12 Books You Should’ve Read (But Thankfully There's a TV Version!)

Posted by Hayley on April 3, 2015

Everyone’s read it, or at least everyone says they've read it. You have every intention of reading it, too, but somehow Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall hasn’t moved off your to-read shelf. But have no fear; the BBC is here! This Sunday, the six-part series following Thomas Cromwell’s rise to power in Henry VIII’s court premieres on PBS.

So, to read or to watch? It’s certainly not a new dilemma, especially in the word of British TV adaptations. We’re equally in love with the book and the television version of The Forsyte Saga, and reading P.G. Wodehouse isn’t complete without watching Stephen Fry’s Jeeves and Hugh Laurie’s Wooster.

These, of course, are just the tip of the British drama iceberg. Check out some more should-read books that we're glad were adapted for the small screen.

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Discover more to watch and read with these book-to-screen Listopias: Popular Books Made into TV Shows and Books That Are Becoming TV Shows and Movies. What television adaptation is your favorite?

Comments Showing 1-50 of 54 (54 new)


message 1: by Dickson (new)

Dickson Buffalo Let the world be.


message 2: by D.G. (new)

D.G. My husband and I were just having this conversation last week!

I've had Wolf Hall (Thomas Cromwell, #1) by Hilary Mantel on my TBR since it was published but I think I'll be watching the mini-series first. Damian Lewis is Henry VIII!!


message 3: by Jo (new)

Jo Cavins I'm looking forward to the PBS version, but I've read Mantell's books and I don't think anything will do them full justice. Read the books.

On the other hand, Dickens is always better as film.


message 4: by Gerd (last edited Apr 03, 2015 11:42AM) (new)

Gerd You really need to add Mann's "Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family" (the TV adaptation is actually quite good, btw., made me almost want to read the book as well).

Loved the BBC version of Pullman's "The Ruby" (but didn't read the books either), I'm only somewhat miffed that we never learn what did happen to one of the characters (but maybe we don't do in the books either).


message 5: by Larissa (new)

Larissa there's a BBC version of PG Wodehouse with Stephen Fry and Laurie on it!? Where is it? Where can I watch it?


message 6: by Anita (new)

Anita Lcvanti wrote: "there's a BBC version of PG Wodehouse with Stephen Fry and Laurie on it!? Where is it? Where can I watch it?"

Buy the DVDs on Amazon, because the BBC series is long past over.


message 7: by Chaya (new)

Chaya That cover for Wolf Hall really bothers me. Hilary Mantel is described as the author of the SEQUEL to Wolf Hall?? That's like a cover for Min kamp 1 saying it's from "the author of Min kamp 2".


message 8: by Kirk (new)

Kirk I've reread the Forsyte Saga novels several times, and the Claudius novels multiple times as well. Excellent depictions of their times.


message 9: by Bekah (new)

Bekah And all of these great books and their adaptations are the reason I donate to my local PBS station. Quality!


message 10: by Diane (last edited Apr 03, 2015 03:30PM) (new)

Diane I usually would rather read the book, but PBS is outstanding with their adaptations. PBS and Masterpiece Theater are the best!


message 11: by Heather (new)

Heather Glad to see Wolf Hall getting love. I saw the miniseries and it was excellent!


message 12: by Heather (new)

Heather Chaya wrote: "That cover for Wolf Hall really bothers me. Hilary Mantel is described as the author of the SEQUEL to Wolf Hall?? That's like a cover for Min kamp 1 saying it's from ..."

Movie/TV book covers are the worst. >_< The old, original cover is better.


message 13: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Oakes Read the books first!


message 14: by Melissa (last edited Apr 03, 2015 08:46PM) (new)

Melissa I I went to the list and voted for one, but wasn't sure if I was permitted to add any so I'll just post two that I know of and one hopeful here. Unsure of release dates.

The Damned by Andrew Pyper by Andrew Pyper picked up by Universal Studios and Legendary Entertainment.

The Intern's Handbook (John Lago Thriller) by Shane Kuhn and Hostile Takeover A John Lago Thriller by Shane Kuhn both by Shane Kuhn

All three in the works for movies and also all three are Simon & Schuster books so there may be more info on their sites. The only thing I do know other than that is that I'm dying for them all to be made!!!!!! All these books are unforgettable & incredible books that I was ecstatic to get my hands on to read! One happy reader :) Must reads! :)

Another that I have zero knowledge about a movie or not is Eight Hundred Grapes A Novel by Laura Dave by Laura Dave also a Simon and Schuster, so make that four, book which is also in my top five all time faves! Need a print copy of that desperately and would LOVE to see a movie or maybe a tv show/mini series made. This book is like home.......a work of art like a painting, only with words and paper.

P.S. no I don't work for Simon and Schuster, lol. They just happen to have extraordinary books and have brought new authors into my reading world. Awesome authors......true artists at their craft.

Thank you for yet another fantastic blog post!! :)


message 15: by rachtotheizzo (new)

rachtotheizzo Two favorites that I foist onto everyone:

(1) North and South, by Elizabeth Gaskell. The BBC miniseries is one of my favorite things ever, and it as well as the novel are to me what Pride & Prejudice is to most of my friends.

(2) The Hornblower Saga, by C.S. Forester. I didn't read all of them in the height of my HH frenzy, and some were drier than others, but I think the A&E miniseries did a pretty good job condensing the series! Plus, after reading the books, casting really struck gold with Ioan Gruffudd -- he IS Horatio Hornblower.


North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell + a GR link to the 11 Hornblower books in chronological order: https://www.goodreads.com/series/49812.


The library holds queue for Wolf Hall has been crazy, but I'm moving up on the waiting line. If the pace holds, I should be able to start it by the end of April. :)


message 16: by Verity (new)

Verity rachtotheizzo wrote: "Two favorites that I foist onto everyone:

(1) North and South, by Elizabeth Gaskell. The BBC miniseries is one of my favorite things ever, and it as well as the novel are to me what Pride & Prejud..."


I can't even begin to tell you how much I agree with (and understand) your adoration of North and South! When the series aired, with very little publicity beforehand, fans rushing to discuss it crashed the BBC forum site ;) It's one of my favorite re-watches and I think Richard Armitage's Thornton actually bests the book one.


message 17: by Rachel (new)

Rachel Can't wait for the mini series of Atwood's Madaddam!


message 18: by Melissa (new)

Melissa The White Queen series gives you three books in one. It's fairly close to the novels themselves, but you should absolutely read them first. Great miniseries though.
Any time a book is made into a film, I prefer miniseries. You really do need 6-10 hours to fully tell a story like these :)


message 19: by Tea (new)

Tea Jovanović Great selection! :) I've read these books (most of them) and I have bought these DVD's... My favourite is, of course, PG Wodehouse! :) The second place goes to The Jewel of the Crown... :) Third is shared between Wolf Hall and The Forsyth Saga... :)


message 20: by Anissa (new)

Anissa I've read all but four of these & enjoyed the adaptations of each one I've seen so far. I'm looking forward to Wolf Hall & probably will add that to my list of Liked adaptations. I've recently seen The Jewel in the Crown adaptation & am currently watching the 70s Poldark adaptation (I'd never heard of Poldark before last year & am looking forward to the new adaptation) so those are the two I need to read soon. I've bought the Jewel in the Crown and a couple of the Poldarks already.

Of all I, Claudius & Persuasion are my top "Loved the Books & the Adaptation in a Fangirl Way".


message 21: by Alexandra (new)

Alexandra Why is a site for reading for readers and authors promoting we NOT read?

GR - this is absolutely nuts.


message 22: by Dee (new)

Dee i dont think they are saying that - but YMMV - she prefaced it with books that may have been on your TBR since they were released (which for some is a long time)


message 23: by Richa (last edited May 06, 2015 09:00AM) (new)

Richa Chaya wrote: "That cover for Wolf Hall really bothers me. Hilary Mantel is described as the author of the SEQUEL to Wolf Hall?? That's like a cover for Min kamp 1 saying it's from ..."

Yeah! Like on A Game of Thrones
by George R.R. Martin, it is written "FROM THE AUTHOR OF THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER THE CLASH OF KINGS". A Clash of Kings being the second book in the series!


message 24: by Saurabh (new)

Saurabh "12 Books You Should’ve Read (But Unfortunately There's a TV Version which Screwed up the Book!)"


message 25: by Ann (new)

Ann Moeller Interview with Hilary Mantel on NPR provided insight about the "Cromwell" books.


message 26: by Kristi (new)

Kristi Richardson My favorite adaptation is Centennial by James Michener with Roots by Alex Haley. Looking forward to Wolf Hall as I have read the book.


message 27: by Polly (new)

Polly Krize Jo wrote: "I'm looking forward to the PBS version, but I've read Mantell's books and I don't think anything will do them full justice. Read the books.

On the other hand, Dickens is always better as film."

Hi Jo, Saw your comment on Mantell and I agree that the PBS version will probably be good, but won't be able to touch the books! ALWAYS read the books first!


message 28: by Polly (new)

Polly Krize Just wanted to comment on the Poldark books too --- the BBC series was very well-done with excellent casting, but again couldn't touch the books!


message 29: by Jean (new)

Jean You should also include Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of DeathExcellent show, which lead me to the books, which are really a treat. Also you might want include The Buccaneerswhich is being re-runned on WETA (PBS in the DC area)a very well done series, Im looking forward to the book which is on my to read list.


message 30: by Anissa (new)

Anissa Polly wrote: "...ALWAYS read the books first."

You know, I've always said this & felt that way until today when I brought up this topic to my mother who said to me "You were exposed to the adaptations before you were old enough to read the books so would you rather your father & I hadn't allowed that to begin with? Do you think your childhood & teen years would have been better for it? Your reading life left untainted?" I admitted this was a fair point as I have very fond memories of I,Claudius, The Forsythe Saga & House of Cards viewing with my parents (they didn't allow me to watch The Jewel in the Crown when they did). And I can say that I was eager to read the books when I was old enough to devour tomes and series. :)

I'm now of the "ALWAYS read the book irrespective of adaptation viewing". :)


message 31: by CandyBeans (new)

CandyBeans D.G. wrote: "My husband and I were just having this conversation last week!

I've had Wolf Hall (Thomas Cromwell, #1) by Hilary Mantel on my TBR since it was published but I think I'll be watching the mini-series first. Damian L..."


I loved reading this book and I had no idea Damien Lewis was in the screen version. I couldn't help but let out a squeal when I saw your post!


message 32: by Jean (last edited Apr 04, 2015 04:28PM) (new)

Jean (they didn't allow me to watch The Jewel in the Crown when they did).

I forgot to mention "Jewel In the Crown", I have the "Raj quartet" on my to read list. If your in the DC PBS area they are showing it now.


message 33: by Marie (new)

Marie Williams I absolutely agree with North and South, so underrated. I'm not an Austen fan, but Thornton is my Darcy. I put off watching it for years thinking they would have destroyed it, but it is really wonderful.

Wolf Hall starts tomorrow night. I'm also looking forward to Poldark, though somehow the books have escaped me over the years, so it will have to be the series first for that one.


message 34: by Blue (last edited Apr 04, 2015 05:47PM) (new)

Blue No, I prefer reading.


message 35: by Erin (new)

Erin Lcvanti wrote: "there's a BBC version of PG Wodehouse with Stephen Fry and Laurie on it!? Where is it? Where can I watch it?"

You may be able to find it on Netflix, but it is also available to stream on Acorn channel, if you use Roku.


message 36: by Nikki (new)

Nikki Hornblower was fantastic, I wish they had filmed more of the books with Ioan Gruffudd.

Wouldn't have minded more adaptations of the Aubrey/Maturin series either beyond Master & Commander.


message 37: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer D.G. wrote: "My husband and I were just having this conversation last week!

I've had Wolf Hall (Thomas Cromwell, #1) by Hilary Mantel on my TBR since it was published but I think I'll be watching the mini-series first. Damian L..."

Like you, I have had this on my (physical) TBR shelf for years! I caught the trailer for the mini series at the beginning of the year, and scrambled to knock this out. Finished up just a few days ago, and the PBS series begins tonight!
If I hadn't actually owned the book already, I probably would've been just great watching the series. PBS does such an amazing job, I've never felt cheated (or that I was cheating!) by watching any of their adaptations.


message 38: by Jane from B.C. (new)

Jane from B.C. So excited about "Wolf Hall" debuting tonight in North America. Be aware that it is not only Wolf Hall but ALSO Bring Up the Bodies that are being dramatized in the 6-part BBC/PBS series.


message 39: by Micebyliz (new)

Micebyliz Whatever you do, do not watch the new version of the Forsytes. It was awful awful awful. Please please get the old 1967 version which is THE CLASSIC and enjoy the real story. Don't mind the cardboard sets :) the acting will carry you away. You can't imagine how heartbroken we were over the new one. There is just no comparison.


message 40: by Susan (new)

Susan Glad Wolf Hall is coming on Masterpiece Theater because I couldn't make it through the book.


message 41: by Micebyliz (new)

Micebyliz Oh oh. So you're saying i shouldn't add this to my list? :)


message 42: by Antonia (new)

Antonia Jo wrote: "I'm looking forward to the PBS version, but I've read Mantell's books and I don't think anything will do them full justice. Read the books.

On the other hand, Dickens is always better as film."


Loved Mantel's writing style...pretty sparse, quirky and puts you right there in Cromwell's head. I agree; read the books. But I am looking forward to the mini-series. Also to the 3d book!!


message 43: by Antonia (new)

Antonia Jane from B.C. wrote: "So excited about "Wolf Hall" debuting tonight in North America. Be aware that it is not only Wolf Hall but ALSO Bring Up the Bodies that are being dramatized in the 6..."

Oh, I am so looking forward after reading the books! Also, when is book #3 coming out? That will be a revelation to get into Master Cromwell's head after his disastrous matchmaking of Anne of Cleves to Henry.


message 44: by Micebyliz (new)

Micebyliz She was interviewed on PBS yesterday. An interesting person.


message 45: by Antonia (new)

Antonia Micebyliz wrote: "She was interviewed on PBS yesterday. An interesting person."

Yes, I heard that interview...very interesting on the details of how people were put to death and the humanity in Henry's choice of the sharp French sword to behead Anne. I am looking forward to Book 3.


message 46: by Antonia (new)

Antonia CandyBeans wrote: "D.G. wrote: "My husband and I were just having this conversation last week!

I've had Wolf Hall (Thomas Cromwell, #1) by Hilary Mantel on my TBR since it was published but I think I'll be watching the mini-series fi..."


I love Damien Lewis, especially his portrayal of Soames in the Forsyte Saga. He was perfect.


message 47: by Micebyliz (new)

Micebyliz He's no Eric Porter. Omg


message 48: by Sandi (new)

Sandi Gerd wrote: "we never learn what did happen to one of the characters (but maybe we don't do in the books either).
"


You find out in book 4 of the series ;)


message 49: by Kate-Lynn (new)

Kate-Lynn Ha I just finished reading Bleak House after starting and stopping for over a year. I even thought to myself it would probably be easier to just watch the mini series.


message 50: by Andrea (new)

Andrea Stoeckel Most of these books should never...ever have been filmed. And, IMHO, IF you must watch Forsythe Saga....watch the original....please


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