By Kaya Bruno
Before I rediscovered my love for reading in the last couple of years, I often found it difficult to identify encouraging books to continue reading. I easily encountered TV shows that held my attention and opted to watch episode after episode instead of thinking about picking up a book. However, I noticed many shared themes between the books I eagerly absorbed and some of my favorite shows as I began reading again. When anyone asks for book recommendations, knowing one of their cherished TV shows provides an exemplary basis for discerning which genre and books might convince them of the opportunity to become immersed in their next read. If you’re struggling to find books that interest you, here are six book recommendations based on popular TV shows that can help provide a starting point in searching for a captivating book that holds your attention.
- Criminal Minds / None Shall Sleep by Ellie Marney
Genre: Young Adult Mystery & Historical Fiction
“There are no monsters. Only people” — Ellie Marney, None Shall Sleep
If you like the behavior analysis aspect of the show Criminal Minds, there’s a good chance that you will like None Shall Sleep by Ellie Marney. In the 1980s, two teenagers, Emma Lewis and Travis Bell are recruited into the FBI to help solve cases with teenage offenders. Emma and Travis study and attempt to understand the psychology of suspects very similarly to Hotch’s team, as this novel details the beginnings of the behavioral analysis unit. None Shall Sleep is one the most terrifying thrillers I’ve read—Marney weaves increasing suspense and danger with disturbing investigations of serial killers to create an enthralling read. Furthermore, Marney explores the partnership between Emma and Travis extremely well, reminiscent of the entertaining, collaborative, and heartfelt dynamics of the BAU in Criminal Minds.
Content Warnings: Graphic violence, Murder/Death, PTSD
2. Stranger Things / The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould
Genre: Young Adult Mystery & Fantasy
“The Dark is not a monster. It simply is” — Courtney Gould, The Dead and the Dark
The paranormal themes in Stranger Things create an atmosphere similar to The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould. Stranger Things is set in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, and focuses on the town’s connection to the alternate universe of the upside-down. On the other hand, The Dead and the Dark focuses on Snakebite, which a mysterious “Dark” infects. Logan, a girl whose family just moved to Snakebite, leads the novel. Logan’s dads host a famous TV show where they hunt ghosts, raising suspicion about her family’s sudden arrival when odd disappearances and weather overtake the town. As Logan searches for what exactly is haunting Snakebite, she meets Ashley, prompting a joint investigation to reveal their families’ interwoven pasts and connections to the occurrences in Snakebite. The eerie, ominous mood throughout the novel and the contradictions of light and dark consistently parallel the exploration of Hawkins and the upside-down in Stranger Things.
Content Warnings: Child death/endangerment, Violence, Homophobia
3. Gossip Girl / Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé
Genre: Young Adult Mystery
“I didn’t invent this twisted system that pits us against each other and makes us do crappy things for status—but I do know how to play it.” — Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé, Ace of Spades
Critics describe Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé as Gossip Girl meets Get Out; it’s a dark academia thriller that follows Chiamaka and Devon at Niveus Student Academy. Similar to Gossip Girl, at Constance Billard, an anonymous person under the pseudonym Aces begins cyber-targeting students at Niveus. However, Chiamaka and Devon, the only two Black students at the school, soon realize that they are Aces’ primary focus. The author makes you constantly question each character and masters a slow build of suspense. Through allegorical plot devices combined with haunting character backstories, this novel is a genuinely suspenseful and horrifying read that examines the claws of institutional racism.
Content Warnings: Racism, Homophobia, Sexism, Bullying, Suicide ideation, Gun violence, Panic attacks, Death/murder, Drug use
4. The 100/ Lore by Alexandra Bracken
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy & Mythology
“Some people get so used to looking out at life from the edge of their cage that they stop seeing the bars” — Alexandra Bracken, Lore
If you liked following Clarke’s twisted journey throughout The 100, you would probably admire the character of Lore Perseous. In this Greek mythology-inspired fantasy, Lore ends up in the midst of Agon: the event that occurs every seven years where Zeus strips the immortality of nine Greek gods. During this time, the gods must walk the Earth as mortals as punishment for their past rebellions. While on Earth, the gods are hunted by descendants of ancient bloodline, who upon killing a god will receive immortality. Set in New York City, this novel examines the parallels between the power structures in Greek mythology and those of modern society, specifically the brutality that women face living in a patriarchy. Lore’s exploration of redemption and revenge is reminiscent of Clarke’s constant difficulty with the objective of justice. Additionally, Lore’s development of the intricacies in alliances, and the subsequent dynamics of trust and betrayal are similar to The 100’s warring clans.
Content Warnings: Graphic violence, Sexual assault, Child abuse, Terminal illness, Suicide, Death/murder, PTSD
5. How to Get Away With Murder / The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Genre: Adult Mystery
“Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it” — Donna Tartt, The Secret History
The Secret History by Donna Tartt is a disturbing, reactive thriller driven by an unsettling cast of characters. If you love to dislike characters, love watching them fall apart by their own and each other’s hand like the Keating Five in HTGAWM, you’ll enjoy reading this novel. The Secret History follows six students at Hampden College who study classics under their professor, Julian Morrow. A combination of corruption and immorality, this novel dives into the manipulations of elitism and questions the catalysts of evil and its resulting demand for responsibility.
Content Warnings: Emotional/sexual abuse, Racism, Homophobia, Antisemitism, Drug use, Alcohol consumption, Suicide, Animal cruelty, Violence, Death/murder, PTSD
6. Psych / The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe
Genre: Young Adult Mystery
“What didn’t kill me didn’t make me stronger; what didn’t kill me made me into a victim.
But I made me stronger. I made me into a survivor” — Tess Sharpe, The Girls I’ve Been
The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe reminds me tremendously of “Gus Walks Into a Bank” in season 3 of Psych. In this episode, Gus is taken hostage, and Shawn must negotiate and discern the gunman’s motives. The Girls I’ve Been immediately begins with the main character, Nora, trapped with her girlfriend and best friend in a bank that becomes a robbery in progress. Only Nora’s mother is a con artist who raised Nora as many different girls, operating as part of her cons, constantly conditioned to deceive and circumvent. This cinematic and humorous thriller is fast-paced and interwoven with the unnerving backstories of Nora’s childhood, creating a thoughtful, harmonious blend of a survival story and the navigation of trauma. The Girls I’ve Been is also set to premiere as a Netflix Original movie starring Stranger Things star, Millie Bobby Brown.
Content Warnings: Domestic violence, Emotional/sexual abuse, Death/murder
I hope you’ve found a few books to add to your list and are encouraged to continue your reading experience! As always, support independent bookstores; there are a multitude of them in NYC such as Community Bookstore, Three Lives & Company, Strand Book Store, McNally Jackson Booksellers, Unnameable Books, Greenlight Bookstore, and many more.