29 Mesmerizing Classic Book Retellings for 2023
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.
Our Favorite Classic Book Retellings
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 pf books like Outlander.
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 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
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.
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 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 by Madeline Miller
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. Which means I ADORED Circe!
Circe, the nymph who is but a footnote in Du’Laires and gets overshadowed in The Odyssey was a fascinating goddess I can’t believe I knew so little about. I’m desperate to read Madeline Miller’s first book – The Song of Achilles now
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.
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 by Brittany Cavallaro
I really enjoyed the first book in the Charlotte Holmes Trilogy. I’ve mentioned before that I am a big Sherlock Holmes fan. This story was different from the others because it takes place in modern times and 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 that has deductive reasoning skills of his own. The novel wraps up nicely and the characters solve the mystery leaving enough open ends to allow for a sequel.
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 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!
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 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.
Fairy Tale Retellings
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: A Novel of Peter Pan by Liz Michalski
This classic 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.
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. If you love YA fantasy books, this King Arthur re-imagining is a must-read in our list of fantasy books for teens!
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 my favorite read from our list of books about secret societies and is a perfect dark academia novel to delve into that genre.
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
I adored this 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.
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 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 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!
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 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 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.
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!
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 Classic Book Retellings
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 that 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 guy, this is the book like Harry Potter for you.
Angelika Frankenstein Makes Her Match by Sally Thorne
I read this one 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 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 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
As soon as I realized this was a classic 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 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.
Recipe for Persuasion (The Rates #2) 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.
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!
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!
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!