50 Best Retellings of Classic Books


retellings classic books novels literature inspired

Classic book retellings and books inspired by classic literature prove that the best stories are timeless. These retellings sometimes modernize a classic, set a familiar story in a new location, give the narrative a new point of focus or retell it from a different point of view. Circe by Madeline Miller is my all time favorite, but there’s plenty of great ones.

This is a list of the Best Retellings of Classic Books, divided into General Adult and Young Adult titles. It focuses on General Adult titles, but I’ve included a handful of notable YA novels as well. It includes adaptations of Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Homer and other classic literary stories.


General Fiction Retellings
Young Adult Retellings

P.S. For more, see a list of the Best Jane Austen-Inspired Books and Retellings.


General Fiction Retellings

Hag-Seed
(retelling of The Tempest)

Margaret Atwood

What It's About: When Felix is deposed as artistic director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival by his devious assistant and longtime enemy, his production of The Tempest is canceled and he is heartbroken. Reduced to a life of exile in rural southern Ontario—accompanied only by his fantasy daughter, Miranda, who died twelve years ago—Felix devises a plan for retribution...

Publication Date: October 6, 2016
  
fantasy retellings contemporary


New Boy
(retelling of Othello)

Tracy Chevalier

What It's About: From the New York Times bestselling author of Girl with a Pearl Earring comes the fifth installment in the Hogarth Shakespeare series, a modern retelling of Othello set in a suburban schoolyard

Arriving at his fifth school in as many years, a diplomat's son, Osei Kokote, knows he needs an ally if he is to survive his first day so he's lucky to hit it off with Dee, the most popular girl in school...

Publication Date: May 11, 2017
  
historical fiction shakespeare retellings


I, Iago
(retelling of Othello)

Nicole Galland

What It's About: From earliest childhood, the precocious boy called Iago had inconvenient tendencies toward honesty—a failing that made him an embarrassment to his family and an outcast in the corrupt culture of glittering Renaissance Venice. Embracing military life as an antidote to the frippery of Venetian society, Iago won the love of the beautiful Emilia and the regard of Venice's revered General Othello...

Publication Date: April 24, 2012
  
shakespeare retellings italy


Nutshell
(retelling of Hamlet)

Ian McEwan

What It's About: Nutshell is a classic story of murder and deceit, told by a narrator with a perspective and voice unlike any in recent literature. A bravura performance, it is the finest recent work from a true master.

To be bound in a nutshell, see the world in two inches of ivory, in a grain of sand. Why not, when all of literature, all of art, of human endeavour is just a speck in the universe of possible things.

Publication Date: September 13, 2016
  
book club contemporary mystery


Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead
(retelling of Hamlet)

Tom Stoppard

What It's About: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is a play which, as it were, takes place in the wings of Hamlet, and finds both humour and poignancy in the situation of the ill-fated attendant lords.

The National Theatre production in April 1967 made Tom Stoppard's reputation virtually overnight. Its wit, stagecraft and verbal verve remain as exhilarating as they were then and the play has become a contemporary classic.

Publication Date: January 1, 1973
  
drama classics play

Fool
(retelling of King Lear)

Christopher Moore

What It's About: "Hilarious, always inventive, this is a book for all, especially uptight English teachers, bardolaters, and ministerial students."
--Dallas Morning News

Fool--the bawdy and outrageous New York Times bestseller from the unstoppable Christopher Moore--is a hilarious new take on William Shakespeare's King Lear...

Publication Date: February 10, 2009
  
humor fantasy comedy

The Wrath and the Dawn
(retelling of One Thousand and One Nights)

Renée Ahdieh

What It's About: One Life to One Dawn.

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad's dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride...

Publication Date: May 12, 2015
  
fantasy young adult romance

March
(retelling of Little Women)

Geraldine Brooks

What It's About: Winner of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

From the author of the acclaimed Year of Wonders, a historical novel and love story set during a time of catastrophe, on the front lines of the American Civil War. Acclaimed author Geraldine Brooks gives us the story of the absent father from Louisa May Alcott's Little Women—and conjures a world of brutality, stubborn courage and transcendent love...

Publication Date: March 3, 2005
  
book club pulitzer historical


Meg and Jo
(retelling of Little Women)

Virginia Kantra

What It's About: The timeless classic Little Women inspired this heartwarming modern tale of four sisters from New York Times bestselling author Virginia Kantra.

The March sisters--reliable Meg, independent Jo, stylish Amy, and shy Beth--have grown up to pursue their separate dreams. When Jo followed her ambitions to New York City, she never thought her career in journalism would come crashing down, leaving her struggling to stay afloat in a gig economy as a prep cook and secret food blogger...

Publication Date: December 3, 2019
  
contemporary romance retellings

Wide Sargasso Sea
(retelling of Jane Eyre)

Jean Rhys

What It's About: Wide Sargasso Sea, a masterpiece of modern fiction, was Jean Rhys’s return to the literary center stage. She had a startling early career and was known for her extraordinary prose and haunting women characters. With Wide Sargasso Sea, her last and best-selling novel, she ingeniously brings into light one of fiction’s most fascinating characters: the madwoman in the attic from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre...

Publication Date: January 25, 2016
  
classics historical fiction books i own


Mr. Rochester
(retelling of Jane Eyre)

Sarah Shoemaker

What It's About: A gorgeous, deft literary retelling of Charlotte Bronte's beloved Jane Eyre—through the eyes of the dashing, mysterious Mr. Rochester himself.

"Reader, she married me."

For one hundred seventy years, Edward Fairfax Rochester has stood as one of literature's most romantic, most complex, and most mysterious heroes...

Publication Date: May 9, 2017
  
historical fiction romance historical


Recipe for Persuasion
(retelling of Persuasion)

Sonali Dev

What It's About: From the author of Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors comes another , clever, deeply layered, and heartwarming romantic comedy that follows in the Jane Austen tradition—this time, with a twist on Persuasion.

Chef Ashna Raje desperately needs a new strategy. How else can she save her beloved restaurant and prove to her estranged, overachieving mother that she isn’t a complete screw up? When she’s asked to join the cast of Cooking with the Stars, the latest hit reality show teaming chefs with celebrities, it seems like just the leap of faith she needs to put her restaurant back on the map...

Publication Date: May 26, 2020
  
romance contemporary retellings


The Other Bennet Sister
(retelling of Pride and Prejudice)

Janice Hadlow

What It's About: Mary, the bookish ugly duckling of Pride and Prejudice’s five Bennet sisters, emerges from the shadows and transforms into a desired woman with choices of her own.

What if Mary Bennet’s life took a different path from that laid out for her in Pride and Prejudice? What if the frustrated intellectual of the Bennet family, the marginalized middle daughter, the plain girl who takes refuge in her books, eventually found the fulfillment enjoyed by her prettier, more confident sisters? This is the plot of The Other Bennet Sister, a debut novel with exactly the affection and authority to satisfy Austen fans...

Publication Date: March 31, 2020
  
historical fiction romance historical


Eligible
(retelling of Pride and Prejudice)

Curtis Sittenfeld

What It's About: This version of the Bennet family and Mr. Darcy is one that you have and haven't met before: Liz is a magazine writer in her late thirties who, like her yoga instructor older sister, Jane, lives in New York City. When their father has a health scare, they return to their childhood home in Cincinnati to help and discover that the sprawling Tudor they grew up in is crumbling and the family is in disarray...

Publication Date: April 19, 2016
  
romance chick lit contemporary


Longbourn
(retelling of Pride and Prejudice)

Jo Baker

What It's About: • Pride and Prejudice was only half the story •
 
If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats, Sarah often thought, she’d most likely be a sight more careful with them.
 
In this irresistibly imagined belowstairs answer to Pride and Prejudice, the servants take center stage...

Publication Date: October 8, 2013
  
historical romance book club


Ayesha at Last
(retelling of Pride and Prejudice)

Uzma Jalaluddin

What It's About: A big-hearted, captivating, modern-day Muslim Pride and Prejudice, with hijabs instead of top hats and kurtas instead of corsets. AYESHA SHAMSI has a lot going on. Her dreams of being a poet have been overtaken by a demanding teaching job. Her boisterous Muslim family, and numerous (interfering) aunties, are professional naggers...

Publication Date: June 4, 2019
  
contemporary retellings retelling

Emma
(retelling of Emma)

Alexander McCall Smith

What It's About: The summer after she graduates from university, Emma Woodhouse returns home to the village of Highbury, where she will live with her health-conscious father until she is ready to launch her interior-design business and strike out on her own. In the meantime, she will do what she does best: offer guidance to those less wise than she is in the ways of the world...

Publication Date: November 6, 2014
  
romance contemporary jane austen

Rebecca's Tale
(retelling of Rececca)

Sally Beauman

What It's About: April 1951. It has been twenty years since the death of Rebecca, the hauntingly beautiful first wife of Maxim de Winter, and twenty years since Manderley, the de Winter family's estate, was destroyed by fire. But Rebecca's tale is just beginning.

Colonel Julyan, an old family friend, receives an anonymous package concerning Rebecca...

Publication Date: January 30, 2007
  
historical fiction mystery books i own


Frankissstein: A Love Story
(retelling of Frankenstein)

Jeanette Winterson

What It's About: Since her astonishing debut at twenty-five with Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Jeanette Winterson has achieved worldwide critical and commercial success as "one of the most daring and inventive writers of our time" (Elle). Her new novel, Frankissstein, is an audacious love story that weaves together disparate lives into an exploration of transhumanism, artificial intelligence, and queer love...

Publication Date: October 1, 2019
  
science fiction lgbtq lgbt


Frankenstein in Baghdad
(retelling of Frankenstein)

Ahmed Saadawi

What It's About: *Man Booker International Prize finalist*

"Brave and ingenious." -- The New York Times

"Gripping, darkly humorous . . . profound." --Phil Klay, bestselling author and National Book Award winner for Redeployment

"Extraordinary . . . A devastating but essential read...

Publication Date: March 1, 2013
  
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Circe
(retelling of The Odyssey)

Madeline Miller

What It's About: In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child—not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power—the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves...

Publication Date: April 10, 2018
  
fantasy mythology historical fiction

The Song of Achilles
(retelling of The Iliad)

Madeline Miller

What It's About: Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. By all rights their paths should never cross, but Achilles takes the shamed prince as his friend, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine their bond blossoms into something deeper - despite the displeasure of Achilles' mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess...

Publication Date: September 20, 2011
  
historical fiction fantasy mythology


The Silence of the Girls
(retelling of The Iliad)

Pat Barker

What It's About: The ancient city of Troy has withstood a decade under siege of the powerful Greek army, which continues to wage bloody war over a stolen woman—Helen. In the Greek camp, another woman—Briseis—watches and waits for the war's outcome. She was queen of one of Troy's neighboring kingdoms, until Achilles, Greece's greatest warrior, sacked her city and murdered her husband and brothers...

Publication Date: August 30, 2018
  
historical fiction mythology fantasy


Helen of Troy
(retelling of The Iliad)

Margaret George

What It's About: A lush, seductive novel of the legendary beauty whose face "launched a thousand ships," from the bestselling author of Mary, Called Magdalene.

Publication Date: July 26, 2006
  
mythology historical books i own


A Thousand Ships
(retelling of The Iliad)

Homer

What It's About:

Publication Date: October 27, 1998
  

Home Fire
(retelling of Antigone)

Kamila Shamsie

What It's About: Isma is free. After years of watching out for her younger siblings in the wake of their mother’s death, she’s accepted an invitation from a mentor in America that allows her to resume a dream long deferred. But she can’t stop worrying about Aneeka, her beautiful, headstrong sister back in London, or their brother, Parvaiz, who’s disappeared in pursuit of his own dream, to prove himself to the dark legacy of the jihadist father he never knew...

Publication Date: August 15, 2017
  
contemporary book club literary fiction


Medea
(retelling of Medea)

Christa Wolf

What It's About: Medea is among the most notorious women in Greek tragedy - a woman who sacrifices her own children to her jealous rage. In this novel, Wolf explodes the myth, offering modern readers a portrayal of a fiercely independent woman ensnared in a political battle.

Publication Date: March 17, 1998
  
mythology historical fiction german


Lavinia
(retelling of The Aeneid)

Ursula K. Le Guin

What It's About: In a richly imagined, beautiful new novel, an acclaimed writer gives an epic heroine her voice.

In The Aeneid, Vergil’s hero fights to claim the king’s daughter, Lavinia, with whom he is destined to found an empire. Lavinia herself never speaks a word. Now, Ursula K. Le Guin gives Lavinia a voice in a novel that takes us to the half-wild world of ancient Italy, when Rome was a muddy village near seven hills...

Publication Date: April 21, 2008
  
historical fiction fantasy mythology


Girl Meets Boy
(retelling of Metamorphoses)

Smith Ali

What It's About: Girl meets boy. It’s a story as old as time. But what happens when an old story meets a brand new set of circumstances? Ali Smith’s remix of Ovid’s most joyful metamorphosis is a story about the kind of fluidity that can’t be bottled and sold. It is about girls and boys, girls and girls, love and transformation, a story of puns and doubles, reversals and revelations...

Publication Date: Not Available
  
lgbt queer mythology

The Gargoyle
(retelling of Inferno)

Andrew Davidson

What It's About: An extraordinary debut novel of love that survives the fires of hell and transcends the boundaries of time.

The narrator of The Gargoyle is a very contemporary cynic, physically beautiful and sexually adept, who dwells in the moral vacuum that is modern life. As the book opens, he is driving along a dark road when he is distracted by what seems to be a flight of arrows...

Publication Date: August 5, 2008
  
fantasy historical fiction romance

Grendel
(retelling of Beowulf)

John Gardner

What It's About: Grendel is a beautiful and heartbreaking modern retelling of the Beowulf epic from the point of view of the monster, Grendel, the villain of the 8th-century Anglo-Saxon epic. This book benefits from both of Gardner's careers: in addition to his work as a novelist, Gardner was a noted professor of medieval literature and a scholar of ancient languages.

Publication Date: August 12, 1971
  
fantasy classics school


Alice
(retelling of Alice in Wonderland)

Christina Henry

What It's About: A mind-bending new novel inspired by the twisted and wondrous works of Lewis Carroll...

In a warren of crumbling buildings and desperate people called the Old City, there stands a hospital with cinderblock walls which echo the screams of the poor souls inside.

In the hospital, there is a woman...

Publication Date: August 4, 2015
  
horror retellings retelling

The Ballad of Black Tom
(retelling of The Horror of Red Hook)

Victor LaValle

What It's About: One of NPR's Best Books of 2016, winner of the Shirley Jackson Award, the British Fantasy Award, the This is Horror Award for Novella of the Year, and a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, World Fantasy, and Bram Stoker Awards

People move to New York looking for magic and nothing will convince them it isn't there...

Publication Date: February 16, 2016
  
fantasy novella historical fiction


Young Adult Retellings

Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook
(retelling of Peter Pan)

Christina Henry

What It's About: From the national bestselling author of Alice comes a familiar story with a dark hook—a tale about Peter Pan and the friend who became his nemesis, a nemesis who may not be the blackhearted villain Peter says he is…

There is one version of my story that everyone knows. And then there is the truth...

Publication Date: July 4, 2017
  
horror retellings retelling


The Afterlife of Holly Chase
(retelling of A Christmas Carol)

Cynthia Hand

What It's About: On Christmas Eve five years ago, Holly was visited by three ghosts who showed her how selfish and spoiled she'd become. They tried to convince her to mend her ways.

She didn't.

And then she died.

Now she's stuck working for the top-secret company Project Scrooge--as the latest Ghost of Christmas Past...

Publication Date: October 24, 2017
  
young adult christmas retellings


Anna K: A Love Story
(retelling of Anna Karenina)

Jenny Lee

What It's About: Every happy teenage girl is the same, while every unhappy teenage girl is miserable in her own special way.

Meet Anna K. At seventeen, she is at the top of Manhattan and Greenwich society (even if she prefers the company of her horses and Newfoundland dogs); she has the perfect (if perfectly boring) boyfriend, Alexander W...

Publication Date: March 3, 2020
  
young adult contemporary romance


Grendel's Guide to Love and War
(retelling of Beowulf)

A. E. Kaplan

What It's About: The Perks of Being a Wallflower meets Revenge of the Nerds in this tale of a teen misfit who seeks to take down the bro next door, but ends up falling for his enemy’s sister and uncovering difficult truths about his family in the process.

Tom Grendel lives a quiet life—writing in his notebooks, mowing lawns for his elderly neighbors, and pining for Willow, a girl next door who rejects the “manic-pixie-dream” label...

Publication Date: April 18, 2017
  
contemporary humor realistic fiction

Her Dark Curiosity
(retelling of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde)

Megan Shepherd

What It's About: To defeat the darkness, she must first embrace it.

Months have passed since Juliet Moreau returned to civilization after escaping her father's island—and the secrets she left behind. Now, back in London once more, she is rebuilding the life she once knew and trying to forget Dr. Moreau’s horrific legacy—though someone, or something, hasn’t forgotten her...

Publication Date: January 28, 2014
  
fantasy horror romance


The Madman’s Daughter
(retelling of The Island of Dr. Moreau)

Megan Shepherd

What It's About: Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London — working as a maid, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father’s gruesome experiments. But when she learns he is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations are true...

Publication Date: January 29, 2013
  
historical fiction horror fantasy


Pride
(retelling of Pride and Prejudice)

Ibi Zoboi

What It's About: Pride and Prejudice gets remixed in this smart, funny, gorgeous retelling of the classic, starring all characters of color, from Ibi Zoboi, National Book Award finalist and author of American Street.

Zuri Benitez has pride. Brooklyn pride, family pride, and pride in her Afro-Latino roots...

Publication Date: September 18, 2018
  
romance contemporary retellings

The Last True Poets of the Sea
(retelling of Twelfth-Night)

Julia Drake

What It's About: An epic, utterly unforgettable contemporary novel about a lost shipwreck, a missing piece of family history, and weathering the storms of life. Fans of Far from the Tree, We Are Okay, and Emergency Contact will love this stunning debut.

The Larkin family isn't just lucky -- they persevere...

Publication Date: October 1, 2019
  
contemporary lgbtq lgbt


Olivia Twist
(retelling of Oliver Twist)

Lorie Langdon

What It's About: ​Olivia Brownlow is no damsel in distress. Born in a workhouse and raised as a boy among thieving London street gangs, she is as tough and cunning as they come. When she is taken in by her uncle after a caper gone wrong, her life goes from fighting and stealing on the streets to lavish dinners and soirees as a debutante in high society...

Publication Date: March 6, 2018
  
young adult retellings romance

Queen of Hearts
(retelling of Alice in Wonderland)

Colleen Oakes

What It's About: Only queens with hearts can bleed.

This is not the story of the Wonderland we know. Alice has not fallen down a rabbit hole. There is no all-knowing cat with a taunting smile. This is a Wonderland where beneath each smile lies a secret, each tart comes with a demand, and only prisoners tell the truth...

Publication Date: February 12, 2014
  
young adult retellings books i own


Ten
(retelling of And Then There Were None)

Gretchen McNeil

What It's About: It was supposed to be the weekend of their lives—an exclusive house party on Henry Island. Best friends Meg and Minnie are looking forward to two days of boys, booze, and fun-filled luxury. But what starts out as fun turns twisted after the discovery of a DVD with a sinister message: Vengeance is mine...

Publication Date: September 18, 2012
  
mystery horror thriller


Great
(retelling of The Great Gatsby)

Sara Benincasa

What It's About: In Sara Benincasa's contemporary retelling of The Great Gatsby, a teenage girl becomes entangled in the drama of a Hamptons social circle, only to be implicated in a tragedy that shakes the summer community.

Everyone loves a good scandal.

Naomi Rye usually dreads spending the summer with her socialite mother in East Hampton...

Publication Date: April 8, 2014
  
contemporary retellings lgbt

If I'm Being Honest
(retelling of The Taming of the Shrew)

Emily Wibberley

What It's About: Mean Girls meets The Taming of the Shrew in this romantic follow-up to Always Never Yours

Cameron Bright's reputation can be summed up in one word: b*tch. It's no surprise she's queen bee at her private L.A. high school--she's beautiful, talented, and notorious for her brutal honesty. But when she slips up in front of her crush, Andrew, any affection he may have had for her quickly fades...

Publication Date: April 23, 2019
  
young adult romance 2019 releases


Caroline: Little House, Revisited
(retelling of Little House on the Prairie)

Sarah Miller

What It's About: In this novel authorized by the Little House estate, Sarah Miller vividly recreates the beauty, hardship, and joys of the frontier in a dazzling work of historical fiction, a captivating story that illuminates one courageous, resilient, and loving pioneer woman as never before—Caroline Ingalls, "Ma" in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s beloved Little House books...

Publication Date: September 19, 2017
  
historical fiction historical read in 2018

Dorothy Must Die
(retelling of The Wizard of Oz)

Danielle Paige

What It's About: I didn't ask for any of this. I didn't ask to be some kind of hero.

But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado—taking you with it—you have no choice but to go along, you know?

Sure, I've read the books. I've seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little bluebirds...

Publication Date: April 1, 2014
  
fantasy young adult books i own




retellings classic books novels literature based on inspired by classic

retellings classic books novels literature based on inspired by classic

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