18 Great Books To Read Based On The New TV You're Binge-Watching

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By the end of winter, you might’ve reached the end of what you thought was a limitless supply of quality shows. But great stories abound; below, we’ve chosen books to read based on our favorite shows to stream.

If you like “Planet Earth II,” read The Terranauts by T.C. Boyle

It doesn’t take an ecology nerd to appreciate the stunning visuals of “Planet Earth II,” a documentary series that reveals rarely seen snippets of life in ecosystems from the Arctic to the desert. If you’re fascinated by the complexity and the harsh beauty of life on Earth, you might like T.C. Boyle’s latest novel, The Terranauts. Humanity remains the primary focus of the book, which is set not in a natural habitat, but in an enclosed system based on Biosphere 2. The cast of “terranauts” who live and work in the sealed dome study the flora and fauna brought inside, which simulate several major ecosystems in one relatively tiny space, allowing them to move from the rainforest to the desert to the ocean in a matter of minutes. Meanwhile, their own lives, conflicts and modes of survival become part of the grand experiment ― a reminder that humans, too, are creatures eking out survival on planet Earth. ― Claire Fallon

Buy it on Amazon or at a local bookstore.

If you like “Jessica Jones” or “Luke Cage,” read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “Black Panther”

Ta-Nehisi Coates has won a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant,” and a National Book Award for his much-celebrated work of nonfiction, Between the World and Me. Now, lucky for fans of superheroes like Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, he’s writing “Black Panther” stories for Marvel. His new series, “Black Panther and the Crew,” written by Coates and poet Yona Harvey, hits shelves this April. ― Katy Brooks

Buy it on Amazon or at a local bookstore.

If you like “Silicon Valley,” read Startup by Doree Shafrir

Will Pied Piper go belly up after fudging its user numbers, or will wunderkind Richard Hendricks finally figure out how to make his middle-out compression technology marketable? Will scenes full of tech industry jargon somehow still manage to amuse us? If startup parodies are your bag, BuzzFeed Culture Writer Shafrir’s debut will tide you over until the HBO show returns. ― Maddie Crum

Buy it on Amazon or at a local bookstore. 

If you like “Fleabag,” read Paulina and Fran by Rachel B. Glaser

The protagonist of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s dark comedy “Fleabag” takes the trope of the “difficult woman” to the edge, delivering a compelling female character who is sexual, vain, narcissistic, self-destructive and a bit unglued. Similarly, Paulina and Fran of Glaser’s novel are self-obsessed and hungry for attention, their less virtuous urges battling their artistic aspirations for dominance. Both pieces offer portraits of flawed and unapologetic contemporary young women that might make older-generation feminists cringe. ― Priscilla Frank

Buy it on Amazon or at a local bookstore.

If you like “Riverdale,” read Virgin and Other Stories by April Ayers Lawson

The CW seems to have hit its stride with shows that fuse parody with earnest emotion. “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” “Jane the Virgin,” and now “Riverdale” all fit the mold of self-aware drama, full of enjoyable tropes. It’s hard to pinpoint what “Riverdale” isn’t: it’s a revamp of classic Archie comics, a murder mystery, and a teen noir à la “Gossip Girl.” It has football, female friendships and illicit student-teacher relationships. Lawson’s book is similarly hard to categorize, although most of the stories center on young people exploring their values and their sexuality ― just like Archie, Betty, Veronica and Jughead. ― MC

Buy it on Amazon or at a local bookstore.

If you like “Veep,” read The Nix by Nathan Hill

“Veep” is a TV show about a vice president-turned-president-turned-ex-president that provides the reserved comic relief “House of Cards” rarely gives us. The Nix is also political satire that, as my colleague Claire Fallon wrote in a review, comes off as “uber-timely” considering its heavy emphasis on the role media plays in escalating the political narratives that come to surround people and events in politics. It’s over 600 pages of witty, energetic writing and captivating farces that’s as easily binged as the last five seasons of “Veep.” ― KB

Buy it on Amazon or at a local bookstore.

If you like “Big Little Lies,” read Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson

A new mother enters a seemingly utopian community where children are given the very best care. This is the premise of both “Big Little Lies,” the HBO drama starring Reese Witherspoon and based on a book of the same name, and Perfect Little World, a novel by Kevin Wilson, who writes absurd and touching stories about family. In Wilson’s book, the idyllic parental society isn’t a town on the shore, but a community created by a psychologist as an experiment, to determine what would happen if kids are raised without knowing who their real parents are. What could possibly go wrong? ― MC

Buy it on Amazon or at a local bookstore.

If you like “The Leftovers,” read Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins

“The Leftovers,” which returns to HBO in April, is based on a novel by Tom Perrotta, so you should certainly read that. But, if you’re a fan of the apocalyptic-like storyline underlying the show, you’ll probably enjoy Claire Vaye Watkins’ Gold Fame Citrus, a book about ecological degradation, the back-slipping of humanity, and what happens when, in desperation, people turn to myths and phantasmagoria to explain their existence in a vanishing world. ― KB

Buy it on Amazon or at a local bookstore.

If you like “Search Party,” read White Tears by Hari Kunzru

Alia Shawkat’s moody, dark comedy features a directionless 20-something who finds purpose in her life by throwing herself into the quest to find a former college acquaintance who has gone missing. In the process, the show satirizes privileged white city-dwellers, the amateur detection craze, and conspiracy mindsets ― and reveals how much damage can be done by well-meaning people entertaining themselves by meddling in serious business. White Tears takes on similar themes, with more explicit racial commentary, in the realm of the music industry. Two white music producers attempt to perfectly replicate old blues recordings, only to find themselves caught up in an ominous mystery. Solving it seems like the path to salvation, but is that a false promise? White Tears mirrors the sharp cultural satire, detection throughline, and eerie, foreboding atmosphere of “Search Party,” so if you’re a fan of one, you should check out the other. ― CF

Buy it on Amazon or at a local bookstore.

If you like “Girls,” read  The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy

Can women have it all? This seems to be one of the questions that Lena Dunham has explored with “Girls”; her characters are often caught in the middle of two paradoxical wants. Similarly, in her new memoir, Ariel Levy writes about the assumptions she’s made about the conveniences she could afford as a modern woman, and how life disproved them. Both Dunham and Levy have been criticized as privileged for their portrayals of feminism today, but whether or not you’re a fan, both add new ideas to the canon of feminist storytelling. ―MC

Buy it on Amazon or at a local bookstore. 

If you like “Legion,” read The Regional Office Is Under Attack by Manuel Gonzales

“Legion,” the FX-adapted story of a mutant connected to the “X-Men” universe, is not your typical superhero show, so it’s difficult to pair with it a book as unconventional in style and cinematic flair. Instead, I’ll stick to something similar in subject matter (and, perhaps, humorous tone), and suggest The Regional Office Is Under Attack by Manuel Gonzales. In it there are superpowers, oracles, revenge plots, and cyborg appendages. It never takes itself too seriously, and while you might chuckle at the fetishized versions of female assassins, the novel manages to be to paint a picture of two compelling female protagonists in what might seem like a hyper-masculine world. ― KB

Buy it on Amazon or at a local bookstore.

If you like “Insecure,” read Difficult Women by Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay is the pioneering “bad feminist”; she even named her book of essays after the epithet. She’s forthright about the fact that she’s still trying to figure her life out, and along the way she’s made missteps. In Difficult Women, Gay’s heroines fight, bond and reflect on their upbringings. Likewise, Issa in “Insecure” (played by Issa Rae, author of The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl) is a flawed human, and realer because of it. ― MC

Buy it on Amazon or at a local bookstore.

If you like “Halt and Catch Fire,” read Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle

I’m really just looking for a reason to talk about both “Halt and Catch Fire,” a TV show about the birth of the internet and the rise of connected video game culture, and Wolf in White Van, a minefield of a novel about a young man who builds a pre-internet role-playing game that connects players in an imagined world beyond our reality. The two revolve around similar time periods and subject matter: the 1980s, gamers, and the desire to construct your own universe. If you’re already enthralled with “Halt and Catch Fire,” I’d encourage you to pick up John Darnielle’s book for a slightly different, and a little bit darker, take on the that desire. ― KB

Buy it on Amazon or at a local bookstore.

If you like “Stranger Things,” read Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin

In Schweblin’s slim, terrifying novel, a woman goes on vacation to a quaint town not far from a nearby city. She makes friends with a local, an alluring woman whose son seems somehow unwell. It’s not long before she’s come down with a debilitating fever herself; from the hospital she speaks with the boy about the affliction that’s come over the town. This mysterious story is a quick read, so it won’t hold you over until the Netflix show’s second season, but it’s a start. ― MC

Buy it on Amazon or at a local bookstore. 

If you like “Broad City,” read The Bed Moved by Rebecca Schiff

Fans of “Broad City” are addicted to its absurd and at times surreal sense of humor, smart and strong yet occasionally aimless female protagonists, and gritty portrayals of womanhood, youth, friendship and bad sex. Schiff’s debut short story collection uses a similarly sharp sense of humor to tell gripping stories about real women roaming the internet, judging their peers, or jumping into bed with someone else. ― PF

Buy it on Amazon or at a local bookstore

If you like “Jane the Virgin,” read Things We Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enriquez

The dramatic twists of “Jane the Virgin” are almost surreal: a woman puts her twin in a coma, a serial killer uses plastic surgery to change her appearance, a detective is shot on his wedding night. But, the absurdity of the show’s events don’t get in the way of its emotional resonance; the characters also confront real issues, like balancing work with parenthood. And Enriquez’s stories are as thrilling ― and as feeling ― as the show. ― MC

Buy it on Amazon or at a local bookstore. 

If you like “Chef’s Table,” read Blood, Bones and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton

“Chef’s Table” is one of those shows that introduces you to chefs you’d previously never heard of, but henceforth can never stop talking about at dinner parties. Take for example, a South Korean nun who lives in a Zen Buddhist temple preparing the most mouth-watering vegan meals for her fellow monks, largely unacknowledged, in an existence that is so diametrically opposed to the celebrity-obsessed ways of other high-profile culinary geniuses. Another equally compelling chef: Gabrielle Hamilton, of Prune fame, who, upon reading her memoir, you’ll immediately be referencing in every food-related conversation you take part in. And probably every memoir-related one, too. ― KB

Buy it on Amazon or at a local bookstore.

If you like “The Americans,” read Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets by Svetlana Alexievich

Nobel Prize-winning author Svetlana Alexievich recounts the death of Communism through a series of interviews with Russian citizens who describe their lives during and after the fall of the USSR. Avoiding sensationalized media narratives and propaganda, these are the stories ― collected between approximately 1991 and 2012 ― of people who actually lived in the KGB-handled country exaggerated (to great TV effect!) in “The Americans” and are continuing their lives in a new kind of Russia. There are equal parts terror and hope in this critically acclaimed and deeply engrossing book. ― KB

Find the book on Amazon or at your local bookstore.



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