Some things just go together, like wine and cheese, pencil and paper, or old and new. I love dynamic duos and mixing traditional and modern in both décor and literature. If you’ve read any of these classics, then check out the contemporary pairings. Or perhaps you’ve read one of these modern novels and are craving a blast from the past. Either way, these literary pairings belong on your shelf. Here are four classic novels paired with four contemporary works—and why you’re sure to love both
First read THE SCARLET LETTER by Nathaniel Hawthorne, then read ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL by Sarah Vaughan
For those of you who don’t know, THE SCARLET LETTER is an American classic set in Puritan Boston. It follows Hester Prynne, ostracized from her society and forced to wear a red “A” on her clothing for her crime of adultery while waiting for her husband, presumed lost at sea. Despite her crime that resulted in a daughter, Hester refuses to reveal the name of her lover. ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL is a timely and modern courtroom drama that also deals with scandal and affairs, but it is so much darker than that. Sophie Whitehouse has the perfect life, the perfect house, the perfect kids and the perfect husband . . . or so she thought. But now her husband, James, has been accused of a terrible crime. Just like Hester, Sophie is determined to protect her lover and the father of her children, but the truth is darker than anyone suspected. Both THE SCARLET LETTER and ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL deal with themes of guilt, revenge, deception, privilege, and hypocrisy that beg you to take a deeper look at morality.
First read THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, then read I’VE GOT YOU UNDER MY SKIN by Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke
Everyone knows about the famous Victorian detective and his powers of deduction, but do you know about Laurie Moran and her cold-case solving television show? Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is considered a master of mystery whose novels and short stories about the eccentric investigator are enjoyed and adapted constantly. However, Mary Higgins Clark has earned her title of Queen of Suspense and I’VE GOT YOU UNDER MY SKIN in the six-volume Under Suspicion series is no exception. Haunted by the brutal murder of her husband, Laurie Moran becomes the producer of a true-crime TV show that dives into the 20-year-old cold case of socialite Betsy Powell. If Sherlock Holmes were a detective in 2019, would he solve murders on television too?
First read EMMA by Jane Austen, then read PLAYING WITH MATCHES by Hannah Orenstein
Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match—Emma Woodhouse and Sasha Goldberg, the two protagonists of these novels, love to play matchmaker. EMMA is one of Jane Austen’s commentaries on marriage, society, women’s roles and status, and romance. Emma is a wealthy young woman who is determined to play matchmaker for her friend Harriet, believing that she should marry a proper gentleman. PLAYING WITH MATCHES deals with similar issues in a witty coming-of-age comedy about a young woman with a messy personal life who throws herself into her job as a matchmaker in the digital age. PLAYING WITH MATCHES is a fun, contemporary take on a woman trying to find her place in society, and it’s a perfect beach read too!
First read THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald, then read THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO by Taylor Jenkins Reid
I think it’s important to start this pairing with the statement that these books are very different, but that does not mean they don’t have fantastic elements that complement each other. Both share glitz, glamour, and larger-than-life protagonists who pull outsiders into their star-studded lives. During the lively roaring twenties in New York City, Gatsby is a charming theatrical man in love with a married woman. Evelyn Hugo is a glamorous but aging movie star who took Hollywood by storm from the 50s through the 80s. Despite differing decades, both novels center around tragic and scandalous love stories with amazing atmospheric details.
First read FRANKENSTEIN by Mary Shelley, then read REVIVAL by Stephen King
Two masters of horror, so it’s no surprise that Stephen King and Mary Shelley should be paired together. (Imagine the conversations they would have together if they could!) Both of these works speak to the fears of human nature and the danger of hope. Most of us are very familiar with FRANKENSTEIN, but if you have not delved in to King’s REVIVAL than you are in for a very scary and truly haunting ride that will leave a lasting impact on your life. REVIVAL spans five decades as it follows Jamie Morton and Reverend Jacobs. The two initially meet and form a bond in the early 60s when Reverend Jacobs moves to the small New England town where young Jamie lives with his mother and sister. After tragedy strikes the Jacobs family and Jamie struggles with his own addictions, the two reconnect with devastating consequences for both men.
First read OLIVER TWIST by Charles Dickens, then read FINGERSMITH by Sarah Waters
I don’t know about you, but I do have a bit of a soft spot for a story about a good thief. I don’t know if it’s the arc of redemption or the nature vs. nurture argument, but I love them. OLIVER TWIST and FINGERSMITH are no different. Like Oliver, Sue (the protagonist of FINGERSMITH) is an orphan living in London. Unlike Oliver, she is raised as a pickpocket instead of learning the “trade” later on. Sue agrees to help the beloved con-man known as Gentleman seduce the wealthy Maud Lilly out of her vast inheritance. However, both Oliver and Sue develop a fondness for the unsuspecting people that take them in. Waters writes the Victorian era in a way that truly does remind us of Dickens… with a bit of a twist.
Read an LGBTQ+ Romance Novel
Orphan Sue Trinder is raised amongst “fingersmiths”—transient petty thieves. When a fingersmith known as Gentleman asks Sue to help him con a wealthy woman out of her inheritance, she never expects to pity her helpless mark, let alone come to care for her. But no one and nothing is as it seems in this Dickensian novel of thrills and reversals.