Written by: Andrea Marks-Joseph
A new year means a bright new slate of upcoming books to look out for and get excited about! And alongside all the enticing new book releases come many intriguing screen adaptations. With streaming services scooping up film rights to so many beloved books, and TV adaptations gaining popularity, now is the perfect time to fill your 2022 TBR list with titles that will be on our screens soon!
This list includes a Horror short story written by Stephen King’s son, several thrilling Historical Fiction novels based on real-life superstition, and a magical story that explores a teenager’s grief. You will travel through time and across the world with stories set in Japan, Korea, Ireland, and England.
While release dates are constantly shifting (pandemic dependent), I have included the latest available information for each title so that you can arrange your TBR piles accordingly. Happy reading! And then happy watching!
1. The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
I cannot imagine what it is like to be a teenager right now in the middle of a pandemic (I am barely grasping what it is like to be an adult in a pandemic!) but I hope this story —about Lennie, a teenager grieving her sister’s sudden death while discovering the beauty (and beautiful chaos) of romance— will provide a much needed sense of solidarity and hope. This adaptation has been in the works for a decade, and it is arriving at the perfect time. The Sky is Everywhere explores grief, passion, and family in the most imaginative, emotional storyline.
The upcoming film’s director says of Jandy Nelson’s writing: “She lets us be inside of the playful awkwardness and thrill of first love alongside the raw reality of grief. And she lets us inside of Lennie's wild imagination.” which perfectly encapsulates what I love about this Young Adult novel. I highly recommend finding a paperback copy of this book; It is the most precious, inventively presented book I own. Here is a first look at the movie, releasing on AppleTV+ and in select theaters on Feb 11.
2. Bullet Train by Kōtarō Isaka, Translated by Sam Malissa
Bullet Train is the English translation of a wildly popular Japanese novel. Five (vastly different, incredibly twisted) assassins board a high-speed bullet train headed to Tokyo. Initially unaware of each other, chaos ensues as they realize their individual missions may be linked.
Entirely set on the bullet train, with a plot that races against the speed of its location, this thriller is action-packed, and at times profound; It is dark and vicious, but humorous. The story follows a suitcase full of ransom money, strange personalities, and a rising body count. Bullet Train’s violent, frenzied tone has been compared to Tarantino films, while also reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express.
The film is directed by David Leitch (Atomic Blonde) who is known for his propulsive action films. With an ensemble cast that includes Brad Pitt, Joey King, and Sandra Bullock, you can bet it is going to be an entertaining ride to see this absurd, all-consuming, fast-paced escapist thrill of a novel translated to the screen. The movie is scheduled to release in cinemas on July 15.
3. “The Black Phone” from 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill
20th Century Ghosts is a collection of short stories written by Joe Hill. Hill is Stephen King’s son, which is easy to believe as you are swept up into the eerie, captivating nature of these tales. In The Black Phone film, based on the short story of the same name, a serial killer (played by Ethan Hawke) kidnaps children and traps them in a basement.
While in the basement, a young boy discovers that the long disconnected vintage phone in the room with him… rings at night. Who is at the other end? The kidnapper's previous victims (who are dead!) contacting him to try and help him escape. This story has child ghosts, desperation, missing person investigation, and a thrilling escape plan! You can watch the chilling trailer here. The Black Phone is expected in theaters on June 24.
4. Deep Water by Patricia Highsmith
From the director of Fatal Attraction, with a screenplay by Euphoria creator Sam Levinson, Deep Water is the psychological thriller that sparked the highly publicized romance between actors Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas. The now-former lovers star in this adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel about a couple caught in a loveless marriage.
—A marriage which survives because of Vic’s (Affleck) agreement to allow Melinda (de Armas) any number of lovers, so long as she does not subject him to “the messiness of divorce.” In a misguided, desperate attempt to win Melinda’s favor, Vic falsely claims to have killed one of her former lovers… but soon their deadly mind games lead to actual murder. This novel examines and exposes dysfunctional marriage, jealousy, and the concept of idyllic suburban American life, with all the added tension and delicious drama that make Highsmith novels a cult favorite. The film will be released on Hulu soon.
5. The Wonder by Emma Donoghue
Inspired by the mysterious Victorian-era “Fasting Girls” phenomenon, The Wonder takes place in The Irish Midlands, in 1862. Emma Donoghue’s mesmerizing novel follows an English nurse (played by Florence Pugh in the upcoming film) called to a small village to medically observe a young girl who has somehow survived without food for months but remains healthy. Tourists, journalists, and pilgrims come to visit her, observing the girl as saintly, a miracle; The nurse must establish if something more sinister is going on.
“[The Fasting Girl phenomenon] seemed to say a lot about what it’s meant to be a girl —in many Western countries,” Donoghue, explains on her website, “from the sixteenth century right through to the twentieth— that these girls became celebrities by not eating.” While deeply fascinated by the stories, Donoghue felt no literary pull towards a single character from the historical accounts she read. Finally, she decided to invent a story of her own: “I’d set it in Ireland, of course – not just because that’s my homeland, but because ever since the Great Famine of the 1840s, we’ve defined ourselves as a people intimate with hunger.” If that does not make you want to read The Wonder, I am not sure what will! Here is a first look at the upcoming Netflix film.
6. The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
Sarah Perry’s award-winning novel is also set in the Victorian era and inspired by real-life legends! Taking place in the year 1893, The Essex Serpent is about Cora Seaborne, who moves from London to a small village in Essex for a fresh start after her abusive husband dies.
She becomes intrigued by a tale the locals are convinced is real: The belief that the town is being haunted by a reawakened mythological sea serpent, which lies in the fog of the bay, waiting to attack them. The children are sick with how strongly they believe this myth; Mysterious deaths and disappearances further ignite paranoia.
Cora’s investigations to uncover the truth include hypnotism and medical examinations; Emotional affairs ensue, alongside tons of superstition and small-town shenanigans. The six-episode TV adaptation is set to stream on Apple TV+ with Claire Danes starring as Cora. Tom Hiddleston portrays the local vicar who is keen to end the frightening rumours, and Clémence Poésy plays his wife.
In the early 1900s, a Korean teenager falls pregnant, and accepts an offer of marriage from someone passing through her town on his way to Japan. Pachinko is a story that spans four generations and explores the complex, often heart-breaking consequences of that decision, and of Japan’s colonization of Korea. It is a richly woven story of love, ambition, and sacrifice, exploring survival, prejudice, morality, and loyalty amidst devastating political circumstances.
The epic Historical Fiction novel is being adapted into a limited series for Apple TV+. Pachinko is being filmed on multiple continents and in three languages, with an incredible cast of iconic Korean actors, including Minari’s Youn Yuh-Jung, and both Lee Min-Ho and Jung Eun-Chae from the Netflix hit show The King: Eternal Monarch.
- If you enjoyed the 2009 cinematic adaptation of The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, you may want to dive back into the book this year because it is getting a television adaption that leans closer to the novel than the film did. It will star Game of Thrones’ Rose Leslie and Divergent’s Theo James.
- The upcoming TV adaptation of Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (inspired by Fleetwood Mac) is being produced by Reese Witherspoon’s company Hello Sunshine for Amazon Studios, and stars Riley Keough and Sam Claflin. No release date yet, though.
- If you would like to read some books whose adaptations are already available to watch, we have a list of 6 Great Adventurous Book-to-TV Adaptations for you!
Andrea Marks-Joseph is a South African freelance writer and book reviewer. She can be found on Goodreads, Twitter @stargirlriots, and at stargirlriots.com.