Classics Retold

What makes a book a “classic?” Critical acclaim? Bestseller status? Hundreds of definitions exist that attempt to clearly explain these famous novels, but my favorite probably comes from Italo Calvino’s list of 14 definitions of a classic: “’Your’ classic is a book to which you cannot remain indifferent, and which helps you define yourself in relation or even in opposition to it.”

Despite the fact that classics are usually widely known and renowned, Calvino implies that the classification of classic novels can be subjective and differ from person-to-person. In my opinion, this shows that a book must be truly impactful to be considered a classic by many.

Because of the effects these popular books can have on people, they are often modernized and updated in order to stay relevant. One way to do this is to create adaptations of popular classic novels. Pride and Prejudice, for example, has been adapted for the stage and made into multiple movies and television shows.

While these adaptations sometimes stay true to the original work, they sometimes involve modernization or retellings. These retellings can involve parodying the original novel, updating the setting, or creating new stories for the same characters. Oftentimes, these retellings achieve popularity because they capitalize on the fame and notoriety of the original novel.

In my opinion, a retelling is most successful if it keeps specific elements of the original work – main characters, important messages, basic plotlines – the same, but changes other elements to create something new and interesting. Retellings work because they are both familiar and unique, which is achieved by retaining the best parts of the classic novel and spinning the rest into something new. Because of this successful model, retold classics are everywhere. If you have a favorite classic novel, there’s most likely a retold version of it out there.

This month and next, Brookens is highlighting a shelf of retold classics on cloudLibrary. With selections ranging from Shakespeare to Frankenstein to Wizard of Oz to Jane Austen, there’s definitely something for everyone! And, for readers who don’t consider themselves fans of the classics, these books offer fresh perspectives and new plotlines. If you’re looking for something to read this month, check out some of these ebooks and audiobooks!

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