Students' favorite streaming services, movies, and video games are all packed with compelling storytelling. To get them more excited about reading, I like to recommend books similar to my students' favorite shows. I have a bulletin board in my school's English hallway with "If you liked ____ try _____" suggestions. It inspires even some of the most reluctant readers to pick up a book!

I've listed some popular series among my students—and the books I like to recommend alongside them. Some are newer releases, some have been around for a while. Either way, these amazing books allow students to explore similar themes and issues addressed in their favorite shows. 

All American (Netflix)

This show centers on a suburban family that helps a talented athlete from an underprivileged neighborhood in the city create a pathway to a scholarship playing football in college. With the tug of war between the struggles with gangs, violence, and past trauma at home, Spencer James feels pulled to help his childhood friends out of dangerous situations, while at the suburban school he’s transferred to, he starts a new path with a rich girlfriend and friends motivated by their future in college. Spencer’s journey is what makes this show a popular one.

Try these books:

  • Giannis: The Improbable Rise of an NBA MVP by Mirin Fader
  • The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis
  • Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream by H.G. Bissinger
  • Until Friday Night by Abbi Glines

Heartstopper (Netflix)

Based off of Alice Oseman’s graphic novel series, Heartstopper is a popular show featuring a gay teen named Charlie who comes out and falls for Nick, a popular jock on the rugby team. As Nick deals with his sexuality and comes to terms with his feelings for Charlie, he finds happiness like never before. The first season covers the first two graphic novels and a second season is set for later in 2023. 

Try these books:

  • The Girl from the Sea: A Graphic Novel by Molly Knox Ostertag
  • Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks
  • Check, Please! series by Ngozi Ukazu
  • Bloom by Kevin Panetta and Savanna Ganucheau
  • Running with Lions by Julian Winters
  • Hani and Ishu's Guide to Fake Dating by Adiba Jaigirdas
  • Home Field Advantage by Dahlia Adler

Outer Banks (Netflix)

With drama, mystery, and romance, Outer Banks’ main character John B and his friends seek adventures finding the gold his dead father has searched for his whole life. Many struggles and surprises reveal themselves along the way.

Try these books:

  • Outer Banks series by Alyssa Sheinmal
  • Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  • We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
  • In Deeper Waters by F.T. Lukens
  • Meet the Sky by McCall Hoyle


Bonus: Any mystery/suspense thriller show for teens

Murder, for some reason, is one of the most popular phenomena in entertainment– probably because we could never imagine committing such a crime. I find students are always talking about the latest true crime docuseries or are fascinated by twisted protagonists like Wednesday Adams from Netflix's Wednesday. 

Try these books:

  • A Good Girl's Guide to Murder trilogy by Holly Jackson 
  • Five Survive by Holly Jackson
  • One of Us is Lying series by Karen McManus
  • Gilt Hollow by Lorie Langdon
  • The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas
  • Dead Girls Society by Michelle Krys



Jennifer Epping is a high school English and journalism teacher in Des Moines, Iowa. She has a passion for reading, writing, and making lame jokes to her students just to see them laugh or roll their eyes. She just concluded her ninth year teaching. Epping graduated from Iowa State University with a BS in journalism and mass communication (2010) and BA in English Education (2013). She attended New York University’s Summer Publishing Institute (2010), and spent some time in children’s book publishing in New York.