Look, I have an English Literature degree, and I love reading classics. But in my book, there's nothing better than discovering a great new adult novel. In the past few years, some truly phenomenal books have been released. Plus, reading new authors means you can support them as they make new art: you can go to readings, you can listen to them on podcasts, you can read their blogs, you can buy their books, and you can follow them on Twitter.
For this article, I've cracked open my old English class syllabi and highlighted some of my favorite contemporary reads. I then matched those reads with a few of my beloved oldies, such as Romeo and Juliet and Sense and Sensibility. My hope is that you can use your love for Shakespeare or Jane Austen to springboard yourself to a new realm of great reading that includes a wide range of adult authors, including female authors, authors of color, LGBTQ authors and more.
Almost everything on this list is adult fiction published within the past two years, but a few are unpublished and coming out soon. So, if there's a classic you can't get enough of, take it to the next level with a brand new book for your favorites shelf.
1. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare: Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta
If you think Romeo and Juliet had it rough, you'll be floored by this brilliant debut novel. At age eleven, when the Nigerian civil war breaks out, Ijeoma is sent to safety. She soon falls in love with another girl refugee from a different ethnic community. In a country where same-sex relationships are banned, Ijeoma must hide her true identity.
2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
There are plenty of modern-day retellings of Pride and Prejudice, but this one is particularly breathtaking. Set in Cincinnati, Eligible follows Liz, a magazine editor, and Darcy, a neurosurgeon. The drama plays out leading up to a Fourth of July barbecue. This book does a remarkable job of being faithful to its inspiration and giving the reader new surprises.
3. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen: The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
I couldn't help but put two Austen books on this list! No Sense and Sensibility lover will be able to resist the draw of The Nest. Set in the modern-day, the book follows a trust-fund family when their inheritance is put at risk. This tension spurs the four siblings to confront each other in a delightfully tangled web. Just read the phenomenal prologue, and you'll be positively hooked.
4. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: The After Party by Anton DiSclafani
Set among the elite of 1950's Houston, our Jay Gatz-esque character is Joan Fortier, a tall, blonde, glamorous woman, who rules Texas' social scene. Told from the perspective of her life-long companion, Cece Buchanan, we see Cece's perspective on Joan shift throughout the novel as Joan reaches for something more.
5. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway: The Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee
Just like the characters in The Sun Also Rises, the characters in Janice Y.K. Lee's latest masterpiece are far from home, facing the consequences of life-altering tragedies. These are the stories of three women, living in a small expat community in Hong Kong. As each woman confronts the circumstances of her life, their stories weave together to create a shimmering exploration of identity.
6. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: Girl at War by Sara Nović
In Zagreb, Croatia in 1991, ten-year-old tomboy Ana Jurić runs throughout the city with her best friend, Ruhela, and babysits her younger sister. But when civil war breaks out in Yugoslavia, Ana's world quickly turns upside down. Years later, as a young woman, Ana's story bears similarity to Scout Finch's journey. After studying in New York, she returns home to Croatia to confront her changed home.
7, Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Both of these fantastic dystopian novels focus upon the importance and consequences of art. In St. John Mandel's post-apocalyptic world, a traveling orchestra and Shakespeare company clashes with a violent prophet. This novel creates a stunning exploration of how art and life truly affect each other. This is seriously my favorite book, and I know you'll love it.
8. The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger: So Sad Today by Melissa Broder
So many people feel like Holden Caufield's the only person in the universe who actually gets them. Buckle your seatbelts, because Melissa Broder's new essay collection will make you feel exactly the same way. Intimate and frank, the novel dives into Broder's own experiences with anxiety, depression, relationships, sexuality, polyamory, the internet, and more. She'll make you laugh, she'll make you think, and she'll have you dog-earing every page.
9. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath: Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe
A modern-day exploration of the same themes Plath tackled, this fantastically well-written book will sweep you away. This book begins when Vera, a perceptive and charismatically wild teenager, has a psychotic break that lands her in the psych ward. In an attempt to rescue Vera from her bipolar diagnosis, her somewhat-estranged father takes her on a trip to Lithuania, his grandmother's homeland. As they both search for answers, they learn about their family and Lithuanian history in remarkable ways.
10. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens: Blackass by A. Igoni Barrett
Just as Pip finds himself in completely unfamiliar territory, so does Furo when he wakes up one morning and discovers he's turned white. Set in modern-day Nigeria, this extraordinary novel explores many of Dickens' own obsessions with socio-economic status and identity but with a modern, African, and racially-driven bent.
11. The Crucible by Arthur Miller: Witches of America by Alex Mar
In this riveting nonfiction book, Alex Mar dives into the world of witchcraft. As Mar explores the current face of Paganism as well as it's tumultuous history, her journeys leads her into a searing examination of the nature of belief.
12. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy: What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell
The characters in both Anna Karenina and What Belongs to You both understand the draws of passion and the consequences that come with it. In a bathroom at Bulgaria's National Palace of Culture, an American man pays a charismatic hustler, Mitko, for sex, and soon becomes ensnared in a relationship with him. As he grapples with his unyielding need for Mitko, he finds himself confronting the homophobic traditions of his own childhood and the tumultuous history of Mitko's country. Lyrical and gripping, this book gives a fresh perspective on humanity that will change you just as dramatically as Tolstoy did.
13. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut: The Lost Time Accidents by John Wray
In this action-packed read, main character Waldy Tolliver has been ejected from the flow of time, and must travel through the decades to find his way back. As he jumps from Viennese parlors to World War II camps, Waldy finds himself following the threads of his own family's past entanglements with the nature of time.
14. The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1001 Nights by Anonymous: Two Years, Eight Months, and Twenty Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie
The title of Salman Rushdie's latest work literally equals 1,001 nights. Rushdie takes up Sharahazade's reigns, spinning a modern-day romp filled with good djinni and bad djinni, a magically realistic Manhattan, and comic book characters that come to life. For anyone who loves a good story, you'll delight at every page of this brilliant read.
15. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad: Euphoria by Lily King
If you loved diving into the Congo, take your imagination to the wilds of New Guinea. Filled with anthropologists and native river tribes, this unforgettable read draws phenomenal new pictures of human relationships and discovery. Everyone in my high school English class complained about the density of Conrad's writing, but don't worry, King's writing will pull you effortlessly into the remarkable journey of her characters.