ShortList is supported by you, our amazing readers. When you click through the links on our site and make a purchase we may earn a commission. Learn more

10 books that would make brilliant Netflix series

Forget Pieces of Her, we need these on TV.

10 books that would make brilliant Netflix series
16 August 2022
Book adaptations are flavour of the month for streaming services right now. Amazon seems to have hit gold with Prime Video's Reacher and Paper Girls, while Netflix is busy mining the work of myriad authors including Neil Gaiman's wondrous The Sandman.

With Netflix plucking away at the page turners - graphic novels or otherwise - and taking great strides to bring greater variety to the stuff we lose our weekends to, we take aim at 10 books we feel deserve adaptation by the ever-more-powerful streaming giant.

(And don’t worry: There are no spoilers ahead, so you’ll be able to binge them all when Netflix invariably take note and nick all our ideas.)

Books that would make brilliant Netflix series

Books that would make brilliant Netflix series

1. Magician by Raymond E. Feist

Buy now from Amazon

The first book in Feist’s epic Riftwar saga. In Crydee, Pug, an orphan boy, is apprenticed to a master magician. When the Kingdom is attacked by alien invaders, Pug and his friend Tomas are swept up into the conflict. As Pug continues his training and tries to find a way to close the rift, Tomas joins the fight. There’s enough in one book for several series, with the characters aging from teenagers into men.

Starring: Finn Wolfhard from Stranger Things stars as Pug, with Spider-Man star Tom Holland as Tomas, and – as with all great fantasy adaptations – at least one role for Brian Blessed.

9
2
Thanks for voting
Books that would make brilliant Netflix series

2. The Wicked + The Divine by Keiron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie

Buy now from Amazon

Every 90 years, the ancient gods are reincarnated in the bodies of teenage hosts, in a process known as The Recurrence. ‘The Pantheon’ are granted fame and supernatural powers for two years, at which point the hosts die, and the next cycle begins. The 2010s Recurrence sees the Pantheon celebrated as pop stars.

Starring: Simona Brown as Laura Wilson, Iris Law as Lucifer, John Boyega as Baal, Harry Styles as Baphomet.

5
0
Thanks for voting
Books that would make brilliant Netflix series

3. The Optimist by Sophie Kipner

Buy now from Amazon

California native Tabitha Gray redefines what it means to be a truly hopeless romantic. See, Tabby is an optimist – aggressively so – and no amount of failure, embarrassment, or humiliation can dent her fierce belief that real, true, lasting love is just around the corner. Each episode follows another of Tabitha’s cringe-worthy attempts at love, and her efforts, often in vein, to prove to those around her that true love is really out there...

Starring: Greta Gerwig as Tabby, and Tilda Swinton as her wine-loving mother, Twilda.

5
1
Thanks for voting
Books that would make brilliant Netflix series

4. A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

Buy now from Amazon

Adapted from Egan’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel/story collection hybrid, we’re thinking a 13-episode series following a set of interconnected characters orbiting the music industry in New York and California. Think HBO’s Vinyl, only not terrible. Goon Squad moves back and forth in time, from a family safari in 1973, to the early ‘80s punk movement, through to present day adulthood friendships, affairs, dates, and deaths, ending in the early years of the 2020s.

The characters age up and down, but at various points, starring: Emily Blunt as Sasha, Matthew Rhys as Bennie, David Duchovny as Lou, Vince Vaughn as Bosco, Parker Posey as Jocelyn, and Viggo Mortensen as Scotty.

4
1
Thanks for voting
Books that would make brilliant Netflix series

5. This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz

Buy now from Amazon

A series of interconnected dark, heartbreaking, funny tales, Diaz’s 2012 short story collection follows Dominican-American protagonist Yunior as he navigates life and love in New York City, exploring questions of masculinity, heritage, culture, identity, and infidelity. The writing is as fast and loose as the characters’ morals (especially the men) and each episode could adapt one of the nine stories in the collection, eight of which are narrated by Yunior, with the ninth, the brilliant ‘Otravida, Otravez’ narrated by Yasmin, a woman with whom Yunior’s father has an affair after migrating to New York from the Dominican Republic.

Starring: Rick Gonzalez of Coach Carter and Arrow stars as Yunior, with Zoe Saldana as Yasmin.

3
0
Thanks for voting
Books that would make brilliant Netflix series

6. Outline by Rachel Cusk

Buy now from Amazon

The first in a trilogy of novels by Cusk, Outline follows narrator Faye, a writer in her mid-40s, as she travels to Greece to teach a writing class. As she travels, Faye is told stories by those she meets; the man next to her on the plane, her students, friends she meets in restaurants.

With her own backstory purposefully obscured, she meanders between encounters as strangers and acquaintances offload their troubles, usually to do with love, onto her. Faye listens intently to each, sensing that, even as they fail to ask about her life, each of them is relieved at the chance to be seen and heard.

Starring: Kate Winslet stars as Faye.

4
2
Thanks for voting
Books that would make brilliant Netflix series

7. Marching Powder by Rusty Young

Buy now from Amazon

The true story of British drug trafficker Thomas McFadden, who is arrested and incarcerated in the vast, lawless San Pedro Prison in Bolivia. When Australian backpacker Rusty Young meets McFadden on one of the illegal tours the latter conducts, showing tourists around the slum prison, he bribes the guards and stays for three months as McFadden’s cellmate, writing a book about his life as an international trafficker, his subsequent incarceration, and life in San Pedro Prison.

Starring: Chiwetel Eijofor as McFadden (he was mooted for a possible film adaptation), with Liam Hemsworth as Young.

3
1
Thanks for voting
Books that would make brilliant Netflix series

8. Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor

Buy now from Amazon

Not a novelised sequel to Tarantino’s movie, this is a book about a young girl on holiday in a quiet English village who disappears. Villagers join the search for her, scouring nearby moors and reservoirs, but she is never found. Over the next 13 years, through the changing seasons, the aftershocks of tragedy affect the lives of those in the village.

Starring: An ensemble of great British actors feature in the cast, including Sean Bean, obviously, and Jodie Whittaker. Seriously, choose anyone: there are more than enough roles to go around.

1
1
Thanks for voting
Books that would make brilliant Netflix series

9. Murder in Mississippi by John Safran

Buy now from Amazon

Australian journalist John Safran's Murder in Mississippi investigates the murder of a white supremacist by a young black man, and uncovers the strange nature of their relationship. Safran, a TV presenter in the Louis Theroux mold, had once made a documentary on the victim, and as he returns to to Mississippi to investigate the murder the American South hosts his fish-out-of-water view of local customs, history and race.

Starring: A true-crime docuseries based on this book should feature Safran himself. This is a troubling and timely examination of modern America in the style of Making a Murderer and The Keepers.

1
1
Thanks for voting
Books that would make brilliant Netflix series

10. Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayesha Malik

Buy now from Amazon

Sofia is a young Muslim woman living in London, navigating work in publishing and her dating life. After she leaves her boyfriend when he expects her to move in with his parents, Sofia is thrust back into the Muslim dating world, and the result is a romantic comedy in Bridget Jones vein, with mishaps, friendships, and romance operating – refreshingly – out of the cultural cliches such fiction often leans on.

Starring: Afshan Azad from the Harry Potter films stars as Sofia Khan.

0
1
Thanks for voting

SOMETHING MISSING FROM OUR SHORTLIST?

Tell us about it, and if enough people agree we'll add it in.