31 Best books that haven’t been turned into movies yet
Despite Hollywood’s relentless quest to film everything they can think of, plenty of great books still have yet to be adapted into films.
With services like Netflix and Amazon continuing to grow their programming roster, adaptations are currently as popular as ever, and there is a lot of demand for compelling and well-established content. We have 31 books and series that have either not yet been purchased or whose development appears to be halted, so Hollywood, you have some options. Each of these would make a fantastic movie, a compelling television show, or other prestige-related projects. What are we missing from our adaption must-list?
Here are 31 books that we think deserve to be turned into movies:
1. All of the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
A creative young child in occupied Paris who is gradually going blind; an abandoned boy in pre-WWII Germany who has a talent for short-wave radio; and a precious diamond is known as the Sea of Flames. When it was published in 2014, Doerr's grandiose book enthralled readers and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The movie rights were quickly purchased by 20th Century Fox, but it appears that a four-part Netflix miniseries starring Mark Ruffalo and Hugh Laurie will instead be produced.
2. The Amazing Adventure of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
Before the book was even released, Scott Rudin purchased the picture rights. Michael Chabon was slated to pen the script, and Natalie Portman and Tobey Maguire were once considered for the lead roles. The Pulitzer Prize-winning book, though, was never made into a movie.
3. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
After Oprah Winfrey chose Jones' stunning and poignant marital drama for her Book Club in 2018, it quickly became a best-seller. It is about the impact on a Black couple after Roy, the husband is unfairly imprisoned.
4. American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
This book is based on Laura Bush's life. The biography of the former First Lady, which is credited with inspiring Sittenfeld, served as the basis for this semi-fictional account of a Wisconsin elementary school teacher who finds herself in the White House and at odds with her liberal upbringing. Political partisanship and the battle with one's conscience are themes from American Wife that have never been more timely.
5. The Art of Fielding by ChadHarbach
A prequel to The Sandlot may be on the way, but what we truly need is a film version of Harbach's poetic novel The Art of Fielding. Good baseball movies are rare (sorry, Million Dollar Arm), but Harbach's complex, gripping tale could be a worthy sequel to the timeless 1993 Sandlot (sorry, Sandlot 2). Think of "the college years," when Benny "The Jet" Rodriquez navigates dating off the field while attending school in northeastern Wisconsin (and, yeah, takes on the name of Henry Skrimshander). It's time to see The Art of Fielding up close now that the book has been released from a contentious court struggle.
6. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
Although The Awakening appeared in the 1991 made-for-TV film Grand Isle, starring Kelly McGillis, it was hardly a definitive adaptation. And if there were ever a good time to give Kate Chopin's 1899 high school English favorite the luscious period piece it so well demands (not to mention the Best Actress nomination that would almost certainly follow).
7. Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon
Paul Thomas Anderson's comic-noir adaptation of Thomas Pynchon's novel Inherent Vice earned the celebrated director an Oscar nomination for the screenplay as well as numerous positive reviews, despite it being frequently regarded as being unfilmable. Although Pynchon has bigger and better books in his canon, we'll recommend Bleeding Edge as his next work.
8. Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold
It's impressive that Gold's historical mystery hasn't already crossed over because it's so colorful and wild. Soon after it was released in 2001 to critical acclaim and economic success, the film rights were purchased. It has been in "development hell" ever since. There are occasional reports of fresh initiatives trying to get off the ground, but this dramatized portrayal of stage magician Charles Joseph Carter appears doomed.
9. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy
With his bright, broad portrayal of New Orleans in the 1960s, Toole's cult classic picaresque novel earned him a posthumous Pulitzer Prize, and its widespread popularity propelled it into the canon of contemporary Southern literature. However, it has never been screened. However, for readers of the book, the tale of how close it came is epic, interesting, and somewhat heartbreaking.
10. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
The Corrections, despite having won the 2001 National Book Award, comes with a lot of baggage: Oprah famously canceled her invitation to the Book Club after Jonathan Franzen criticized the media mogul's "schmaltzy" past picks; an HBO adaptation attempt has already failed, and Franzen is undoubtedly a much more contentious figure than he once was. However, this book, which is undoubtedly the author's best, is still a big, ambitious, and inventive work full of wonderful but flawed characters that would work well on screen.
11. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
What else needs to happen for this best-selling book to be adapted for the big screen, let alone for cable or streaming? We're curiously waiting for a high-budget film adaptation that is accessible to people who didn't get a chance to see the play, even though the novel's film rights were sold years ago, a smashing theatrical adaptation already won the Tony for Best Play, and the West End version was filmed for National Theatre Live. This heartwarming, depressing, and well-loved tale of a 15-year-old autistic boy who is investigating the death of a neighbor's dog needs to be resolved. We're still holding out hope for the original dog mystery despite there being a pretty shoddy Bengali-English version about a girl on the autism spectrum asking about the death of her cat that was released in 2019.
12. Days Without End by Sebastian Barry
Are there any actors in their twenties who dream of winning an Oscar? Enroll them in this epic and episodic Civil War drama about a pair of LGBT American soldiers battling for their lives and futures in the 1850s. Beyond the clear advantage for the film adaptation that Sebastian Barry's magnificent work offers, the protagonists of the book (Thomas McNulty and John Cole) are engrossing and reflective characters ideal for onscreen interpretation.
13. Death with Interruptions by Jose Saramago
One of José Saramago's most brilliant and eccentric works is a moving, thought-provoking meditation on life, loss, and the space between those two mortal inevitabilities.
14. Devil into the White City by Erik Larson
One of those true stories told so expertly in Erik Larson's nonfiction bestseller that it is just as engaging as the best thriller. The Devil in the White City is what every Hollywood screenwriter dreams of stumbling into, weaving together the lives of the great Chicago World's Fair architect of 1893 and the heinous serial killer who used the fair as his killing floor. Billy Ray was supposed to pen the script back in the summer of 2015; we had heard that Martin Scorsese was in line to helm the adaptation, with Leonardo DiCaprio (who bought the rights back in 2010) playing serial killer H.H. Holmes. We know that Keanu Reeves will play the lead role in a limited series adaption for Hulu, with executive producers Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio.
15. Educated by Tara Westover
The biggest memoir of 2018 is probably just a matter of when not if, it begins production. Think The Glass Castle meets Wild when you read Tara Westover's harrowing, motivational narrative of growing up with survivalist parents before graduating from Cambridge University. It has been a tremendous best-seller since its release and continues to draw in new readers.
16. Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh
My Year of relaxation, written by Moshfegh, is one of our favorite books of 2018, and it was optioned by Margot Robbie's movie company. However, her first book, Eileen, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, is just as delicious. In its portrayal of a lady who works at a juvenile detention center in the 1960s in Massachusetts, it combines elements of suspense, horror, and comedy.
17. An Ember in the Ashes Series by Sabaa Tahir
The abundance of YA fantasy/dystopian adaptations that followed The Hunger Games appears to be slowing down. But we hope that doesn't mean that Tahir's extensive magical story, which was purchased before the first book's release in 2013 but has appeared to be in limbo throughout the previous few years, has reached its conclusion.
18. Excellent Women by Barbara Pym
Few writers of the 20th century were as masterful at creating social comedies as Barbara Pym. Her second book, Excellent Women, which centers on a spinster in 1950s England as her life suddenly expands due to the arrival of new neighbors (and men), is her funniest work to date.
19. Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
The fact that Lauren Groff's complex contemporary meditation on love and obsession, flavored with Greek mythology, was number one on a then-sitting president's fiction list undoubtedly helped Lauren Groff's chances of becoming Barack Obama's favorite book of 2015.
20. The Chronicles of Amber Series by Roger Zelazny
Both George R.R. Martin, author of Game of Thrones, and Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman have pushed for the adaptation of Roger Zelazny's fantasy novels, the Chronicles of Amber, into a television series. The adult fantasy story of a feuding royal family, whose members may travel between parallel universes, has been attempted to be adapted by several authors (Kirkman among them).
21. The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner
It almost seems unfair that Rachel Kushner's 2013 National Book Award finalist was even teased with the possibility of a Jane Campion-directed adaptation, only to have that ambition crushed.
22. Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco
Think of The Da Vinci Code as being much wiser and less ludicrous. That about sums up the occult (and unmistakably cinematic) doorstop-sized conspiracy thriller by Italian novelist Umberto Eco about the Knights Templar, Jewish mysticism, code-breaking, numerology, the Holy Grail, and an obsessional, high-IQ scavenger hunt that can only lead to lunacy.
23. The Girls by Emma Cline
As far as our fellow cult fans are concerned, the film industry can never have enough cults. Yes, the plot of the book The Girls, which is based on the Helter Skelter gang, isn't exactly original, and towards the conclusion, the plot had somewhat lost its way. Yet, precisely that is what makes a gripping movie.
24. The Forbidden Hearts Trilogy by Alisha Rai
Hollywood is experiencing a bit of a romance novel moment right now, with the massively successful Bridgerton series adaption from Shonda Rhimes following Christina Lauren's Roomies, Helen Hoang's The Kiss Quotient, and Sally Thorne's The Hating Game all coming into production. This show is the stuff of primetime soap opera dreams, with a rich cast of diverse characters, emotional and sympathetic treatment of topics like depression, PTSD, and self-worth, and a story of fighting families. We'd love to see Shonda try her hand at it next. They share DNA with characters like Cristina Yang and Meredith Grey and are the kind of sophisticated, nuanced females we need to see more of on television.
25. The Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter
Ally Carter mistook believed she was watching a program about a girl attending spy school one evening as she was watching an episode of Alias. Even though she was proven to be wrong, it gave rise to the first Gallagher Girls book's plot, and six novels later, it's safe to say it paid off. Gallagher Academy is a school for female spies, and the television show follows Cammie and her friends through its hallways. The girls carry out missions while undergoing training to become spies (and even join forces with the top secret all-boys spy school in book two). This series begs to be adapted into a bubbly adolescent drama because it features action, romance, and intense conflict.
26. Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong
One of the funniest stories of the decade tells the well-known tale of a lady who returns to her parents after being disillusioned, only for things to get gloriously out of control. Khong writes with a deep sense of empathy and a razor-sharp but never nasty sense of humor. Her voice feels perfect for a personal HBO half-hour. Constance Wu was supposed to star in a Universal Pictures movie, according to a Variety article from 2019, but nothing has happened since.
27. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
The two most well-known fantasy novels of the past century both take place in the same kind of medieval European milieu, even though Game of Thrones differs significantly from Lord of the Rings in its abundance of sex and willingness to murder important characters. You could be excused for assuming that fantasy tales could only have only one possible appearance, yet the contrary is true. The Inheritance Trilogy by Jemisin is a fantastic example of fiction that imagines a wildly different hypothetical world in which everyone is created equally and is ruled by three brother-sister gods. At least, it used to be; at the beginning of the story, everything has gone wrong and only one deity now reigns supreme. Unlike many fantasy books, which simply reinstate the monarchy or return things to the way they were, Jemisin's heroes work to drastically alter their world for the better. Instead of using violence, they primarily use sex—good, wonderful, earth-shattering god sex.
28. The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
With the Glenn Close-led adaptation of her debut novel The Wife and the enormous popularity of her book The Female Persuasion, 2018 was somewhat of a breakthrough year for Wolitzer (which Nicole Kidman has been developing with Amazon Studios). So it seems appropriate that the best book by the author, an epic and witty tale that follows the lives of friends who meet at an art camp, has the proper movie adaptation.
29. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
If producers try to Death Note-style Americanize Haruki Murakami's surrealist mythological masterpiece, this metaphysical narrative might struggle. But a lavish anime adaptation of one of the most captivating novels of this century?
30. Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
In addition to its high-profile cast and big-budget spectacle, Black Panther surprised spectators with the way it incorporated superhero and science fiction tropes into the backdrop of the worldwide Black experience. Given that racism and racial justice are currently at the forefront of the cultural zeitgeist, Octavia E. Butler, who is essentially the godmother of this kind of work, is a great choice for the adaptation of her book Kindred. Like The Time Traveler's Wife crossed with 12 Years a Slave, Kindred tells the tale of Dana, an African American writer living in the 20th century who continues being transported back to the Maryland plantation where her ancestors were held as slaves before the Civil War. Dana saves the life of a little white kid called Rufus when she first arrives, and he is appreciative of her assistance. But throughout time travels, Rufus ages and becomes corrupted by Southern society, becoming a plantation owner who abuses Dana like any other slave. Kindred has a lot to say about the legacy of slavery and the evolving nature of interracial relationships by drawing such striking comparisons between contemporary and antebellum America. Damian Duffy and John Jennings turned the book into a graphic novel, showcasing the story's strength and adaptability.
31. Kringle by Tony Abbott
This fantasy epic from Tony Abbott, author of Secrets of Droon, gave Santa Claus a thrilling beginning in 2005. It featured child-stealing goblins, runic prophecies, flying reindeer, and a brave orphan determined to restore joy to the world. The project is currently in limbo after the studio let its option lapse, but one imagines family audiences would eagerly flock to theaters (especially around the holidays) for an imaginative, high-flying adventure story like this, set in a richly drawn world reminiscent of Narnia and Middle-Earth. In 2007, Paramount and Transformers producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura optioned film rights, appointing Chicken Little's Mark Dindal to co-write and direct.
Some of the greatest films ever made were adapted from excellent books. Whether it's James Jones' From Here To Eternity or Cormac McCarthy's No Country For Old Men, which was published more recently. Great books are the excellent film-making inspiration for screenwriters and directors. But some of the greatest books ever written—both classics and more modern works—have never been adapted into films. This can occur when an author refuses to sell the book's rights. In other cases, it happens because a book is deemed unfilmable.