12 Books To Read If You Loved ‘Conversations With Friends’ and ‘Normal People’

Curl up on the couch with one of these brilliant books

Over the last year, it has seemed like carrying a Sally Rooney book was the ultimate Instagram status symbol. And even more so, since the television adaptation of her novel Normal People hit screens and even earned Emmy nominations.

And while we are yet to meet someone who didn’t completely love her books and devour them in only a few days, most of us are now in the uncomfortable position of being completely hooked on the young Irish author, while being left with nothing to feed our Sally Rooney addiction.

Since Rooney’s legacy has reminded an entire generation about the absolute pleasure of reading, there’s a whole world of books out there to enjoy.

Below, we have compiled a list of books whose clean prose reveals certain simple yet profound truths about people, human relationships and love—much like Normal People. 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.

Mr Salary by Sally Rooney

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.

Mr Salary by Sally Rooney, $7.99;

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

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”.

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami, $20.56;

The Course Of Love by Alain de Botton

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. 

The Course Of Love by Alain de Botton, $17.50;

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

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. 

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, $17.95;

One Day by David Nicholls

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. 

One Day by David Nicholls, $19.80;

Trust Exercise by Susan Choi

Set in a performing arts school in 1980s America, David and Sarah fall head over heels in love, and it’s nothing like anything they’ve ever experienced before. However, their passion doesn’t go unnoticed by their charismatic teacher, Mr. Kingsley. While their storyline appears to be straightforward, it takes the reader on a wild journey and will leave you questioning what is true and what is false.

Trust Exercise by Susan Choi, $27.46;

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Winning the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2019, An American Marriage is just as incredible as you think. The moving novel follows the tale of young couple, Celestial and Roy. The couple have just got married, have secure jobs, and are excited for the future ahead. However, after Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit, their life takes a major turn. 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.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, $26.25;

Ordinary People by Diana Evans

Diana Evans’ Ordinary People and Normal People have more than just their title in common. Following two epic love stories for the price of one, the book follows Stephanie and Damian, and Melissa and Michael, as they face the troubles of the world. From parenting and grief to ageing and a change of heart, the story is set just after Barack Obama became President of the United States and offers currency and social relevance, even including actual references to John Legend’s song “Ordinary People”, which Michael listens to a lot.

Ordinary People by Diana Evans, $17.50;

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

The Interestings tells the tale of six teenagers who meet at an arts summer camp. Initially, they’re brought together by competition, companionship, and shared goals, but as they grow and decades pass, their paths and levels of satisfaction with life diverge. It becomes clear that not everyone can sustain the high of that summer.

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer, $27.31;

A Love Story For Bewildered Girls by Emma Morgan

A Love Story For Bewildered Girls follows Grace, Annie, and Violet—who are all in love. However, they’re just not sure that they’re with the person they’re supposed to be with. And while 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.

A Love Story For Bewildered Girls by Emma Morgan, $24.25;

Fates And Furies by Lauren Groff

As one of Obama’s favourite books of 2015, Fates and Furies is one to get your hands on. The story is about a married couple who fundamentally get each other completely wrong. Taking place in New York, it follows and examines how different people in a relationship can have disparate views on the relationship. Much like Normal People, Fates and Furies uses the compelling structure of two perspectives, his and hers.

Fates And Furies by Lauren Groff, $19.80;

Ghosts by Dolly Alderton

Ghosts follows 32-year-old Nina Dean, a successful food writer with a loyal online following but with a life that is falling apart. After using dating apps for the first time, she becomes a victim of ghosting, and by the most beguiling of men. Her beloved dad begins to vanish in slow motion into dementia, and she begins to think about ageing and the gendered double-standard of the biological clock. Realistic love lives and real-life hurdles make this a perfect companion for Normal People fans.

Ghosts by Dolly Alderton, available for pre-order;

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