Remixed Adult Classics for the Modern Reader

By Skokie Staff Advisory Services

So many classics portray a world where marginalized people either don’t exist or lead awful lives, but these modern adaptations, inspirations, reimaginings, or retellings have reworked the originals to put these groups in the spotlight, all while staying faithful to the classic's themes.

  • Ben and Beatriz

    2022 by Gamarra, Katalina

    A steamy and thought provoking modern retelling of Shakespeare's Much Ado about Nothing that features a queer, Latinx Beatriz and explores a multitude of contemporary issues such as race, colorism, sexuality, and privilege. There's also an enemies-to-lovers romance, where the leads begin to realize that they actually have a lot in common. Suggested by Rummanah.

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  • What Moves the Dead

    2022 by Kingfisher, T.

    T. Kingfisher takes a swing at filling in what was left unsaid in Edgar Allan Poe's classic horror short story "The Fall of the House of Usher." Told from the perspective of nonbinary Alex Easton, this retelling is filled with intensely unsettling details and a story that moves quickly while ratcheting up the menacing and dread within a few pages. Suggested by Rummanah.

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  • The Chosen and the Beautiful

    2021 by Vo, Nghi

    A really clever retelling of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby with a dash of magical realism. Nghi Vo's exquisite prose features the "outsider" experience of Jo Baker as a queer Vietnamese American, giving this retelling depth and insightful commentary on race, gender, and sexuality. Suggested by Rummanah.

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  • The Daughter of Doctor Moreau: A Novel

    2022 by Moreno-Garcia, Silvia

    Silvia Moreno-Garcia reimagines H.G. Well's science fiction horror classic The Island of Doctor Moreau in 19th century Mexico, telling the story from the perspective of Dr. Moreau's daughter, Carlota, who grows up on a grand estate on the Yucatán peninsula as her father conducts experiments funded by the wealthy Lizaldes. While keeping the original classic's themes in mind, Moreno-Garcia also addresses the historical horrors of colonialism in her rendition.

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  • One Thousand and One Nights: A Retelling

    2013 by Shaykh, Ḥanān

    Unlike the other titles in this list, One Thousand and One Nights is part of a long history of oral storytelling. The collection of stories arrived in the West in book form and was translated by Richard Burton, often with an Orientalist lens. In this new retelling and collection of 19 short stories, al-Shaykh celebrates her ­rediscovery of the Arab classic’s stylistic artistry, portraying a complex society. Its stunning female characters, in particular, are far from passive and fearful, quite aware of their social limits yet full of will and intelligence and wit. Suggested by Rummanah.

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  • Home Fire

    2017 by Shamsie, Kamila

    Inspired by Sophocles's play Antigone, Kamila Shamsie's Home Fire tells the story of two Pakistani families’ assimilation into a world whose approval is constrained by the families’ ability to fit in. It is a story about faith, family, and identity. Suggested by Rummanah.

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  • The Family Chao

    2022 by Chang, Lan Samantha

    Lan Samantha Chang is able to construct a modern retelling of Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov through the lens of a Chinese family, crafting her own tale that cleverly critiques an assimilation story while also taking a deeper look at what obligation, morality, and family mean for a Chinese family. Suggested by Rummanah.

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  • A Study in Honor

    2018 by O'Dell, Claire

    A refreshing adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes set in an alternate United States that has a lot of similarities to our current polarized state. Both Dr. Watson and Sarah Holmes are Black women who identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community. Unlike in the Doyle mysteries, Dr. Watson is not a mere spectator or a vehicle for the reader, but a fully fleshed-out character who has PSTD and is physically disabled from war. This is a great pick for fans of Doyle and science fiction mysteries. Suggested by Rummanah.

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  • Frankenstein in Baghdad

    2018 by Saʻdāwī, Aḥmad

    Winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, Ahmad Sa'dawi's Frankenstein in Baghdad reimagines Mary Shelley's masterpiece in war-torn Iraq. Combining dark comedy, horror, mystery, and tragedy, Sa'dawi uses the Frankenstein's monster conceit to explore and expose the collective traumas and cyclic impacts of violence on the inhabitants of Baghdad. Suggested by Rummanah.

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  • The King of Infinite Space

    2021 by Faye, Lyndsay

    Lyndsay Faye has written a clever modern retelling of Shakespeare's Hamlet with a fun mash-up of mystery and light touches of magical realism that features feminism, queer characters, neurodiversity, and mental health. Suggested by Rummanah.

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  • Ayesha at Last

    2019 by Jalaluddin, Uzma

    Uzma Jalaluddin's debut novel is an excellent modern adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. While using the bones of Austen's famous novel, Jalaluddin provides a Muslim love story that expertly navigates the intersections of identity, religion, culture, tradition, familial expectations, and personal dreams. Suggested by Rummanah.

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  • Count

    2021 by Moustafa, Ibrahim

    Ibrahim Moustafa reimagines Alexandre Dumas's classic The Count of Monte Cristo in an action-packed science fiction graphic novel that has an inclusive cast of characters and is filled with automatons, jets packs, and space pirates, all while keeping the heart and themes of the original. This is a great gateway to the original classic. Suggested by Rummanah.

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  • The Innocents

    2012 by Segal, Francesca

    Winner of the National Jewish Book Award and Costa Book Awards of 2012, Segal's debut novel is a modern adaptation of Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence set within the Jewish community of London and steeped in Jewish tradition. Suggested by Rummanah.

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