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Whether presented to us by the original writer or fresh from the imagination of a new one, we always welcome the gift of a modern-day classic makeover. 

The Great Gasby book cover

Did you know that The Great Gatsby, published in 1925, has now entered the public domain as of January 1, 2021? So anybody can rewrite it, make a modern makeover, or publish it again. But we wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re Michael Farris Smith, who just wrote Nick. Before Nick Carraway moved to West Egg and into Gatsby's periphery, he was at the center of a very different story--one taking place along the trenches of World War I. Floundering in the wake of the destruction he witnessed firsthand, Nick delays his return home. Instead, he embarks on a transcontinental redemptive journey that takes him from a whirlwind Paris romance to the dizzying frenzy of New Orleans, breathing new life into a character that many know but few have pondered deeply. Reviewers are saying " … Smith paints a smart, vivid picture of a shady, messy world that birthed one of literature's best known characters and has written a must-read for Gatsby fans and newcomers alike."-- Town & Country

The Smash-Up book cover

The Smash-Up by Ali Benjamin reexamines Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton, taking inspiration from the classic tale about a small-town love triangle. Life for Ethan and Zo used to be simple. Ethan co-founded a lucrative media start-up, and Zo was well on her way to becoming a successful filmmaker. Then they moved to a rural community for a little more tranquility--or so they thought. When newfound political activism transforms Zo into a barely recognizable ball of outrage and #MeToo allegations rock his old firm, Ethan finds himself a misfit in his own life. Enter a houseguest who is young, fun, and not at all concerned with the real world. "Sharply funny, perceptive, and surprising at every turn . . . Ali Benjamin is Edith Wharton with fresh eyes."--Amy Bloom, author of White Houses

The Anatomy of Desire book cover

The Anatomy of Desire by L. R. Dorn, is modern tale of striving ambition, envy, desire and murder, and a mesmerizing take on Theodore Dreiser's classic novel An American tragedy, this time set among California's beautiful people. Told in the form of an immersive investigative docuseries, it captures the urgency and poignancy of the original and rekindles it as a very contemporary and utterly mesmerizing page-turner. For fans of riveting true crime podcasts and docuseries, a la Serial and Making a Murderer.

Anne of Manhattan book cover

And coming in June will be Anne of Manhattan by Brina Starler, in which L. M. Montgomery's classic tale, Anne of Green Gables, gets a romantic, charming, and hilarious modern adaptation, set in New York City. After an idyllic girlhood in Avonlea, Long Island, Anne has packed up her trunk, said goodbye to her foster parents, Marilla and Matthew, and moved to the isle of Manhattan for grad school. Together with her best friend, Diana Barry, she's ready to take on the world and find her voice as a writer.

For more makeovers or retellings, try our booklist - Inspired by American Classics Explore Book Lists curated by our professional librarians.

To get recommendations, try our new service Your Next 5 Reads.

Becky Aderman, Librarian, Culture & AV Division