The books behind your favourite TV shows
Peaky Blinders

TV is going through something of a golden age at the moment. Screenwriters seem to be effortlessly churning out quality scripts, laden with jaw-dropping twists and iconic characters.

But given how many of these shows are based on superb literary source material, perhaps that’s no surprise.

If you fancy exploring the books that inspired these small-screen sensations, you’ve come to the right place.

Here are are 14 books or book series on which some of your favourite modern TV shows are based.

Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon


Before Claire Randall and Jamie Fraser were frolicking across our screens in the time-travelling, Jacobean-era drama Outlander, they could be found on the pages of Diana Gabaldon’s 1991 novel of the same name.

Seven bestselling books have since followed, with an eighth on its way.

Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay


Vigilante psychopath Dexter first appeared in a Jeff Lindsay novel, focusing on Dexter’s attempts to track down the ‘Tamiami slasher’.

Despite some major plot differences, Dexter’s narration is as darkly humorous in the books as it is on the small screen.

Red Dragon by Thomas Harris


Hannibal Lecter has been portrayed in TV and film several times, most notably by Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs in 1991.

Mads Mikkelsen is the latest actor to play the cannibalistic psychiatrist in TV series Hannibal, based on events before Thomas Harris’s spine chilling and thrilling novel Red Dragon.

Gomorrah: Italy’s Other Mafia by Roberto Saviano

Roberto Saviano’s staggering exposé of the neapolitan camorra crime families has seen him moved under permanent police protection, due to a string of death threats.

While this adaptation Gomorrah – La Serie is only loosely related to the book, it’s worth reading up on the source material to get a better idea of how the Camorra clans effect everyday life in Naples.

Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Woman’s Prison by Piper Kerman

Orange is the new black

Netflix heavyweight Orange is the New Black was inspired by Piper Kerman’s memoir that documented her time in a female prison.

The book is an intriguing story of self-preservation in the face of everyday persecution, which has been brilliantly built on by the TV series.

Kurt Wallander Series by Henning Mankell

If you’re caught up with BBC drama Wallander, you have two options; watch the Swedish TV series that began three years before, or read the 11-book-long series that inspired both TV shows.

Penned by Henning Mankell, the soul-searching detective is every bit as readable in the books as he is watchable in the TV series.

Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times and Corruption of Atlantic City by Nelson Johnson


Nelson Johnson’s work chronicles the toxic corruption that moulded the city in the 1920s and 30s led by real-life figure Enoch “Nucky” Thompson.

If you’ve watched all five series of Boardwalk Empire and are yearning for more details of the prohibition era, the book that inspired the brilliant series is a good place to start.

Deadwood by Pete Dexter

Ian McShane

It’s important to note that the cult Western’s creators have denied using Peter Dexter’s book for inspiration when making the gloriously expletive-laden TV series.

However, both pieces of work are set in the Black Hills of Dakota, and both feature the same cast, including Sheriff Seth Bullock. Perhaps the void left in your life following Deadwood’s cancellation can finally be filled?

Jessica Jones by Brian Michael Bendia and Michael Gaydos

Jessica Jones

If you can’t wait for the second series of Jessica Jones – set to be released in 2017 – why not dive into some of the comics that inspired the show and its bad-ass superheroine?

Alias #1-28, which introduces the flawed protagonist, is a good place to start.

The Poldark Saga by Winston Graham


Back in 1945, when sex-symbol Aidan Turner’s mother was merely a twinkle in her father’s eye, Winston Graham penned the first of 12 Poldark stories – the final instalment being somewhat astonishingly finished many decades later, in 2002.

If the lavish series alone isn’t providing you with your period drama fix, then get stuck into the epic written saga.

A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin

Sean bean Game Of Thrones

Martin’s sprawling series of fantasy books, starting with Game Of Thrones, fill in all of the gaps that the glorious TV series simply can’t squeeze into an hour long episode.

Starting the books might seem intimidating – some are well over 1,000 pages – but it’s a journey well worth embarking on, laden with additional fascinating sub-plots and countless more compelling characters.

Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World’s Greatest Outlaw by Mark Bowden


If you’re keen to see beyond the witty dialogue and explosive action sequences in Netflix’s Narcos, this one’s for you.

Have a read of Bowden’s story on the rise of the world’s most notorious drug lord – and the subsequent manhunt that followed.

The Gangs of Birmingham: From the Sloggers to the Peaky Blinders by Philip Gooderson

Peaky Blinders

The Peaky Blinders were a real gang in Birmingham, and they really did sew razor blades into the peaks of their caps; but that’s where the similarities with the TV series ends.

Here you can read about the real ‘peaky blinders’ that inspired Cillian Murphy’s ruthless Shelby mob.

Daredevil by Stan Lee


Marvel legend Stan Lee created Daredevil – the blind Lawyer with super senses – back in 1964.

Get stuck into the comics that spawned one of Netflix’s biggest hits, and some of the finest fight sequences ever seen on the small screen.


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