Sure, TV and especially streaming services have made it possible to lose entire weekends binging shows and Funyuns™ in equal measure. But the fact is, we are living in a golden age of TV. For every deep-fried scripted-reality cringefest that you admit to no one that you watch, there is a universally-acclaimed prestige series that bears impassioned analysis in breakrooms and coffee bars across the globe. TV isn't--and never really was--the 'vast wasteland' as some would have it. At its best, TV is a gateway, a virtual palace of easter eggs, a starting point.
Here, then, are reading recommendations based on some of our favorite shows.
The least unique thing about me is that I am a lifelong Beatles fan. I know: that’s like saying that I’m a fan of breathing, but what can I say? The Fab Four have a special place in my heart, so of course, I was glued to my couch to watch the eight-plus hour archival documentary Get Back, opens a new window when it dropped on Disney+. I consider myself to be something of an armchair Beatles historian, so I have been devouring books about everyone’s favorite Liverpool residents since I finished the documentary and have a few recommendations for any other bookish Beatlemaniacs out there. The obvious next step is the book companion to the documentary, The Beatles: Get Back, opens a new window. If the documentary made you, like me, a little sentimental about the most famous band of all time, I would highly recommend Dreaming the Beatles, opens a new window, a book of essays by one of my favorite music writers, Rob Sheffield, for a perspective on why we love this band as much as we do. And if you find that there is Beatles lore you still want to find out about, there is always the gargantuan, insanely thorough Anthology, opens a new window for anyone who wants to know about George Harrison’s love-hate relationship with jellybeans, or how existentialism is responsible for their iconic bowl cuts. --Elizabeth Burton
Recommended to me by a friend, Behind the Attractions on Disney+ is my latest binge-watch, but that’s OK, it’s educational! Each episode features a different Disney attraction. Combining archival footage, interviews from Disney Imagineers past and present, archivists, and historians we discover the skill, creativity, hard work, and dedication that went towards meeting the challenge of creating rides, shows, hotels, and technology the world had never seen before. The environmentalist in me was also excited to learn that Walt Disney looked at some of his park’s transportation innovations as experiments, with hopes that they’d be adopted elsewhere. He even went so far as to present a plan for a monorail system in L.A. While I hope for another season, I’m going to check out the eAudio for Disney’s Land, opens a new window by Richard Snow and Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination, opens a new window by Neal Gabler. Then I’m going to rewatch some of the movies that are based on Disney rides and parks, like Pirates of the Caribbean, opens a new window, Tomorrowland, opens a new window, and Jungle Cruise, opens a new window. Are you a budding Imagineer? Check out HCPL’s Maker Central, opens a new window to hone your skills! --Laura Smith
I had a blast with Netflix’s Fear Street Trilogy, with Fear Street 1978 being my favorite entry. While the writers ultimately ended up crafting a new story, there’s a deep and obvious love for the source material present in their work. HCPL has many Fear Street, opens a new window novels to read if you’re interested. The trilogy unabashedly embraced the thrills and the chills of the horror genre, while being surprisingly poignant at times. I definitely recommend it. And if you like laughs with your scares, check out Ready or Not for watching and Grady Hendrix’s My Best Friend's Exorcism for reading. --Leslie Espinoza
I’m working my way through The Good Place with much cathartic crying. Although there are many extensive lists of all the books mentioned in the show, opens a new window, I knew I couldn’t (and didn’t want to) read everything. Instead, I found Ask a Philosopher by Ian Olasov. The author and several of his colleagues set up booths in Brooklyn: ASK A PHILOSOPHER. People would come up with a variety of questions, both theoretical (Are people innately Good or Bad?) and mundane (Is it okay to own a fish?). Olasov shares his answers with all the twists and turns that different philosophers have offered. He also includes hilarious stories from these interactions. This isn’t really a read straight through book; you may simply pick specific questions to ponder. I can’t guarantee you won’t have stomach aches, look for loopholes, or worry about your Points to get in The Good Place. It is, however, a great companion to the show. --Darcy Casavant
My Hero Academia, opens a new window (Boku No Hero Academia), the TV series, misses a lot of the character development that the manga provides but it’s still an amazing show. If you are a fan of the series and have never read the actual manga, you are missing out! Both the manga and the series carry top-tier entertainment that people of all ages can get behind. Anyone can be a hero in this world and that’s why I love it! I recommend the manga series if you liked the tv show and I’m also throwing out these other series with similar concepts: Teen Titans, opens a new window, One Punch Man, opens a new window, and Fire Force, opens a new window. These are rated for a more mature audience, but the art and storylines give My Hero a run for its money. --Crystal Mosley
Mystery, misdirection, murder, and shenanigans. What’s not to love? Fans of murder mysteries and podcasts alike can find themselves at home with Only Murders in the Building, opens a new window from Hulu. Follow along as three crime podcast enthusiasts band together and attempt to discover who the murderer in their building is - all while recording their own podcast. If you are waiting as eagerly for the second season as I am, here are two books to help you make it through. For all the Murderinos out there - check out Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered: the Definitive How-to Guide, opens a new window for a behind-the-scenes delve into the lives of My Favorite Murder, opens a new window podcast hosts: Karen and Georgia. Follow that up with If I Disappear, opens a new window for a dark and thrilling look into the culture surrounding true-crime podcasts. --Devon Weaver
As historical dramas and period pieces have long been a popular genre of entertainment in media, a show I always find myself going back to is the CW series Reign. Amongst the burgeoning renditions of historically inspired shows making headlines such as Bridgerton, The Great, and The Tudors—Reign has always created an alluring appeal to the otherwise turbulent Early Modern Era of Europe. Although not necessarily the most historically accurate representation in regards to royal figures, clothing, music, and other varying discrepancies, the show does well in creating an atmospheric and engaging interest with politics and characters. Romance and fantasy/supernatural themes do play a large part in the series; however, it only adds to further draw the watcher in. For watchers seeking to read books that are similar in genre, tone, and plot, I highly recommend the novel My Lady Jane, opens a new window by authors Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows, and Cynthia Hand. The story follows the short life of the “Nine Days’ Queen” Lady Jane Grey and her betrothed Guildford Dudley as commanded by her cousin, the sickly King Edward VI. Although the novel takes many liberties in Lady Jane Grey’s story and her counterparts, offering her a happier alternative than her untimely death, it incorporates humor, wit, and a dash of magic and romance to bring about all those well-loved elements that bring fans of Reign back to watch over and over again. --Yasmene Sadek
I’ve been a fan of the Jody Hill/Danny McBride HBO brain trust since their uproarious 2009-2013 series Eastbound and Down,, opens a new window and I was not let down by the recently concluded second season of their latest and most ambitious project The Righteous Gemstones., opens a new window Starring the legendary John Goodman, alongside writer/director Danny McBride, Workaholic’s Adam Devine, and the severely underappreciated Edi Patterson, the show follows the exploits of a world-famous family of Televangelists and their Megachurch in South Carolina as they bumble through schemes, blackmail, and scandals on their path to world domination. The show’s depiction of an aging patriarch ceding control of his empire to his self-absorbed children recalls King Lear,, opens a new window while the show’s satirical glorification of prosperity, opens a new window gospel, opens a new window echoes the strange journey of the Bakker family described in PTL : The Rise and Fall of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker's Evangelical Empire., opens a new window Elsewhere, The Preacher's Wife: The Precarious Power of Evangelical Women Celebrities, opens a new window contextualizes the looming influence of the late Gemstone mother Aimee Leigh on the family business, while those intrigued by the arrival of the “Dixie Mafia” in Season 2 should check out Mississippi Mud., opens a new window Finally, while there are fewer supernatural shenanigans in The Righteous Gemstones than Empire of Wild, opens a new window (as far as we know so far,) those who love mysteries and exploring the dark side of evangelicalism will find a lot to love in this novel. --Leif Steenson
After 11 seasons, The Walking Dead is coming to an end this year. Over the years, this engrossing zombie apocalypse drama has led to 4 spin offs, including an upcoming series with fan-favorite Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus). If rumors are true, fans can also expect a feature film trilogy that follows Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln). AMC, any update on this film series will be much appreciated as I need to know what happens to Rick Grimes! Though The Walking Dead series is coming to the end, fans can read the comic book that started it all The Walking Dead, Volume 1: Days Gone By, opens a new window. --Anjela Martinez
Captivating, disturbing, sexy, and strangely funny, the Netflix series You, opens a new window is based on a series of books by Caroline Kepnes. Part satirist, part witty player, and part serial killer, Joe Goldberg is not your everyday murderer, he only kills when he “has” to. Book Two, Hidden Bodies, opens a new window moves Joe from New York to Los Angeles hoping for a fresh start. The problem is that the educated bookwork, Joe, seeks unrealistic levels of complexity and passion in his partners, and they just do not seem to get what he means. The latest, third season of the show is based on You Love Me, opens a new window. It is the season that is the most drastically different from the novel. While both can be enjoyed independently, there is a delectable treat waiting for you in the books. --Jennifer Bacall
What books have you discovered through your TV viewing? Leave us a comment!
This blog was written by HCPL Staff and first appeared in March 2022.