Cheat Sheet: Top 10 retellings of the classic books everybody says you should read

It's basically homework, right?

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Bet you never imagined that Jane Austen's Emma is a dab hand when it comes to whipping up a latte? Or that Jane Eyre is also an Icelandic au pair working in Scotland?

Whether you're finding the books on your reading list a bit of a challenge or you fancy mugging up on the classics but can't seem to get into the swing of things, you might want to take a little look through these modern retellings of those books everybody always says you should read.

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There are so many updates of the classics out there that it can be hard to know where to start and with that in mind, we've picked out our Top 10 updates that'll bring the great literary heros and heroines slap bang into the 21st century...

10. Going Bovine by Libba Bray (Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra)

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All 16-year-old Cameron wants is to get through high school - and life in general - with a minimum of effort. It's not a lot to ask. But that's before he's given some bad news: he's sick and he's going to die. Which totally sucks.

Hope arrives in the winged form of Dulcie, a loopy punk angel and possible hallucination with a bad sugar habit. She tells Cam there is a cure - if he's willing to go in search of it.

With the help of a death-obsessed, video-gaming dwarf and a yard gnome, Cam sets off on the mother of all road trips through a twisted America into the heart of what matters most.

9. The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney (To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee)

Themis Academy is a quiet boarding school where the students are exceptional, the faculty trust that everyone does the right thing, and the administration sees only what it wants to see - perfection. So when Alex spends a drunken-night with a male student and awakes to evidence of a sexual encounter she can't remember, she doesn't know where to turn for help.

As she slowly comes to terms with the fact that she was date raped, she enlists the help of the Mockingbirds - a secret society of her peers whose mission is to right the wrongs that the faculty and administration don't even know exist.

In standing up to her attacker, Alex discovers a strength she never knew she had and begins to understand that if you love something or someone - especially yourself - it's worth fighting for.

8. The Espressologist by Kristina Springer (Emma by Jane Austen)

What's your drink of choice? Is it a small pumpkin spice latte? Then you're lots of fun and a bit sassy. Or perhaps it's a small decaf soy sugar-free hazelnut caffe latte? Some might call you a yuppie. Seventeen-year-old barista Jane Turner has this theory that you can tell a lot about a person by their regular coffee drink.

She scribbles it all down in a notebook and calls it Espressology. So it's not a totally crazy idea when Jane starts hooking up some of her friends based on their coffee orders. Like her best friend, Em, a medium hot chocolate, and Cam, a toffee nut latte.

But when her boss, Derek, gets wind of Jane's Espressology, he makes it an in-store holiday promotion, promising customers their perfect matches for the price of their favorite coffee. Things are going better than Derek could ever have hoped, so why is Jane so freaked out? Does it have anything to do with Em dating Cam? She's the one who set them up! She should be happy for them, right?

Sweet and frothy, it's truly irresistible and even better than a coffee frappuccino with extra cream. Just saying.

7. Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding (Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen)

There's little doubt that you've seen the hit movies based on Helen Fielding's novel, but underneath all those hilarious embarrassing moments and blue string soup is a story based upon one of Jane Austen's most infamous novels.

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From work based performance anxiety and mum's running off with orange TV show hosts to the worries about being left old and alone to be eaten by Alsatians, Bridget will have you helpless with laughter on her permanent quest to find Mr. Right - even if that means shagging her boss and putting up with the insufferable smirks of a certain Mr. Darcy while she does it.

We love Lizzy Bennett, but Bridget is our spirit animal and having coined the phrase 'smug married', she's in the running to be our ultimate heroine too.

6. The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesy (Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë)

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When orphan Gemma Hardy leaves her native home of Iceland to take a job as an au pair on the Orkney Islands, she never expects to find herself drawn into the world of dark and brooding businessman Mr. Sinclair.

Even before their first meeting Gemma is intrigued by the mystery surrounding him and even though they are an unlikely couple, the two are drawn to each other.

But Gemma's biggest trial is about to begin: a journey of passion and betrayal, redemption and discovery, that will lead her to a life is which she's never dreamed. Oh, and of course there's that mad bird living upstairs in the attic...

5. New Girl by Paige Harbison (Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier)

I hadn't wanted to go, but my parents were so excited... So here I am, the new girl at Manderley, a true fish out of water. But mine's not the name on everyone's lips. Oh, no.

It's Becca Normandy they can't stop talking about. Perfect, beautiful Becca. She went missing at the end of last year, leaving a spot open at Manderley--the spot that I got. And everyone acts like it's my fault that infallible, beloved Becca is gone and has been replaced by "not" perfect, completely fallible, unknown Me.

Then, there's the name on "my" lips - Max Holloway. Becca's ex. The one boy I should avoid, but can't. Thing is, it seems like he wants me, too. But the memory of Becca is always between us. And as much as I'm starting to like it at Manderley, I can't help but think she's out there, somewhere, watching me take her place.

4. His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman (Paradise Lost by John Milton)

The title of Phillip Pullman's trilogy comes from a line in classic Milton poem Paradise Lost and in first installment Northern Lights you can't help but be pulled into a strange and almost bibilical world battles between good and evil.

When Lyra's friend Roger disappears, she and her dæmon Pantalaimon, decide to do what they can to find him.

The ensuing quest leads them to the bleak splendour of the North, where armoured bears rule the ice and witch-queens fly through the frozen skies - and where a team of scientists is conducting experiments too horrible to be spoken about.

3. Falling for Hamlet by Michelle Ray (Hamlet by William Shakespeare)

Shakespeare can be a bit of a tough one to get into, so have a look through Michelle Ray's retliing of Hamlet through the eyes of his girlfriend. First comes love, then comes madness after all.

Meet Ophelia: a blonde, beautiful high-school senior and long-time girlfriend of Prince Hamlet of Denmark. Her life is dominated not only by her boyfriend's fame and his overbearing family, but also by the paparazzi who hound them wherever they go.

As the devastatingly handsome Hamlet spirals into madness after the mysterious death of his father, the King, Ophelia rides out his crazy roller coaster life, and lives to tell about it. In live television interviews, of course.

Passion, romance, drama, humor, and tragedy intertwine in this compulsively readable debut novel, told by a strong-willed, modern-day Ophelia.

2. The Hours by Michael Cunningham (Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf)

The Hours tells the story of three women: Virginia Woolf, beginning to write Mrs. Dalloway as she recuperates in a London suburb with her husband in 1923; Clarissa Vaughan, beloved friend of an acclaimed poet dying from AIDS, who in modern-day New York is planning a party in his honor; and Laura Brown, in a 1949 Los Angeles suburb, who slowly begins to feel the constraints of a perfect family and home.

By the end of the novel, these three stories intertwine in remarkable ways, and finally come together in an act of subtle and haunting grace.

It might not be a true retelling of Vriginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway, but is the overwhelming theme that binds it all together - there's also an awesome movie version if you're that way inclined.

1. On Beauty by Zadie Smith (Howard's End by E.M. Forster)

After Howard has a disastrous affair with a colleague, his sensitive older son, Jerome, escapes to England for the holidays.

In London he defies everything the Belseys represent when he goes to work for Trinidadian right-wing academic and pundit, Monty Kipps. Taken in by the Kipps family for the summer, Jerome falls for Monty's beautiful, capricious daughter, Victoria. But this short-lived romance has long-lasting consequences, drawing these very different families into each other's lives.

As Kiki develops a friendship with Mrs. Kipps, and Howard and Monty do battle on different sides of the culture war, hot-headed Zora brings a handsome young man from the Boston streets into their midst whom she is determined to draw into the fold of the black middle class - but at what price?

If that's got you interest there's another couple to watch out for...

  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Graheme-Smith (a rather unusual retelling of the period classic. Expect gore and LOTS of it).
  • Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman (based on Bill Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet).
  • Tamara Drew by Posy Simmonds (one for the graphic novel fans out there - based on Far From the Madding Crowd).

So what do you think? Have you got any good ones to add?

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