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A Literary Guide to the 2020 Emmy Awards

Elizabeth Graney, Librarian, Literature & Fiction Department,
Collage of Primetime Emmy Award nominees adapted from books
Emmy Award nominees adapted from books

Every September, the Primetime Emmy Awards are handed out, celebrating the best that television had to offer from the previous season. Usually, this event entails the red carpet, designer dresses, flashing lights, and giant crowds. Well, this year is going to be a little bit different. This year’s virtual ceremony will combine pre-recorded and live video of host Jimmy Kimmel and the nominees. And of those nominees, a whopping 12 shows were adapted from books. So whether the show got you interested in the novel or you prefer to read before you watch, we’ve got the nominees listed and links to the works they were adapted from below.


Watch and Read at Home


Little Fires Everywhere: A Novel
Ng, Celeste

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng explores the power of the maternal bond and the devastating effects of secrets. When single mother Mia and her teenage daughter Pearl rent a house from the Richardson family, it sets off a chain of events that will change everyone’s lives forever. As Pearl grows close to the Richardson children, secrets long swept under the rug emerge. The Hulu television series Little Fires Everywhere is a direct adaptation of Ng’s novel.

Nominated for: Best Directing for a Limited Series, Best Actress in a Limited Series, Best Limited Series.


Watchmen
Moore, Alan

When a group of former superheroes begin to suspect that they are being targeted by a killer, it forces them to confront their past and the mistakes that led to their current situation. Alan Moore’s groundbreaking work, Watchmen, explores power and its abuses, both systemic and interpersonal. The HBO series Watchmen is a continuation of this seminal 80’s graphic novel set in modern times.

Nominated for: Best Directing for a Limited Series, Best Writing for a Limited Series, Best Supporting Actor in a Limited Series, Best Supporting Actress in a Limited Series, Best Actor in a Limited Series, Best Actress in a Limited Series, Best Limited Series.


The Audience
Morgan, Peter

The Audience depicts the weekly meetings, or audiences, between Queen Elizabeth II and her prime ministers. Peter Morgan’s play imagines what might have taken place behind these closed doors and how the Queen has evolved through her sixty years on the throne. The Netflix television series, The Crown, is adapted from Morgan’s play and follows the life of Queen Elizabeth from the 1940’s to the modern day.

Nominated for: Best Directing for a Drama Series, Best Writing for a Drama Series, Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, Best Actress in a Drama Series, Best Drama Series.


Top of the Morning

Brian Stelter’s tell-all nonfiction book Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV offers a behind the scenes glimpse at the surprisingly brutal world of morning television shows. Stelter reveals the secrets of several talk shows, their hosts and the events that took place both in front of and behind the camera. The Apple TV+ series Morning Show took inspiration from Stelter’s book. 

Nominated for: Best Directing for a Drama Series, Best Guest Actor in a Drama Series, Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, Best Actor in a Drama Series.


The Handmaid's Tale
Atwood, Margaret

Margaret Atwood’s dystopic feminist work, The Handmaid’s Tale, looks at a bleak and unsettlingly plausible future. After a violent coup overthrows the government of the United States, a theocratic state arises. In the new Republic of Gilead women are torn from their previous lives and assigned as Handmaids, servants whose main role is to bear children. We follow the handmaid Offred as she struggles under this new life and tries to hold on to her memories of the past. The Hulu show The Handmaid’s Tale expands upon Atwood’s original novel.

Nominated for: Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series, Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, Best Drama Series.


The Outsider
King, Stephen

Stephen King’s The Outsider is an unsettling look at good versus evil in small town America. When an eleven year old boy is found brutally murdered, the investigation points to the most unexpected perpetrator. The local police must contend with what appears to be irrefutable evidence of both the suspect’s innocence and guilt. But how could a man be in two places at once? The HBO show The Outsider is a direct adaptation of King’s work.

Nominated for: Best Guest Actor in a Drama Series.


Codename Villanelle
Jennings, Luke

Codename Villanelle is the collection of Luke Jenning’s four novellas that follow the career of the preternaturally talented assassin Villanelle. Orphaned as a child, Villanelle was brought up and trained as a hit woman by a secretive group who call themselves The Twelve. But Villanelle meets her match when she finds herself pitted against an intelligent and tenacious MI5 agent named Eve Polastri. The BBC America television series Killing Eve was adapted from Jennings’ novellas.

Nominated for: Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, Best Actress in a Drama Series, Best Drama Series.


Big Little Lies
Moriarty, Liane

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty looks at the secrets even the most beautiful and privileged communities can hide. When single mother Jane and her son Ziggy move to Sydney’s Northern Beaches, Jane soon strikes up a friendship with Madeline and Celeste, two women whose children are in Ziggy’s class. Privately, all three women struggle with difficult secrets and the lies they must tell to maintain them. As they grow closer, these secrets will be revealed, with fatal consequences. The HBO series Big Little Lies is based on Moriarty’s popular novel.

Nominated for: Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series.


Unorthodox
Feldman, Deborah

Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots is Deborah Feldman’s memoir recounting her life in and eventual escape from a Hasidic community in Brooklyn, New York. Having spent her life being told what she could wear, eat and say, Feldman finally found the strength to choose her safety and happiness over her upbringing. The Netflix show Unorthodox is a fictional story inspired by Feldman’s biography.

Nominated for: Best Actress in a Limited Series, Best Limited Series.


Self Made
Bundles, A'Lelia

On Her Own Ground by A’Leila Bundles is the life story of Madam C.J. Walker, the entrepreneur who revolutionized cosmetics for Black women. Amassing success and wealth heretofore unseen by a Black American woman, Walker dedicated her life to social activism and worked to raise up the lives of other Black Americans. The Netflix show Self Made was adapted from Bundles’ work.

Nominated for: Best Actress in a Limited Series.


I Know This Much is True
Lamb, Wally

When his identical twin brother cuts off his own hand, Dominick Birdsey is forced to face the severity of Thomas’ paranoid schizophrenia. In caring for his brother, Dominick is confronted with secrets from his past and must contend with his family history to reclaim his life and happiness. The HBO limited series I Know This Much is True is an adaptation of Wally Lamb’s novel of the same name.

Nominated for: Best Actor in a Limited Series.


Normal People
Rooney, Sally

Sally Rooney’s immensely popular novel, Normal People, is a tale of deep friendship and irresistible love. Connell and Marianne are unlikely friends but the popular boy and the wallflower find an unexpected connection when they first talk. When they head to Trinity College together, their roles reverse and their profound connection is tested. At the root of their mutual fascination lies an intense friendship, but will that be enough to overcome their vast differences? The Hulu show Normal People is a limited series based on Rooney’s book.

Nominated for: Best Actor in a Limited Series.



 

 

 

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