30 Mesmerizing Classic Book Retellings for 2023

classic book retellings

I adore classic book retellings. It’s a fun way to experience a book I loved in a new light. Sometimes I even like the classic retelling more than the original!

Juliet is one of my favorite books of all time and it’s based on Romeo and Juliet. And while I can’t stand Jane Eyre, the fantasy classic retelling (My Plain Jane) makes me smile.

If you are interested in some classic retellings to add to your collection, you’ll see our favorites below. Let us know if you pick any to read!

*This classic retellings post contains affiliate links. Purchases made through links will result in a small commission to us at no cost to you.

Little Library: Fluff Reads

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Our Favorite Classic Book Retellings

Juliet 1

Juliet: A Novel by Anna Fortier

I ADORE this book set in Italy and have read it numerous times. What if Shakespeare’s Juliet was real and was actually a curse? Alternating between the “real” Juliet’s story and her modern-day descendant’s story, the book proves that love transcends time.

I can’t put my finger on why this story makes my top 10 favorite books, but it’s a comfort read that I go to whenever I need a pick-me-up. I re-read it again and again! It has a little bit of everything – romance, a mystery, a contemporary and historical element. I

t’s such a unique and amazing classic retelling and was a no-brainer pick for a list of the best romance novels of all time and was obviously going to be included in our Ultimate List of Romance Books. The epic love story also makes it perfect for a list of books like Outlander.

the wife upstairs

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins

This is a Jane Eyre classic retelling featuring a southern home decor influencer! Told by both the second wife and through the diary entries of the first, this domestic thriller is perfect for year-round reading.

Kirsten was shocked, Jackie guessed a lot of it, but we both enjoyed it a great deal. Who would have thought that so many influencer books would be thrillers?

Anna K

Anna K by Jenny Lee

This modern-day YA classic retelling of Anna Karenina was SO GOOD. It’s set in NYC at an elite prep school with total Gossip Girl vibes.

Manhattan’s teenage elite are partying, shopping, and hosting incredible parties. Anna K is torn between her long-term boyfriend and her attraction to Count Vronsky.

There are enough twists to make it interesting, but it was such a wonderful escapist read. I can’t wait to tackle the sequel!

Classic Book Retellings

fair rosaline

Fair Rosaline by Natasha Solomons

In this Romeo and Juliet retelling, Rosaline takes center stage. Don’t remember Rosaline from the original? She was the woman Romeo was enamored with before he met Juliet.

But as Rosaline tells this story, we get to know the real Romeo – and the other devious men of Verona. Don’t be fooled by the gorgeous cover of this story. Inside you’ll find a dark tale of the dangerous obsession men have with young women.

I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to think of Shakespeare’s most famous work without thinking of this classic book retelling as well.

Sherwood and more classic retellings

Sherwood by Meagan Spooner

Sherwood is a young adult historical fiction retelling of Robin Hood with Maid Marian at the center. In this version, Robin died in the crusades and it’s actually Marian that is robbing the rich and giving to the poor.

I adored how this story puts a female at the center of one of the most known fairytales.

Brontes mistress

Bronte’s Mistress by Finola Austin

I’m a sucker for the classics, but I don’t know much about the authors of the classics I love. Of course, I knew of the Bronte sisters, but I had no idea that they had a brother or that he was a naughty one 😉.⁣ How could i not read this pick from novels about writers?

This story was fascinating to me because while I don’t condone modern-day infidelity, I understand how women back in the day had limited options. I loved Lydia and her (selfish) views of the world around her and I felt how hard it must be to be a woman in historic times.⁣

Her antics were utterly entertaining as were the antics of her children. I was rooting for her the entire time, even when I wanted to slap her and tell her to come to her senses.⁣

Hester and more books from October 2022 Novel Ideas

Hester by Laurie Lico Albanese

This enchanting classic retelling takes a look at Nathaniel Hawthorne and the woman that inspired his most famous work, The Scarlet Letter.

Isobel, a seamstress with a gift of seeing words in colors, narrates the book. She covers her disastrous marriage, her settlement in the new world, and her attraction and eventual love affair with Hawthorne. But like her husband, Hawthorne might not be the man Isobel thinks he is.

It was very interesting to read about the town of Salem, how the community treated those they deemed as outsiders, and how those outsiders looked out for one another. I enjoyed the story, but did feel it dragged at times. I do think it would be lovely adapted to the big screen though.

Greek Mythology Classic Retellings

Circe

Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe, the nymph who is a footnote in mythology and gets overshadowed in The Odyssey. I was fascinating to see this goddess get her own moment in the sun. I can’t believe I knew so little about her before this story.

Why I Love it: The Odyssey is one of my all-time favorite books and I think I read Du’Laires Book of Greek Myths more than any other book when I was in middle school. I ADORED Circe because it has all my favorite things about Greek mythology but for adults!

Find this book in Greek Mythology / Books Set at the Beach / Classic Book Retellings / Best Books 2018

a thousand ships

A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes

I absolutely loved this take on the traditional Greek stories surrounding the Trojan War. They are all told by the women in the mythology which is certainly a perspective that doesn’t get much play.

Penelope’s chapters in particular had me laughing out loud. I highly recommend this classic retelling to Greek mythology lovers and lovers of adult fantasy books.

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14 Brilliant Greek Mythology Retellings Worth Reading

Are you looking for more greek mythology classic retellings? Then this is the post for you!

Sherlock Holmes Classic Retellings

a study in charlotte

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

I enjoyed the first book in the Charlotte Holmes Trilogy. I’ve mentioned before that I am a big Sherlock Holmes fan. This Sherlock Holmes retelling differs from the others because it occurs in modern times.

The central characters are the teenage descendants of Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson. I love detective books that take a different look at a favorite character.

The adolescent angle leaves room for error in Holmes’ deductive reasoning skills. Watson is also a more fleshed-out character who has deductive reasoning skills of his own. This classic retelling wraps up nicely and the characters solve the mystery leaving enough open ends to allow for a sequel.

This is one of my favorite mystery books set in High school.

A Study in Scarlet Women

A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas

Sherry Thomas delivers a masterful new take on Sherlock Holmes with this mystery series featuring a lady detective using Sherlock as an alias.

The series set-up on this one lays the groundwork for why Charlotte Holmes left home, became a detective, and met Mrs. Watson. And, of course, there is a mystery about numerous deaths to be solved as well.

I loved the layer of deception Charlotte needs to have to keep her identity a mystery in an era where women weren’t valued for their minds. This is one of the detective books where there is some social commentary as well.

Prequel Classic Book Retellings

Marilla of Green Gables

Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy

I was unsure how I would feel about this book because of my love for Anne of Green Gables by L.M Montgomery. From the first page of this book until the last, I was captivated. 

McCoy was able to capture the magic of Green Gables and bring Marilla to light.  I am so happy that I read this classic book retelling!

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Caroline: The Little House Revisited by Sarah Miller

I read Little House on the Prairie for the first time earlier this year mostly because I wanted the background for this exact book. The entire time I was reading the original series, I found myself wondering about the choices the parents were making.

I wanted to know why certain things were being done and I finally got my answers in Sarah Miller’s classic retelling of the story. I didn’t love Little House, but I ADORED Caroline. This fictionalized biography is better than the original series in my opinion.

Category Headers

Fairy Tale Retellings

Nocture and more February 2023 book releases

Nocturne by Alyssa Wees

I absolutely adored this pick for best fantasy books of 2023 because it’s pure magic at its best. What starts as a historical fiction set in Chicago in the 1930s transforms into a beautiful fantasy about a ballerina, her violin, and the kingdom of death.

When Grace becomes the prima ballerina at The Near North Ballet Company, she is overjoyed that her dream has come true. In accepting this position, she has become a patron of master LaRosa and must move into his mansion.

This Beauty and the Beast retelling is perfect for a list of books like ACOTAR. It is beautiful and absolutely heartbreaking. The writing is lyrical and I savored every minute. It is perfect for anyone who loves to read books like The Night Circus. You will obsess over this haunting pick from ultimate beach reads 2023.

darling girl

Darling Girl: A Novel of Peter Pan by Liz Michalski

This classic fairy tale retelling of Peter Pan is anything but innocent and whimsical. In this adult fantasy novel, Holly Darling, the Granddaughter of Wendy, runs a very successful skincare company. She is a single parent to Jack after a terrible accident killed her husband and Jack’s twin.

When she gets a call that her daughter Eden is missing from the home where she has been hidden away in a coma for a decade, she knows that Peter Pan is the one responsible.

Peter Pan is dark, sinister and grown-up. Holly must get Christopher Cooke to help her find her daughter and defeat Peter. Like all retellings of classic novels, this story is different from the original!

legendborn

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Why did I not read this book before now? In a way, I’m glad I just read this because I only have to wait a few more months for the sequel in this young adult fantasy series. If you love YA fantasy books, this King Arthur re-imagining is a must-read.

Bree Matthews’s mother died in a tragic accident and she cannot seem to recover. When she has a chance to attend a special program for bright high school students at UNC-Chapel Hill, she jumps at the chance.

When Bree witnesses a magical attack on her first night there, her world is thrown upside down as she enters the world of the Legendborn. It is a secret society of students with powerful magic who are also descendants of King Arthur! This is one of the best re-tellings I have read.

Find this book in fantasy books for Teens / Books About Secret Societies / Dark Academia

Spinning silver

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

I adored this YA fantasy book by Novik. I loved the strong female characters, the story, and the writing.  This book is a classic retelling of Rumplestiltskin that is complex and wonderful and the ending had me in tears.

Miryem’s family are moneylenders but her family is in poverty because her father does not collect his debts. In an effort to save her family, Miryem begins collecting the debts herself and soon a rumor begins that she can turn silver into gold. Soon, these rumors spread to the king of Staryk, and Miryem’s life changes forever when he comes to see if the rumors are true.

Find this book in YA Fantasy Books / The Best Winter Books / Fairy Tale Retellings / Books with Colors in the Title

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19 Captivating Fairy Tale Retellings for Adults

For more fairy tale retellings, we’ve got a list of our favorites.

YA Classic Book Retellings

a secret princess

A Secret Princess by Margaret Stohl and Melissa De La Cruz

This classic retelling is a clever mash-up of The Secret Garden and A Little Princess. Both Sara Crewe and Mary Lennox are at the same finishing school where they meet Cedric Erroll and eventually Dicken.

In this version, Sara is from the Philippines so the tale explores the same themes as the originals with racism addressed as well. I really enjoyed this version and looked forward to the changes the authors made to the story to make it more modern.

Briar Rose and more books by Jewish writers

Briar Rose by Jane Yolen

This historical fiction book for teens was such an unexpected beauty for me.  Books about the Holocaust are most often inherently extremely heavy.  I love the way this book is a fairy tale retelling of Briar Rose (AKA Sleeping Beauty) that turns it into a story about the Holocaust. 

It does not trivialize the atrocities of that time but rather, it makes the subject more approachable to a younger audience.  Beautifully written and well done. This is one of the books for a 13-year-old that adults will love and a must-read from WWII books for kids!

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Pride by Ibi Zoboi

I’m always down for a classic retelling of Pride and Prejudice, one of my favorite books of all time. I was particularly interested in this take because it features modern, black teenagers.

At this point in our country’s awakening, it’s important to read from diverse perspectives. I’ve never tackled a retelling from a non-white author before, but I’m so glad I did.

I absolutely adored this version. Yes, I obviously knew what would happen, but this is about the journey, people!!!

Olivia twist and more classic retellings

Olivia Twist by Lorie Langdon

This was a fun little classic ya historical fiction retelling based on Oliver Twist. I found it to be a lovely little extension of the story.

The concept is that during all of Oliver Twist, Ollie was actually a girl in disguise so this story picks up where Oliver Twist ended. There is a romantic element (of course) but it’s also about accepting your past and staying true to yourself.

YA Fantasy Classic Retellings

Within These Wicked Walls

Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood

This debut novel is billed as an Ethiopian-inspired fantasy retelling of Jane Eyre but I think the Jane Eyre part is the least exciting part of this fantastical tale. (Which is saying something!)

I’ve never read any YA Fantasy book like this one. The world-building is so unique. Andromeda is an exorcist who cleanses households of the evil eye. Magnus Rochester is desperate to have the evil eye removed from his household but no other exorcist will take the job. 

The chemistry between these two is intense and instant, the scenes of terror throughout the book are ideal for the haunting season, and the subtle Jane Eyre references bring the whole thing up a notice. This YA fantasy is one of the best novels about Africa.

The Afterlife of Holly Chase

The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand

This YA book was quite clever as a modern retelling of Dicken’s classic. 17-year-old Holly was visited by the ghosts of Christmas because she was a total scrooge.

But she woke up unaffected by the visit and died shortly thereafter. Now she has to work for Operation Scrooge as she tries to help other poor scrooges like herself.

She’s been the ghost of Christmas past for 5 years now but this year is different…this year something changes…and it might just be her! This paranormal book is such a great read and a perfect YA book for Christmas.

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My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand

My Plain Jane is a retelling of Jane Eyre and featured ghosts and ghosthunters. The writing is so modern and when juxtaposed with the historic tale, it emerges as a crisp new genre of its own.

It’s laugh-out-loud funny and the audiobook narration is marvelous. This one made our list of the best classic book retellings!

Fantasy Retellings of Classic Novels

wicked

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire

Everyone knows the Wicked Witch of the West but not everyone knows how she became that way. She wasn’t always bad. This is the story of a girl who would grow up to become one of the most hated villains in history.

I think of Professor Snape from Harry Potter in the same way. If you love witches and root for the bad guys, this is a book like Harry Potter for you. Like the Broadway play, the movie adaptation of this will be a must-see.

Find this book in Books Like Harry Potter / Books Like Cinder

Cinder

Cinder by Melissa Meyer

This four-book series is set in the future in a time of disease and war.  This series is part twisted fairy tale, part dystopia, and part sci-fi fantasy.  

Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel are re-imagined as you have never seen them before. All of them are smart and strong women far from the helpless damsels in distress we know them to be. 

The first in this series of classic book retellings introduces us to Cinder.  She is a cyborg (part human, part machine) who lives with her……..you guessed it….. two step-sisters and stepmother.

Find this book in Books Like Cinder / YA Dystopian Books / YA Romance Fantasy Books / Best Teen Fantasy / Books Like The Selection

Angelika Frankenstein Makes Her Match by Sally Thorne

Angelika Frankenstein Makes Her Match by Sally Thorne

I read this adult fantasy novel just after Halloween and I rather wish I had started it a few days before the holiday. It’s truly a perfect Halloween book!

It’s also a classic retelling as we get to see the story of Dr. Frankenstein with a twist. This story has his younger sister, Angelika, at the heart of the story as she improves upon his creature with an invention of her own.

The problem is that she has fallen for her monster! Will their love be able to survive?

Half Sick of Shadows and more fae books

Half Sick of Shadows by Laura Sebastian

Lady Elaine tells this retelling of Arthurian legend. I loved hearing this tale retold because I’ve long been a fan of The Mists of Avalon, The Sword and the Stone, Camelot, and the like.

I loved this feminist classic retelling that showed a weaker Arthur supported by the strong, magic-bearing women of the story. Gwen, Morgana, and Elaine’s friendship was the highlight of the story for me.

Jane Austen Retellings

Longbourn

Longbourn by Jo Baker

I’m a sucker for a Jane Austen adaptation so I was eager to read this story about the servants at Longbourn, home to the Bennett sisters.

It was a love story that definitely focused on the people behind the scenes, without many appearances by the famed characters of Pride and Prejudice.

I liked that we got a brief look into Elizabeth’s life as Mrs. Darcy, but I really did enjoy the servants’ stories.  I’d recommend this one for fans of Downton Abbey for sure.

Ladies of the House by Lauren Edmonson

Ladies of the House by Lauren Edmonson

As soon as I realized this was a classic Jane Austen retelling of Sense and Sensibility, I knew I had to read it!

This version is set in D.C. and the key characters are involved in politics. It feels very appropriate post-election. ⁣I loved seeing the connections back to Jane Austen’s original work. It’s probably one of my favorite retellings of this particular story and it’s a fun political fiction story.

Eligible Curtis Sittenfeld

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

This modern classic retelling of Pride and Prejudice had me giggling multiple times. The Bennett sisters get modern updates in all the best ways.

And in this one, Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth have hate sex as part of the courting ritual which just cracked me up. Mrs. Bennett’s hysterics remain true to form and will be sure to delight. We love this pick from our list of best contemporary fiction books. It also appears on our list of Jane Austen Book Adaptations.

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Pride by Ibi Zoboi

I’m always down for a classic retelling of Pride and Prejudice, one of my favorite books of all time. I was particularly interested in this take because it features modern, black teenagers.

At this point in our country’s awakening, it’s important to read from diverse perspectives. I’ve never tackled a retelling from a non-white author before, but I’m so glad I did.

I absolutely adored this version. Yes, I obviously knew what would happen, but this is about the journey, people!!!

recipe for persuasion

Recipe for Persuasion by Sonali Dev

I loved the first book in the series so much. I could not wait to read this second book that is not only a Jane Austen retelling, but a delightful pick in novels about food.

I loved this fresh take on Jane Austen’s Persuasion. It was so much fun to read this classic retelling and I will admit that it made me very hungry.

Jane Austen

20 Books like Pride and Prejudice & More Jane Austen Retellings

Looking for more Jane Austen classic book retellings? Check out this list of our favorites!

More Classic Book Retellings

Which classic retellings are you hoping to read?

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3 Comments

  1. Terrific list! A lot of these are new to me so I’m making notes of the ones I want to read. I’m always up for a unique retelling!

  2. I never heard of The Winters before! So excited. Rebecca is one of my all-time favorite books. I love this list. While I’ve read some, most I have never even heard of and I always think it’s fun to read retellings of books I like. Thanks for the great post!