We love spending time with a great book, but that doesn’t mean we’re opposed to weekend Netflix binges. Great television can be as entertaining and informative as reading—and we’re particularly big fans of the programming on PBS. The good ol’ Public Broadcasting Station has won us over with intelligent documentaries, engrossing period pieces, and competitions that inspire us to invest in a KitchenAid Mixer. Which got us thinking: Could we find books with the subjects, themes, and vibes of our favorite PBS shows?
Turns out you can! Below, you’ll find an inspirational story reminiscent of Call the Midwife, a sweeping family drama like Downtown Abbey, and other book recommendations based on your favorite PBS show.
Call the Midwife
Beyond the Pale
Call the Midwife follows the professional and personal lives of midwives in 1950s East London. Beyond the Pale treads similar but slightly different territory: It tells the story of Gutke, a Russian-Jewish midwife, and Chava—one of the children she helped birth. Years later, they're unexpectedly reunited in Progressive Era Manhattan, where they both devote themselves to social and political activism. In addition to exploring marginalization and the culture of midwifery, Beyond the Pale shows how two incredible women loved, fought for change, and persevered in the most trying of circumstances.
The Cazalet Chronicles
Downton Abbey’s chronicle of a declining aristocratic family was one of the most popular shows on PBS (and spawned a thousand Maggie Smith memes). If you find yourself missing those misbehaving Crawleys, then we have more high-class Brits for you: Elizabeth Jane Howard's Cazalet family. Their five-book saga tracks multiple generations of Cazalets throughout the pre and post-war eras, delivering emotional highs and dramatic lows that will satisfy Downton devotees.
The Durrells in Corfu
The Corfu Trilogy
The British dramedy The Durrells in Corfu has been a hit around the world, including the United States—but did you know it’s actually an adaptation? The show draws from Gerald Durrell's trio of memoirs, which recount his family's island adventures in Greece. Of course, the PBS show can’t include everything, so we recommend picking up the original books for more charming, laugh-out-loud Durrell exploits.
The Great British Baking Show
Bake It Like You Mean It
Far from the Gordon Ramsay-style cooking shows of America, The Great British Baking Show is charming, uplifting, and just generally a good time. If you’re fired up by the competition, step into your kitchen with a copy of Bake It Like You Mean It. Filled with easy-to-follow recipes and useful techniques, a beloved chef gives you everything you need to create tasty confections Mary Berry would love (bonus if alcohol is an ingredient). Use your new skills to impress your loved ones—or to prepare for your own stint on a baking-themed reality show.
If you can’t get enough of Victoria, Paul Thomas Murphy’s book is definitely worth a read. Here, we see the queen's reign through the lens of failed assassination attempts—which turns up some pretty surprising insights on her character. From profiles of each would-be attacker to analyses of 19th-century British politics and society, Shooting Victoria is a unique portrait of a woman who stared death in the face—and became more popular than ever before.
Related: 12 Regal Books for Fans of The Crown
For four seasons, Poldark fans have watched the trials and tribulations of its Redcoat hero, Ross, after he returns from the Revolutionary War to find his life in shambles. The protagonist of Howatch’s New York Times bestseller bears a lot of similarities, as he also faces challenges with his family, inheritance, and love life. Plus, the stories share a setting—the picturesque landscape of Cornwall, England.
Related: 9 Must-Reads for Fans of Poldark
Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns
Baseball: An Illustrated History
Okay, so this is kind of obvious: Many of the great PBS documentaries have companion books, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure that fans of Baseball will enjoy the book that complements it. But though the text covers much of the same information, it also goes beyond it—diving deeper with exclusive content, like essays and gorgeous historic photographs.
Featured still from "Call the Midwife" via PBS