11 Books To Try If You Loved 'Normal People' By Sally Rooney

by Alice Broster
Originally Published: 
BBC/Element Pictures/Hulu/Enda Bowe

With her debut novel Conversations with Friends earning the tagline “Salinger for the Snapchat generation”, Sally Rooney is the millennial generation's best-known writer on love. She’s had praise from literary giants like Zadie Smith and celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker and it’s not hard to see why. It’s impossible not to get lost in her writing. As her first on screen adaptation is about to be launched, here are 11 books to read if you liked Normal People.

Normal People charts the complicated relationship between Connell and Marianne as they move from their small hometown to the wide world of university. The story of Marianne and Connell captured so many people's imaginations, was long-listed for the 2018 Man Booker Prize. And according to The Bookseller, it was the year’s most critically praised book in the UK. Now a 12-part adaptation of the novel will be airing on BBC One from April 27, and launching on BBC Three in its entirety a day earlier.

If all the renewed Normal People excitement caused by the show has you wishing you could enjoy the book all over again, there are plenty of similar reads reads you should check out. Here are 11 books to try if you loved Normal People.


'Trust Exercise' by Susan Choi

Set in the competitive environment of a performing arts school in 1980’s America, David and Sarah fall head first in love. It isn’t like anything they’ve ever experienced before. However, their passion doesn't go unnoticed by anyone, especially not by their charismatic teacher, Mr. Kingsley. A storyline that appears to be straightforward takes the reader on a wild journey and will leave you questioning what’t true and false.

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'The Study Circle' by Haroun Khan

Ishaq is confident in his identity as both Muslim and British. However, when he turns to the papers and sees discussions of Asian sex gangs in the North and a European politician appears on television discussing a final solution, he wonders if Britain will ever see him the way he sees himself. On the seventeenth floor of a South London council block, he studies the Koran with friends. However, after seeing an old friend Ishaq is exposed to a world of extremism, nationalism, and British intelligence.

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'An American Marriage' by Tayari Jones

An American Marriage won the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2019 and it's no wonder. The incredibly moving novel tells the tale of young couple Celestial and Roy. They’ve just got married, are in secure jobs, and excited for the future ahead. That is until Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. As time goes on she finds comfort in his friend Andre, but when Roy’s sentence is abruptly overturned they have to pick up life where they left off.

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'The Course Of Love' by Alain de Botton

Alain de Botton is widely regarded as one of the leading philosophical voices in relationships and human connection. The Course Of Love is his second novel. Rather than telling a fairytale he paints the incredibly complex picture of what modern day relationships look like using the example of Rabih and Kirsten. Though they’re in love, married, and have children de Botton highlights there’s no way to complete a relationship.

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'The Interestings' by Meg Wolitzer

The Interestings follows six teens who meet at an arts summer camp. Initially they're bound together by competition, companionship, and shared goals, but as they grow and become middle aged, their paths and levels of satisfaction with life diverge. It becomes clear that not everyone can sustain the high of that summer.

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'The Flatshare' by Beth O’Leary

Tiffy has nowhere to live. She wants to stay in London, the city she loves, but her budget is small and she desperately needs to get away from her controlling ex-boyfriend. Leon has a single bedroom flat but only needs the bed through the day, while Tiffy needs it at night. The pair strike up an agreement as flatmates who share a bed but have never met. Communicating through letters on the fridge, everything is going fine until they meet face to face.

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'Strange Hotel' by Eimear McBride

Strange Hotel is all about the complicated notion of home. It follows a female protagonist as she travels from Prague to Oslo, Auckland to Austin, staying in hotel rooms which are all non-descript. The places she visits only gain an identity via the men she sometimes meets there and her feelings about them.

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'A Love Story For Bewildered Girls' by Emma Morgan

Grace, Annie, and Violet are all in love. They’re just not totally sure they’re with the person they’re supposed to be. When there’s so much emphasis on stability, finding the one, and running off into the sunset, it can make the ups-and-downs of real life even more complicated. A Love Story For Bewildered Girls is about the mess and beauty of female friendships and first loves.

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'A Woman Is No Man' by Etaf Rum

Some things are just destined to happen, or at least that’s what Deya's family tells her. She’s 18, living in Brooklyn, and the process of presenting her to potential future husbands has begun. She doesn’t want to get married but her grandparents are giving her no other choice. However, when a secret note from a mysterious, yet familiar-looking woman arrives Deya starts to question everything she was told about her past.

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'Theatre For Dreamers' by Polly Samson

It’s 1960 and it feels like the world is about to change. Life as teenager Erica’s knows it has already ended and she finds herself making her way to the Greek island of Hydra with little more than a few notebooks. Sh soone settles into the bohemian community run by the writers Charmian Clift and George Johnston. While life in the commune seems serene, tensions bubble under the surface.

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'Norwegian Wood' by Haruki Murakami

Toru and Naoko are so different but something draws them together. Despite the strength of their feelings, their relationship feels haunted by the death of their best friend years before. While Toru settles into life at university, Naoko struggles and she begins to retreat into herself. Separated from Naoko, Toru finds solace, and temptation, in new friends.

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If after all that, you’re still craving more Sally Rooney, you can read her short story Colour and Light in The New Yorker. And, of course, there's always Conversations With Friends.

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