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26 Books That Give Iconic Literary Characters A Different Story

It is a truth universally acknowledged that people love a fresh spin on a classic.

Posted on June 25, 2020, at 8:16 p.m. ET

Last month, we asked BuzzFeed Book Club members to share their favorite retellings of classic novels, in honor of our June selection, Anna K by Jenny Lee. Here are the books that got the most love:

1. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

Back Bay Books

Inspired by: Moby Dick

"The whaling crew as a metaphor for a baseball team and the nautical nods throughout were wonderful." —Alex Jacquez, BuzzFeed Book Club

2. Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding

Penguin

Inspired by: Pride and Prejudice

"I really enjoyed Bridget's quirkiness and relatability, and Mark Darcy is DEFINITELY a modern Mr. Darcy." —Amy Hansen, BuzzFeed Book Club

3. Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

Speak

Inspired by: The Bell Jar

"In Belzhar, we read about a group of kids who learn to face painful losses with courage, grace, clarity, and wisdom. With an exceptional teacher and community, this story has heart, soul, and is deeply satisfying! A terrific teen story! I inhaled it!" —Elyse Walters, Goodreads

4. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith

Quirk Books

Inspired by: Pride and Prejudice

"It keeps the clever interactions of the original, with the background of a zombie apocalypse." —Jennifer Pulido, BuzzFeed Book Club

5. Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin

Berkley

Inspired by: Pride and Prejudice

"My absolute favorite novel adaptation of a classic is Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin. It's a South-Asian, Muslim, Canadian spin of my favorite book, Pride and Prejudice! It grapples with the same content as Austen's novel — love, marriage, first impressions, socio-economic inequalities — while also considering narratives dealing with immigration, Islamophobia, and even more feminism." —Diyasha S., BuzzFeed Book Club

6. Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

Random House

Inspired by: Pride and Prejudice

"It's a little ridiculous how well done this retelling of Pride and Prejudice is. So sharp and clever. The Bennetts are wholly annoying, but well-drawn characters. The book is faithful to the source in the necessary ways, but also fresh in surprising ways. Really liked how Darcy and Liz's relationship evolved. Took a while to get into the book, but once I was hooked I finished it in one sitting." —Roxane, Goodreads

7. Sansei and Sensibility by Karen Tei Yamashita

Coffee House Press

Inspired by: Sense and Sensibility

"The first half of the short stories aren't related to Jane Austen, but are still profound and enjoyable. The second half of this collection turns each classic Jane Austen novel on its head and gives it a Japanese-American twist. I don't want to give anything away, but I will say they were very clever and were the most unique takes on Jane Austen that I've read in ages!" —Erin Cataldi, Goodreads

8. Pride by Ibi Zoboi

HarperTeen

Inspired by: Pride and Prejudice

"The setting and culture were so vastly different to Austen’s original, but the message and passion were just the same! Zuri was an excellent character and did Lizzie Bennet proud. This is such an important book, especially in the world we live in. It has left me with a lot to think about. So, so good!" —Olivia, Goodreads

9. The Hours by Michael Cunningham

Picador

Inspired by: Mrs. Dalloway

"Considering this is a novel which begins with a suicide and continues to develop the theme, this is an incredibly uplifting novel, a lyrical celebration of life in the moment. It begins with the last half hour of Virginia Woolf's life and she, engaged in the writing of Mrs. Dalloway, will be the subject of one of the novel's three narratives, each of which covers a single day in the characters' lives...What makes the novel such a delicious read is the beauty of the writing and the host of thrilling insights it provides." —Katie, Goodreads

10. Telling Tales by Patience Agbabi

Canongate Books

Inspired by: The Canterbury Tales

"I love the intimacy Agbabi gives each story, allowing the reader to get to know each character and their motivation. And I love that she provides such a different perspective and origin for the characters, giving the women strength and a voice." —Michelle LaCrosse, BuzzFeed Book Club

11. Cress by Marissa Meyer

Feiwel & Friends

Inspired by: Rapunzel

"In this book, we get to know Cress — a girl locked away by herself in a spaceship and based on the fairy tale character Rapunzel...This book zips along from action scene, to discovery, to maybe romance and all of it is pretty well-balanced. It's not high literature, but it is pure enjoyment." —Emily May, Goodreads

12. Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum

Random House

Inspired by: Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary

"The writing is excellent, even the mundane parts of Anna’s life are somehow made interesting. Her sexual encounters are audaciously described, and there is a hugely intelligent, psychological depth to the whole thing that makes it utterly captivating. This is a book that will definitely get your blood up one way or another — I found myself growling at it quite a lot, in the best way possible. It is a superbly crafted story that will stay with you for a long time." —Liz Barnsley, Goodreads

13. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Ecco Press

Inspired by: The Iliad

"It is heartbreaking and beautiful, and the romance is epic. The author did such an amazing job staying true to the original story while going deeper into these characters' lives and making them more real." —Dylan Cowley, BuzzFeed Book Club

14. On Beauty by Zadie Smith

Penguin

Inspired by: Howard’s End

"I loved this book! The first couple of chapters were unpredictable and refreshing, and the rest of the book was an amazing story about family life, marriage problems, racism, growing up, and beauty. I loved every single character, and while especially one of them behaved irrationally, it was entertaining and informative to read about his decisions and the ensuing repercussions." —Helene Jeppesen, Goodreads

15. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Penguin

Inspired by: Jane Eyre

"The premise of the story is that original manuscripts can be stolen and then changed, not just that manuscript, but all copies of say, Jane Eyre. There are also literary portals which intersect with the 'real world' and make it possible to change what happens in our favorite novel. Our heroine, Thursday Next, tracks down a master criminal, a manuscript, and interacts with the characters of Jane Eyre. The world Fforde has created, a world both obsessed by books and with direct access to books, is a world book lovers will want to live in!" —J.L. Sutton, Goodreads

16. When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

Algonquin Books

Inspired by: The Scarlet Letter

"This is set in a futuristic, theocratic US where instead of being imprisoned, criminals have their skin dyed a color to match their crime and are then released. Our protagonist, Hannah, is prosecuted for obtaining an illegal abortion and becomes a Red — still refusing to name the married pastor with whom she had an affair. Touching upon love, familial obligations, the criminal justice system, abortion rights, and independence, When She Woke may remind some readers of The Handmaid’s Tale, but Hannah gives me hope and optimism, so I return to Jordan’s world again and again." —Amy Cookson, BuzzFeed Book Club

17. Meg & Jo by Virginia Kantra

Berkley

Inspired by: Little Women

"Meg and Jo is the story of the eldest March siblings, though Beth and Amy also appear. Though it takes place now, it still has the feel of Little Women. Somehow, Virginia Kantra was able to capture the heart of the characters perfectly. This story made my heart all warm and gooey. For those of you who loved Little Women, and/or are simply looking for a heartwarming read, I highly recommend that you pick up Meg and Jo." —Susanne Strong, Goodreads

18. If I’m Being Honest by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka

Penguin

Inspired by: Taming of the Shrew

"I seriously enjoyed this story so much. I feel like on a surface level, anyone would enjoy this sweet contemporary story. But with the deeper meanings, flawed but relatable characters, and heartfelt lessons, I'm pretty sure anyone would downright love this. I am just amazed at the complexity of this story, but also how lighthearted it is. It's definitely a balance that works in the story's favor." —Jessica, Goodreads

19. Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

G.P. Putnam's Sons

Inspired by: Jane Eyre

"If Jane Eyre were an accidental serial killer. An absolute must read." —Sarah S., BuzzFeed Book Club

20. The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian

Vintage

Inspired by: The Great Gatsby

"It builds upon the world of The Great Gatsby — extends, manipulates, and adds to it with such splendor." —Cristina, BuzzFeed Book Club

21. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

Everyman's Library

Inspired by: Paradise Lost

"The His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman is an amazing interpretation of Paradise Lost. A chaotic, fascinating world full of biblical overtones, Northern Lights is one of my all-time favorites. I highly recommend the series to any fantasy/dystopian fans." —Adair Frizzell, BuzzFeed Book Club

22. Ophelia by Lisa Klein

Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

Inspired by: Hamlet

"I read Hamlet as a high school senior and loved the play, but as an English major in college, I began to realize what a bare telling the play was of Ophelia’s story. Klein filled in the missing pieces in a manner which remains true to the original work, while being faithful, as well, to the brokenhearted woman Ophelia was. I have recommended this book multiple times, and I will continue to do so, and to re-read it myself." —Patricia Moulton, BuzzFeed Book Club

23. Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev

William Morrow & Company

Inspired by: Pride and Prejudice

"Reading a retelling of the classic story with people of Indian heritage was lovely for someone who did not grow up with any sort of representation in the media." —Shehnoor Grewal, BuzzFeed Book Club

24. Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

HarperCollins

Inspired by: Peter Pan

"This book narrates the story of Tiger Lily meeting the teenage Peter Pan in the forbidden woods of Neverland and falling in love. I like it because it gives another point of view to the original story." —Mar Ylla, BuzzFeed Book Club

25. By the Book by Julia Sonneborn

Gallery

Inspired by: Persuasion

"It's an adaptation of Jane Austen's Persuasion, set in a small-town university. My favorite part of the book is that it's a great adaptation — it kind of stands alone, without the context of the original, but you can see the spirit of the original in the themes, the settings, and the characters. The latter, especially, are very, very true to the original — you can actually see how Anne and Wentworth might behave in the same way were they in this setting." —Arathy Puthillam, BuzzFeed Book Club

26. The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

Canongate Us

Inspired by: The Odyssey

"Such an enjoyable, quick, and surprising retelling of The Odyssey from Penelope's perspective. Penelope is sassy, intelligent, and more than a little bit pissed off at her cousin, Helen, for causing this war and therefore preventing her husband's safe return. The Penelopiad is told from Penelope's POV, from Hades, long after she and the others from antiquity are dead. She talks to the reader in the 21st century to tell her side of the story." —Charlotte May, Goodreads

Do you have a favorite retelling that's not on this list? Tell us in the comments!

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