10 Best Book-Adapted Miniseries of the 2020s — So Far

Many people enjoy reading but don’t have enough time to read all the books published each year. That’s when movie adaptations come into play, saving readers time and allowing them to readily immerse themselves in the setting, albeit not all adaptations are perfect.

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A book can be converted into a 2-hour feature film, or it can be spread across several seasons that last years, or it can be adapted into a new format called a miniseries. A miniseries is a television drama shown in two or three parts over a short period. Many filmmakers are using this approach to retell stories these days, and the 2020s have been a flurry of book-to-screen ventures.


‘Normal People’ (2020)

Normal People is a limited Irish romantic psychological drama series based on Sally Rooney‘s 2018 novel of the same name. From their final days in high school to their university years at Trinity College, the series follows Marianne Sheridan (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and Connell Waldron (Paul Mescal) as they approach adulthood.

From embarrassments to excitements, from terror to exhilaration, Normal People subtly captures the realism of a couple’s relationship. Moreover, Marianne’s energy and insight, as well as her brittleness and injury, are all well-portrayed by Edgar-Jones, while Mescal brilliantly conveys Connell’s intelligence, the fluctuating limits of his emotional maturity, his self-doubt, and, most importantly, his vulnerability.

‘Defending Jacob’ (2020)

Defending Jacob is an Apple TV+-produced American crime drama miniseries based on William Landay‘s 2012 novel of the same name. When their 14-year-old son, Jacob (Jaeden Martell), is charged with the murder of a fellow student, Andy (Chris Evans), an assistant district attorney, and his wife’s (Michelle Dockery) lives are turned upside down.

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Defending Jacob is a slow-burn crime thriller that keeps viewers guessing and culminates with a cliffhanger that may upset some viewers. The show, like most adaptations, deviates from the novel in several key ways, but this only improves it. Additionally, the cast is outstanding, particularly the Barber family, in which Evans, Dockery, and Martell were able to combine strength and susceptibility in their exceptional performances.

‘Little Fires Everywhere’ (2020)

Little Fires Everywhere is a drama miniseries produced by Hulu and based on Celeste Ng‘s 2017 novel of the same name. The series follows the picture-perfect Richardson family and their mysterious tenants, a mother-daughter duo who shakes up their lives.

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Little Fires Everywhere deals with various sensitive topics, including colorblindness, sexuality, parenting, abortion, and transracial adoption. Though having so many themes in one series can feel confusing at times, especially when some younger characters remain underdeveloped, the cast’s equally outstanding performances quickly make up for that flaw.

‘The Queen’s Gambit’ (2020)

The Queen’s Gambit is a 2020 American coming-of-age drama miniseries based on Walter Tevis‘s 1983 novel of the same name. The series follows Elizabeth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy), an orphaned chess prodigy, in her journey to become an exceptional chess player while dealing with emotional issues and drug and alcohol addiction.

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Taylor-Joy, who broke out after her role in the 2015 horror The Witchgives a flawless and convincing performance, showcasing her unique style of grace. Furthermore, even for those who are unfamiliar with chess, the series was able to bring the cerebral game to life and captivate viewers in the 7-hour series without boredom.

‘Station Eleven’ (2021 – 2022)

Station Eleven is an American post-apocalyptic fiction miniseries based on Emily St. John Mandel’s 2014 novel of the same name and was created by Patrick Somerville. Taking place 20 years after the collapse of civilization due to a flu pandemic, the series follows a group of survivors who earn a living as traveling artists as they come across a violent cult led by a man whose past is unwittingly related to one of the troupe members.

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The show is a slow-burning, clever, genre-bending thriller with a whiff of the bizarre that will keep the audience on edge the entire time. Moreover, Station Eleven avoids being melancholy due to its willingness to look unblinkingly at the unpleasant and unfathomable parts of mortal existence.

‘Under the Banner of Heaven’ (2022)

Under the Banner of Heaven is an American true crime drama miniseries based on the nonfiction book of the same name by Jon Krakauer and was created by Dustin Lance Black. The series follows police detective Jeb Pyre (Andrew Garfield), whose faith is challenged when he investigates the apparent involvement of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the death of a Mormon mother and her newborn daughter.

Under the Banner of Heaven expertly weaves together all of its components to create a gripping and cerebral true-crime drama with outstanding performances from the superb cast, particularly Garfield in the leading role. Moreover, when it comes to sensitive subjects like faith and lovethe show doesn’t hold back in harshly denouncing those who kill in the name of faith.

‘The North Water’ (2021)

The North Water is a five-part television miniseries directed by Andrew Haigh and starring Colin Farrellbased on Ian McGuire‘s 2016 novel of the same name. The series tells the story of Patrick Sumner (Jack O’Connell), a disgraced ex-army surgeon who takes up as a ship’s doctor on a whaling voyage to the Arctic, where he meets a murderous psychopath played by Farrell.

The cast’s acting is phenomenal, especially Farrell, who can bring his character to life by simply grunting and smirking like a demented maniac; it’s truly impressive and terrifying. The North Water, like the cruise’s trek to the Arctic, is absolutely haunting, terrifying, and highly seductive that viewers won’t be able to take their eyes off the screen.

‘The Undoing’ (2020)

The Undoing is an American psychological thriller miniseries based on Jean Hanff Korelitz’s 2014 novel. You Should Have Known. The show follows a successful therapist’s (Nicole Kidman) life as it is turned upside down when she finds that her missing husband may be to blame for a major calamity.

Unlike other shows that fans may watch in a single sitting, The Undoing requires viewers to pause and savor the conversation, understanding glances, breathtaking New York cinematography, and magnificent acting from the excellent cast. Furthermore, while the show is oozing with glitz, there’s a powerful moral message about women’s roles in modern society that’s definitely worth exploring.

‘Stay Close’ (2021)

Stay Close is a British mystery drama miniseries produced by Netflix and based on Harlan Coben’s 2012 novel of the same name. The series tells a story of a mother of two, a detective, and a photojournalist who are brought together to investigate a probable serial murder.

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Stay Close progressively assembles its puzzle, using subtle editing of past violence and character silences to do so. Additionally, harassed reactions give the characters dimension, and the film’s tone is consistently foreboding. As a result, the show is suspenseful, with condensed storytelling and a slew of twists and turns, a perfect choice for a thriller binge during weeknights.

‘The Outsider’ (2020)

The Outsider is a psychological thriller-horror miniseries based on Stephen King’s 2018 novel of the same name and was adapted for television by Richard Price. The series follows detective Ralph Anderson (Ben Mendelsohn) on his search for the assailant of an 11-year-old kid whose body had been mangled.

Price’s adaptation not only plays to the strengths of King’s original work but also brings the story to life with fantastic filming and top-notch performances from its stellar cast. The show is not only a thriller series but also a study about loss, grief, and the limitations of belief. Whether a Stephen King fan or not, The Outsider is a beautifully written, shot, and performed miniseries that should not be missed.

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