Life After Life, Jill McCorkle and Life After Life, Kate Atkinson
McCorkle’s novel is a witty look at the residents, staff, and hangers-on at Pine Haven retirement center; in Atkinson’s darkly comic book, Ursula Todd spends her life (after life) dying over and over again, trying to get it all right.
Cloud Atlas , David Mitchell and The Cloud Atlas , Liam Callanan
As much as we love David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, all brilliant storytelling and twisty spirals through time, we have to admit that we feel the success of the novel and the high publicity level of the film have unfairly marginalized Liam Callanan’s similarly titled and similarly excellent novel, a luminous adventure story of a young soldier in Alaska circa WWII. Any book that includes “arctic hysteria” is fine by us. Also read Callanan’s hilarious “Ways In Which The Movie ‘Cloud Atlas’ Has Changed My Life.”
Possession , A.S. Byatt and Possession , Ann Rule
Now, perhaps it might not be exactly the same person who would want to read both of these books, but they’re both great in their own right — Byatt’s a Booker Prize-winning story of romance between scholars that dunks you and doesn’t let go, Rule’s a #1 New York Times bestselling psychological suspense novel from a master of true crime.
Forever , Pete Hamill and Forever , Judy Blume
A wonderful bestselling novel from a modern master and a wonderful, oft-challenged novel from an only slightly less modern master. One’s about immortality, the other’s about teenagers having sex. Both are perfect.
A Person of Interest , Susan Choi and Person of Interest , Theresa Schwegel
Here’s another pairing of a literary novel, Choi’s brilliant investigation into paranoia and American experience, with a great crime book, Schwegel’s taut Chicago police procedural.
Elsewhere: A Memoir , Richard Russo and Elsewhere , Gabrielle Zevin
These two couldn’t be more different: a new memoir from a Pulitzer Prize-winning literary giant, and a 2007 YA novel about a teenage girl’s afterlife. They’re both pretty damn good, though.
Great Expectations , Kathy Acker and Great Expectations , Charles Dickens
Now, this one’s a bit of a cheat, since Acker’s postmodern marvel is in direct dialogue with Dickens’s classic sprawler, and even closely mimics its opening — but the two are so different in time and space and project that we couldn’t help but include them.
The Double , Fyodor Dostoevsky and The Double , José Saramago
How apt. Doubling is a theme that has wandered through many of our favorite novels, and so too do Dostoyevsky’s famous novella and Saramago’s contemporary mirror each other with all their internal mirrors. Whew.
The Cave , Tim Krabbé and The Cave , José Saramago
Erm, maybe a certain someone should work on coming up with more inventive titles for his books? Saramago’s sparse, finely crafted parable and Krabbé’s psychological thriller both deal in darkness here.
The Winter’s Tale, William Shakespeare and Winter’s Tale, Mark Helprin
Two undisputed masterpieces, written 360 years apart.