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11 Books Like Normal People by Sally Rooney

11 Books Like Normal People by Sally Rooney

Normal People by Sally Rooney is the book that everyone’s talking about. It was named Waterstone’s Book of the Year 2018, Costa’s Novel of the Year 2018 and, then Book of the Year 2019 at the British Book Awards. It was one of my very favourite reads of 2018 and I cannot recommend it enough.

What’s more, it was picked up by the BBC and was released on iPlayer on 26 April 2020. If that’s what brought you to this post then these are the perfect recommendations for what to read after Normal People!

(And if you haven’t seen it yet then I recommend you set aside some time to binge watch is ASAP as it’s one of the absolute best TV series and adaptations that I’ve seen in a long time.)

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: 16 Best Normal People Quotes from the Book

Rooney’s second novel tells the story of Connell and Marianne. They meet in high school where Connell is popular but Marianne is considered a social pariah. They strike up a secret relationship, opening up to each other in ways neither of them has before.

Fast forward a few years and they’re both students at Trinity College Dublin. The tide has turned Connell finds it difficult to fit in but Marianne finds is surrounded by (sort-of) friends.

It’s a simple story; indeed, not a lot happens in terms of plot. However, there’s something about it which gripped me from beginning to end. To make something so normal, so moving is quite a feat and Sally Rooney is an author to look out for.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: 8 Books Mentioned in Normal People by Sally Rooney

This novel is adored by some, hated by others. I’m very much in the former category and I assume if you’re reading this post then you are too. I think each reader’s response to this novel will very much be based on their own life experiences and to what extent they can relate to the inner turmoil experienced by the protagonists.

Rooney has a way of putting into words exactly the way I’ve felt about love, relationships, friendships and more. I felt like she could see into my very soul and I experienced that wonderful sensation when you realise someone has articulated your very thoughts and you feel less a bit less alone.

Keep scrolling for books like Sally Rooney’s Normal People.

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If you loved Normal People by Sally Rooney, here are some similar books to Normal People you might enjoy. This list is made up of authors whose books offer such a profound insight into human nature that you can’t help but vigorously nod in understanding and recognition.

Enjoy!

Books Similar to Normal People by Sally Rooney

Conversations with Friends - 11 Books Like Normal People by Sally Rooney

Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney

If you liked Normal People and it was the first Sally Rooney you’ve ever read then the first thing to do is, of course, pick up her other works. Conversations with Friends is Rooney’s debut novel and deals with similar themes of love and vulnerability.

It’s written from the perspective of 20 year old Frances and we are focussed wholly on her, unlike the alternating perspectives we find in Normal People.

I didn’t like any of the characters in this novel but I don’t think we’re supposed to. Frances desperately wants to be intellectual, Bobby is self-obsessed, Melissa is idolised and Nick is just a bored actor.

The relationships between the four of them are weirdly intimate and Rooney uses them as a base for her observations on human psychology. I didn’t enjoy Conversations with Friends quite as much as Normal People, but if you’re a new fan of Rooney’s work then this is a must-read.

Buy Conversations with Friends: Amazon | Book Depository | Waterstones | Blackwells

One day - 11 Books Like Normal People by Sally Rooney

One Day by David Nicholls

One Day by David Nicholls is sort of like an “adult” version of Normal People. It was the first book that sprang to mind when I was thinking of books like Normal People.

Whilst Rooney’s novel begins in high school, One Day begins on the eve of the main characters’ graduation. We revisit these characters, Dexter and Emma, on the 15th of July every day for 15 years.

Nothing terribly exciting happens but you find yourself engrossed in the very ordinary story of Emma and Dex. Nicholls captures a feeling that many in their 20s will have experienced: the desire to find your place and do something with your life.

Emma wants to be a writer but spends much of her time working in a Mexican restaurant. Dex wants to be someone so falls into being a television personality.

Both characters take drastically different paths but something keeps drawing them back together. Their personalities couldn’t be more different, which is why they work so well in tandem.

Each gives the other the shove they need to get onto the right path when life is stagnant and you watch them both struggle and grow. It’s a useful reminder for anyone in their 20s that you don’t need to have it all figured out and you don’t need to know where life is taking you.

One Day doesn’t hold back from the negatives: bereavement, stagnant relationships, career failures and more. There will be lots of ups and downs and sometimes life won’t be all that exciting but slowly, slowly you will find your place.

Buy One Day by David Nicholls: Amazon | Book Depository | Waterstones | Blackwells

The Course of Love - 11 Books Like Normal People by Sally Rooney

The Course of Love by Alain de Botton

The Course of Love is not your average romance novel. Whilst most depict the sweet beginnings of a relationship, ending when the characters get their happy ending, that point is where The Course of Love starts.

Alain de Botton, author and philosopher, explores what happens after we’ve supposedly achieved our happy ever after, and demonstrates that this is just the beginning of the long and complicated relationship we call love.

He shows us that life is not like the movies and working relationships don’t snap into place overnight. They are arduous, require a lot of hard work and cooperation from both sides.

If you want a novel that depicts the true nature of love and romance, with none of the wishy-washy ideals usually perpetuated in literature, this is the book for you. This is one of my very favourite reads and it’s one that I know I’ll reread again and again throughout my life.

Buy The Course of Love: Amazon | Book Depository | Waterstones | Blackwells

Call Me By Your Name - 11 Books Like Normal People by Sally Rooney

Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman

Call Me By Your Name was one of the most talked-about films of 2018 and the original story by André Aciman has become very popular since then. The book is set in Italy in the 1980s and we follow the 17-year-old protagonist, Elio, as he discovers first love and explores desire.

RELATED: 15 Best Self-Discovery Books to Read

It’s a coming-of-age-story that demonstrates how a single relationship can mark you for a lifetime. It’s a beautifully written book that talks about passion and feeling in a frank and unsentimental way reminiscent of Rooney.

Like many titles on this list, it’s another book that in which there is decidedly little “action”, with the author focussing on the interior struggles of his characters. It’s an incredibly raw narrative that doesn’t hold back in its descriptions of longing and fantasy.

The prose is beautiful, though may be considered somewhat pretentious for some, and the story will leave you with a bittersweet taste in your mouth. And it’s not because of the peach. If you’re seen or read this, you’ll know what I mean 🙈

Buy Call Me By Your Name: Amazon | Book Depository | Waterstones | Blackwells

Tender by Belinda McKeon 

Tender by Belinda McKeon is another story set in Dublin and written by an Irish author similar to Sally Rooney. We head back in time to the late nineties and meet Catherine and James, a student at Trinity College and an artist.

Catherine is enjoying a stereotypical first-year university existence with parties, societies, cheap alcohol, essay writing and shared flat. However, underlying this is still a girl who is deeply unsure of herself, her desires and how to conduct herself around others.

James lives boldly and opens Catherine’s eyes up to another way of living her life. They become the best of friends and each grows immensely as a result of their friendship with the other.

However, as often happens, life draws the pair apart and takes them both in a direction that’s hard for the other to follow. Like Rooney, McKeon’s novel explores human relationships and their lasting impression on us through a story of first love and stolen innocence.

However, in Tender, things then take a dark turn and, without revealing too much, obsession becomes a major theme. Perhaps we can describe this as a cross between Normal People and You by Caroline Kepnes.

Buy Tender by Belinda McKeon: Amazon | Book Depository | Waterstones | Blackwells

The Last Letter From your Lover - 11 Books Like Normal People by Sally Rooney

The Last Letter from Your Lover by Jojo Moyes

The Last Letter from Your Lover is by one of my all-time favourite romance authors, Jojo Moyes. This novel is told in two parts, the first in the 1960s, the second in the present day.

In the 1960s, Jennifer Stirling is married to a wealthy man, they live in a lovely house and go to parties with their other wealthy friends. She has the “perfect” life.

But then she’s involved in a car accident and loses her memory from the last few years. When she wakes up, she doesn’t recognise her husband and has no desire to let him into her life. Something’s just not right.

She discovers letters between herself and a mystery man “B”. He’s asking her to leave her husband. She struggles to fit back into the old life that her friends and family tell her she is so lucky to have. Who is B?

The Last Letter from Your Lover the story of two people who keep missing each other because everyday life and social norms get in the way. The novel revolves around one central question – do you do what the heart wants or do you follow the unspoken rules of 1960s society?

In those days, divorce was still taboo and it certainly wasn’t something a nice lady like Jennifer Stirling should consider. The novel explores many of the same themes as Normal People, such as complicated relationships, a woman’s place in society, conformity to social norms.

The emphasis is more on the romance here but the themes explored in relation to both 1960s society and modern-day society demonstrate the universality of such issues which are just as important today as they were 50 years ago.

Buy The Last Letter From Your Lover: Amazon | Book Depository | Waterstones | Blackwells

Americanah - 11 Books Like Normal People by Sally Rooney

Americanah by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah by Chimimanda has become a modern classic and explores the lives of two Nigerians who depart for the West. Ifemelu heads to the USA where she finds academic success and Obinze heads to the UK to lead life as an undocumented immigrant.

It’s a sort of coming-of-age story mixed with a (fairly unromantic) love story and we are given glimpses into these two characters’ lives both together and apart.

The dominant themes of Americanah are identity and race. Ifemelu has lived in the USA for over a decade but her experiences lead her to start a popular blog where she documents her experience of being African in America.

In a similar way to Rooney, Chimimanda’s astute observations on people and social norms are spot on, especially so in these blog posts.

Both Ifemelu and Obinze’s look upon the West with foreign eyes and their narratives make you think twice about social norms you may never have questioned if you grew up in the US or the UK.

If you’ve ever been made to feel “other” then you will find Americanah to be highly relatable and profoundly revealing about the society we live in.

Buy Americanah: Amazon | Book Depository | Waterstones | Blackwells

Everything I know About Love - 11 Books Like Normal People by Sally Rooney

Everything I Know About Love 

I feel like Everything I Know About Love is a book that Normal People‘s Marianne needs to read. It’s written by former Sunday Times dating columnist Dolly Alderton and is filled with personal dating disasters, recipes, observations on life and love and more. Alderton clearly had a privileged upbringing and so I think Marianne would be able to relate to some of Alderton’s experiences.

This is Alderton’s memoir so far and details the struggles of early adulthood. This includes many, many dates she’s been on, the difficult search for a job, finding a sense of self-worth and more. It’s simultaneously funny and heart-breaking with the overarching message that you are enough.

Overall this book is much more upbeat than Normal People as it offers hope for its readers that it will all turn out ok. Rooney delivered a bittersweet finale for her readers but Alderton’s book will leave shaking your head fondly at the ridiculous antics of Alderton.

Buy Everything I Know About Love: Amazon | Book Depository | Waterstones | Blackwells

The Idiot - 11 Books Like Normal People by Sally Rooney

The Idiot by Elif Batuman

The Idiot by Elif Batuman is a coming-of-age story centred around Selin, a Turkish-American girl in her freshman year at Harvard. She makes friends with Svetlana, her Serbian classmate, and strikes up an email relationship with Ivan, an older Hungarian student.

At the end of her first year of university, she heads to the Hungarian countryside to teach English (couldn’t possibly have anything to do with Ivan could it?) and spends the summer in Europe.

This novel delves into the feelings of first love, fresher life, the search for meaning and a sense of identity. As with Normal People, many people complain about the lack of action in this book. Batuman takes us through the minutiae of Selin’s first year of university including both the exciting and the banal.

She doesn’t have a clue what she’s doing and often wonders how everyone else seems to have it all figured out. This is a familiar feeling to those of us in our twenties and Batuman articulates it perfectly and often very humorously too.

Buy The Idiot: Amazon | Book Depository | Waterstones | Blackwells

Show Them a Good Time, Nicole Flattery - 11 Books Like Normal People by Sally Rooney

Show Them a Good Time by Nicole Flattery

Nicole Flattery is another rising voice in Irish Literature and comparisons to Sally Rooney have been made already. If you’re looking for authors like Sally Rooney then Nicole Flattery is a good place to start.

Show Them a Good Time is Flattery’s debut collection of short stories that explore what it is to be a man and woman in today’s society.

The narrator is a young, broke Irish woman and Flattery uses the story of life and relationships to pick apart the roles both genders have been pigeon-holed into.

Show Them a Good Time lacks some of the more lighthearted and heartwarming moments that Normal People has, which makes this collection harder to access. There’s no doubt about it – these stories are strange.

Lots of people won’t “get” them, but for those who value dark humour and social criticism, this is not one to miss.

The protagonist’s fervent refusal to conform to the norms of modern society and her frank appraisal of events around her also reminded me of the voice of Eleanor Oliphant too.

Buy Show Them a Good Time: Amazon | Book Depository | Waterstones | Blackwells

You and Me on Vacation by Emily Henry

You and Me on Vacation by Emily Henry

You and Me on Vacation (People We Meet on Vacation in the US) is a will-they-won’t-they, friends-to-lovers story that will tug at your heartstrings.

Poppy and Alex have little in common. When they first meet at college, they actively dislike each other.

She’s a travel junkie, always seeking out far-flung locations, he’s the type who wants to settle down in the suburbs.

A year later, they’re forced to carpool back to their hometown together and they somehow become the best of friends.

This story differs from Marianne and Connell’s in that it is not an on and off romance, but one where life and circumstances keep getting in the way of their feelings for each other.

Both characters have emotional issues they are dealing with that hinder them from revealing their true feelings and it’s painful to watch a pair who are so clearly meant to be together be kept apart by closed mouths and repressed feelings.

Despite these underlying themes, it’s a funny, romantic, heartwarming book. It is perhaps less deep than some of the other titles on this list, but this book is perfect for those who are romantics at heart and loved the romance aspects of Normal People.

Buy You and Me on Vacation: Amazon | Book Depository | Waterstones | Blackwells

Voilà, there you have 11 books to read if you liked Normal People by Sally Rooney! These books are all similar to Normal People in one way or another with some being more uplifting and others being even more profound.

And if you’ve made it this far down the page but haven’t actually read Normal People yet, you’d better crack on now before it’s adapted for the screen!

Don’t forget to check out the TV adaptation now available on BBC iPlayer!

Buy Normal People by Sally Rooney
Amazon | Book Depository | Blackwells

If you liked this post, you’ll also love:
17 Best Normal People Quotes
8 Books Mentioned in Normal People

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Mrunal Natu

Monday 18th of October 2021

I'm exploring Sally Rooney's writing, especially after her latest book, Beautiful World. This is very helpful.

Mrunal

Juli

Tuesday 13th of August 2019

I loved Normal People so much, I also read Conversations with Friends and enjoyed it a lot. Hope Sally Rooney has more books coming soon!!! I’m re reading both books now! And have recommended them to all my friends and family (Hahaha! Super fan now!)

Laura

Thursday 22nd of August 2019

Her books are always top of my list when people ask me for recommendations too! I preferred Normal People to Conversations with Friends as I found it much more relatable but both are excellent :)

Alex Bornhoft

Friday 12th of April 2019

I'm just starting Normal People..but after looking at the books on this list, I'd also recommend "Tin Man" by Sarah Winman. It's such a beautiful piece of prose written simply but so poetically. Definitely a break your heart wide open book. Such a wonderful read!

Laura

Tuesday 16th of April 2019

Thanks for the recommendation, Alex! I saw Tin Man a lot on social media when it first came out, looks like it's time I picked it up! Did you enjoy Normal People?

Lisanne

Tuesday 2nd of April 2019

Thanks for the recommendations! I've actually just started reading Normal People, I'm excited to find out if I'll love it just as much

Laura

Tuesday 16th of April 2019

How did you enjoy Normal People? I hope you loved it too!

Audrey | Book Book Chick

Friday 29th of March 2019

I was so looking forward to Normal People because I had heard so many people raving about it, including people who I regularly take book recommendations from, but unfortunately I didn't enjoy this book! The writing style wasn't for me (which I think may just be a matter of taste, no better or worse), and I found it dry, whereas I know many other people found it packed with intense emotion. And the other thing that wasn't for me were the characters; I really couldn't stand them and their lack of communication, and wasn't able to sympathise with them. But I've read many romance novels where there was a lack of communication, and I've found some of them cute :P I think I was looking for a "sentimental romance," as I saw one Goodreads reviewer put it, but this book wasn't it. I so wish that I enjoyed it as much as everyone else though!

Two books on your list that I have read and loved are One Day and Everything I Know About Love. The last book on your list that I did read but didn't enjoy was Call Me By Your Name. Loved the film though! And I haven't read The Last Letter from Your Lover, but I have read Me Before You, which I enjoyed :) -Audrey | Book Book Chick