The only thing more common than a reboot on TV these days is a book adaptation, and 2020 is shaping up to be chock full of them. The next decade is going to plumb the depths of your Goodreads account for inspiration, from comic books to fantasy novels to coming-of-age tales.
While some adaptations don’t do justice to the source material, it’s always better to arm yourself with a quick read of the works these shows and movies are based on. TV Guide has put together this 2020 reading list, picking out the most promising book-to-TV adaptations headed our way in the new year so you can run to your local bookstore if you want to read ahead.
In order of release, here are the must-read adaptations coming to a small screen near you in 2020!
(Disclosure: Links to retailers may earn money to support our work.)
The Outsider (HBO)
Premiere: Jan. 12 at 9/8c
Based on: The Outsider by Stephen King
Yet another Stephen King adaptation is coming for you in the new year. The Outsider isn’t one of Stephen King’s supernatural thrillers, but it will have you on the edge of your seat anyway. The series revolves around police Det. Ralph Anderson, who arrests Little League coach Terry Maitland on charges of raping, mutilating, and murdering an 11-year-old boy. Though Maitland maintains his innocence, the entire town turns against him and his family as the investigation unfolds.
Locke & Key (Netflix)
Premiere: Feb. 7
Based on: Locke & Key by Joe Hill
If you’re in the mood for some YA fantasy delights, Locke & Key is definitely for you. Loosely based on the original comics, Locke & Key tells the story of three siblings who move to their ancestral home, Keyhouse, after the murder of their father. There, they discover magical keys that give them unique abilities. The catch? A demon is also after the keys, giving this coming-of-age tale a diabolical supernatural twist.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before: P.S. I Still Love You (Netflix)
Premiere: Feb. 12
Based On: P.S I Still Love You by Jenny Han
The sequel to To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before — the 2018 hit movie about a fake romance that becomes real — will drop just in time for Valentine’s Day in 2020, and this is seriously not one you want to miss. The sequel loosely follows the book of the same name, but if you want a precursor to the drama newcomer John Ambrose (Jordan Fisher) is about to drop into Lara Jean’s (Lana Condor) love story with Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo), you should definitely read Han’s series beforehand.
The Good Lord Bird (Showtime)
Premiere: Feb. 16 at 9/8c
Based on: The Good Lord Bird by James McBride
Ethan Hawke executive-produces and stars in the Showtime limited series based on The Good Lord Bird, which chronicles the journey of abolitionist John Brown. The story is told from the perspective of Onion, a fictional enslaved boy who helps John Brown during the Bleeding Kansas uprisings. The series will follow the pair to Brown’s raid on the Army depot at Harper’s Ferry, which ultimately failed but became an inciting incident for the Civil War.
Premiere: Feb. 16
Based on: The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon
The Frasers are preparing for the American Revolution in the fifth book in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander novel series. The next season is based on The Fiery Cross, which will put the family in a tough position as Jamie (Sam Heughan) is called upon to squash a colonial rebellion on behalf of King George — a man he knows he’ll have to betray in order to be on the right side of history when the Revolution inevitably starts. Outlander, the series, has diverged from the books in some significant ways over the past four seasons, but the books still provide a meaningful context and a deeper understanding of what’s going on in the story.
Little Fires Everywhere (Hulu)
Premiere: March 18
Based on: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Little Fires Everywhere is one of the most highly anticipated series of 2020. The best-selling novel is being adapted into a limited series for Hulu with Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington executive-producing and starring as two moms who are brought together by their children’s close relationship. While that sounds wholesome, the relationship unearths dark secrets, and the lives of Witherspoon’s Elena Richardson and her family are upended by Washington’s enigmatic Mia Warren and her daughter. While a limited series will give Hulu more time to delve into how these families become intertwined than a movie would, the book allows you to really dig into the psyche of the characters and feel the tension as their lives start to come unglued.
Premiere: Spring 2020
Based on: Snowpiercer: The Escape Jacques Lob
This upcoming TNT series is set seven years after the world has become a frozen wasteland. The only surviving humans live on a 1001-car, perpetually moving train that circles the globe, but just because the apocalypse hit doesn’t mean that humanity has forsaken class warfare and social injustice. These issues have become even trickier due to the close quarters. For those who enjoy a good post-apocalyptic graphic novel, this is a must-read.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (Disney+)
Premiere: Fall 2020
Based on: The Death of Captain America and Captain America: Sam Wilson by Ed Brubaker, Rick Remender, Dennis Hopeless, Jeff Loveness, and Nick Spencer
Avengers: Endgame may have ended Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it won’t be the last we see of Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie). Little is known about the plot of this six-episode series, but it will follow Bucky and Sam after they receive the Captain America shield from Steve (Chris Evans) at the end of Endgame, and Emily VanCamp has signed on to reprise her role as Sharon Carter. Considering how far the MCU has deviated from the original comics, it’s unlikely this series will be a direct adaptation of any one arc or issue, but it’s still worth brushing up to better understand the characters, the cameos, and the Easter eggs.
Impeachment: American Crime Story (FX)
Premiere: Sept. 27, 2020
Based on: A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President by Jeffrey Toobin
The highly anticipated (and highly controversial) third season of American Crime Story will focus on a retelling of the Bill Clinton impeachment scandal that captured the nation’s attention in the late ’90s. The series has promised to shine a light on the overlooked women caught up in the scandal, and Monica Lewinksy herself will serve as an executive producer for the series. If you’re looking for a refresher on all the major players as well as the key details that didn’t get splashed across headlines, this book is a great place to start.
Extra Credit Reading
There are plenty of projects — like Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira‘s limited series Americanah for HBO Max or Shonda Rhimes‘ first Netflix series, Bridgerton — that are still in early development and have yet to get premiere dates, but should probably be on your radar. Here’s a brief rundown of those titles.
Umbrella Academy Season 2 (Netflix)
Based on: The Umbrella Academy: Dallas by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba
Lovecraft Country (HBO)
Based on: Lovecraft Country: A Novel by Matt Ruff
Americanah (HBO Max)
Based on: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
His Dark Materials Season 2 (HBO)
Based on: The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman
Circe (HBO Max)
Based on: Circe by Madeline Miller
Shadow and Bone (Netflix)
Based on: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Dash and Lily (Netflix)
Based on: Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn
A Discovery of Witches Season 2 (AMC, Sundance/SHUDDER)
Based on: Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
Tokyo Vice (HBO Max)
Based on: Tokyo Vice: An American on the Police Beat in Japan by Jake Adelstein
The Stand (CBS All Access)
Based on: The Stand by Stephen King
Based on: Bridgerton: The Duke and I by Julia Quinn
The Flight Attendant (HBO Max)
Based on: The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian
(Disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of ViacomCBS.)