13 Books to Read if You Love TV but Want To Scale Back Screen Time

Television shows and movies offer a super easy way to take a break from our world and escape into another. With the click of just a few buttons, you can temporarily forget about spilling your $7 latte on your blouse, having a bad interaction with a co-worker, and that unhinged message from some guy holding a fish in his profile pic on Tinder. It feels comforting to decompress by losing yourself in the latest season of Bridgerton (#teampolin), rewatching Grey’s Anatomy for the 17th time, or streaming The Princess Diaries while manifesting that long-rumored reboot—at least until the brain melt sets in. You know, that feeling when you’ve been watching TV for so long that your eyes feel like they’re swimming in your head and time has lost all meaning? Brain melt, baby. 

If you’ve reached the point where TV fatigue has set in and you need a breather from screen time, there is a similar way to escape reality: reading books. If you’re not a book girlie and I’m on the precipice of losing you, hear me out. This list of recommended reads offers plots that parallel some of the most popular television shows consumed by millennials and Gen Z. For example, fans of The Bachelorette will be enamored by a swoon-worthy book recommendation with a similar storyline in this list—in fact, the book just might have you more invested than the actual dating show. For an alternative form of entertainment that lowers screen time but still delivers the same type of escapism, consider reading these books that share uncanny similarities to some very well-known and loved television shows.

1. If you love Bridgerton

books to read

Bridgerton fans are likely well aware that the smash success television series is an adaptation of the popular books by Julia Quinn. However, if you want a delectable period story quite similar to the Bridgerton novels, Liana de la Rosa’s Ana María and the Fox is right up your promenade. When Ana María Luna Valdés and her two sisters are forced to secretly flee to London’s high society to escape the French occupation of Mexico, she’s determined to uphold her image as the perfect older sister, niece, and representative of her politically powerful family. Her sense of obligation to her role in her family is tested by her newfound freedom—and one very handsome, austere Gideon Fox. 

Gideon has his own agenda to oversee in London’s political circles. As a member of Parliament and the grandson of a formerly enslaved woman, he’s determined to secure the number of votes required to abolish the Atlantic slave trade for good. Like he is to Ana María, Gideon finds the Mexican heiress an unwelcome distraction to his mission. But when another nobleman with far more troubling intentions is determined to use Ana María for his agenda, Gideon offers his hand—and possibly even his heart.

2. If you love The White Lotus

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If you’re desperately awaiting the next season of The White Lotus, reading The Paradise Problem just might take the edge off. Christina Lauren’s romance novel follows Anna Green and Liam “West” Weston, who entered a marriage of convenience in college to qualify for subsidized housing. At least, that’s what Anna thought. Three years after they graduated, signed divorce papers, and went on their own merry ways, Anna is living as a starving artist and West as a Stanford professor. While Anna thought she’d never see her fake ex-husband again, he shows up at Anna’s door with a bombshell admission and an even bigger ask. 

It turns out West needed to get out from under the thumb of his toxic grocery store conglomerate CEO father, and his divorce from Anna was never finalized because of a stipulation in his late grandfather’s will: West must remain married for five years to receive the $100 million inheritance waiting for him on his and Anna’s milestone anniversary. With just a few months to go, West thought he was in the clear, but with his family hounding him to bring his mysterious wife to his little sister’s private island wedding, he has no choice but to forfeit the charade—and his inheritance—or introduce his broke, unpolished, foul-mouthed wife to his one-percenter parents and their unimaginably lavish world. Though Liam originally feared the fallout from introducing Anna to his family, getting to know her pure heart and seeing her endure the toxic world of wealth on his behalf has him wondering if the $100 million price tag is worth losing an unexpected shot at true love.

3. If you love Schitt’s Creek

books to read

Tessa Bailey’s It Happened One Summer is a must-read for Schitt’s Creek girlies. Piper Bellinger is a spoiled, vain, and irresponsible LA influencer with her head in the clouds and her feet constantly trailed by paparazzi. When an out-of-control party lands Piper in jail, her indulgent stepdad decides enough is enough. Cutting her off from his bank account and the luxurious life she feels entitled to, he sends Piper to run her late father’s dive bar in Westport, the small fishing town where she and her sister were born.

Distraught from the exile, Piper doesn’t know how she’s going to make it through the summer—but when she meets grumpy, judgmental sea captain Brendan Taggart upon her arrival, she’s determined to prove there’s more to her than meets the eye. As she reluctantly digs into her past and connects with people in the Westport community, Piper starts to wonder if the LA socialite life is really what she wants. And though she and Brendan are as different as two people can be, the more time they spend together, the more undeniable their chemistry becomes. Piper began the summer wanting nothing more than to return to her LA bubble, but Brendan and Westport have her questioning whether going back to her old life will really make her happy—or if she was ever happy with the lifestyle in the first place.

4. If you love Pretty Little Liars

books to read

Three best friends, one imaginary game, and a violent attack following a string of murders—it may sound like Pretty Little Liars, but it’s Kate Alice Marshall’s What Lies in the Woods. Twenty-two years ago, Naomi, Cassidy, and Olivia spent the summer playing the Goddess Game in their town’s woods. What began as an innocent, imaginary game turned into a tragic nightmare when Naomi was attacked in the woods, miraculously surviving 17 stab wounds. With the help of Cassidy and Olivia, she identified the man who nearly ended her life—a serial killer who was linked to the unsolved murders of six other women. The girls were regarded as heroes… but they were liars.

For over two decades, the three friends kept a secret about what really happened that day—though Naomi’s recollection of the events has always been murky. When Olivia is compelled to come clean with the truth, Naomi returns to her hometown to find out what truly happened the day her life was forever changed—and the truth is far more twisted and dangerous than she realized.

5. If you love New Girl

books to read

In Emily Henry’s Funny Story, New Girl’s roommate antics meet Gilmore Girls’ small-town charm. When Daphne’s fiancé Peter realizes he’s actually been in love with his childhood best friend, Petra, all along, Daphne is left grappling with the unexpected upheaval of her life. Stranded in her ex’s lakeside hometown barely getting by on the dismal wages from her children’s librarian job, Daphne decides she needs a roommate and they should be the one person who completely understands the current state of her life: Petra’s ex, Miles. 

While they generally ignore each other and their polar opposite personalities, Daphne and Miles forge a friendship and plan to help them overcome their shared sorrows while drowning said sorrows. Under the influence of a few beverages, the pair decides the only way to get back at their exes would be to post photos of their joint summer adventures, letting the world think their fake relationship is not so fake. But when her feelings for Miles start feeling a little too real, Daphne has to remind herself it’s all for show—because her new beginning can’t possibly involve falling for her ex-fiancé’s fiancée’s ex… Can it?

6. If you love Gossip Girl

books to read

Jessa Hasting’s Magnolia Parks is reminiscent of Gossip Girl with a British twist. Magnolia Parks is a London socialite, and BJ Ballentine is Britain’s favorite bad boy—who broke Magnolia’s heart. Even though everyone thinks they’d be perfect together, Magnolia dates other guys to keep BJ away, and BJ sleeps with other girls to get back at Magnolia. Yet at the end of every toxic, spiteful interaction, they crawl back to one another. Magnolia and BJ’s dysfunction is creating cracks in their world, and as their secrets begin to spill, they have to decide whether clinging to their mind games and resistance is worth losing a love that could be great.

7. If you love Grey’s Anatomy

books to read

Put a pause on your umpteenth rewatch of Grey’s Anatomy and thumb through the pages of Yours Truly by Abby Jimenez instead. Dr. Briana Ortiz’s life is in code-red territory. Her divorce from her cheating husband is nearly finalized, her brother is slowly dying from kidney failure, her best friend just moved away, and now Bri has to deal with Dr. Jacob Maddox. The seemingly misogynistic jerk is the newest doctor in their department, and he’s suddenly become her only competition for the open chief position that previously had her name all over it. But after a few weeks of seriously awful interactions, Bri discovers Jacob isn’t the horrendous man doctor she thought he was. In fact, he’s actually amazing and kind and incredibly thoughtful, and they simply got off on the wrong foot because his debilitating anxiety short-circuits his brain whenever she’s around.

After clearing the air, the two become tentative friends, and when Bri discovers that Jacob secretly donated one of his kidneys to her brother, she decides she owes him pretty much anything he asks as a thank-you for saving her brother’s life. So when Jacob needs a fake girlfriend to get his family off his back when his little brother and ex-fiancé announce they’re getting married, Bri vows to be the most legendary fake girlfriend there ever was. But the closer Bri and Jacob become, the more they both privately struggle to discern what’s real and what’s fake in their relationship built on a charade.

8. If you love HGTV

books to read

If HGTV shows like Fixer Upper, Home Town, Property Brothers, and Farmhouse Fixer are your comfort watches, Tessa Bailey’s Tools of Engagement is the perfect book to read. Interior designer Bethany Castle strives for absolute perfection in every area of her life, but one area she’s never been able to exert her iron will over is her romantic pursuits. Every guy she’s dated has been a dud, so while on a self-proclaimed hiatus from men, she wants to expand her expert interior design skills to a property flip of her own. When she approaches her older brother with the request to flip her first house for their renowned family real estate business, she’s met with laughter and reproach.

Bethany, tired of not being taken seriously, decides to leave the family business to make a name for herself on her own. At the same time, a television producer for a renovation competition show, Flip Off, catches wind of the sibling rivalry and offers them a chance to compete against each other. Bethany is desperate for a chance to prove herself, but she doesn’t have a crew. That is until new-guy-in-town Wes Daniels offers to leave her brother’s construction crew to be her right-hand man. She and the young Southerner have butt heads since the moment they met, but desperate times… As the two are forced to work closely to achieve Bethany’s goal, the dynamic starts to feel a little less enemies and a little more lovers—but Bethany’s death grip on upholding perfection at all costs might indeed cost her everything she’s been working toward, including true love.

9. If you love The Bachelorette

books to read

If you think The Bachelorette is swoon-worthy, Christina Lauren’s The True Love Experiment will have you giggling, kicking, and screaming like you’re falling in love for the first time. Fizzy Chen is a highly esteemed romance novelist with a long list of bestsellers to her name. Though she’s an expert in authoring love stories, she’s hit with a realization that results in a paralyzing bout of writer’s block: She’s never once felt that life-altering, all-encompassing love she’s known for selling in her novels, effectively making her a fraud. 

When Fizzy ends up in the same place as Connor Price—an environmental documentarian recently told to produce a reality dating show or be out of a job—an extremely unexpected offer lands in her lap. Connor needs Fizzy, a love expert who has never found it for herself, to star in his new dating show. While she initially gives the idea a hard pass, Connor proves just how serious he is by creating the show’s concept based on Fizzy’s lofty list of demands. Suddenly, the idea doesn’t seem so horrible to the author: find her perfect match, help Connor keep his job, and free herself of her writer’s block to meet the deadline for her next manuscript. There’s just one problem. The more time the two spend together, the more they begin to realize their respective perfect matches could be each other—a forbidden love that would cost Connor more than just his job. But is letting go of their long-awaited chance at true love really the better option?

10. If you love Once Upon a Time

books to read

Liz Michalski’s Darling Girl is for the Once Upon a Time fans. The sinister Peter Pan retelling follows Holly Darling, granddaughter of Wendy and daughter of Jane, but unlike the generations of women before her, Holly has no love for The Boy Who Never Grows Up. A mother herself, Holly balances her role as CEO of a booming cosmetics company with her responsibility to her rebelling teenage son and her secret daughter who has been in a coma for a decade due to an unexplainable medical phenomenon.

Life’s scales already felt like they were tipping out of Holly’s favor, but when her daughter Eden mysteriously disappears from the safe house she’s lived in for the past 10 years, Holly is forced to put everything on hold. To prevent Peter Pan from wreaking havoc on the Darling family yet again, Holly must confront her family’s fantastical legacy with the legendary adventurer, who is very real and much more dangerous than J.M. Barrie’s whimsical tale led us to believe.

11. If you love The Bear

books to read

For those who love the frenetic energy and messy dynamics in The Bear, Kate Goldbeck’s You, Again will satisfy a similar itch. The story follows Ari, a commitment-phobe comedian, and Josh, an uptight chef determined to find The One. Already polar opposites, they find out they’re sleeping with the same person the first time they meet—and thus, they instantly hate one another. After being forced to spend a tense evening together, Ari and Josh think they’ll never see each other again. Except they do, over and over, across nine years. And somehow, after loathing one another for nearly a decade, they become reluctant friends. 

With their respective love lives in shambles, the pair form a platonic relationship forged upon their shared loneliness. While Ari avoids anything that makes her remotely uncomfortable and Josh becomes a cutthroat chef steered by his pretentious vision of his restaurateur aspirations, the friends spend more and more time together. When the lines start to blur and their red flags seem insurmountable, Ari and Josh are confronted with their need to do some serious self-work to find true happiness in their careers and personal relationships—and, unbelievably, with one another.

12. If you love Emily in Paris

books to read

A woman swept away to Paris for the professional opportunity of a lifetime—sounds like Emily in Paris, non? In this case, we’re talking about Julie Caplin’s The Little Paris Patisserie, which is the perfect read for fans of the Netflix show. The book follows Nina Hadley, whose three overbearing big brothers have driven her to her wit’s end. So when she gets the opportunity to move to Paris to help run a seven-week patisserie course, Nina can’t say “Oui!” fast enough. The only downside is she has to work closely with Sebastian Finley, an ambitious chef who also happens to be her brother Nick’s best friend… and her childhood crush.

As Nina discovers and develops her skills during the patisserie program, she expects she and Sebastian will continuously clash since she’s nothing more than Nick’s annoying little sister. But when in the city of love, surrounded by the sweetest confections, Sebastian’s heart just might be harboring tempting feelings as well.

13. If you love One Tree Hill

books to read

One Tree Hill girlies, Kennedy Ryan’s Long Shot is the perfect book for you. When Iris Dupree and August West meet during their final semester of college, sparks fly. Bonding over their shared love for sports, Iris, an aspiring sports marketer, and August, a highly acclaimed college basketball star poised for the NBA, are surprised to have the conversation of a lifetime. Though their chemistry is undeniable, it’s not meant to be because Iris is already in a relationship—with August’s longtime rival, basketball golden boy Caleb Bradley.

Iris and August go their separate ways, but both frequently think of one another and what could have been. While August embarks on his NBA career, Iris is forced into a gilded cage that crushes her aspirations and independence. Her relationship with Caleb may look perfect to outsiders, but behind closed doors, Iris’ life is a living nightmare. When August re-enters her life, finding Iris a shell of the fierce, ambitious woman she was when they met, he’s determined to show her that she deserves a partner better than Caleb. August isn’t truly aware of just how dark Iris’ life has become though, and while their brief meetings bring Iris rare moments of joy, they also put her in unimaginable danger. To survive, Iris must bolster her own strength and resilience, trusting that her once-in-a-lifetime bond with August will endure as she desperately searches for a way to leave the fraudulent prince who vowed to never let her go.

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