To retell or not to retell, that is the question.

Reimaginings of Greeks myths, Shakespearean tragedies, and other classics have captured the public’s imagination for a long time. We see it in West Side Story and recently in Jorge Rivera-Herrans’ Epic: The Musical; in Margaret Atwood’s 2005 novella The Penelopiad and her 2016 novel Hag-Seed.

So what’s the big deal with retellings?

There’s a certain comfort that comes with reimagining a story; readers can indulge in a tale of shocking twists, new perspectives, and even genre changes while still enjoying a plot and characters they recognize. Those unfamiliar with the story, and who may not have been previously interested in picking it up, will now have access to it in a form that appeals to them.  

But more than that, Shakespearean plays, Greek myths, and other classic novels remain relevant in popular culture because their themes – war, love, death, betrayal, etc. – are universal. We’re just as capable of making the same decisions and mistakes as any of Shakespeare’s characters or the players in a Greek poem.  

As Charlotte Higgins writes for The Guardian:

Greek myths remain true for us because they excavate the very extremes of human experience: sudden, inexplicable catastrophe; radical reversals of fortune; seemingly arbitrary events that transform lives. They deal, in short, in the hard basic facts of the human condition.

Retellings are not new or a trend that’s likely to fade with time simply because many of life’s hardships and joys remain true and timeless issues we can empathize with no matter how many times they’re rewritten.

In a New Yorker article about Shakespeare, Adam Gopnik has this to say:

If Shakespeare is our contemporary, it is not because he shares our attitudes but because he shares our agonies.

Whether you’re looking for your next Greek mythology retelling to fill the void Madeline Miller left you in or a feminist take on a classic story, we’ve rounded up some of the best retellings to listen to right now.




The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea

Written by Axie Oh, narrated by Rosa Escoda

A retelling of the Korean folktale The Tale of Shim Cheong

Swept away to the Spirit Realm, a magical city of lesser gods and mythical beasts, Mina seeks out the Sea God to stop the storms ravaging her village, only to find him caught in an enchanted sleep. With the help of a mysterious young man named Shin―as well as a motley crew of demons, gods, and spirits―Mina sets out to wake the Sea God and bring an end to the killer storms once and for all.

Perfect for fans of Uprooted and Miyazaki’s Spirited Away.

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She’s Too Pretty to Burn

Written by Wendy Heard, narrated by Frankie Corzo, Bailey Carr, and Stephen Dexter

A contemporary retelling of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray.

The summer is winding down in San Diego. Veronica is bored, caustically charismatic, and uninspired in her photography. Nico is insatiable, subversive, and obsessed with chaotic performance art. They’re artists first, best friends second. But that was before Mick. Delicate, lonely, magnetic Mick: the perfect subject, and Veronica’s dream girl. The days are long and hot—full of adventure—and soon they are falling in love. Falling so hard, they never imagine what comes next. One fire. Two murders. Three drowning bodies. One suspect…one stalker. This is a summer they won’t survive.

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Confessions in B-Flat

Written by Donna Hill, narrated by Aria Addison & Earl Sewell

A retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

Jason Tanner, protégé of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., has been by his mentor’s side in New York to spread the message of passive resistance. In Harlem, the epicenter of black culture, poet Anita Hopkins tries to capture the message of Malcolm X, which she believes with all her heart: the time is now; enough is enough.

When Jason goes to the iconic B Flat lounge and sees Anita perform, he’s transfixed. Her passion for what she believes runs as deep as his. And Anita has never met anyone who can match her wit for wit like this. Their scorching desire for each other clashes with their fundamentally opposed beliefs…until, in a cruel twist of fate, Jason is drafted for Vietnam.

With the country at a breaking point and their romance caught in the center, both Anita and Jason are going to have to redefine heart, home, and what they truly desire.

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Written by J.Y. Thorp, narrated by Juliet Stevenson

A retelling of Shakespeare’s King Lear

Word has come. Care-bent King Lear is dead, driven mad and betrayed. His three daughters too, broken in battle. But someone has survived: Lear’s queen, exiled to a nunnery years ago, written out of history, her name forgotten. Now she can tell her story.

Giving unforgettable voice to a woman whose absence has been a tantalizing mystery, Learwife is a breathtaking novel of loss and renewal about how history bleeds into the present.

“It’s rare that a narrator and a narrative are so perfectly matched.” – Audiophile Magazine, Earphones Award Winner

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Written by Laura Shepperson, narrated by Jade Wheeler, Mary Helen Gallucci, Julia Atwood, Mark Owen, Erin DeWard, Leon Nixon, and Nicky Endres

A retelling of the Greek myth of Phaedra.

Phaedra has been cast to the side all her life: daughter of an adulteress, sister of a monster, and now unwilling bride to the much-older, power-hungry Theseus. Young, naïve, and idealistic, she has accepted her lot in life, resigned to existing under the sinister weight of Theseus’s control and the constant watchful eye of her handsome stepson Hippolytus.

When supposedly pious Hippolytus assaults her, Phaedra’s world is darkened in the face of untouchable, prideful power. In the face of injustice, Phaedra refuses to remain quiet any longer: such an awful truth demands to be brought to light. When Phaedra publicly accuses Hippolytus of rape, she sparks an overdue reckoning.

The men of Athens gather to determine the truth. Meanwhile, the women of the city, who have no vote, are gathering in the shadows. The women know truth is a slippery thing in the hands of men. There are two sides to every story, and theirs has gone unheard—until now.

Timely, unflinching, and transportive, Laura Shepperson’s Phaedra carves open long-accepted wounds to give voice to one of the most maligned figures of mythology and offers a stunning story of how truth bends under the weight of patriarchy but can be broken open by the force of one woman’s bravery.

Perfect for fans of Madeline Miller and Natalie Haynes.

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Wealtheow: Her Telling of Beowulf

Written by Ashley Crownover, narrated by Helen Lloyd

A retelling of the Old English epic Beowulf.

In Ashley Crownover’s debut, the classic tale of Beowulf is retold from the point of view of Wealtheow, Queen of the Danes. After a century of silence, Wealtheow provides a woman’s perspective on the issues facing her people, raising intriguing literary questions.

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Wicked Beauty

Written by Katee Robert, narrated by Alex Moorcock and Zara Hampton-Brown

A retelling of the Greek myth of Achilles, Helen of Troy, and Patroclus. 

Greek myths get scorchingly hot new twists in this modern retelling.

In Olympus, you either have the power to rule…or you are ruled. Achilles Kallis may have been born with nothing, but as a child he vowed he would claw his way into the poisonous city’s inner circle. Now that a coveted role has opened to anyone with the strength to claim it, he and his partner, Patroclus Fotos, plan to compete and double their odds of winning.

Neither expect infamous beauty Helen Kasios to be part of the prize…or for the complicated fire that burns the moment she looks their way.

Zeus may have decided Helen is his to give away, but she has her own plans. She enters into the competition as a middle finger to the meddling Thirteen rulers, effectively vying for her own hand in marriage. Unfortunately, there are those who would rather see her dead than lead the city. The only people she can trust are the ones she can’t keep her hands off of—Achilles and Patroclus. But can she really believe they have her best interests at heart when every stolen kiss is a battlefield?

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