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The Novel’s the Thing (Read a book inspired by Shakespeare)

Since they were first produced, Shakespeare’s plays have been adapted into many dramatic forms: opera, ballet, musicals, and other plays. But they’ve also served as inspiration for some cleverly entertaining novels by some of our modern literary masters.

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

Kate Battista feels stuck. How did she end up running house and home for her eccentric scientist father and haughty, pretty younger sister Bunny? Plus, she’s always in trouble at work—her pre-school charges adore her, but their parents don’t always appreciate her unusual opinions and forthright manner. Pulitzer Prize winner Anne Tyler brings us an inspired, witty, and irresistible contemporary take on The Taming of the Shrew.

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These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

This heart-stopping debut is an imaginative Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1926 Shanghai, with rival gangs and a monster in the depths of the Huangpu River. A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper, and Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns–and grudges–aside and work together.

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Shylock Is My Name by Howard Jacobson

In this provocative and profound interpretation of The Merchant of Venice, Shylock is juxtaposed against his present-day counterpart in the character of art dealer and conflicted father Simon Strulovitch. With characteristic irony, Jacobson presents Shylock as a man of incisive wit and passion, concerned still with questions of identity, parenthood, anti-Semitism and revenge.


Speak Easy Speak Love by McKelle George

This retelling of Much Ado About Nothing is set during a Prohibition-era summer of romantic misunderstandings and dangerous deals. After she gets kicked out of boarding school, 17-year-old Beatrice goes to her uncle’s estate on Long Island, where her cousin, Hero, runs a struggling speakeasy out of the basement. Their lives intertwine with those of Prince, a young man determined to prove his worth; his brother, John, a dark and dangerous mobster; and Benedick, a handsome trust-fund kid trying to become a writer.


Nutshell by Ian McEwan

Trudy has betrayed her husband, John. She’s still in the marital home—a dilapidated, priceless London townhouse—but John’s not here. Instead, she’s with his brother, the profoundly banal Claude, and the two of them have a plan. But there is a witness to their plot: the inquisitive, nine-month-old resident of Trudy’s womb. A retelling of Hamlet from a rather unusual perspective, Nutshell is a classic story of murder and deceit from one of the world’s master storytellers.

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New Boy by Tracy Chevalier

Tracy Chevalier brings Othello—a harrowing drama of jealousy and revenge—to a 1970s-era elementary school playground. Arriving at his fifth school in as many years, diplomat’s son Osei Kokote knows he needs an ally if he is to survive his first day—so he’s lucky to hit it off with Dee, the most popular girl in school. But one student can’t stand to witness this budding relationship: Ian decides to destroy the friendship between the black boy and the golden girl.

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Dunbar by Edward St. Aubyn

A scathing take on King Lear, this is the story of Henry Dunbar, once the all-powerful head of a global media corporation. In his dotage he hands over care of the corporation to his two eldest daughters, Abby and Megan, but as relations sour he starts to doubt the wisdom of past decisions. Now imprisoned in Meadowmeade, an upscale sanatorium in rural England, with only a demented alcoholic comedian as company, Dunbar starts planning his escape.


Macbeth by Jo Nesbø

In a run-down, industrial town in the 1970s, a police force struggles to shed an incessant drug problem. Duncan, the chief of police, is idealistic and visionary, a dream to the townspeople, but a nightmare for criminals. Hecate, a drug lord, has connections with the highest in power, and his plot hinges on steadily, insidiously manipulating Inspector Macbeth: the head of SWAT and a man already susceptible to violent and paranoid tendencies.

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The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson

A modern retelling of The Winter’s Tale moves from London after the 2008 financial crisis to the storm-ravaged American city of New Bohemia, in a story of the destructive effect of jealousy and the redemptive power of love.

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Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

As artistic director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival, Felix is staging a production of The Tempest like no other: not only will it boost his reputation, it will also heal emotional wounds. Or that was the plan. Instead, after an act of unforeseen treachery, Felix is living in exile in a backwoods hovel, haunted by memories of his beloved lost daughter, Miranda. And brewing revenge.

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