Lists, Reviews

Vintage & Modern Reading Companions: A Top Ten List

Vintage and modern.

Vintage and modern go together like “insert your favorite pair here”. It’s a lovely home décor style (see Schoolhouse Electric) and it makes for well-rounded interests in regards to books, movies, music, etc.

I’d like to think of myself as an eclectic reader. I read a little bit of everything, even romance, though I’m loath to admit it (everyone needs to know things work out sometimes, even if it’s only fictionally, although I do wish the billionaire-virgin trope would die a fiery death). Anyway. A large portion of my reading overall has been dedicated to classics, although I don’t read classics as often anymore for a couple of reasons. The first reason being that I’ve read most of the ones that interest me (although there are always more) the second reason being that I sometimes feel like I’m drowning under review obligations (entirely my own fault, mind you). The purpose of this week’s list is to pair classic (vintage) novels with complementary modern novels (as hosted by The Broke and The Bookish). I am going for a more thematic match than a modern retelling.

Some things just BELONG together. Like Rocky and Adrian.

Some things just BELONG together. Like Rocky and Adrian.

Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier and Bag of Bones by Stephen King. Haunted love stories.

A Separate Peace by John Knowles and The Secret History by Donna Tartt. Boarding schools (well, college) and guilt. More importantly, two of my favorites.

Moby Dick; or, The Whale by Herman Melville and Green Shadows, White Whale by Ray Bradbury. The first one always acted as a wonderful sleep aid and the second one made me laugh out loud. However, they are relevant to each other and both worth reading..

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray and American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. Sociopathy in society.

The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy and Everyman by Philip Roth. We all die, even when we don’t want to.

The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham and The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh. The Painted Veil is another favorite of mine, The Fever Tree is a slightly different South African version.

Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare and Private Lives by Noel Coward. This is a case of older and old, but I LOVE Much Ado About Nothing and I find Private Lives quite funny as well.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis and Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. Surreal worlds just below the surface of things.

Dracula by Bram Stoker and The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. I am doing something I’m not fond of doing here, I’m cheating. I haven’t actually read The Historian yet (but do know what it’s about). I’m hoping to fit it in next month.

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra and The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. I read one over a decade ago and one a couple of months ago. I remember thinking they would pair well together at the time, or at the very least, that the latter was reminiscent of the former. I’m very helpful, I know…

So what would you pair together?


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  • Lianne @

    Interesting choice, matching Vanity Fair with American Psycho; haven’t read either (yet) but that’s an intriguing theme. Hehe, Gaiman’s Neverwhere and du Maurier’s Rebecca ended up on my list too, but with different pairings xD I really like the last match-up; I’ve been meaning to re-read Don Quixote (read it in first year undergrad but didn’t really get a chance to savour it because we had to finish it in two/three weeks or something like it) and The Hundred-Year-Old-Man Who […] is definitely on my want-to-read. Great list! 🙂

    • Rory

      Vanity Fair and American Psycho are (probably) my favorite pairing on the list. I nearly included Jane Eyre and Rebecca, but I had to work Stephen King in there somewhere, for the sake of tradition. I haven’t read Don Quixote in years, I think first year undergrad, same as your. So it’s been a decade, that’s actually sort of horrifying to think about. I’d recommend The Hundred Year Old Man… it is slightly better than good, I’d give it maybe 4/5.

      • Lianne @

        lol, now you had me thinking here, it’s almost been a decade since I’ve read Don Quixote too!

        Thanks for the rec, will definitely bump that book up the list and keep an eye out for it 🙂

    • booksaremyfavouriteandbest

      Add Vanity Fair to your list (perhaps before American Psycho…). Even though I nearly always prefer the book to the film, there was an excellent BBC (??) production of Vanity Year made in the late nineties. They nailed the casting.

      • Lianne @

        I think I will have to make Vanity Fair the next big classic to read next year 🙂 (I had downloaded it on my eReader, waiting to be read, lol). Oooh, will be on the lookout for that adaptation, thanks for the heads up! (I only know of the recent movie one with Reese Witherspoon–which I’d only watch for James Purefoy, but even then…)

  • Christine @ BookishlyB

    Good for you for doing this option for TTT- I took the lazy way out. I need to add Rebecca to my TBR list, I had a few students read it last year and I had no idea what they were talking about.

    • Rory

      Rebecca is a nice, easy read as far as classics go. It remind me quite a bit of Jane Eyre, only with a bit more mystery.

  • booksaremyfavouriteandbest

    Vanity Fair and American Psycho…. I wouldn’t have thought of it but now that you mention it, yes.

    I haven’t read any Knowles but now I’ll have to (because boarding schools).

    • Rory

      Patrick Bateman and Becky Sharp. There’s a match made in hell, but it would be fascinating to watch. I also just realized Becky Sharp (as in Reese Witherspoon) dated Patrick Bateman in the movie version of American Psycho. Fun.

      Actually Knowles would be quite applicable to you in a way that’s also applicable to me – in the form of a character name. And also the boarding schools. I nearly paired it with The Starboard Sea, which I think might be an even better fit.

  • Heather

    I just read The Secret History last month and I LOVED it. So good.

    • Rory

      It’s one of my favorites. I’ve been waiting for The Goldfinch (and I’m hoping it’s better than The Little Friend) to come out for what essentially amounts to forever. It’s been pushed back more times than I can count.

  • barefootmedstudent

    Your list is really eclectic… and so unique! I have read maybe three of the books on here. Wow. I Must… be… more… cultured… *gasp*

    • Rory

      Ha, I think you’re doing fine. I’ve never traveled around the world by boat. So your real world experience is equivalent to my bookish experience. And really, most of the classics on my list come from dead white guys, so I’m not sure about the cultured aspect… 😉

  • Maggie

    Interesting list! I haven’t read a lot of your contemporary pairings, but quite a few are on my TBR list. I haven’t read American Psycho yet, but now that I think about it, you could possibly also pair Vanity Fair with Gone Girl on the sociopath angle. (I paired MacBeth with Gone Girl in my list.)

    • Rory

      MacBeth and Gone Girl is a great pair. Oddly enough, I didn’t like either one of those. Vanity Fair and Gone Girl could work too.

  • Care

    I’m in the middle of Mrs. Craddock – have you read it? (By W.Somerset Maugham) There must be a modern version of it… But I don’t yet know how this thing will end. I can see a newer version of this – maybe it should be adapted by King. I can see him doing something interesting with the theme of ‘one who loves too much’.

    Great list, btw. I like how you think. I need to read The Historian AND The Secret History…

    • Rory

      I haven’t read Mrs. Craddock, but it is one I’ve been interested in. Let me know what you think when you’re done (if you don’t blog about it). I think King may be a Maugham fan, at least he mentions it in one of his books, so there may be hope yet.

      And thank you, it’s rare I come across someone who likes the way I think. 🙂

  • Bonnie (@missbonnie13)

    A Separate Peace compares to The Secret History? Very interesting. I also love SH so I’ll have to check out SP. And once again, tons other books I haven’t read that I need to make time for. I’ve heard The Historian is fantastic… it’s sitting on my shelf gathering dust. It’s enormous. It scares me.

    • Rory

      A Separate Peace made quite an impression on me, I actually made (what I consider) a huge life decision based on that book.

      The Historian. It looks quite lovely sitting on my shelf too. I haven’t read it. I want to and I know the plot (which is why I included it), but the paperback version could easily be mistaken for a brick. This means I need to suck it up and stop going to the used book stores (I just went yesterday…50% off all books), but I really don’t think I could do it.

      Since I can’t comment on your blog for reasons that evade me, I’ll leave my comment here:

      ‘I think I will read This Song Will Save Your Life, if only because it’s happened to me a time or two (the title, at any rate). Apparently teenagers who listen to music frequently are 80% more likely to be depressed. I suspect that argument is a bit chicken or the egg…’

      • Bonnie (@missbonnie13)

        Very interesting. Well, I’ve added it to my ever growing list. 🙂
        Yes, the Historian is lovely to look at. I have a used bookstore addiction too… I somehow managed to avoid going yesterday. Once a month they have this bag sale and I can fill up a cloth bag for $5. It’s insanity.
        This Song Will Save Your Life was pretty surprising… since I don’t often go for YA contemporary. I had some issues with it but overall it was extremely well done. I’m not sure about that statistic…

        • Rory

          Yeah, I don’t know who did the study, but I thought it was interesting. Depression was (and to a point, is) something I struggled with and I listen to A LOT of music. But I’m pretty sure it’s just because I like it. I just make sure to avoid The Smiths and Nine Inch Nails if I’m having a less than stellar week.

    • Bonnie (@missbonnie13)

      Yeah, I’ve never been the happiest person and I love my music. I can’t imagine there being a correlation between the two. Life is just shit. That’s what I blame it on.

      • Rory

        Ha! I laughed, I shouldn’t have laughed, but I did because I absolutely agree. Life is shit. Anyone who argues otherwise hasn’t looked around lately (that’s not to say there’s not good in the world). Life is hard and often music makes it easier because I then know that I’m not the only one who has felt that way. I once tried to explain it to someone that happiness is not my natural state. I have to work hard to be happy and I do, but sometimes I don’t feel like it and telling me to “be happy” isn’t going to get the job done. It’s not an attractive aspect of my personality and always a source of tension in relationships. Sometimes I wonder if it’s just me or if I’m a product of everything that has happened to me. I’ll never be able to know, but it doesn’t make me any less curious.

        (I feel like I should make a corny science joke or something to take the depressing edge off that comment.)

  • Turn the Page Reviews

    Great choices- I have never read The Secret History, but you have me interested. The Painted Veil was one of my favorite books- never got to The Fever Tree.

    • Rory

      If you like The Painted Veil (which I LOVE), you’ll like The Fever Tree. It’s not quite as good, of course, but definitely worth picking up.

      You must read The Secret History. Absolutely must.

      • Turn the Page Reviews

        Wrote them both down-thanks!

  • littlebearries

    I actually LOVE The Historian… it’s such a beautiful book! Absolutely worth the read.
    I have to admit, I’ve read most of your “Oldest” books in the pairings, and not so much so on the newer ones (except The Historian!)… but I love the old ones you chose.

    My pairings are here:

    • Rory

      I read only classics for so long that I’m still working to catch up on all the contemporaries everyone loves as well. I’m going to read The Historian, I just have to keep telling myself that.

  • Words for Worms

    Hahahhaahaha! I am still mad at Moby Dick for tormenting me during junior year English. Sleep aid indeed. It was the only time I actually needed help from Cliffs Notes just to understand the text. Hard to form opinions on something that you need to prop your eyelids open to read…

    • Rory

      I should go pick up Moby Dick. I am so tired right now, but I can’t sleep (thinking too much, I suppose). I’m not ashamed to admit I had to use Cliff Notes as well to get the more subtle nuances of Moby Dick. Someone put all that ever into writing them, I might as well benefit from it (at least that was my thinking…).

  • Alice

    I’ve not read either, but:
    “Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray and American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. Sociopathy in society.”
    This!!! Totally agree.

    and these:
    “The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis and Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. Surreal worlds just below the surface of things.

    Dracula by Bram Stoker and The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.”
    The later especially, good match considering you’ve not read it. I read it years ago, it was fantastic.

    Another wonder of a post, Rory! Got me some classics to read now too (once I make my way through my requested review list as well…)

    • Rory

      It’s getting through the requested reviews that’s the challenge. Every time I’m caught up, I’m wrong. Not a bad problem to have really, though I’ve instituted a policy that every third book or so I’ll read one of my own that has been sitting neglected on my shelf.

      And thank you for the complement.

      PS – Even though you wrote it a week or two ago, I’m still trying to come up with a book that thematically matches the song Jolene. I haven’t come up with one yet, but I do enjoy the challenge. Plus I like that song, despite its country roots.

      • Alice

        I’m having a problem with it as well, I think I chose a song too different from my reading habits. Hopefully Ash will prove easier.

        Good idea to read one of your own inbetween, it means you’ve a varied read as well.

        • Rory

          I studiously avoid love triangles, I think they are ridiculous and absolutely maddening. So Jolene is a bit out of my depth. So far the only one I’ve come up with that comes close is the first 20% of White Oleander (particularly the character of Ingrid).

  • picturemereading

    This is so fun totally agree on all you choices! Especially Rebecca!

    • Rory

      Rebecca is sometimes one of my all time favorites. Probably not a surprise considering my love for Jane Eyre…

  • DrFrood

    Madame Bovary and everything written by Jilly Cooper (although I didn’t read any of the latter) – both are (fairly shallow novels) about beautiful but bored and self-centred housewives spending lots of money and sleeping around.

    This is actually quite a fun game come to think of it. Uuuum HG Wells’ The Invisible Man and JM Coeatze’s Disgrace – both about academics going off the rails with a massive thematic subtext of racism and what happens when men can act with total impunity.

    Wells’ story was actually partly about the outriders of the British Empire and the actions they took against natives. It was inspired by a Joseph Conrad story. War of The Worlds was also about the British Empire. It’s largely set in Woking, where I now live, coincidentally.

    Bit of fun fact trivia there…

    • DrFrood


      • Rory

        Or Coetzee?

        I’ve never read anything by Jilly Cooper. I’m not very familiar with her books, just her opinions on women and sex (which are fascinating). I actually find Coetzee interesting as a person, despite only having read two of his books. I really didn’t care for Foe, which I suppose could be paired with Robinson Crusoe, but it would break my own rule.

        Of those I’ve only read War of the Worlds and I did so for fun and never gave it much thought. So thank you for the trivia, the Conrad-Wells connection is particularly interesting. Really.

        • DrFrood

          That’s the puppy – it’s been a while…

          You’re welcome for the trivia. And yes apparently Wells and Conrad became quite good friends, or at least correspondents.

          • Rory

            They did, but then had a bitter falling out after a decade (as they were writers, their biggest insults seem to have been exchanged in their books). But they beat the odds (mostly), as the average friendship lasts only 5 to 7 years.

  • Sarah Says Read

    I’m much intrigued by Private Lives… and you have me actually looking forward to reading Bag of Bones! Although I’m a little afraid, as I always am when I start a King book because I don’t do well with horror.

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