Thursday, January 24, 2013

Books That Lead to Other Books

There are times when one novel you are reading leads you to a completely different novel, usually a classic of Western Literature. This is done most often through a specific plot development, discussion between characters, or even a mention of the book or author. It may be fleeting (as a mention of a book that influenced the character as a child) or as a key plot element (as is the case in most bibliomysteries). The eleven pairs of books below are examples of one book that leads you to another, either for the first time or the first time in a long time. 

The Club Dumas centers around, among other things, the discovery of an original manuscript fragment of Dumas' classic The Three Musketeers. There is a benefit to reading both of these at the same time.

Tea Obreht's amazing debut novel features Kipling's The Jungle Books as a significant plot piece. Since most of us only remember the Disney version, it may be time to actually read the original.

The Last Dickens is a compelling bibliomystery that imagines an answer to the question of how The Mystery of Edwin Drood might have ended had Dickens lived.

Sheridan Hay's debut novel doesn't deal directly with Moby Dick, but with a newly discovered "lost" manuscript by Melville. Moby Dick is a natural read after this since it's his best known novel.

In Zafon's follow-up to The Shadow of the Wind, the main character's life is changed as a young boy through his reading of Great Expectations. Yours could be changed as well.

Another Matthew Pearl bibliomystery (he's written three), this one deals with the first translation of Dante's classic Inferno into English. Knowledge of Inferno is not necessary to enjoy the story, but you'll enjoy it more reading these two side-by-side.

Jasper Fforde's debut Thursday Next novel relies heavily on the Charlotte Bronte classic, and for more than just the title. It's easier to enjoy the changes that occur in Fforde's alternate-universe imagining if you know how the book really ended in the first place.

The third of the Matthew Pearl novels mentioned here (and the best of the three), The Poe Shadow fills in the missing details of Poe's tragic final days before his untimely death. If you don't come away with a new admiration for Poe, and a desire to read him again, I'll be very surprised.

Graham Moore's new novel has his main character searching for the true-life missing journal of Arthur Conan Doyle, while also telling the parallel story of Doyle's attempt to rid himself of Holmes once and for all. Reading Holmes after The Sherlockian seems, well, elementary.

Carrell's second novel, Haunt Me Still, revolves around a contemporary production of the Scottish play, and the curse that still hangs over it. Reading Macbeth at the same time adds a nicely eerie aspect to the novel.

While by no means a key element of The Shadow of the Wind, the way Sempere Senior enjoys reading Candide is enough to make a reader curious about Voltaire's classic work. In this case, curiosity is a good thing.

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