Did your favorite classic books go into a phone booth, take off their glasses and reemerge as super-stories!? Well, kinda. But more like a bunch of authors paid homage to these well-known tales by updating them or adding zombies! Now they’re all cool and modern, like a grandpa who just learned how to text.
Free up your weekend. You’ve got some reading to do.
The Original: The Bible (Genesis 34, specifically)
The Update: The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant
Once a minor character in The Bible, Dinah gets her own story told in The Red Tent. This expanded retelling takes a woman who is most commonly known for something terrible that happened to her, and gives her a strong voice, a point of view, and and an interior life. The Red Tent places the intensely personal relationships of the women of Jacob’s tribe at its core, and the result is empowering.
The Original: Mrs. Dalloway, by Virgina Woolf
The Update: The Hours, by Michael Cunningham
Taking Virginia Woolf’s suicide as its opener, The Hours presents her—as well as one of her most popular novels—as the ties that loosely bind its characters together. A modern representation of Mrs. Dalloway actually appears in the book, in the form of Clarissa Vaughan, as do many modernized versions of Woolf’s original themes, including mental illness, sexuality, and just plain old life crises. (And how many of us have been in the position of just wanting to sit in bed and read instead of making a freaking birthday cake or whatever? Yes. So much yes.)
The Original: Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
The Update: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Jane Austen, Seth Grahame-Smith
Our favorite Austen heroine—only this time she has a katana and serious bloodlust! There’s something inherently hilarious about the juxtaposition of the petticoats and fainting couches of 19th-century England with scenes of zombies having their heads chopped off like it’s no big deal. And, of course, there’s the timeless argument of carrying a musket because it’s just plain practical vs. not carrying one in order to appear more ladylike. You’ll find the same characters you loved in the original, and the same general story bones, except with zombies and ninjas. You really can’t go wrong here (unless you’re bad with a katana).
The Original: Cinderella, by the brothers Grimm
The Update: Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, by Gregory Maguire
Move over Brothers Grimm, Disney, and Rodgers & Hammerstein—this is the REAL DEAL. No fairy godmothers. No singing woodland creatures. No one cutting off their toes to fit into glass slippers (this happens in the Grimm version, check it.) It’s a tell-all!
Maguire’s book tells the Cinderella story from the stepsister’s point of view. And, yes, you guessed it: they’re not ugly. And they’ve got alibis. Also, spoiler alert, according to them, Cinderella gives herself that melodramatic nickname, thinks she’s a changeling, AND doesn’t leave the house by choice—so she’s basically a terrible person. Feeling a little more sympathy for those much maligned stepsisters now, aren’t you? Finally, the world knows their side.
The Original: Popular Greek Myths, by oral tradition (as re-told by Robin Waterfield)
The Update: Percy Jackson & the Olympians series, by Rick Riordan
Remember how the Greek gods would come down from Olympus and make mortals fall in love with them and have their illegitimate children and then leave them stranded all over the Earth in villages and whatnot? Well, this is the update on that old chestnut. Percy, the demigod son of Poseidon, is accused of stealing from Zeus (bad idea), so he gets a bunch of friends together who also happen to be demigods and satyrs, and they go solve mysteries together. All your favorite Greek gods will be name-checked (team Athena over here!).