first time in his career. PJ finally has to connect with the village he has tried hard to avoid.

A story of love, secrets and loss, Holding, is a darkly comic tale which shrewdly observes the lives of its characters, each with frailties, complexities and pasts they’d rather keep hidden. The story is a murder mystery laced with dark comedy and centred around the minutiae of rural Irish life.

Holding will air on ITV

The Holiday

T.M. Logan

Pictured: Actor, Jill Halfpenny

"Portraying Kate’s dream holiday turn into a nightmare was great fun and hopefully the fans of the book, and those who have yet to discover it, will enjoy the rollercoaster journey we take you on with this gripping thriller."

Jill Halfpenny, Actor

Based on T.M. Logan’s bestselling novel of the same name, Channel 5's new four-part drama, The Holiday, has been adapted by Michael Crompton and will star Jill Halfpenny as Kate, a woman whose dream family holiday quickly becomes a nightmare.

She discovers her husband is having an affair with one of her best friends. Her four best friends are on holiday with her, but which one is it?

As Kate closes in on the truth in the stifling Mediterranean heat, she realises too late that the stakes are far higher than she ever could have imagined. Because someone in the villa may be prepared to kill to keep their affair hidden.

The Holiday will air on Channel 5

The Ipcress File

Len Deighton

Pictured: Actor, Joe Cole in The Ipcress File

Len Deighton's first spy novel, The Ipcress File, introduced the iconic British spy Harry Palmer and is set against the backdrop of Cold War Europe. It's now being adapted by BAFTA winner John Hodge for a new six-part ITV drama with Joe Cole in the iconic lead role of Harry Palmer alongside Lucy Boynton and Tom Hollander.

It’s 1963. Cold war rages between West and East. Nuclear bombers are permanently airborne. In this highly charged atmosphere, we join Harry Palmer, a British army sergeant on the make in Berlin.

In this newly partitioned city, a sharp working-class young man with sophisticated tastes can make a lot of money. Wholesaler, retailer, fixer, smuggler, Harry’s varied interests bring him into contact with everything and everyone, until the law catches up and it all comes crashing to a halt.

Harry finds himself sentenced to eight years in a grim military jail in England, all his prospects abruptly torn away. But his impressive network and efficiency have not gone unnoticed, and a gentleman from British intelligence has a proposal. To avoid prison, Harry Palmer will become a spy. And the case on which he cuts his teeth will be The Ipcress File.

Harry’s links to the man suspected of kidnapping a missing British nuclear scientist result in him being conscripted for a dangerous undercover mission that takes him from the Beatles’ London to the Berlin Wall, from the back alleys of Beirut to the white hot sand of a Nuclear Atoll in the Pacific.

The Ipcress File will air on ITV

The Long Call

Ann Cleeves

Pictured: Actors, Pearl Mackie & Ben Aldridge in The Long Call

Adapted by Kelly Jones, from the best-selling novel of the same title from award-winning writer Ann Cleeves, is The Long Call, which follows Detective Inspector Matthew Venn, played by Ben Aldridge, who has returned to live in a small community in North Devon with his husband, Jonathan.

Brought up in the Barum Brethren before leaving to go to University, Matthew knew at 19 he couldn’t continue amongst the community and to his mother’s shock and dismay, he declared publicly he no longer believed.

Now he's back, not just to grieve for his father, but to lead a shocking murder investigation back where it all began for him and is forced to re-engage with the community he left, including the most painful and challenging of relationships, with his mother Dorothy.

After the body of a man is found on the beach close to Matthew’s home, the investigation throws a cast of doubt on the whole community. Matthew and his team have to get to the bottom of a case which bring with it old wounds and a deadly secret in order to expose the killer.

And Pearl Mackie plays DS Jen Rafferty, a tough and fiercely determined woman who has recently relocated to Devon with her two teenage kids, Ella and Ben. As a diligent worker and a single parent Jen muddles her way through domestic life whilst trying to put some distance between her own traumatic scars from her former life living in London.

The Long Call will air on ITV

The Midwich Cuckoos

John Wyndham

Pictured: Actors, Keeley Hawes & Max Beesley

Sky One's upcoming drama, The Midwich Cuckoos, is a dark, disturbing modern-day reimagining of John Wyndham’s classic science fiction novel of the same name, adapted by Emmy award-nominated writer David Farr. Midwich, a small English commuter town, is liberal and aspirational, populated by nuclear families and affluent high streets. A place where nothing much happens – and for a very good reason.

That is until the twilight hours of a summer’s day when a sleepy corner of Midwich is plunged into panic. People pass out on their feet without warning, without reason. Anyone who tries to enter meets the same fate. And nobody can understand why. When the mysterious blackout is lifted, life for those affected returns to apparent normality - except every woman of child-bearing age inside the zone has suddenly and inexplicably fallen pregnant.

As news spreads and tensions simmer, it is up to gifted psychotherapist Dr Susannah Zellaby, played by Keeley Hawes, to help support those affected through the emotional wilderness. Susannah’s own daughter, Cassie, has fallen pregnant and harbours deep concerns about who, or what, is behind this phenomenon.

Local officer DCI Paul Kirby, played by Max Beesley, is tasked with maintaining order but unbeknownst to them all, a terrifying force is building in the comfortable streets of Midwich. These children – potential parasites - flourish under the very love and care that their families give them. Who are these children? And what do they want?

The Midwich Cuckoos will also star Aisling Loftus, Ukweli Roach, Synnøve Karlsen, Lara Rossi, Lewis Reeves, Rebekah Staton and Anneika Rose.

The Midwich Cuckoos will air on Sky One

My Name is Leon

Kit de Waal

Pictured: Actors, Cole Martin & Malachi Kirby

"It’s rare, in my experience, for projects such as this to be made and even more rare to be seen, so I’m really excited and grateful to be a part of it."

Malachi Kirby, Actor

Shola Amoo’s first screenplay for television is an adaptation of Kit De Waal's lauded debut novel My Name is Leon which will star star Malachi Kirby, Monica Dolan, Olivia Williams, Christopher Eccleston, Poppy Lee Friar, Shobna Gulati and Sir Lenny Henry alongside newcomer Cole Martin, in his first ever TV role as lead, Leon.

Set against the backdrop of the race riots in the 1980s, this tender and inspiring tale balances gritty realism with charm and gentle humour, exploring the issues of identity and belonging with both urgency and wit.

It tells the uplifting and incredibly moving story of a mixed-race nine year-old Leon, and his quest to reunite his family after being taken into care and separated from his blond and blue-eyed baby brother.

Told through Leon’s eyes, we follow his journey, full of energy and hopefulness despite the hardships he encounters, and witness the touching relationship between him and his foster carer Maureen.

With his favourite action figure Sergeant Smith by his side, Leon’s adventure teaches him valuable lessons about himself, the world, love, and what family, in its various guises, really means.

My Name is Leon will air on BBC One

Nine Perfect Strangers

Liane Moriarty

Pictured: Actor, Nicole Kidman in Nine Perfect Strangers

Following the huge success of Big Little Lies, another of Liane Moriarty's novels, Nine Perfect Strangers, is being turned into an eight-part drama series, produced by same team and starring Nicole Kidman and Melissa McCarthy in their first project together.

Filmed on location in Australia, the drama is set at a boutique health-and-wellness resort that promises healing and transformation, nine stressed city dwellers try to get on a path to a better way of living.

Watching over them during this ten-day retreat is the resort’s director Masha, played by Nicole Kidman, a woman on a mission to reinvigorate their tired minds and bodies. However, these nine strangers have no idea what is about to hit them.

Nine Perfect Strangers launches Friday 20th August on Amazon Prime Video

Post Mortem

Kate London

Pictured: Actor, Gemma Whelan

New ITV drama The Tower, is based on Post Mortem, the first in Kate London’s Metropolitan series of novels and adapted by Homeland writer and executive producer Patrick Harbinson. It stars Gemma Whelan in the lead role of Detective Sergeant Sarah Collins.

In The Tower’s breath-taking opening sequence, a veteran beat cop and a teenage girl fall to their deaths from a tower block in south-east London. Left alive on the roof are a five-year-old boy and rookie police officer Lizzie Adama. Within hours, Lizzie has disappeared, and Detective Sergeant Sarah Collins is charged with leading the investigation.

She not only has to track down Lizzie before she comes to serious harm, but also to uncover the truth behind the grisly deaths. What chain of events took two police officers and two children to the roof of that tower block - why did two of them die? Why did two of them survive?

The antagonistic relationship between the experienced Sergeant Sarah Collins and the novice cop Lizzie Adama is at the heart of London’s novels and The Tower. What happened on the roof of the tower is the mystery that Sarah must uncover. When it’s finally revealed, the truth will cast its shadow over Sarah and Lizzie’s relationship and their lives.

The Tower will air on ITV

Skint Estate

Cash Carraway

Pictured: Actor, Daisy May Cooper

"The show is about a brash yet intelligent working-class single mum who not only lives in extreme inner-city poverty but a state of ridicule and humiliation as she attempts to improve her life."

Cash Carraway, Writer

Inspired by Cash Carraway's memoir, Skint Estate, Cash Carraway (currently a working title), is a wild and punky tale of being trapped below the poverty line and doing everything it takes to escape, and is being adapted by the writer herself.

It will star Daisy May Cooper as a young working class single mum living with her ten year old daughter in the brutal lonely landscape of austerity Britain.

Told with a dark lick of humour and an anarchic attitude, the drama skewers stereotypes of what it means to be working class and underlines the importance of love, dreams and friendships.

Cash Carraway (working title) will air on the BBC

Stay Close

Harlan Coben

Pictured: Actors, Cush Jumbo & James Nesbitt

"Stay Close will be a compelling twisty turny ride through the dark heart of suburban life that leaves viewers desperate for answers."

Danny Brocklehurst

Following the success of The Stranger, the next of Harlan Coben's novels to be adapted into a UK Netflix series is Stay Close, which follows three key characters whose dark secrets resurface, setting off a chain of events which threatens to destroy their lives.

In keeping with previous adaptations, Stay Close will relocate the story from the US to UK shores and will be adapted by Danny Brocklehurst.

With trademark thrills, gripping suspense, and a crime to solve, Stay Close questions how much you really know someone. Three people living comfortable lives each conceal dark secrets that even the closest to them would never suspect.

Cush Jumbo plays Megan, a working mother of three, Richard Armitage plays Ray, the once promising documentary photographer, now stuck in a dead-end job pandering to celebrity-obsessed rich kids and James Nesbit plays Broome, a detective who’s unable to let go of a missing person’s cold case. And Sarah Parish plays Lorraine, an old friend from Megan's past, delivers some shocking news which will impact on all three characters.

As the past comes back to haunt them, threatening to ruin their lives and the lives of those around them, what will be their next move?

Stay Close will air on Netflix


C. J. Skuse

Pictured: Writer, Kirstie Swain

Sky Atlantic's new dark comic drama, Sweetpea, has been adapted from the novel of the same name by C. J. Skuse by Kirstie Swain, who in 2019 brought us Channel 4's Pure.

Rhiannon is your average girl next door, living quietly with her boyfriend and little dog. By day her job as an office manager is demeaning and unsatisfying. By evening she dutifully listens to her friends’ plans for marriage and babies.

Rhiannon never complains, smiling through it all with reserves of serenity and a sparkling wit. She has become skilled at keeping it together. Being normal. But behind this mask is a ferocious power lying dormant, and a long-buried secret that Rhiannon wishes she could forget.

When a chance encounter with a stranger leads to a shocking act of violence, Rhiannon’s mask slips completely and she is forced to confront the darker side she has long kept hidden. The girl everyone overlooks might just be able to get away with murder.

Sweetpea will air on Sky Atlantic

This Is Going To Hurt

Adam Kay

Pictured: Actor, Ben Whishaw

"An honest, hilarious, heart-breaking look at the great institution and the army of unsung heroes who work there under the most stressful conditions."

Ben Whishaw, Actor

Based on his award-winning international multi-million selling memoir of the same name, Adam Kay is adapting This Is Going To Hurt for BBC One with Ben Whishaw playing the screen version of Adam.

Kay’s diaries, scribbled in secret after endless days, sleepless nights and missed weekends, tell the unvarnished truth of life as a doctor working in obstetrics and gynaecology. As he wends his way through the ranks of hospital hierarchy, we follow Adam as he clings to his personal life despite increasingly overwhelmed by stresses at work.

The 97-hour weeks, the life and death decisions, and all the while knowing the hospital parking meter is earning more than him. This Is Going To Hurt is a show about trying to be a good doctor in a system which can sometimes feel like it’s working against you.

Like the book, the series will depict life on and off the hospital ward with frank and often shocking honesty. The series rejoices in the highs, while pulling no punches in its depiction of the gut-wrenching lows, and celebrates the everyday superstars of the health service who keep our hospitals running.

This is Going to Hurt will air on BBC One


Nikki May

Pictured: Writer, Theresa Ikoko

"Think Big Little Lies meets Girlfriends meets Peckham!"

Theresa Ikoko, Writer

OK, so Nikki May's debut novel, Wahala, isn't released until 6th January 2022, but I wanted to include it anyway, as Rocks co-writer Theresa Ikoko and the BBC have already agreed to a TV adaptation.

Wahala follows three thirty-something Anglo-Nigerian female friends living in London, successfully navigating a world that mixes roast dinners with jollof rice.

Simi, Ronke and Boo have been best friends for years, sharing every aspect of their careers, family lives and relationships with one another. But when the beautiful, charismatic and super wealthy Isobel infiltrates their friendship group, mounting tensions, unravelling bonds and unearthed secrets have shocking and tragic consequences.

Wahala will air on the BBC


Zoran Drvenkar

Pictured: Author, Zoran Drvenkar

Zoran Drvenkar's international bestseller, You, is being adapted into an eight-part Sky One drama by lead writer Ben Chanan who recently brought us The Capture on BBC One. It follows Tara O’Rourke and her closest friends as they go in search of her long-lost mother after Tara kills her estranged father in a drug fuelled rage.

Along the way, the girls have to navigate depleting funds, awkward romances and an inconvenient pregnancy – but the biggest danger comes from Tara’s uncle, Reagan – because the girls made the mistake of stealing Reagan’s drug stash… and he happens to be the most feared gangster in Rotterdam.

And all the while, the spectre of a mythical serial killer known as 'The Traveller' inches ever closer...

You (working title) will air on Sky One

You Don't Know Me

Imran Mahmood

Pictured: Actors, Samuel Adewunmi & Sophie Wilde in You Don't Know Me

New BBC One drama You Don't Know Me, is based on Imran Mahmood's bestselling novel and has been adapted by Tom Edge. It stars Samuel Adewunmi as Hero, newcomer Sophie Wilde as Kyra alongside Roger Jean Nsengiyumva, Tuwaine Barrett, Yetunde Oduwole, Nicholas Khan and Bukky Bakray.

The drama centres on a young man, who, with overwhelming evidence against him, stands accused of murder. At his trial, Hero tells an extraordinary story about the woman he loves, Kyra who got into terrible trouble.

It’s about how he risked everything to save her. He swears he’s innocent. But in the end, all that matters is this: do you believe him?

You Don't Know Me will air on BBC One


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