Well you're not alone. My group chat is full of messages asking for recommendations for books ”like Normal People" and so here I have compiled a list of books that are beautifully written with clean prose that reveal certain simple yet profound truths about people, human relationships and love. Some of them are Rooney-esque for their instances of everyday tragedy, while others have the similar impact of teaching you something worthwhile about yourself as you read.
I think even if she never publishes another book (although I hope that’s not true!) Rooney’s legacy will be reminding an entire generation about the absolute pleasure of reading. And now that we’ve been reminded, there’s a whole world of books out there to enjoy.
1. Mr Salary by Sally Rooney (Faber, $7.99)
A short story by Rooney herself, I stumbled across this tiny gem in a Melbourne bookshop without even knowing it existed. It may only be 33 (small) pages but it packs a punch and in classic Rooney style expertly builds sexual tension while still managing to reflect delicately on both love and death. It’s a small dose of Rooney, but I guess that’s better than nothing.
2. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (Random House, $19.99)
I read this book after hearing that it's Harry Styles' favourite. The start is slow but by page 50 you will be totally obsessed. Murakami is the master of communicating profound thoughts with clean and simple prose. Much like in Normal People this is a poignant story of one university student's romantic coming-of-age and takes us to that distant place of a young man's first, hopeless, and heroic love. If you don’t believe me, take Harry Style’s word for it. This year he told Rolling Stone “It was the first book, maybe ever, where all I wanted to do all day was read this”.
3. The Course Of Love by Alain de Botton (Penguin, $19.99)
My favourite book of all time, The Course Of Love is unlike anything else I’ve ever read. it’s a story of a perfectly average, normal, couple living mediocre lives from the time before they meet, and after. What makes it remarkable is how de Botton puts his protagonists and the notion of romanticism itself under the microscope. Peppered in the pages is commentary from de Botton, a philosopher, narrating as a god-like figure and revealing his protagonists inner thoughts. Both beautiful and insightful this book is hard to explain but easy to read.
4. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (Pan Macmillan, $19.99)
Not for the faint-hearted, this book is heavy, both in weight and subject matter. Relentlessly sad and exquisitely written, if it was Rooney's imperfect characters with damaged souls that gripped you in Normal People and Conversations With Friends then A Little Life will totally consume you. A modern-day classic this book, set in the unforgiving, grimy, magical streets of New York City will stay with you long after you put it down. Just don't forget to keep a box of tissues nearby at all times.
5. One Day by David Nicholls (Hachette Australia, $22.99)
If it’s the love story of frustration and yearning between Marianne and Connell that got you hooked on Normal People then you will love David Nicholls One Day. Spanning concurrently the lives of two people over 20 years Nicholls gives the reader snapshots of his star crossed lovers lives & relationship in flashes, like flipping through a stack of old Polaroid’s. This story highlights that life and circumstances can change so quickly at times, and sometimes not at all. Funny & moving, this one will give you all the feels.