Killing Eve, Game of Thrones, Handmaid’s tale…we reveal which books are better than their TV series

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MANY blockbuster boxsets began life on the printed page. Bookworms argue telly is no match for the majesty of the written word, but can novels beat the allure of star names in TV adaptations?

GRANT ROLLINGS reveals the winners in the book vs boxset title fight.

Sherlock – read it

Benedict Cumberbatch first appeared on TV screens as Sherlock Holmes in 2010

BOXSET: First aired on BBC1, July 2010. Benedict Cumberbatch gives the ­famous sleuth a 21st Century slant in this ground-breaking series that is sometimes too smart for its own good.

WATCHING TIME: 19½ hours

BOOKS: Based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s four Holmes novels, starting with 1887’s A Study In Scarlet.

READING TIME: 10hrs 45mins.

The first of the Sherlock Holmes novels was published in 1887

Big Little Lies – read it

The TV adaptation has been criticised for ignoring some important subplots

BOXSET: First aired Sky Atlantic, March 2017. An Emmy-winning murder mystery with Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and, in season 2, Meryl Streep.


BOOK: Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty, July 2014. Humour is carefully woven into this tale of domestic abuse. Important subplots are totally ignored by the TV adaptation.


Liane Moriarty’s novel was first published in 2014

Dexter – watch it

You would need to watch Dexter for four days straight if you wanted to get through all the episodes

BOXSET: First aired on ITV1, February 2008. Michael C Hall is the vigilante serial killer by night and a police forensic scientist by day. He’s not as cold-hearted as the character in the book.


BOOKS: Darkly Dreaming Dexter, by Jeff Lindsay, 2004, is the first of eight books about the murderous anti-hero. Lots of dark humour and more sinister than the TV series.


It would take you a whopping 40 hours to read this novel

Handmaid’s Tale – read it

Handmaid’s Tale  first aired on Channel 4 in 2017
Channel 4

BOXSET: First aired on Channel 4, May 2017. Dystopian tale of a virtually infertile world where the few child-bearing women are raped by oppressive men. The book’s 1980s technology is updated for this screen adaptation.


BOOK: The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood, 1985. This modern literary classic won its author the Booker Prize.


Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale was published over 30 years ago

Killing Eve – watch it

Fans have been captivated by Jodie Comer and Sandra Oh’s performances

BOXSET: First aired on BBC3, September 2018. Jodie Comer plays fashion-conscious hitwoman Villanelle and Sandra Oh is Eve Polastri – the agent on her trail. Fast-paced and quick-witted, it redefines mainstream telly by putting two women at the heart of the award-winning drama.


BOOK: Codename Villanelle, by Luke Jennings, 2014. Although this is an entertaining spy novel, it lacks the flair that screenwriter Phoebe Waller-Bridge, of Fleabag fame, brings to the TV version. We also learn everything about assassin Villanelle right at the start, whereas the ­TV adaptation is a slower, tantalising reveal.

READING TIME*: 3hrs 45mins
* Reading time is based on the number of words in a book and average reading time of 250 words a minute.

The novel lacks the flair that screenwriter Phoebe Waller-Bridge, of Fleabag fame, brings to the TV version

You – read it

You has been on Netflix for less than a year
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BOXSET: First aired on Netflix, Dec 2018. A messed-up modern romance with Penn Badgley from Gossip Girl playing a creepy stalker whose obsession takes a very dark turn.


BOOK: You, by Caroline Kepnes, 2014. Stalking victim Guinevere Beck is a much more rounded character than she is in the TV show.

READING TIME: 6hrs 30mins.

The novel would only take 6.5 hours to read

Sharp Objects – read it

Fans say the TV adaptation closely follows the novel
Home Box Office

BOXSET: First aired Sky Atlantic, July 2018. Amy Adams is self-harming reporter Camille Parker who is sent to her home town to investigate a child murder. Plot largely follows the novel.

WATCHING TIME: 6hrs 40mins

BOOK: Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn, 2006. The Chilling debut from the Gone Girl author is hard to put down.


You could read the book one hour and 40 minutes quicker than it would take you to watch the TV adaptation

Good Omens – read it

You could watch Good Omens in one afternoon
PA:Press Association

BOXSET: First aired Amazon, May 2019. Michael Sheen’s angel and David Tennant’s demon link up to prevent the End of Times in this fantasy comedy. Archangel Gabriel has a much bigger role.


BOOK: Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, 1990. Wild and imaginative take on biblical characters living in modern times.


The novel by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett was published in 1990


Game of Thrones – watch it

The first episode of Game of Thrones aired on Sky Atlantic in 2011

BOXSET: First aired Sky Atlantic, April 2011. The blockbuster fantasy brings adult content – blood and sex – to TV. It reflects the novels until the last three series, when it overtakes the five books.

WATCHING TIME: 70hrs, 15mins.

BOOKS: A Game of Thrones, 1996, is the first of the novels in George R R Martin’s much lauded, award-winning A Song Of Ice And Fire series.


It would take the average person around 120 hours to read George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones

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