Classics with a Twist

The security of all things familiar can be a steady rock in uncertain times, but exploring new things outside your comfort zone is also important for true growth. Find an intriguing balance with these diverse titles that are inspired by or expand upon classic novels.

ON BEAUTY by Zadie Smith (DB 61204)
Inspired by E.M. Forster’s “Howard’s End.” Philandering liberal Englishman Howard Belsey teaches art at a New England college. When Howard’s biracial son Jerome falls in love with the daughter of the conservative Trinidadian Monty Kipps, Howard is dismayed. But Howard’s and Monty’s wives become friends. Strong language and some explicit descriptions of sex.

AYESHA AT LAST by Uzma Jalaluddin (DB 95458)
In this twenty-first-century Muslim retelling of “Pride and Prejudice,” Ayesha is lonely but does not want an arranged marriage. She meets Khalid, who is smart and handsome, but also conservative and judgmental. Ayesha is torn when Khalid becomes engaged to her flighty young cousin.

THE PENELOPIAD by Margaret Atwood (BR 16454 and DB 63014)
Retelling of Homer’s “The Odyssey.” Penelope is in Hades recalling the events of her life in this contemporary retelling of the ancient Greek tale of the faithful wife of Odysseus and her twelve hanged maids.

THE INNOCENTS by Francesca Segal (BR 20247 and DB 77527)
Retelling of “The Age of Innocence” by Edith Wharton. London. Adam Newman is engaged to his long-time girlfriend Rachel Gilbert and works at her father’s firm. When Rachel’s cousin Ellie returns from New York, Adam is drawn to her and her scandalous reputation. But Adam’s tight-knit Jewish community impedes his infatuation. Some strong language.

THE ART OF FIELDING by Chad Harbach (DB 73791)
Inspired by Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick.” Henry Skrimshander is a baseball star at his small Wisconsin college, but his life goes awry after he throws a wayward ball. Meanwhile, Henry’s gay roommate has a risky affair with the school president, Guert Affenlight. Guert’s long-lost daughter returns home after a divorce. Strong language.

BOY, SNOW, BIRD by Helen Oyeyemi (LB 07864 and DB 78650)
Retelling of “Snow White” by The Brothers Grimm. 1950s. A woman named Boy Novak flees Manhattan for suburban Massachusetts. There, she falls in love and marries Arturo Whitman, father to six-year-old Snow. When Boy and Arturo’s own daughter, Bird, is born, it is revealed that Arturo and Snow are African Americans passing for white. Some violence.

BRAZIL by John Updike (DB 38064)
A variation on the famous legend “Tristan and Isolde” in which Tristan is an uneducated black youth who meets Isabel, a convent-trained blond girl, on the beach in Rio. Convinced their fate is to be together, the young lovers marry and run away. Isabel’s diplomat father brings her home and sends her to college. Reunited two years later, the couple embarks on a life of passion that leads to tragedy. Strong language, violence, and some explicit descriptions of sex.

FRANKENSTEIN IN BAGHDAD by Ahmad Saadawi (DB 90221)
Retelling of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.” In US-occupied Baghdad, scavenger Hadi stitches together found human body parts as a message to the government that the dead need proper burial. After the corpse disappears, however, a string of murders occurs, and witnesses report a monster who cannot be killed. Some violence and some strong language.

THE GOLDEN HOUSE by Salman Rushdie (DB 89015)
Inspired by Tom Wolfe’s “Bonfire of Vanities.” A filmmaker insinuates himself into the Greenwich Village mansion of the Golden family. Nero Golden is an eccentric billionaire with three adult sons: alcoholic Petya, artist Apu, and D, whose mother is known only to Nero. Nero’s new wife, Russian expat Vasilisa, enters the household. Some violence and some descriptions of sex.

HOME FIRE by Kamila Shamsie (DB 89016)
Retelling of “Antigone” by Sophocles. After years in London taking care of her siblings, Parvaiz and Aneeka, Isma gets a chance to study in America. While there, she meets Eamonn, son of a powerful London politician. When headstrong Parvaiz runs off to Syria to become a jihadi, Aneeka turns to Eamonn for help. Violence and some strong language.

JANE STEELE by Lyndsay Faye (DB 84049)
In a reimagining of Charlotte Brontë’s “Jane Eyre,” orphaned Jane Steele escapes to London, leaving the corpses of her tormentors behind her. After years of hiding from the law, Jane discovers her childhood home has a new master who seeks a governess, and she takes the position incognito. Violence, explicit descriptions of sex, and some strong language.

KILLING COMMENDATORE by Haruki Murakami (DB 92509)
Inspired by F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.” After finding himself abandoned by his wife, a portraitist hides away in the mountain retreat of famous painter Tomohiko Amada. While exploring the house, he discovers an unseen painting that opens a circle of mysterious circumstances that he must solve. Unrated.

MARCH by Geraldine Brooks (DB 64617)
Spin-off of Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women.” Reverend March leaves Connecticut to become an army chaplain during the Civil War. An assignment to teach freed slaves on a plantation changes March’s view of humanity while hardship hurts his family. Strong language and some violence.

THE STORY OF EDGAR SAWTELLE (BR 17799 and DB 66656)
Retelling of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” Wisconsin, 1970s. Gar and Trudy Sawtelle raise an intuitive and intelligent dog breed on their farm. One dog, Almondine, can communicate with the Sawtelle’s mute son Edgar. After Gar’s brother arrives, Gar dies, and fourteen-year-old Edgar flees into the forest with three of the dogs. Some strong language.

WHEN SHE WOKE by Hillary Jordan (DBC 08668)
A dystopian reimagining of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter,” set in a future theocratic America where rather than being imprisoned and rehabilitated, criminals are punished by being “chromed”—having their skin color genetically altered to signal their crime—and released into the general population to survive as best they can. Some descriptions of sex and some violence.

We hope you find something newly familiar within this selection. Happy reading!

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