Top 10 Contemporary Books Paired With a Classic

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

This week's Top Ten from The Broke and the Bookish asks for the top 10 contemporary books that would be great paired with a required reading book. I picked one classic and one recent book for each pair. 

1) Howards End and On Beauty: These two are an obvious match. One is a book about the unlikely meeting of two very different families and the other is a modern re-telling of the same story. The two are just different enough to feel completely unique.

2) Little Women and March (by Geraldine Brooks): Four women grow up with their mother while their father is away fighting the Civil War. Little Women is famous for barely mentioning the patriarch of the clan, March tells his story.

3) Flowers for Algernon and Marcelo in the Real World: Two men with mental limitations try to find their way in the world. Both are characters that get under your skin and stay with you long after the final page.

4) King Lear and A Thousand Acres: Shakespeare and Iowa don’t seem like an obvious pairing, but the tragedy of a king and his daughters works well when retold as a Midwestern farmer and his troubled family.

5) Babbit and The Corrections: I think I’ve made it clear that I do NOT enjoy Franzen, but this pairing shows what works and what doesn’t. Both are books about unhappy Midwestern families, one does it well; the other just comes across as whiny.

6) Gone with the Wind and The March (E.L. Doctorow): A classic about the downfall of the South paired with a book about Sherman’s march through the South, burning it down as he goes. Bonus: Vanity Fair would be another great classic to pair with Gone with the Wind. The two share so much, including a kind and gentle heroine who is best friends with a selfish and ambitious woman.

7) A Moveable Feast and The Paris Wife or French Milk: Hemingway’s memoir about his time in Paris in the 1920s pairs nicely with the fictional version of his wife’s life during that same period. It would also work perfectly with French Milk, a twenty-something’s graphic novel about her trip to Paris.

8) The Sign of Four and The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie: Sherlock Holmes, the most famous detective of all-time and a 10-year-old with impressive deductive skills. Both have a hard time with normal social interaction, but they always solve the case.

9) The Iliad and The Odyssey and The Song of Achilles: Greek epic poetry can be daunting, but paired with this love story the characters might become more accessible.

10) The Secret Garden and The Forgotten Garden: Two novels about secret gardens, one meant for kids, the other with a gothic mystery twist.


Bybee said...

You did a brilliant job! Avid Chooser!

Andi said...

GREAT pairings!!

Unknown said...

French Milk sounds like one I need to check out.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...


Tiffany - French Milk is such a fun graphic novel!

Ellie said...

Brilliant! The pairings all seem so perfect.

Rebecca @ The Key to the Gate said...

Excellent pairings! On Beauty has been unopened on my bookshelf for a very long time but thanks to your list I think I will read Howard's End first. It is another book that I have thought about reading but haven't made it to yet. I look forward to the pairing!
Happy Reading,
Rebecca @ The Key to the Gate

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Rebecca - Definitely read Howards End first, it's wonderful!

Anonymous said...

The only pairing I can say I've read both is #10.

I keep thinking that Mrs. Craddock would be an interesting book to adapt to modern times. Such an interesting book...

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

bkclubcare - I haven't read that one yet! It's going on the list.

JoAnn said...

Great pairings!! I've read both of 3, 4, and 7. Howards End is a favorite, yet I've never read On Beauty... even though it's been on my shelf for years.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

JoAnn - It's a really interesting take on the story. I love Howards End and On Beauty feels like a very different book.