Hollywood Is Shaping My TBR Stack… And I Love It

If your reading habits are anything like mine, you’ll sometimes find yourself staring at a massive To Be Read (TBR) pile hoping that something, anything, will catch your eye.

Whether you’re a mood reader, a strictly scheduled bookworm, or somewhere in between, TBR woes will find you. It’s inevitable. Try as you might to juggle release dates, sequels, competing recommendations from friends, and (dare I say it) other forms of media, your TBR will at some point become unruly.

You may try new ways of organizing your list, or resort to wacky methods in the hopes that your next read will call out to you. Perhaps you’ll have a friend pick three books to help you narrow it down. Or put all the titles on slips of paper and select them at random. Or maybe you’ll throw all of your TBR options into a lake and see which one floats. (Note: please do not try this!)

Instead, why don’t you try letting Hollywood decide?

Rather than worry about what to read next, you can use the slate of upcoming sci-fi and fantasy page-to-screen adaptations to help mold your TBR into a sensible pile, complete with baked-in deadlines. I adopted this strategy earlier this year, and it has done wonders for my reading habits.

I could wax romantic about the wellspring of narrative masterpieces that grace the SFF world and how Hollywood is lucky to have such rich content to adapt. But you already know this—you’re a reader. It’s a two-way street, though, and Hollywood gives bookworms a roadmap of content that can inspire timely TBR choices in a way that staring at your color-coded stacks simply cannot.

Although it would be easy to chide capital-driven studios for churning out adaptations in exchange for a chunk of the public’s change, I’m genuinely thrilled to have a reason to add books to the top of my TBR pile beyond simply feeling like it’s time to read that one long-ignored volume. These massive adaptations give me an additional push, as a reader, motivating me to keep up with the pop-culture zeitgeist. Getting the chance to experience the worlds of my favorite books on the big screen after I’ve finished reading feels like an added bonus. Plus, as readers, there are few joys more satisfying than being able to confidently utter these four simple words: “The book was better.”

To me, the thrill of seeing a great book reimagined for the cinema or my home theater offers a unique rush, and a sense of the stakes involved in translating page to screen. What’s more, it gives my TBR list a distinct purpose. With release dates imminent and a thirst to know exactly what and how the production will adapt individual characters and scenes as I read along, I now have an external force pushing me along as I tick off boxes on my to-read checklist.

In eager anticipation of numerous big-budget adaptations, I’ve slotted longtime to-be-read books into my schedule. The sheer diversity of projects headed to theaters and streaming services makes for a colorful selection of tomes to choose from: A graphic novel here, a sprawling epic there, and even the occasional short story collection.

Hollywood’s chunky release schedule is currently churning out an SFF smorgasbord of big-screen treats and prestige TV that can either be savored episode by episode or marathoned in a viewing frenzy. By letting the silver screen take the reins and curating my list accordingly, I freed myself from the woes of indecision and found more time to (*gasp*) read.

Though there’s a full menu of options in the production pipeline, a few particular projects have molded my TBR into a manageable stack of stories I can look forward to on the page and the screen. Here’s my current Hollywood-inspired TBR, should you wish to tag along…

 

Dune

Now streaming on HBO Max

Dune sat dormant on my bookshelf for years. A pillar of its genre, the tome sparked fear in me every time I glanced at it—the classics can be dense, challenging reads. But with Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation on the way, I found the drive to sandsurf straight into Frank Herbert’s crowning achievement. I finished Dune weeks before the HBO Max adaptation dropped, kickstarting my journey into a Hollywood-heavy TBR pile.

Thanks to the now-released cinematic adaptation, I finally read a perennial science fiction favorite, and felt prepared for the spectacular worldbuilding and able to navigate the occasional infodumps while watching the movie itself. Moreover, I feel equipped to understand what’s happening in Villeneuve’s movie. I fear for those who don’t have that familiarity or a hidden well of Dune knowledge from which they can draw as they contend with this science fiction epic.

Reader beware—Dune is a dense novel, so if you’re trying to squeeze the book into your schedule while the movie is still ruling the pop-culture zeitgeist, you’ll have to move fast!

 

The Wheel of Time

Premieres November 19 on Amazon Prime

“The Wheel of Time turns, and ages come and pass…” This epic series’ oft-repeated mantra was long reflected in my inner dialogue: “Will I read The Wheel of Time series before the Wheel rolls off its rusty hinges?”

Thanks to Amazon’s impending adaptation, I slotted The Eye of the World into my summer reads stack, and now, in an effort to stay ever-so-slightly ahead of the game, I’ve started listening to The Great Hunt in audiobook format.

Amazon has been hush-hush about how the TV adaptation will unfold. I’m hoping that reading the first two books will be a good enough primer for the start of the series. Perhaps I’ll jump to 1.5x speed and aim to finish The Dragon Reborn before the show drops.

 

The Witcher Season 2

Premieres December 17 on Netflix

With the full first season and The Last Wish under my belt in 2019, I felt a hankering for more Witcher content (read: more Jaskier content).

Sword of Destiny was my next selection. “Prepare for season 2,” I thought. But Andrzej Sapkowski and Netflix had other plans. Turns out season 1 adapted almost all of the stories from Sword of Destiny.

Not to worry, though, I’ve simply boosted Season of Storms and Blood of Elves nearer the top of my stack to stay up to date with the lore and playful time-maneuvering of Netflix’s The Witcher. Sapkowski’s breezy prose and riveting narratives make these easy pre-December reads.

Bonus! The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf, an anime movie chronicling the life of Geralt’s mentor Vesemir, will help satiate your Witcher cravings as you await season 2.

 

The Sandman

“Coming Soon” to Netflix

Here’s a tough one. Netflix releases new Sandman trailers and info at a steady drip, but the release date still remains nebulous. I chalk it up to a heavy slate of SFF content. The streaming service has The Witcher and Cowboy Bebop to contend with on its own platform, let alone SFF content from its major competitors.

Thankfully, the graphic novel format makes The Sandman a quick-ish read, depending on how far you want to dive into its eerie world.

For my part, I plan to read the first five collected editions (including Preludes & Nocturnes). Fingers crossed I can catch up in time for the mysterious release date.

 

The Broken Earth Series

Release date TBD

I have high hopes for my November-December reading slate, but I had to give myself some wiggle room. N.K. Jemisin only announced that she’d write film adaptations of The Broken Earth this past June. The gears of the Hollywood machine turn at a snail’s pace, so I wouldn’t expect a release until at least 2023.

That frees up plenty of time to work this fan-favorite series into my schedule, and I aim to do it as soon as possible. Hopefully after my mad dash to catch up on the series above, I’ll be able to dedicate some time to The Fifth Season and its beloved sequels.

***

 

If you choose to let Hollywood dictate a portion of your TBR—and I hope you give it a try—don’t forget to pepper in the occasional non-adapted read. Film studios have quotas to fill, accounts to balance, and investors to please. The industry is selective about which stories it chooses to adapt. For readers, that means some of the best narratives may never erupt into mainstream culture in the way we might wish for—or at least, not yet (lookin’ at you, Stormlight Archive).

Instead, consider this tip a helpful nudge, or at best, a way to ease your TBR troubles. Your mileage may vary, but a Hollywood-shaped TBR reignited my drive to experience as many stories as possible. Finding that spark, that reason to make swift progress along your reading journey, can change the way you look at your growing home library: Now, instead of a daunting task, you have a clear goal in mind (and an excuse to reward yourself with some candy and popcorn as you watch your new favorite SFF characters come to life on screen).

Cole Rush writes words. A lot of them. For the most part, you can find those words at The Quill To Live or on Twitter @ColeRush1. He voraciously reads epic fantasy and science-fiction, seeking out stories of gargantuan proportions and devouring them with a bookwormish fervor. His favorite books are: The Divine Cities Series by Robert Jackson Bennett, The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, and The House In The Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune.

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