Read it First: At Home Television Edition

Elizabeth Graney, Librarian, Literature & Fiction Department,
Collage of television adaptations of books
A selection of television adaptations available to stream today

A common complaint leveled against film adaptations is that they often cut too much of the original material to fit their run time. This is where miniseries and television shows can really shine. With more time to tell the story, they can often provide a more faithful adaptation. Lucky for us, our streaming media providers have television shows as well! Below we’ve highlighted just a small selection of the television adaptations available to stream today.

Watch and Read at Home

Book cover for Poldark
Winston Graham

The Poldark series follows the fortunes of Ross Poldark, a British general, who returns from the American War of Independence to find everything he thought waiting for him gone. His father dead, the family estate ruined and the love of his life engaged to another man, Poldark must forge a new path for himself. This beloved series spans 12 books and was adapted to a five-season television show starring Aidan Turner.

Book cover for Crimson Petal and the White
Crimson Petal and the White
Michel Faber

A look at Victorian England through the lives of two drastically different women. Naive and increasingly mad Agnes, a wealthy socialite, and intelligent and determined Sugar, a sex worker, share the love and underestimation of one man, William Rackham. As Sugar uses William to advance her status, Agnes becomes convinced Sugar is the key to her salvation. When their worlds collide, no one comes out unscathed. The 2011 miniseries adaptation stars Romola Garai, Chris O’Dowd and Gillian Anderson. 

Book cover for Camelot
Sir Thomas Malory

Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur is the most well known text of the legend of King Arthur. Though Malory did not create the legends, he translated and compiled them into the forms we love and recognize today. Following the life of King Arthur and his knights, Le Morte D’Arthur paints an idealized world of knighthood, jousts and adventure. The 2011 television show Camelot covers the beginning of King Arthur’s reign and stars Eva Green and Joseph Fiennes. 

Book cover for Call the Midwife
Call the Midwife
Jennifer Worth

Jennifer Worth trained as a midwife in the poorest parts of East London in the 1950’s, working with an Anglican order of nuns who dedicated their service to helping destitute mothers and children. In a time and place that lacked reliable birth control, indoor plumbing, and antibiotics, the lives of these families were often difficult but not without joy. The BBC adaptation of this memoir has been one of their most popular series of all time.

Book cover for Wolf Hall
Wolf Hall
Hillary Mantel

Wolf Hall is a fictional biography of Thomas Cromwell and his machinations in the court of King Henry VIII. When Henry VIII, desperate for a male heir, connives to have his marriage annulled so he can wed Anne Boleyn, he meets opposition on all sides. But Thomas Cromwell, a man born to no position or fortune, steps in to support the king however he can and rapidly rises in the ranks of his court. Mantel’s meticulously researched novel paints a sympathetic view of a man history has not looked upon kindly. The BBC miniseries, starring Damien Lewis and Claire Foy, was nominated for eight Emmy Awards and won the Golden Globe for Best Miniseries.

Book cover for Far from the Madding Crowd
Far from the Madding Crowd
Thomas Hardy

Far from the Madding Crowd is the story of the beautiful and elusive Bathsheba Everdene and her three suitors; the hardworking and loyal shepherd Gabriel, the reclusive but wealthy Mr. Boldwood and the dashing, irresponsible Troy. Thomas Hardy’s tale of the destructive force of passion was made into a made for television film starring Paloma Baeza and Jonathan Firth.

Book cover for Poirot
Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie’s eccentric detective, Hercule Poirot, appeared in over 30 of her novels, despite her stated dislike of the character she deemed “insufferable.” The public, however, continues to love his use of psychology and knowledge of human nature to solve the most impossible of crimes. The British television adaptation, Agatha Christie's Poirot, ran for 13 seasons and was nominated for 20 British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards.

Book cover for Children of Dune
Children of Dune
Frank Herbert

The third book in Frank Herbert’s acclaimed Dune series, Children of Dune follows the twin children of Paul Atreides as they attempt to maintain their family’s rule over the wild planet of Arrakis. The three part miniseries, starring Susan Sarandon and James McAvoy, was one of top three highest rated programs ever aired by the Sci-Fi Channel.

Book cover for The Alienist
The Alienist
Caleb Carr

Dr. Laszlo Kreizler is an alienist, a psychologist working to help solve gruesome murders using his insight into the human mind. When a young boy is brutally murdered, Kreizler teams up with a crime reporter and two young detectives to solve what appears to be the work of a serial killer. The limited series adaptation stars Daniel Brühl, Luke Evans and Dakota Fanning.

Book cover for Lonesome Dove
Lonesome Dove
Larry McMurtry

McMurtry’s Pulitzer Prize winning western follows retired Texas Rangers as they herd cattle across what is left of the Old West. Captain Woodrow Call and Captain Gus McCrae face bloodthirsty bandits, lost loves and old dreams as they chase the dying life of the cowboy. The miniseries adaptation, starring Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Duvall, was successful with critics and the public alike.