10 Contemporary Book Recs Based On Your Old Faves

by Hannah Nelson-Teutsch

I once took three hours out of my day to look at an apartment I couldn't afford. Why? Because the listing indicated that you entered the apartment through a "magical wardrobe." (It actually turned out that the foyer doubled as a walk-in closet, and the landlord was probably a marketing expert who grew up addicted to The Chronicles of Narnia). But the chance to live in one of my favorite books was too much to resist.

And I'm not just seeking out Narnia, either: when I set out to babysit, I bring a kit filled with stickers and games in honor of my favorite Baby-sitters Club babysitter, Kristy; and, if I see an owl flying towards me at night, you better believe I'm checking for my acceptance letter to Hogwards in the talons. What can I say? I still love books from my youth.

Whether or not you still scan the woods for clues as you walk on by, à la The Hardy Boys, trust me when I say there's a lot you can still learn from your favorite YA. Mostly, I'm talking the art of literary recommendations. Whether you were a devotee of His Dark Materials, or totally obsessed with Harry Potter, here are 10 recommendations for exactly what you should be reading now, based on what you loved years ago... and, OK, still totally do.

If you loved His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman...

Read Aurorarama by Jean-Christophe Valtat

A mysterious airship, rumors of rebellion, and long-lost love make Aurorarama the perfect contemporary novel for lovers of Philip Pullman's seminal fantasy series His Dark Materials. Jean-Christophe Valtat's deep, dark, daring novel set in early 20th century New Venice brings a touch of steampunk and a thoroughly adult edge to the magic, wonder, and otherworldly mystery that made Pullman's series so enticing to young readers — the only thing that would make this book better is a sequel.

If you loved The Time Quintet by Madeleine L’Engle...

Read Stone Junction by Jim Dodge

Jim Dodge's Stone Junction is an operatic masterpiece of family, magic, education, adventure, trial, error, friendship and the fate of the world, which makes it just about perfect for fans of Madeline L'Engle's beloved Time Quintet. Although Stone Junction takes up the tale of a young boy rather than offering readers a powerhouse female protagonist, Dodge's masterpiece does open with one heck of a female lead, and in many ways the story of Stone Junction belongs to Annalee Pierce just as much as it does to her son Daniel. For a contemporary twist on story as strange as it is powerful, as warm as it is witty, you won't find a novel out there to compete with Stone Junction.

If you loved The Baby-sitters Club by Ann M. Martin...

Read Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett

Beyond the daily drama and the occasional occupational misadventure, at the heart of The Baby-sitter's Club was about the formation and preservation of female friendship, a theme Ann Patchett deftly explores in Truth & Beauty. For readers who yearn for a few more hours spent among best friends trying to figure out how to stay true to one another throughout the tumlut of daily life, Ann Patchett's masterful prose and daring insight offers an adult spin on the age-old questions explored by Ann M. Martin throughout the Baby-sitters Club books.

If you loved Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling...

Read Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Harry Potter was about so much more than magic. Taking on questions of good and evil, right and wrong, friendship, strength, heroism, and what it means to find your place in the world, J.K Rowling offered readers philosophical inquiry along with house elves, thestrals, secret passageways, spells, potions and flying broomsticks. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell may not have broomksticks, but it does have big questions — and even bigger answers — along with a hefty does of magic. So, if you're looking to quench your thirst for magic and meaning with contemporary fiction, Susanna Clarke's charming and disarming exploration of an altogether different form of magical education will do the trick.

If you loved Dangerous Angels: the Weetzie Bat Books by Francesca Lia Block...

Read The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner

If fairytales were never your thing, and Judy Blume didn't hold much appeal, chances are at one point or another you found your way to Francesca Lia Block and the wild, wonderful tales of Weetzie Bat. If the offbeat humor of Block's punk princess kept you going in your youth, turn now to Rachel Kushner's The Flamethrowers for an injection of art, adventure, and full-on feminism that's sure to leave you satisfied.

If you loved Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery...

Read My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

Anne of Green Gables was a YA paragon of honesty, integrity, and awkward grace who guided legions of girls — and more than a few boys — through the choppy waters of adolescence. If you find yourself, years later, yearning for literature flush with the love, loyalty, and female friendship that L.M. Montgomery delivered, turn to Elena Ferrante. Her exquisite rendering of friendship over the course of a lifetime, growing older in a small town, and the ties that bind us, are beautiful and poignant — Anne herself would not have been able to put these books down.

If you loved The Once and Future King by T. H. White...

Read Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

When the fantasy of kings, queens, quests, and castles has lost its luster, why not turn your attention to the real deal? Hilary Mantel's historical fiction centered on the reign of Henry VIII brings the magic, the murder, and the thrills of monarchy to the printed page with all the intensity of T.H. White's prose and the awesome power of genuine historical fact. For an adult take on The Once and Future King, try Mantel's Wolf Hall.

If you loved Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder...

Read Lila by Marilynne Robinson

For a modern take on the life of a pioneer woman, there's no better choice than Marilynne Robinson's Lila. The third magnificent volume in Robinson's award-winning Gilead trilogy, Lila is centered on the nomadic wanderings and nostalgic wonderings of the staunchly independent, inquisitive, brave Lila as she makes her way through time and across the country to start a new life for herself in a small town. If you've never quite found a novel to rival the pioneer spirit that Laura Ingalls Wilder brought to her novels, prepare to fall in love all over again with Lila.

If you loved The Redwall Series by Brian Jacques...

Read H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

Utterly bereft of fantasy and grounded in tragedy of the human variety, H is for Hawk nonetheless manages to transform the animal kingdom into a magical frontier at the very boundaries of our own imagination. If you're looking to recapture a love of the forest you lost with the the end of the Redwall series, consider a twist on the idea of the animal narrative with this astonishing tale of one woman's journey to test and tame a wild goshawk, and cope with loss along the way.

If you loved The Enders Game Series by Orson Scott Card...

Read The Martian by Andy Weir

Although there has never been a shortage of YA sci-fi series to love, there is just something about Ender's ingenuity, heart, and sheer pluck in the face of overwhelming odds that marked the Enders Game series as special. Although Andy Weir's all-grown-up protagonist Mark Watney isn't fighting for the fate of the human race, the drive, determination, wit, and ingenuity Watney brings to the struggle to stay alive on the red planet after his ship abandons him alone in space is sure to capture the imagination of former Enders Game fans.

Image: Sarah Sosiak / Flickr