Do you read the book before watching the movie/TV show, or after? Controversial question — we know — but either way 2021 has added a lot more reading to our TBR pile. Hollywood has long looked to books for inspiration and this year we’re in for a stellar lineup of glittery adaptations. Whether it’s at the drive-in or from the comfort of your couch, these are the must-read books coming to a screen near you.
Frank Herbert is hands-down a literary giant. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a science fiction writer today that hasn’t been inspired by his deft world-building and skillful ability to weave the political, environmental and philosophical issues of our time into an epic saga that may be “even more relevant now than when it was first published” (The New Yorker). There’s a reason Dune is one of the bestselling science fiction novels of all time and if you haven’t invested some time in the classics, we suggest you pick up a copy and start here — especially before the movie drops this October.
Shadow and Bone
Leigh Bardugo is a master of YA Fantasy, and this first installment into the Grishaverse is not to be missed. Set in an exquisitely detailed world rooted in Russian lore, Shadow and Bone follows Alina, a young woman who discovers she has a dormant power within herself that might be the key to freedom for her war-torn country. Bardugo’s writing flows seamlessly throughout this mesmerizing story, with romance and danger that will hook you in until the very end. The Shadow and Bone series is scheduled to start streaming on Netflix in April 2021.
A story that will make you reflect on past and current history, The Nightingale is an unforgettable novel of love, strength and survival in the face of war. This is one of those novels you can devour in one sitting – but it’s so good you won’t want it to end. Fans have had this one on their “film adaptation wish list” for quite some time, and with real-life sisters, Dakota Fanning and Elle Fanning set to star, we have a feeling this movie will not disappoint. This heart-pounding story should be released in December of 2021.
The Woman in the Window
A. J. Finn
AJ Finn elevated the “domestic thriller” game with this twisty debut. This Hitchcockian thriller about an agoraphobic woman who believes she witnessed a crime was a much-anticipated debut and has been a LONG-awaited film as well. After much delay, The Women in the Window starring the lovely Amy Adams, will be coming (FINALLY) to Netflix in early 2021. Read this one both BEFORE and AFTER seeing the film.
Over the years there have been several film adaptations, scores of theatrical productions, and countless cultural references to this Shakespearian tragedy. The most important thing you can do is to read the play! Unbridled ambition, fate, and free will, guilt, and betrayal — whatever time period you drop this work into — this story, the language and the setting all remain timeless. Joel Coen is directing the newest adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth with Denzel Washington, Frances McDormand and Brendan Gleeson currently on board to star.
The Knife of Never Letting Go
An incredibly immersive tale, The Knife of Never Letting Go is a powerful story about a boy on the cusp of manhood — who also happens to be the last boy in a town full of men who have been plagued by a germ. Although it is a harrowing tale of survival, The Knife of Never Letting Go is also a deeply thought-provoking and emotional story at its core that will leave you breathless and running to pick up the next installment. This film adaptation has been nearly a decade in the making! The latest release date has recently been set for March 5, 2021, and we are keeping our fingers crossed.
A heartbreaking and critically acclaimed work of narrative nonfiction. David Grann’s writing reads like a novel. However, make no mistake — the history here is very real and Grann sets the bar high in bringing these events to light. This chilling tale of one of the most monstrous crimes in American history was a National Book Award finalist and is now the latest Martin Scorsese film with Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro set to star.
Conversations with Friends
If you loved Normal People — or just watched the Hulu series based on the book (no judgment!) — consider this your next obsessive read. Conversations with Friends is a sharp and thought-provoking novel that explores the messy edges of female friendship. Hulu is set to release this limited series in 2021, and with Sally Rooney announcing her new book coming this fall, Beautiful World, Where Are You, this is definitely the year to jump on the Sally Rooney band-wagon.
Nine Perfect Strangers
Calling all fans of Big Little Lies! If you haven’t explored all that Liane Moriarty has to offer, let us suggest you bump this one to the top of your list. Nine Perfect Strangers centers around nine strangers on a 10-day wellness retreat that might not be the perfect escape they were hoping for. This wickedly smart page-turner will be adapted to a limited series for Hulu, produced by and starring Nicole Kidman.
Everyone knows Tom Clancy’s, Jack Ryan. Here is CIA operative John Clark’s chance to shine. This nonstop story of vengeance packs an emotional punch, and with Michael B. Jordan (aka PEOPLE’s sexiest man alive 2020) taking the lead in the film adaptation — we’re anticipating a little sizzle as well. Adventure never felt so dangerous!
Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley isn’t the only character who gets to get into trouble. There is as much darkness in the village of Little Wesley as in the Italy of The Talented Mr. Ripley. This erotic psychological thriller looks beyond the facade of American suburban life and stars real-life couple of the moment, Ana de Armas and Ben Affleck. If you’ve already read Ripley — it’s time for another journey with Deep Water. This chilling adaptation is expected to release in August 2021.
This debut novel will take you by surprise. It will sneak up on you when you’re not looking. Walker’s ability to portray the humor in the grimmest situations is disarming. But keep diving in to find the business of life and the human condition. This story of a young medic suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and opioid addiction will star Tom Holland and be directed by the Russo Brothers. Watch out for this one in early 2021.
Blonde: A Novel
Joyce Carol Oates
A peek into the life of icon Marilyn Monroe, who to this day, captivates audiences and readers alike. A mesmerizing and moving portrait into the imagined reality of her life and thoughts, from celebrated author Joyce Carol Oates. Ana de Armas will play the spirited Norma Jeane Baker with Adrien Brody and Bobby Cannavale starring as well.
A comedic caper set in a new-age lunar world; Artemis is an endlessly enjoyable novel with an edge. This genre-bending adventure details an attempt at a small-scale perfect crime, one that slowly unravels into uncovering a brutal corporate espionage plot — a heist on the moon! Prepare to be thoroughly entertained. Andy Weir’s previous novel, The Martian, was adapted with great success so we’re looking forward to this next stellar interpretation.
The Eye of the World
Want to dive into a fantasy epic with incredible world-building, first-class characters and page-turning adventure? Then it’s time to start the Wheel of Time series. The first book in this thirteen-book saga sets the stage for a formidable journey (one eventually finished by fellow author Brandon Sanderson) and is a must-read for fans of Lord of the Rings, Shannara, and Dune. Beloved by fantasy fans around the world, this is an epic at its finest. Amazon will be adapting Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time fantasy series into a TV show that’s scheduled to be released later this year.
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
The novel that sparked the inimitable Broadway show is FINALLY coming to the screen! A fractured fairytale (with a ton of heart) where the world of Oz is flipped on its head. Read in awe as Maguire single-handedly changes the reputation of the most wicked witch in literature. And the fun doesn’t stop — Wicked is part of a series, giving you plenty of magical entertainment to get lost in while you’re waiting for the theatrical release.
A modern classic that gets right to the heart of racial identity and its implications on life. Brilliantly written and subtly layered, this is perfect for readers of The Vanishing Half. This indelible literary canon will be adapted for the screen in 2021 with an all-star cast that’s set to include Tessa Thompson, Alexander Skarsgård, Ruth Negga, and André Holland.