Feature image credit: @openup2me

To all the books we’ve loved before, we’re so excited to read these fresh takes on the classics. While classic literature has been in circulation for centuries, these stories have stood the test of time. Throughout modern times, authors have continuously put their own twists on these iconic classics. From a basketball playing Mr. Darcy, to a Jo March that practices journalism in New York, these retellings and re-releases of classic novels put fresh spins on the characters and stories we’ve loved.  

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

Romeo and Juliet gets a 1920s remix in Chloe Gong’s These Violent Delights. Set in Shanghai, this creative retelling of the classic Romeo and Juliet love story draws inspiration from the original story, with some new twists. Without giving away any spoilers, readers can expect to recognize many of the pivotal moments in the story (Tybalt stabbing Mercutio, Romeo killing Tybalt, Romeo and Juliet dying) but there are more subtle breadcrumbs left throughout the story as well for the savvy reader to pick up on.

Read our interview with Chloe Gong, author of These Violent Delights.

The Secret Garden: The Cinematic Novel by Linda Chapman

The dreamy children’s story hits screens everywhere on Friday, August 7, when the film adaptation heads straight to streaming-on-demand. This book tells the classic story of the orphaned Mary Lennox. The exclusive cinematic edition includes vibrant stills and exclusive content directly from the film. As we follow Mary Lennox through her stay in her uncle’s Yorkshire manor, we discover a whole new world through her eyes in an enchanting hidden garden alongside her ill cousin, Collin, and a local boy, Dickon. 

The Wrong Mr. Darcy by Evelyn Lozada and Holly Lorincz

Inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, The Wrong Mr. Darcy is a modern take on the essential romance read. Hara Isari, a writer for her small town’s newspaper, has big dreams of leaving that job behind to engage in a career as a sports writer. When she is given the opportunity to interview a star basketball player, she eagerly takes the offer in hopes of her small town escape. Enter Derek Darcy, the incredibly handsome yet arrogant team rookie. Hara cannot stand Derek, but as their paths keep crossing, an unexpected connection between them deepens.

Mr. Malcolm’s List by Suzanne Allain

Just when we thought Mr. Darcy couldn’t be more nitpicky, a new protagonist has been introduced to us and his name is Mr. Malcolm. Mr. Malcolm’s List is about the Honourable Jeremy Malcolm who has rifled through debutante after debutante searching for the perfect wife who meets his ridiculously high standards. Sound familiar? Just when he fears he must settle for a less than ideal match, Selina Dalton comes into town, invited by her friend Julia Thistlewaite in a ploy to exact revenge on Mr. Malcolm. As Mr. Malcolm begins to exert his refined list of standards onto Selina, Selina comes back with her own specifications and Mr. Malcolm must meet them should he wish to win over her heart.

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

A rendition of Sophocle’s play Antigone as told through the eyes of immigrants, Home Fire provokes discussion of family life and heritage in a thought-provoking narrative. Isma was always the head of her house after her mother’s death, but she finally has the chance to give up that responsibility as she is offered an apprenticeship in America. Although set on following her dream, Isma’s thoughts are consumed by her sister, Aneeka living in London and her brother, Paraiz who has disappeared to fulfill a dark legacy of their estranged jihadist father. Then along comes Eamonn, the son of a powerful political figure who struggles with his own choices about following an established legacy. As a love interest and the person who could save Paraiz’s life, two families’ lives become entangled in this complexly emotional novel. 

The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian’s The Double Bind takes place in the same world as The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, filled with remnants of the Roaring 20’s and Jay Gatsby’s island in parallel to a twenty-first century timeline in New England. Laurel Estabrook, traumatized by an attack while on a bike ride, retreats into reclusiveness, focusing on her photography and spending her spare time at a homeless shelter. There, she befriends the mentally ill Bobbie Crocker who wields a box of photographs he will not let anyone see. After his death, Bobbie’s photographs lead Laurel into a chase for truth and a world full of secrets that takes her between time frames and holds unsettling ramifications.

My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows

In this supernatural remix of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Jane and Mr. Rochester are not what we once knew them to be. Written in an eerily Gothic style reminiscent of the Bronte sisters, My Plain Jane takes us on a ghost hunt in an intimate look at the life of the orphan Jane Eyre. 

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

This take on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter sends us into another dimension on the horizon of a heretic dystopian America, where convicted felons wear their crimes through the colors of their skin. Hannah’s skin is the color red due to her heinous crime of murder. A clever conversation about religion and its principles, When She Woke illustrates Hannah’s self discovery as a criminal in an America where church and state are no longer separated. 

Meg and Jo by Virginia Kantra

The March sisters are reunited, but not in the time period we expected. Meg, Jo, Amy and Beth have all left the nest to pursue their dreams. Jo March is the same independent sister we knew from Little Women, except in this story she is a struggling journalist in New York City who enters the food industry. Oldest sister Meg has the dream family life with the perfect husband and children, but it is not as fulfilling as it is made out to be. When the sisters are brought back to North Carolina due to the illness of their mother, sisterhood is rekindled and lessons are learned in a family dynamic that help the girls rediscover their life passions.

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid’s Tale author Margaret Atwood writes an alternative to Homer’s The Odyssey in the wildly funny and insightful point of view of Odysseus’ wife Penelope. We’ve heard about Odysseus’ heroic expeditions, but what has his wife been doing while he was traveling, and what is the story of Penelope’s twelve hanged maids? Questions about Penelope’s time during separation from her husband are answered in Atwood’s The Penelopiad.

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

A novel that ties baseball and Moby Dick together sounds ridiculous, right? The Art of Fielding is just as metaphorical as Herman Melville’s classic story, and both follow a strange combination of five men brought together by a shared love, whether it be baseball or white whales. Henry Skrimshander is the star of the Harpooners baseball team at Westish College, but his life becomes intertwined in four other people’s lives after a disastrous routine throw. As Henry continues to sabotage his own future with his insecurities, acclaimed bachelor Westish College president Guert Affenlight deals with falling in love. Guert’s daughter on the other hand, Pella Affenlight has returned to Westish after a failed marriage. Henry’s gay roommate Owen Dunne spirals into a toxic affair. Harpooners’ team captain and Henry’s best friend Mike Schwartz battles with conflict over continuously aiding his friend while compromising his own future. The Art of Fielding is a wholesome narrative about love, family, friendship and defying limitations.

Dunbar by Edward St. Aubyn

Shakespeare’s King Lear gets a powerful makeover about a family whose values are thwarted by wealth. Successful and powerful Henry Dunbar impulsively hands his company to his oldest daughters, Abby and Megan. Yet, regrets surface and tension bubbles within their relationships. Dunbar is now stuck in an England-based santorium where his only company is an alcoholic comedian. After executing an escape, his family begins to track him and everyone has one prize in mind: his inheritance. Edward St. Aubyn’s take on a Shakespearean classic analyzes the dynamic between money, power, wealth and forgiveness.

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