Shake Up Your Required Reading List with These Reimagined Classics

It’s October and we’re settling into the school year, so it’s the perfect time to shake up required reading lists. I love the classics, but I’ve also got some reimaginings of these favorites to jump-start your Socratic seminar. These take you beyond John Gardner’s Grendel and Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea—which are already required reading anyway, right? Settle in and take notes: these pairings are sure to start some conversations.

Antigone and Home Fire

Antigone and Home Fireby Kamila Shamsie

I’ll admit that when I first studied Antigone, it was hard to conceptualize Antigone’s insistence on burying her brother as a political act. Not in Shamsie’s retelling.

Beowulf and The Mere Wife

Beowulf and The Mere Wifeby Maria Dahvana Headley

Headley places Beowulf in the middle of suburbia and complicates our idea of heroes, as well as who holds power. Plus she can write a sentence that’s like a punch to the gut.

Jane Eyre and Re Jane, by Patricia Park

Korean-American Jane wants more than life in her uncle’s grocery store, and work as an au pair for a Brooklyn family seems to offer a way out. Park asks important questions about coming of age, identity, and whether Rochester should be the romantic figure he’s become.

Middlemarch and The Essex Serpent, by Sarah Perry

No, Middlemarch does not have a serpent looming as both symbolism and a potentially very real snake. However, both it and The Essex Serpent cut to the bone of humanity, presenting full, vivid characters as they wind in and out of the trials of their lives.

The Odyssey and Circe

The Odyssey and Circeby Madeline Miller

This takes classic mythology and adds quiet nuance in a way that’s just not there in the epic poem. Miller takes a woman who has so much baggage in our cultural consciousness and builds a character that surprises us in wonderful ways.

Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland and Peter and Alice

Peter Pan, by J. M. Barrie & Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll and Peter & Alice, by John Logan

What happens when the man who inspired Peter Pan meets the woman who inspired Alice in Wonderland? I adore this play, which moves in and out of fantasy and reality in a way that forms a masterful conversation with the source material. It also made me cry—but in a good way, I promise.

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About the Author:

Melody’s love of words has taken her on a variety of adventures, beyond the adventures on the page, including librarian, bookseller, literary intern, dramaturg, and script reader. Reading hundreds of books a year, she's constantly seeking that next literary fix.

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