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Epic Books That Could Be TV Miniseries

Too grand for the big screen, these books would be just right for a television run.

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Film adaptations of well known books are always controversial. One of the most frequent complaints is that it is difficult to capture all of the characters, storylines and details from a novel in a two-hour feature film. Some famous novels either have never been adapted or were hacked to pieces to squeeze them into a film format, rendering them nearly unrecognizable — and all because they are, simply put, too epic.

But in recent years, the TV miniseries has raised its profile thanks to such efforts asTop of the Lake and True Detective, so why not give some of these “unfilmable” books the miniseries treatment? These are 10 great novels (or series of novels) that, in our humble opinion, would make great miniseries:

1. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The story of the Buendía family and the town of Macondo is too complex to adapt into a feature-length film — all of the intricate family drama, revolutionary warfare and supernatural intervention — but if stretched over multiple hour-long episodes, it would be possible to capture extraordinary scope of One Hundred Years of Solitude without compromising the novel’s spirit. Additionally there is no shortage of talented Latino and Hispanic actors to take over the rolls: Imagine Demian Bichir as the first José Arcadio Buendía and Penelope Cruz as the tenacious matriarch Úrsula.

2. The Greenlanders by Jane Smiley

The harsh and breathtaking terrain of Greenland would never be unwelcome on film, and Smiley’s imagining of the final years of the ill-fated medieval Norse Greenland colony — aptly titled The Greenlanders — is the perfect vehicle to showcase it. At the heart of the story is Margret (we’d cast Mia Wasikowska), a strong-willed woman who finds herself without a family or home, and her brother Gunnar (perhaps Alfie Allen from Game of Thrones), who struggles to raise his family in the face of a slow-burning societal collapse. The novel focuses on themes of faith, economics, perseverance and European and Christian exceptionalism, but there is also plenty of adultery, murder and witchcraft to fill exciting hours of TV.

3. Tony Hillerman’s Navajo Tribal Police NovelsThe Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee books by Hillerman are some of the best loved American mystery novels. A few of the individual stories have been adapted for screen, but the often interconnected characters and plots among many books in the series are practically calling out to be woven together in one great miniseries. Leaphorn and Chee alone — one secular and the other deeply involved in Navajo religious practice — have enough charisma together to warrant a series.


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