More Required Reading & Contemporary Pairings


A few years back, I paired up books often required by schools with their newer counterparts, and it’s always been one of my favorite lists. In the spirit of this week’s Back to School themed Top Ten Tuesday, it’s time to revisit the topic with a few more matches. There have been a number of recent retellings (Eligible, Re Jane, etc.) that fit the bill pretty perfectly, but I’m aiming more for general themes than specific stories. Here we go!


The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood & The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

The stories are vastly different, but there are definite parallels between the unforgiving, misogynistic worlds Atwood and Wood created.


One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey & Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

Though Challenger Deep is a YA novel, its focus on the effects and stigma of mental illness ties it closely to Ken Kesey’s classic novel.


Brave New World by Aldous Huxley & The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips

At first glance, the world Phillips creates seems similar to our own, but its dark, Brave New World-esque details emerge as the book progresses.


The Awakening by Kate Chopin & Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum

Hausfrau‘s tale of loneliness and adultery connects well with several classics, including Chopin’s The Awakening.


To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee & Welcome to Braggsville by T. Geronimo Johnson

Welcome to Braggsville updates Harper Lee’s look at small town racism with a modern perspective, language, and satire.

  • These are PERFECT pairings, judging from the few where I’ve read both books. Going to trust you on the others, you never steer readers wrong!

  • Wow- Mockingbird and Braggsville- that is inspired and spot-on.

  • You’ve got me even more excited to dig my copy of The Natural Way of Things out of our moving boxes now. These are some great pairings, and such a simple but wonderful post.

  • Love this list! And Handmaid’s Tale and Natural Way of Things pairing is so perfect.

  • What a great list! The Awakening and Hausfrau – perfect pairing!! I love both of those book so much!!

  • This is a great list. Well done with these pairings!

  • Kailana

    Bunch of these I really want to read. Days need more hours in them. lol

  • Oooh fun post! I still *really* need to read Braggsville! (And Atwood… GAH.) I love that these aren’t super straight forward pairings.

  • Great list! I loved Challenger Deep and Braggsville, can’t wait to check out your other recs.

    • Yes! I love finding other people who liked Braggsville (it’s definitely different/can be hard to get into at first).

  • I’ve not read any of these, but I do have Hausfrau sitting on my shelf. I hope to get to it some day. I started it once, but set it aside for a ‘review’ book. Obviously it didn’t grab me, but I really hadn’t read enough to give it a fair shot.

  • I would never have thought to put Mockingbird and Braggsville together, but they are an excellent pair!

    I vote for more of these pairings soon!!

  • Excellent pairings! Can we do a triad and add Victor Lavalle’s The Devil in Silver to your Ken Kesey pairing? That one is set in a mental institution and gets at a ton of the same issues of ethics and mental illness, with also really terrific stuff on race and gender — hahahaha, as I’m writing this, I’m making myself feel that I’m overdue for a reread!

  • What a great list! The only pairing that I’ve read both pieces of is “Brave New World” and “The Beautiful Bureaucrat,” and I totally agree there! As I mentioned in my post today, I read “The Handmaid’s Tale” in high school (on my own, as an independent assignment) and I hated it. I think now that perhaps 16 was too young to really grasp the book’s themes, and I keep saying I’m going to read it again soon. I’d like to read “The Natural Way of Things” too.

    • I can totally see not loving it at that age, especially without a great teacher to guide you through it – there are a ton of politics involved! It’s definitely worth another shot.

  • Oh, what a fabulous idea! I would have never put some of these together, but when you see them like that it makes total sense!

  • Great post, the pairings you put together here sound interesting and make total sense. I hope to read The Beautiful Bureaucrat sometime soon, it sounds like my kind of read :)

  • Did I tell you that my cat pulled my copy of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest off my bookshelf just to throw up on it? None of the other books were on the floor. Just that one. So sad.

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