Top 10 Series Based on Books Streaming on Netflix

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13 Reasons Why and upcoming Netflix Original Girlboss are among many TV series on Netflix that are originally based on a book. Once limited to their source material, tv shows (will we be calling them that much longer?) have now started to go beyond the pages, expanding on the world created but not yet finished. As we have seen with shows like Game of Thrones (HBO), the demand for content is outpacing the source. Services like Netflix are more than able to compensate with time, money, and big stars.

Here’s our top 10 picks for series on Netflix based on books.

10. Orange is the New Black (4 Seasons)

This hit series is based on Piper Kerman’s memoir, Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison. The first season centers around Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), a woman in her 30s living in New York City who is sentenced to 15 months in Litchfield Penitentiary, a minimum-security women’s federal prison, for drug trafficking. Taylor has been living in a vary pampered Whole Foods kind of life and the first season mainly focuses on the shift in her world and adjustments she is forced to make to survive.

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An immediate hit, a second season was ordered right away. Now moving beyond the source material of the book, OITNB was expanded beyond Piper’s troubles and into the lives of the other inmates, the staff of Litchfield, and more intricate story lines. The show really started developing a richer flavor once it started looking at the background of the other women she was incarcerated with, how they got there, and how they’re trying to hang on just like everyone else.

Although “House of Cards” was and is still huge for Netflix, I think I can safely say this show was truly their first run-away hit. Everyone was talking about it and everyone was watching. They have a massive social media following, which they are very responsive to—even behind bars and between seasons.

9. TURN: Washington Spies

This period drama brings to life the research of Alexander Rose and the unknown story of the American Revolution. Based on the book Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring, it revolves around Abe Woodhull, a young farmer torn between loyalty to his background and respect for those who fight for the cause.

In the summer of 1778 General George Washington “desperately needed to know where the British would strike next. To that end, he unleashed his secret weapon: an unlikely ring of spies in New York charged with discovering the enemy’s battle plans and military strategy.” His spies were dubbed the Culper Ring and the show explores the exciting world of ciphers, dead drops, and invisible ink—the foundation for modern espionage.

8. The Vampire Diaires (8 Seasons)

This vampire horror series is based on a novel created by L. J. Smith and centers on Elena Gilbert, a young high school girl who finds her heart torn between two vampire brothers. Originally published in 1991, the book was soon followed by another, which became a series, eventually followed by several trilogies. Turned into a tv drama by the CW, the show has a massive following. It’s set in the fictional town of Mystic Falls, Virginia, a town under the constant threat of vampires, werewolves, witches, and more. Between the love triangle and the other supernatural encounters happening in the town, there’s never a dull moment.

7. Sherlock (3 Series)

In 1887 a detective was born. Penned by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet was inspired by a doctor who could diagnose patients simply by looking at them when they walked into his surgery. Unknowingly, Doyle began what would eventually become a mountain of volumes written about the adventurous, quirky sleuth. Fast-forward to the Aughts and you have Benedict Cumberbatch as our contemporary Sherlock, solving mysteries and seeing the unseen. Martin Freeman is Dr. Watson, his unknowing flatmate who gets pulled in and eventually helps solve the baffling cases. The show has collected quite a few awards including Emmys and Golden Globes. If you’re seeking a crime drama fix, look no further.

6. Call The Midwife (5 Seasons)

In 2002, Jennifer Worth answered a call. Responding to an article arguing that midwives had been grossly under-represented in literature, she wrote a book about her time spent as a district nurse and midwife in the East End of London during the 1950s. What started as a memoir turned into a trilogy of frank books about birth, life, and death.

The tv series follows newly qualified midwife Jenny, who joins a community of nuns who are nurses at Nonnatus House. Together the take care of families in 1950s East End London, developing incredible friendships as they are drawn into the lives and homes of the women and families they treat.

5. Friday Night Lights (5 Seasons)

It started as a book,  was adapted for film, and became an Emmy-winning television series.  Among the few series that has been called better than the source, “Friday Night Lights” centers around a high school football team in the fictional town of Dillon, Texas. A close-knit community that centers around football, the series focuses on coach Kyle Chandler (Bloodline), their families, and society’s issues.

4. Thirteen Reasons Why (Season 1)

Released in 2007, 13RW is a young adult novel written by Jay Asher. Picked up by Netflix and produced by Selena Gomez, it quickly gained traction become one of Netflix’s most popular series. According to Fizziology, more people tweeted about “13 Reasons Why” during its first week of streaming that any other Netflix show-3,585,110 tweets in total. That’s three times as many mentions as the second most-tweeted show and more than 20 times the tweets of popular shows “Orange is the New Black” and “Master of None.” That’s big.

The show is about Hannah, a teen who committed suicide, leaving behind a box of tapes (guess how many?) and a set of instructions. Netflix has presented us with an authentic, harsh look at life as a teen. And I do mean brutal. The show has a R/MA rating for a reason. There is also the element of mystery. Why? Why did she do it? Who is on those tapes? It’s an engaging watch that’s hard to look away from.

Parents: The Jed Foundation and Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE) have published a set of talking points that can help start your conversation. You can download them at

3. Heartland (7 Seasons)

A 25-novel series created by Lauren Brooke, “Heartland” follows Amy and Lou Fleming, sisters living on a ranch, going through the highs and lows of life. Younger Amy discovers she has inherited her mother’s gift of being able to intuit the needs of horses and of practicing natural horsemanship. Older Lou is returning to the ranch after living in New York. It’s a family-friendly soap opera that focuses on hard work, horses, and relationships.

2. A Series of Unfortunate Events (Season 1)

Another show on our list that has also been made into a movie, the wildly popular books are written by Daniel Handler-also known as Lemony Snicket. They follow the turbulent lives of Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire after their parents’ most unfortunate death in a fire. It’s a thirteen book series, narrated by Snicket, following the dreadful adventures of the siblings.

Netflix picked up the woeful tale, hired heavy-hitting actors, writers, and directors, and turned out a pretty great series for kids and adults alike. It’s bleak, unconventional, and incredibly weird. Translation: It’s great.

1. Longmire (5 Seasons)

Based on the mystery novels by best-selling author Craig Johnson, this contemporary crime drama stars Robert Taylor as the devoted sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming. He patrols his county with a brave face and sense of humor, but carries a deep hurt that has begun to affect his family and job.  Committed to putting his life back together, one piece at a time, he solves mysterious cases that pop-up in the small community, often with the help of his best friend Henry Standing Bear.

Originally on A&E, “Longmire” had a huge following, but it didn’t quite pay off in the ratings. When the show was cancelled, its fans caused an uproar and Netflix dusted it off and continued the series. Recently renewed, it’s headed for its sixth and final season on the network.

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Cheryl has written for What’s on Netflix for over three years. She’s a confessed streaming addict and also runs a Netflix based community on Facebook with over 10,000 users. Cheryl specializes in documentaries and covers weekly additions for the US in addition to breaking news stories. She is the Weekend Editor for What’s On Netflix. Cheryl resides in Virginia, USA.