TTT: Comparative Reading

In February this year, Lisa Bu gave one of the best TedTalks I’ve ever seen. (Spoiler: It’s bookish – watch it!) She talks about comparative reading, in other words reading two books together for better insight. Here is my list of contemporary books that I think should be read with required school reading. But first, check out Lisa’s talk.

1. The Dairy of a Young Girl by Anne Frank + The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

anne frank book thief

2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee + A Dry White Season by Andre P. Brink

I was going to say The Help by Kathryn Stockett, which I think is an excellent recommendation, but the reason I would rather use the above-mentioned suggestion is because it relates racial persecution in two completely different countries.

mocking bird dry white season

3. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare + Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor & Park is not a retelling of R&J – which is good, because why would one want someone to read two different books that are quintessentially the same?

romeo juliet eleanor park

4. Lord of the Flies by William Golding + The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Not the same situation at all, but both illustrate the regression of man into savagery in times of trouble.

lord of flies knife of never letting go

5. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger + Looking for Alaska by John Green

Delinquents, delinquents the lot of ’em! Kidding. Teenage angst FTW. Personally I prefer Green above Salinger.

catcher in the rye looking for alaska

6. Macbeth by William Shakespeare + Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

I don’t know why I think these go well together, but they do. I feel like there is a good comparative essay waiting to be written about these characters. Dysfunctionality for everyone!

macbeth gone girl

7. Moby Dick; or, The Whale by Herman Melville + Railsea by China Mieville

This may be a blatant cheat because the latter is supposed to be a re-imagined take on the former. But I think it is EXCELLENT. Also, not as long and difficult. 

moby dick railsea

8. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood + The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirezzvani

One dystopian and one not, one historical and one not really; both excellent feminist literature with a focus on sexuality and reproduction.

handmaids tale blood of flowers

9. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley + Cold Kiss by Amy Garvey

Some things should not be done, even if magic or science decree that they are possible.

frankenstein cold kiss

10. I am David by Anne Holm + Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

i am david mockinjay

As a matter of interest, I loved required reading at school, but I understand that it is required reading that so often ruins reading for children. I think that well-considered old/contemporary pairings can really do more than simply provide insight: it can change the way a child perceives books. I look forward to reading your suggestions!


  1. crankygiraffe says:

    I hope yo find some time to watch that TED talk; it looks very interesting! As for the book recommendations… Excellent choices! I have read one book out of each pair you’ve recommended but not both in any case. I am intrigued!

    1. If you read any of them, I hope you will enjoy them!

  2. A wise list! Thank you for all of your suggested pairs.

    Here are my thoughts onBest Required Reading!

  3. Thanks for sharing that TED talk. Another good one is by Adiche – if you haven’t seen that one yet, watch it 🙂 And the list – bookmarked this because your recommendations are usually spot on, and the books I haven’t read yet, I want to read!

    And it’s been a while since I visited your site – so I might be really late in saying this – but LOVE the new look!

    1. Are you talking about “The Danger of a Single Story”? I ADORE that talk! She is awesome.
      So glad you liked the list, and thanks for stopping by.
      The look isn’t too old, so thanks! I think I might stick to this one for a while, it’s working better than my previous ones. So, thanks!

  4. ChrissiReads says:

    A fabulously considered list! 😀

    1. Thank yooooou 🙂

  5. Maggie says:

    Oh wow, I have the exact same pairings for Romeo and Juliet and MacBeth. I’ll have to add A Dry White Season to my list; it looks really interesting.

    1. How weird is that! Great minds 😉
      Let me know what you think of A Dry White Season if you do read it!

  6. Tiffany says:

    A Dry White Season looks good and since I loved To Kill a Mockingbird, I should give that a try. Great list!

    1. It might be a little heavier than TKaM, and not as inspiring at the end, but it is a really good book. Let me know if you read it!

  7. I love your images! I honestly don’t know how I have a history degree and haven’t read The Diary of a Young Girl or The Book Thief. Hope to get to both of them this month! Also added A Dry White Season to my TBR list.

    I like the idea of Romeo & Juliet + Eleanor & Park, both books about first loves.

    Great list! Thanks for stopping by my TTT post earlier! Have a great day 🙂

    1. Thank you! I did spend some good procrastination time on them 😛
      You’re a historian and you haven’t read Anne Frank? Horrors 😉 hehe, no, it’s a good read, but in your case it won’t tell you anything you don’t know already! Anne Frank was actually my gateway to history, one of my oldest loves…
      You’ll enjoy A Dry White Season for historic reasons as well – “enjoy” not really being a good word, but I’d love to know what your thoughts were after reading it!
      Thanks for the visit!

  8. TrishaDM says:

    These are great choices!
    My favourite pick is your pairing of “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl” and “The Book Thief.”
    In many of the other cases, I realize that I have read the classic, but not the contemporary counterpart. I need to get on that!

    1. Thank you! I’ve just finished Code Name Verity and it would also go very well with Anne Frank. And, some of those contempories are really good, but if you’ve read the “classic” and liked it then I don’t think you need to feel pressured to read the other. 🙂

  9. Great pairings! I like Eleanor and Park with Romeo and Juliet, it’s not something I would think of immediately, but it totally makes sense! And thanks for the link to the TedTalk, I always love them but I’m terrible at actually searching them out!

    1. Hah, I’m bad at finding good TedTalks too! There is a really nice one called “This is broken” – not bookish at all, but very cool, if you’re looking for a nice one!

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s