Must-See Book-to-TV Adaptations in 2020

The Plot Against America
The Plot Against America
The Plot Against America. Credit: Courtesy of Home Box Office (HBO)
Grab a snack and tune in! Some of our favorite bestsellers are being adapted for television.By Jessica Dukes

So many wonderful books made their way to the small screen in 2019, and now we’re officially excited about 2020. Watch as psychological thrillers, family dramas, and new twists on classics are brought to life, all from the comfort of your couch.

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Normal People
Starring: Daisy Edgar-Jones, Paul Mescal, Eliot Salt
Where: Hulu / BBC Three

Sally Rooney’s Normal People is a portrait of how friendships ebb and flow. Connell (Mescal) and Marianne (Edgar-Jones) have different interests and personalities. The time they spend together is often awkward, but at the same time they have an undeniable bond that forces them to return to each other’s company over the years. The real question is, can a loose but meaningful friendship survive a real crisis?

The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion

The Last Thing He Wanted
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Ben Affleck, Willem Dafoe
Where: Netflix

Joan Didion’s The Last Thing He Wanted is such a timeless tale of political maneuvering, it’s a wonder it hasn’t been made into a movie until now. Elena McMahon (Hathaway) leaves her husband to become a journalist. Instead, she finds herself trapped in a bureaucratic nightmare, involving arms deals and nation building in the Caribbean.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Little Fires Everywhere
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Kerry Washington, Lu Huang, Lexi Underwood
Where: Hulu

Reese Witherspoon tapped Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng for her Hello Sunshine book club pick, and now Witherspoon’s production company is bringing the saga to television. Elena Richardson’s (Witherspoon) perfect suburbs are scandalized when a neighbor adopts a Chinese-American baby under suspicious circumstances. Newcomer Mia Warren (Washington), a single mom, and her daughter, Pearl (Underwood), cause trouble when they try to expose the questionable adoption. In an explosive ending, Mia and Pearl draw unwanted attention to themselves, sparking multiple surprising battles for this once picture-perfect community.

The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock

The Devil All the Time
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Bill Skarsgård, Tom Holland
Where: Netflix

In Donald Ray Pollack’s The Devil All the Time, WWII has left psychological scars on the citizens of rural Ohio and West Virginia. Willard Russell (Skarsgård) is losing control as his wife dies of cancer. A preacher and a musician are running from the police. A team of serial killers are on the hunt. Willard’s troubled adult son, Arvin (Holland), is trying to survive them all. It’s a can’t-look-away psychological thriller.

Hillbilly Elegy a memoir of a family and culture in crisis by J D Vance

Hillbilly Elegy
Starring: Amy Adams, Glenn Close, Gabriel Basso
Where: Netflix

Ron Howard directs the dramatization of J. D. Vance’s (Basso) Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. Although his family was able to capture their small part of the American dream by moving from rural Appalachia to the Midwestern suburbs, the legacy of the region’s poverty still held them back. Race, class, and education are the issues that swirl through one families struggle to consider themselves successful in a rapidly changing country.

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

The Luminaries
Starring: Eva Green, Himesh Patel, Byron Coll
Where: BBC Two

Eleanor Catton’s Man-Booker Prize winning The Luminaries follows the incredible story of Walter Moody, who arrives in New Zealand with wild dreams of striking gold. There, he meets a cast of characters driven by their own gilded fantasies – some that become real, and some that end in despair.

The Plot Against America by Philip Roth

The Plot Against America
Starring: John Turturro, Winona Ryder, Ben Cole
Where: HBO

Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America is made for television drama. In an alternative reality, celebrity pilot Charles Lindbergh (Cole), who is known for his anti-Semitic beliefs, defeats Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1940 presidential election. As the U.S. enters a cordial understanding with Hitler, Jewish families struggle to understand their place in a frightening new version of America.

You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz

The Undoing
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant, Donald Sutherland
Where: HBO

In You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz, therapist Grace Sachs (Kidman) is busy with her son’s private school drama and the whirlwind of her popular self-help bestseller. Her husband (Grant) is away at a medical conference, and she realizes a bit too late that he is unreachable. Suddenly, her unease turns to panic as details of their marriage are revealed to her, a scandal erupts, and Grace learns the consequences of not taking her own advice.

One Flew Over the Cuckoos Next by Ken Kesey

Starring: Sarah Paulson, Cynthia Nixon, Corey Stoll
Where: Netflix

Cruel and dominating, Nurse Ratched (Paulson) from Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is put at the center of this stirring new series. In the book, patients at a mental hospital battle her irrational rules and plot large and small ways to escape her malice. We can’t wait to see the ongoing battle between the world’s worst caretaker and her charges – McMurphy, Chief Bromden, and the rest.

The Outsider by Stephen King

The Outsider
Starring: Ben Mendelsohn, John Gettier, Marc Menchaca, Jason Bateman
Where: HBO

It didn’t take long for Stephen King’s The Outsider to be adapted for television. Bateman stars as Terry Maitland, a beloved father and little league coach, who is accused of a horrible murder, despite the fact that he has an undisputable alibi. Equally certain: the physical evidence against him. How can a man be in two places at the same time? Detective Ralph Anderson (Mendelsohn), the seasoned cop who investigates the gruesome killing, believes his case against Maitland is ironclad. Don’t miss this mind-bending series, beginning January 12.

Watch the trailer.

Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff

Lovecraft Country
Starring: Michael Kenneth Williams, Courtney B. Vance, Jonathan Majors
Where: HBO

Matt Ruff brings Jim Crow America into focus in his novel, Lovecraft Country. Like the book, the series pairs the horror of the era with an equally terrifying, supernatural story of Army veteran, Atticus Turner (Majors), searching for his missing father. When Turner finds his kidnapped father, he learns that he has been lured into the middle of an otherworldly, racially-motivated plot to destroy his family.

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

Firefly Lane
Starring: Katherine Heigl, Sarah Chalke, Beau Garrett
Where: Netflix

Despite their differences, Tully (Heigl) and Kate (Chalke) vow to be best friends forever at the opening of Kristin Hannah’s bestselling Firefly Lane. For the next 30 years, they support each other through life’s wins and disappointments until a tragic betrayal threatens their bond forever.

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

All the Bright Places
Starring: Elle Fanning, Keegan-Michael Key, Justice Smith
Where: Netflix

Based on Jennifer Nivens’ novel, All the Bright Places, Violet (Fanning) and Theodore (Smith) find each other at painful moments in their lives. Violet’s sister has passed away, and she can’t wait to leave town and start a life of her own. Theodore is lost, suicidal, and his friendship with Violet brings much needed peace. As graduation draws close, can they survive without each other?

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