10 Books Like Normal People: Wry, Angsty, and Tender

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Normal People is a rare novel, renowned both for its disciplined minimalism and its deep human tenderness. Unique as this critically-acclaimed novel is, you may find yourself worrying that there are no more books like Normal People to comfort you at the end of a long day. That’s where we come in!

Our list of books like Normal People  covers all the essential elements of the novel. Whether you fell in love with Normal People for its dry humor, its exploration of the blurry line between friendship and romance, its spot-on depiction of teen angst, or its gentle call for loyalty and forgiveness, we have a book recommendation to satisfy you.

Books like Normal People, with book covers.

10 Books Like Normal People

If you’ve read this book for book club, be sure to use our Normal People discussion guide. And if it’s the Irish setting you like, we’ve got you covered. Check out our list for: fiction of the Irish Republic, Northern Ireland fiction, and Irish mysteries.

Fates and Furies, Lauren Groff

Many readers praise the minimalism and realism of Sally Rooney’s writing, but if you have a taste for bolder imagery, Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies may be the perfect love story for you.

Lotto, a sunny young actor raised by an evangelistic mermaid impersonator, resolves to give up his womanizing ways when he meets the brilliant and aloof Mathilde at college. A few weeks later, the couple is married. Friends (and frenemies) envy Lotto and Mathilde for their blossoming lives, but below the surface, their marriage is intricately shaded with less glamorous secrets, needs, and resentments.

Fates and Furies grounds its eccentric characters with an understanding of human nature that is sure to win over Sally Rooney fans.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation, Ottessa Moshfegh

With all its praise for tenderness and sensitivity, the dry humor in Normal People often goes overlooked. If you’re one of the readers who picked up on Rooney’s wit, you’ll enjoy Ottessa Moshfegh’s dark comedy, My Year of Rest and Relaxation too!

An unnamed narrator in a New York City penthouse comes up with a creative solution to her mental health crisis: she finds the most incompetent therapist money can buy and secures an inexhaustible subscription for sleeping medicine. She plans to spend a year hibernating, but a series of outlandish interruptions force her to confront the issues she hoped to out-sleep.

A masterpiece of satire and unflinching social commentary, My Year of Rest and Relaxation is a novel we can easily imagine Marianne reading in the high school cafeteria (when not stealing glances at Connell).  

Unsettled Ground, Claire Fuller

If Normal People’s Irish small-town setting brought on waves of nostalgia, you’ll feel right at home in Claire Fuller’s Unsettled Ground.

For the past fifty years, twins Jeanie and Julius have lived a self-sustaining life in their mother’s cottage. Together, the three of them fill their home with fresh produce and traditional music. But when Jeanie and Julius suddenly lose their mother, the twins’ landlord forces them to surrender the cottage and, with it, their way of life. 

Like Normal People, Unsettled Ground offers rich dialogue full of local flavor and universally familiar emotions. The novel also focuses on some of the class issues raised by Connell’s transition from his home in a small town with a single-mother to the posh campus of Trinity College. These books pair wonderfully, especially when read back to back!

The Flatshare, by Beth O’Leary 

In The Flatshare, Tiffy and Leon share a flat and a bed without ever meeting. The pair communicate through letters on the fridge until Tiffy oversleeps one morning and they meet for the first time. The Flatshare challenges typical expectations of a love story while exploring complex human relationships in a similar fashion to Normal People.

Attachments, Rainbow Rowell

One of Sally Rooney’s trademarks as a writer is her ability to bring romance into the tech age. Rainbow Rowell anticipated this trend with her witty modern romance novel, Attachments. 

Beth and Jennifer are well aware their work emails are being monitored, but company policy can’t smother their friendship. They continue shooting each other hot takes and personal dramas, little imagining that downstairs, a real life person is eagerly awaiting each new installation of their story. But when “internet security officer” Lincoln realizes he’s falling for Beth’s compassion and sense of humor, he faces a conflict of interest so large, it seems impossible to get around.

A fun and heartfelt novel, Attachments is a reminder that romance finds a way to flourish in even the most pedantic circumstances. Breeze through this book on a day when you need a mood boost!

Beautiful World, Where Are You?, Sally Rooney

If you’re looking for books similar to Normal People, Sally Rooney’s next novel, Beautiful World, Where Are You? is a good starting place. After all, no one does Sally Rooney like Sally Rooney.

Alice and Eileen have been friends for years. Their email correspondence alone could fill novels. After a brief stay in a psychiatric hospital, Alice tries to get her life back on track by moving to a small coastal town, but the distance means the two friends begin to drift. Each distracted by her own fragile romance, the women worry about each other and the status of their relationship from afar.

An examination of insecurity and the fear of loneliness that is all too familiar to many Millennials, Beautiful World, Where Are You? is a slightly more adult and less idealistic novel than Normal People, but it’s still unmistakably Rooney.

The Knockout Queen, Rufi Thorpe

A heartfelt LGBTQ+ novel with a twist, The Knockout Queen tells a story of teenage friendship that is every bit as tender as Normal People, even if the protagonists never end “get together.” 

Fifteen-year-old Michael has spent most of his adolescence passing for straight at home and in school, but when he is befriended (almost against his will) by the tall, frank, and desperately lonely Bunny, he is unable to keep secrets from her. Despite their longings for romance, they find comfort in the deep connection they have with each other, until an episode of shocking violence challenges their ability to hang on.

Like Normal People, The Knockout Queen encapsulates the teenage struggle to belong. The story also offers an intelligent analysis of the psychology of edgier sexual practices and violence in general. If you were interested in Marianne’s attraction to rough partners, Michael’s perspective will interest you too. Ultimately, though, its the thread of loyalty between Bunny and Michael that turns this novel into a vibrant work of art.

The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing

Normal People namedrops several other novels that, we can only imagine, served as inspiration while Sally Rooney was forming Connell and Marianne’s personalities. The Golden Notebook is one of the first books Connell mentions, and it’s not hard to see why.

Years after publishing a successful novel, Anna’s life is beginning to unravel. Her marriage has ended in divorce, leaving her with a discontent daughter. The communist party to which she devoted her youth is breaking down, exposing political atrocities in its wake. Her best friend, Janet, is becoming increasingly confrontational. Searching for inspiration for her next novel, Anna tries to tie all the loose ends of her life back together, but there’s no guarantee she’ll succeed.

A challenging read, The Golden Notebook’s influence on Normal People is unmistakable. Both novels offer razor sharp dissections of personality and touch on the broken dreams left behind when communist societies fail. If you, like Connell, want to read a book you can brag about, this one’s for you.

Call Me by Your Name, Andre Aciman

If there was a list of top love stories that represent the Millennial generation, Call Me by Your Name would have a place right next to Normal People. With its subtle portrayal of a transcendent desire, Call Me by Your Name is a true heartstopper.

Elio, the youngest son of a pair of academics, is eeking out his summer in a quiet Italian village when his parents decide to invite Oliver, an archaeology graduate student, to board with them for the season. Elio is fascinated by the casual, serene Oliver from afar, but when romance flares between them, neither is prepared for the intimacy they feel–or for the end of the summer.

Like Normal People, Call Me by Your Name explores the power of first love to shape a person’s identity. The novel is a master study of human gestures, tiny twists that can turn a moment into a memory that echoes through a lifetime. 

Persuasion, Jane Austen

Literary critics have placed Sally Rooney’s writing in a class with several legendary writers. She has been compared to James Joyce, JD Salinger, and Ernest Hemingway. But perhaps the best historical match for Sally Rooney is Jane Austen. Austen’s final novel, Persuasion, showcases the wry and honest examination of human weakness that Austen and Rooney do best.

Regarded as the dependable (and perhaps rather dull) middle daughter of the aristocratic Elliot family, no one would suspect that Ann had a passionate romance early in life. Yet, for a few thrilling weeks, Ann was engaged to a navy sailor. Breaking off the engagement under the advice of a trusted friend proved to be a haunting regret, but when Captain Wentworth reappears in Ann’s village, she fears they have grown too far apart to be reunited, or worse, that he will decide she doesn’t deserve a second chance.

Like Normal People, Persuasion takes a long, searching look at the affect social pressure can have on the personal connection between two people. The regret, doubt, and forgiveness that pass between Ann and Captain Wentworth will melt fans of Marianne and Connell’s love story.

Get More Book Lists

For starters, if you liked Normal People‘s Irish setting, we’ve got a whole list of books set in Ireland.

We’ve also got more readalike lists that you may want to peruse:

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