Books That Need to Be Adapted on Screen
Adapting books into movies or TV shows is hard work, and not all directors can pull it off while still honoring the source material. But sometimes, you come across a story so wonderful and captivating you just have to wonder why it hasn’t made it to the silver screen yet.
From romances to thrillers, there are plenty of amazing books we have yet to see on the big screen. And if you haven’t had a chance to read these, it’s time to put them on your list before you (potentially) see some film adaptations.
“We Were Liars” — E. Lockhart
A wealthy family’s summer adventure on a private island? What could possibly go wrong? A lot. Lockhart’s book features fantastic twists that would be excellent to see on the big screen. The Goodreads description of this book says that you should definitely read it, but if anyone asks you how it ends, don’t reveal a thing.
If that’s not a clear look into just how amazing this thriller is… Trust us on this one; this would make a brilliant movie adaptation. There’s nothing better than unraveling family and friendship secrets during a sweltering summer.
“The Night Circus” — Erin Morgenstern
This mesmerizing story of a night-only circus deserves its movie moment. It’s utterly enchanting — the circus arrives without any announcements and leaves the next day. But you just won’t believe what goes on behind the scenes.
It’s about time we got a decent circus movie or even a TV show, and this could make it all happen. It’s not a romance, and it’s not a thriller either; it’s actually hard to pinpoint this book’s exact genre. But it’s perfectly balanced to make for a wonderful movie.
“One of Us Is Lying” — Karen McManus
Think about The Breakfast Club mixing with Gossip Girl, and you get “One of Us Is Lying” as a result. This is a book you can quickly devour in a single night, but you won’t be quite the same after you finish it.
The story focuses on five students in detention. There are secrets, mysteries and, of course, relatable teenage shenanigans. The main characters are well-described and likable, which is one of many reasons why this would be a perfect Netflix series. Netflix, if you’re reading this, you know what to do.
“The Throne of Glass” Series — Sarah J. Mass
An assassin book with a strong female lead? Yes, please. This could be the modern Buffy the Vampire Slayer show everyone’s been waiting on. The main character is complex and the story is completely set in a fantasy world. There’s also romance, secrets and everything else that makes for ample intrigue.
The story follows the adventures of Calaena Sardothien, an ex-prisoner-turned-assassin. It would be a captivating story, and there’s no doubt the screen version would have something in it for everyone. Besides, you can never get enough of independent main female characters, right?
“The Butterfly Garden” — Dot Hutchison
“The Butterfly Garden” is one of those books you won’t be able to put down. Set in a mysterious house with an even more mysterious garden, the story follows the life of main character Maya. Well, that’s not really her name. And the garden isn’t what you think it is.
According to IMDb, this one is in development to be turned into a movie. However, there’s no clear indication of how long it’ll take to see the final product. One thing’s certain: It’s a thriller that’ll stay with you long after you finish reading it.
“Carry On” — Rainbow Rowell
It’s about time we got more queer love stories on the big screen. And if there was a story we’d choose as the lead, it might just be this one. The book follows the life of Simon, who’s not exactly a regular person.
Now, all we’ll say is this: If you love anything related to Harry Potter, you’ll love “Carry On.” There’s something in it for every Harry Potter fan, including evil shapeshifters, wands and more magic. Sure, Harry Potter marathons are nice, but wouldn’t it be amazing to get a refreshing new story to obsess over?
“Eleanor and Park” — Rainbow Rowell
This story is set in 1986, but it’s still relevant today. It’s about young love that isn’t exactly stereotypical. Along with diversity, the story also embraces modern themes and gives some insight into troubled home lives.
Due to the theme, it would be amazing to see “Eleanor and Park” on the big screen — not only would it still be incredibly relevant, but if it’s done correctly, it would be a well-received movie. Maybe this one isn’t really geared to be a TV show, but the plot is definitely strong enough for a movie adaptation.
“The Red Queen” Series — Victoria Aveyard
Let’s be honest. We haven’t had a well-received franchise like this one since “The Hunger Games,” but if there are books that could bring that type of magic back, they’re the ones from “The Red Queen” series. The story follows Mare Barrow as she’s introduced to the royal class of the world despite having belonged to the lower class all her life.
The story focuses on loyalty and on the obstacles Mare has to tackle in order to overcome her life challenges. There are plenty of likable characters in the books, and filmmakers would have a blast filming the action scenes.
“The Secret History” — Donna Tartt
It’s all in the name, but don’t be fooled — this is one of those books that you definitely can’t judge by its cover. The story follows the educational life of an eccentric college professor and a student clique. Without giving too much away, let’s just say you won’t be the same after finishing this book.
There’s just enough dark, complex content for the book to become a perfect series. It would definitely be a niche show that’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but for those who are into detective stories, this could be a real treat.
“The Wonder” — Emma Donoghue
Emma Donoghue already has one adaptation under her belt. “Room” was fabulous, but she could also easily achieve another winner with “The Wonder.” The story focuses on a British nurse on a job to mind an 11-year-old child. The characters are mysterious and well-defined, making them captivating right off the bat.
Donoghue knows how to write best-sellers, so we have a feeling “The Wonder” will become a film sooner rather than later. Or at least we can hope; it would be a shame to miss out on this opportunity.
“Neverwhere” — Neil Gaiman
If there’s another author who knows how to write best-sellers, it’s Neil Gaiman. His storytelling is superb, which is precisely why three of his books have already become decent movies. But there’s just something about “Neverwhere” that could make it a huge success.
Not only is the book full of adventure, but it’s also set in London, which arms this potential future movie with plenty of opportunities for beautiful scenic moments. We’ll skip the spoilers for this one because it’s a book you just have to read, especially if you’re looking for stories about characters who are underprivileged.
“Brave New World” — Aldous Huxley
It’s pretty surprising that “Brave New World” hasn’t been turned into a blockbuster movie by now. Sci-fi shows and movies are extremely popular — especially now — so why not? Sure, there are already two television movies that are loosely based on this book, but a talented filmmaker could definitely do this futuristic story some justice.
There are secrets, artificial wombs and a city that’s all about being happy at whatever cost. An accurate movie adaptation of this beauty would be one of the most perfect major motion pictures.
“All the Light We Cannot See” — Anthony Doerr
Here’s a gem that focuses on several characters during the pre-WWII era. The story is set in Paris and features a variety of plot points that’ll leave you in tears. This one even got the Pulitzer Prize, so it’s about time someone picked it up — and someone did!
“All the Light We Cannot See” will indeed become a movie adapted by the one and only Netflix. Netflix Originals are often done well, and with the quality of this story, this news is incredibly exciting. You really can’t go wrong with this beautiful book.
“The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay” — Michael Chabon
Here’s another Pulitzer Prize winner. “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay” has already gotten plenty of attention regarding a big-screen adaptation, but as of yet, there’s really no news other than that it’s in development (according to IMDb).
Film rights were bought in advance, and the book became Chabon’s biggest hit. The story is pretty self-explanatory, but we’re still waiting to see it in action. Here’s to hoping we’ll eventually get the movie version of “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay” — and love it.
“An American Marriage” — Tayari Jones
This book focuses on a Black partnership and follows the story of the husband, who’s been wrongfully incarcerated. Oprah widely endorsed “An American Marriage” and added it to her book club’s reading list. The characters are wonderful, the story is relevant in modern times and there’s plenty of drama for everyone.
Although Oprah may have loved this book, Hollywood filmmakers are still hesitant to work on the project. However, this beautiful story has a lot of potential. The opportunity to highlight issues minorities often face in the U.S. shouldn’t be ignored. Let’s go, Hollywood.
“American Wife” — Curtis Sittenfeld
Although the title of this book appears to be similar to the previous one on our list, it’s entirely different. It’s loosely based on the life of the former First Lady Laura Bush while in the White House. Although it’s been a while since the book was published, the story remains relevant in present times.
Just imagine being a teacher and then ending up living in the White House. It’s quite a story, and it would definitely make a touching movie — even if the film incorporates something similar to the current state of American politics.
“The Art of Fielding” — Chad Harbach
It’s been a minute since we’ve seen a decent baseball movie, hasn’t it? “The Art of Fielding” had an interesting behind-the-scenes moment when Harbach was struck with a copyright lawsuit. But now that that’s been wrapped up, there’s a chance to turn this book into a movie.
Just imagine having a full-on, dramatic baseball story that’s not the “I Don’t Dance” scene from High School Musical 2 (sorry). This is what “The Art of Fielding” could turn into. With a bit of luck and filmmaking talent, it will.
“Bleeding Edge” — Thomas Pynchon
“Bleeding Edge” is one of those books you almost can’t imagine seeing on the big screen because it needs to be done absolutely right. There’s nothing better than a good old detective story, and this one is set in the 9/11 era. Detective technology isn’t that prominent yet, meaning there are plenty of secrets that need to be uncovered using more than just high-tech devices.
It’s a perfect chance for an aspiring filmmaker to really test their talents, and there’s no doubt that someone in Hollywood would be able to pull this off. The question is, who will it be?
“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” — Mark Haddon
Now, this is surprising. There are only a few people in this world who probably haven’t heard of this book, because it’s kind of an older one. Haddon wrote this quite some time ago, and yet, for some reason, it never made it onto the big screen. It follows the story of a teenager on the autism spectrum who wants to find out what happened to the neighbor’s dog.
The book brings out all kinds of emotions, so there’s no doubt that the movie version could, too. “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” was adapted into a play, so maybe the big-screen premiere isn’t so far away.
“Days Without End” — Sebastian Barry
This book has a most unique topic — a queer love story about American soldiers set during the Civil War. The characters are incredibly captivating, and the story instantly transports you to a painful era in U.S. history. However, there are plenty of elements in the tale that remain timeless and relevant today.
This would be an intense book to turn into a movie, but if done with the right cast and sensitivity, it would be an instant hit. If you haven’t read the book yet, make sure you have some tissues nearby.
“Death With Interruptions” — José Saramago
“Death With Interruptions” is one of those life-changing books that’s definitely a rite of passage for people who are stuck in the limbo of life. Sure, it’s more philosophy-based, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have movie potential.
There are plenty of storytelling angles of this book that would work well on the screen as the story tackles life, loss, love and everything in between. It’s the ultimate book that helps during the soul-healing process, and having a movie to back it up would only make it that much more resonant.
“The Devil in the White City” — Erik Larson
Non-fiction books often get turned into documentaries, and the novelistic “The Devil in the White City“ deserves its big-screen moment. But it’s written in a way that feels like fiction, so some dramatic onscreen treatment may be what’s best. There are serial killers involved, and that’s all we can really say about the plot of this fantastic thriller.
There are talks about movie adaptations, and the rights were purchased years ago, but as of yet nothing has come to life. It definitely won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but Leonardo DiCaprio was first reportedly lined up to play the serial killer.
“Educated” — Tara Westover
“Educated” was one of the most popular memoirs of 2018. Everyone was raving about it, and for good reason. It’s all about growing up with survivalist parents, and it’s a book that a surprising number of people found they could relate to.
Because it’s been such a huge hit, it would be a missed opportunity to not at least try turning this book into a movie. The storyline is incredibly touching. We’re thinking it’s only a matter of time before we hear the news that someone bought the filming rights.
“Eileen” — Ottessa Moshfegh
“Eileen” is an incredible book, mixing multiple genres as the story follows a prison worker from the 1960s. It’s quite a story to tackle, but it would be a touching success if Hollywood put some care and effort into this one. There’s a bit of everything for everyone, including plenty of horror.
Of course, it’s always difficult dealing with several genres at once without turning the story into a cheesy cliche horror-comedy. But it would be a complete disservice to not at least try a streaming-service special, perhaps.
“An Ember in the Ashes” Series — Sabaa Tahir
Ah, another series. It’s about time the world gets back into franchises, though. We kind of miss the “Hunger Games” days, to be completely honest. The “An Ember in the Ashes” series is a magical saga that could lend itself well to a trilogy a la The Lord of the Rings films.
There’s racial diversity, mythological stories, interesting characters and plenty of action to keep you interested in every single book — it’s everything you’d hope for from a good fantasy franchise. It’s time to call Hollywood and get someone to start thinking about the creative direction of this one.
“Fates and Furies” — Lauren Groff
The title of this book sounds familiar, right? Well, it was actually Barack Obama’s favorite book in 2015. The storyline focuses on love, Greek mythology and obsession. And considering the high-profile endorsement, not turning it into a movie would be almost a sacrilege.
Given that movies with such intense storylines really suit old-school actors, there’s a good chance the cast list could be pretty elite for this one. But the movie would have a lot to live up to after a presidential endorsement of the book. Serious directors only, please.
“The Flamethrowers” — Rachel Kushner
This is one of those stories that people rave about long after they read it. It combines art with radicalism, and it’s set in 1970 for an added dose of nostalgia. There are motorcycle races involved. That’s really all you need to understand to know why this would make a fabulous movie.
And the thing is, plans for a movie were in the works, but nothing has happened yet. In the meantime, read the book if you haven’t already. This is a story that’ll make you want to go on a thrilling motorbike ride to satisfy your need for speed — and you’ll be even more pumped to (hopefully) see it in theaters.
“The Girls” — Emma Cline
This book is based on the real-life story of the Helter Skelter case, and a film could capitalize on the public’s growing interest in cults. Cline’s ability to create interesting characters is sublime, which is another reason why this story would do so well as a movie.
After all, who wouldn’t want a movie about a girl gang? This is one of those stories that drag you in, and it doesn’t leave you feeling quite the same after you finish it. Imagine what you’d feel if you could see it all happen on the silver screen.
“The Forbidden Hearts” Trilogy — Alisha Rai
Move aside, Fifty Shades. There’s a new romance trilogy in town. After the love-hate relationship between the public and the Fifty Shades of Grey adaptations, the movie industry seemed to have taken a break from working on passionate romance novels.
But fear not, because the characters in “The Forbidden Hearts” are diverse. Plus, the books are full of complex situations and moments that’ll keep you hooked on the story until it’s over (and beyond). We’re thinking this could work well as a soap opera series.
“The Gallagher Girls” Series — Ally Carter
This story follows the main character Cammie, who’s enrolled in an all-girls spy school where the students train to become actual spies. Say no more. Spy Kids, step aside; there’s a new tale on the block.
Teenager and school angst movies always do incredibly well, especially if they come from Netflix. There’s just the right amount of action and teen romance in this one to get people hooked. And, of course, you can’t go wrong with spy gadgets.