14 Books Like My Year of Rest and Relaxation

Books Like My Year of Rest and Relaxation

If you found yourself captivated by the introspective journey of “My Year of Rest and Relaxation” by Ottessa Moshfegh, then you’re likely craving more literature that delves into the complexities of human psyche and the quest for self-discovery. 

Moshfegh’s novel, with its dark humor and unapologetic exploration of mental health and societal norms, offers a unique narrative that resonates with many readers. 

Here, we’ve curated a list of some books that share similar thematic elements, narrative styles, or philosophical underpinnings akin to “My Year of Rest and Relaxation.” 

Let’s go.

Books Like My Year of Rest and Relaxation

1. “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath

The Bell Jar” is a semi-autobiographical novel that delves into the life of Esther Greenwood, a young woman who finds herself spiraling into depression as she navigates the challenges of early adulthood in 1950s America. 

Through Esther’s lens, Plath explores themes of mental illness, the societal pressures on women, and the struggle for identity in a world that seems increasingly alienating. The narrative’s introspective and poetic prose offers a raw and poignant exploration of the protagonist’s inner turmoil and quest for meaning.

Major Similarities: 

Like “My Year of Rest and Relaxation,” “The Bell Jar” focuses on a young woman’s struggle with mental health and her attempts to find solace and identity in a world that feels both oppressive and disconnected. Both novels use their protagonists’ introspective journeys to comment on broader societal issues, particularly those affecting women. 

The dark humor, though more subdued in the latter, serves as a critical lens through which the absurdities and contradictions of societal expectations are examined.

2. “Convenience Store Woman” by Sayaka Murata

“Convenience Store Woman” tells the story of Keiko Furukura, a woman who has worked in a convenience store in Tokyo for eighteen years. Unlike her peers, Keiko finds comfort and a sense of purpose in the structured environment of the store, even as she faces societal pressures to lead a more conventional life by finding a career or getting married. 

Murata’s novel is a sharp and quirky exploration of societal norms, individuality, and the search for identity in a conformist society.

Major Similarities: 

Both feature protagonists who feel out of step with the expectations placed upon them by society, particularly in terms of their roles as women. 

Each novel presents a unique form of rebellion against these norms, using humor and a distinctive narrative voice to explore themes of alienation, identity, and the quest for autonomy.

3. “Eileen” by Ottessa Moshfegh

“Eileen” is a novel set in the 1960s, focusing on the life of Eileen Dunlop, an unhappy young woman who works at a boys’ prison and lives with her alcoholic father.

Eileen’s life is filled with daydreams of escape and dark obsessions, until the arrival of a beautiful new co-worker, Rebecca Saint John, brings a promise of change. Moshfegh crafts a story that is at once a psychological thriller and a deep dive into the mind of a character filled with contradictions and desires.

Major Similarities: 

Written by the same author, “Eileen” shares many stylistic and thematic elements with “My Year of Rest and Relaxation.” 

Both novels feature complex female protagonists who are deeply introspective and dissatisfied with their lives, exploring themes of isolation, self-destruction, and the desire for transformation. 

Moshfegh’s signature blend of dark humor, vivid character study, and unsettling atmospheres is prevalent in both works.

4. “The New Me” by Halle Butler

“The New Me” centers on Millie, a thirty-year-old temp who dreams of a permanent job and a more fulfilling life but finds herself stuck in a cycle of apathy and self-loathing.

Through Millie’s perspective, Butler offers a biting critique of contemporary work culture, the illusion of self-improvement, and the existential dread of modern existence. The novel’s sharp wit and incisive commentary make it a compelling read for anyone interested in the malaise of millennial life.

Major Similarities: 

Similar to “My Year of Rest and Relaxation,” “The New Me” explores themes of alienation, the search for identity, and the critique of societal norms through the lens of a young woman’s experience. 

Both novels are characterized by their dark humor, unflinching look at the struggles of young adulthood, and a critical perspective on the expectations of productivity and success in contemporary society.

5. “Severance” by Ling Ma

“Severance” is a satirical science fiction novel that blends elements of dystopian fiction with sharp social commentary. 

The story follows Candace Chen, a millennial office worker in New York City, as she navigates a world ravaged by a global pandemic that causes people to repeat mundane tasks until death. 

As society crumbles, Candace’s journey becomes one of survival and self-discovery, challenging her to reassess her values and the meaning of work and life in a capitalist society.

Major Similarities: 

“Severance” and “My Year of Rest and Relaxation” both offer critiques of modern life and capitalism, using their protagonists’ unique circumstances as a lens to explore themes of alienation, routine, and the search for meaning beyond societal expectations. 

Both novels merge dark humor with a poignant examination of their characters’ internal and external struggles, offering insightful commentary on the human condition in the face of societal pressures and global challenges.

6. “No One Is Talking About This” by Patricia Lockwood

“No One Is Talking About This” is a novel that oscillates between the ephemeral nature of internet fame and the profound depths of real-life tragedy. 

The protagonist, known for her viral social media posts, grapples with the dissonance between her online persona and the tangible, often painful realities of her family life. 

Lockwood’s narrative is a fragmented and poetic exploration of the internet’s impact on the human psyche and the complexities of navigating a world saturated with digital noise while confronting deeply personal crises.

Major Similarities: 

Like “My Year of Rest and Relaxation,” “No One Is Talking About This” delves into themes of isolation and the search for meaning in a world that often feels superficial and disconnected. 

Both novels explore the effects of escapism—whether through the internet or sleep—and the struggle to connect with others in meaningful ways. The use of dark humor and a critical, yet empathetic lens to examine contemporary life links these works closely together.

7. “The Vegetarian” by Han Kang

“The Vegetarian” is a compelling South Korean novel that tells the story of Yeong-hye, a woman who abruptly decides to stop eating meat, a decision that spirals into a rebellion against societal norms and expectations, and eventually leads her on a disturbing psychological journey. 

Through the perspectives of Yeong-hye and her family members, Han Kang explores themes of autonomy, mental illness, and the societal pressures exerted on individual identity and body autonomy, all wrapped in hauntingly beautiful prose.

Major Similarities: 

Both “The Vegetarian” and “My Year of Rest and Relaxation” feature women protagonists whose radical choices serve as the catalyst for exploring deeper themes of autonomy, mental health, and societal expectations. 

The novels share an interest in the internal struggles of their characters and the impact of their actions on their relationships and perception by others. Moreover, both authors employ a stark, visceral style to probe the dark and often overlooked corners of human experience.

8. “Chemistry” by Weike Wang

“Chemistry” is a novel that follows an unnamed female protagonist, a PhD chemistry student, as she confronts her uncertain path in academia and life. 

Battling the pressure of expectations from her Chinese parents, the demands of her studies, and her ambivalence about her long-term relationship, the protagonist’s journey is one of self-discovery and resilience. 

Wang’s narrative is marked by its brevity, wit, and the incisive portrayal of a young woman’s struggle to forge her own identity amidst external pressures and internal conflicts.

Major Similarities: 

Similar to “My Year of Rest and Relaxation,” “Chemistry” focuses on a young woman’s existential crisis and her efforts to understand her place in the world. 

Both novels address themes of mental health, the impact of parental expectations, and the challenge of navigating adult relationships. 

The use of humor to cope with and illuminate the protagonists’ struggles is a significant similarity, offering readers a nuanced look at the complexities of finding oneself.

9. “Exciting Times” by Naoise Dolan

“Exciting Times” follows Ava, an Irish expat in Hong Kong, as she navigates a complex web of relationships with Julian, a wealthy British banker, and Edith, a Hong Kong-born lawyer. 

The novel is a sharp and witty exploration of love, language, and the search for identity in a globalized world. Dolan’s writing is precise and insightful, delving into the nuances of power dynamics, cultural displacement, and the quest for emotional authenticity in the digital age.

Major Similarities:

“Exciting Times” and “My Year of Rest and Relaxation” share a focus on young women examining their lives and relationships with a critical eye. Both novels are characterized by their incisive humor, nuanced exploration of femininity and autonomy, and the protagonists’ introspective journeys toward understanding their desires and fears. 

The settings and circumstances differ, but the thematic exploration of identity, connection, and the impacts of societal and cultural expectations resonate similarly in both narratives.

10. “Weather” by Jenny Offill

“Weather” is a novel that captures the anxieties of modern life through the lens of Lizzie Benson, a university librarian who moonlights as a podcast producer for a show focused on climate change and societal collapse. 

Offill’s narrative style is distinctive, comprised of fragmented observations that reflect the protagonist’s fragmented attention between her personal life, the existential threat of climate change, and the daily demands of caring for her family and friends. 

The novel is a meditation on how to find meaning and hope in an uncertain world.

Major Similarities: 

Like “My Year of Rest and Relaxation,” “Weather” deals with themes of existential anxiety and the search for meaning in a world that often feels on the brink of collapse. 

Both novels are distinguished by their unique narrative structures, focusing on the internal monologues and reflections of their protagonists as they navigate complex personal and societal challenges. 

The blend of dark humor with a poignant exploration of contemporary issues links these works, offering readers a lens through which to view the absurdities and anxieties of modern life.

11. “Normal People” by Sally Rooney

Normal People” is a novel that explores the intricate and evolving relationship between Connell and Marianne, two young individuals from different backgrounds who weave in and out of each other’s lives from high school through their university years. 

Rooney delves deeply into themes of love, friendship, and the complex dynamics of social and class differences. 

Her writing is both sharp and tender, capturing the subtleties of human emotion and the impact of intimate relationships on personal development.

Major Similarities: 

Both “Normal People” and “My Year of Rest and Relaxation” offer a keen observation of young adults grappling with their identities and interpersonal relationships. 

Rooney, like Moshfegh, presents a nuanced exploration of mental health and the ways in which societal expectations can shape and sometimes distort self-perception and relationships. 

The introspective and sometimes detached narrative voice in both novels invites readers to reflect on the complexities of connection and isolation in the modern age.

12. “Dept. of Speculation” by Jenny Offill

“Dept. of Speculation” is a fragmented, lyrical narrative that explores the nuances of marriage, motherhood, and the daily grind of domestic life, juxtaposed with the protagonist’s inner life and aspirations. 

Offill employs a distinctive, elliptical prose style to weave together thoughts, anecdotes, and philosophical reflections, painting a portrait of a woman’s struggle to reconcile her roles and desires with the realities of her life.

Major Similarities: 

Similar to “My Year of Rest and Relaxation,” “Dept. of Speculation” navigates the inner workings of a woman’s mind as she deals with existential questions and the search for meaning amidst the challenges of her everyday life. 

Both novels are marked by their unique narrative styles, offering fragmented snapshots of thought and experience that together form a compelling exploration of identity, dissatisfaction, and the quest for personal fulfillment.

13. “Luster” by Raven Leilani

“Luster” follows Edie, a young black woman navigating the complexities of her identity and desires in contemporary America. 

As she becomes involved with an older white man in an open marriage, Edie’s life takes unexpected turns, leading her into a deep exploration of race, art, and personal agency. 

Leilani’s prose is sharp and unflinching, offering a raw and insightful examination of the intersections between personal and political identities.

Major Similarities: 

“Luster” and “My Year of Rest and Relaxation” both feature young women protagonists who are deeply flawed and introspective, embarking on journeys of self-discovery that are fraught with societal critiques and personal challenges. 

Both novels tackle themes of isolation, desire, and the impact of societal norms on individual identity, utilizing a blend of humor and poignancy to engage with the complexities of navigating life as a young woman in a world that often feels alienating.

14. “Ottessa Moshfegh’s Homesick for Another World”

“Homesick for Another World” is a collection of short stories by Ottessa Moshfegh that showcases her ability to probe the depths of the human psyche through a variety of characters and settings. 

Each story delves into themes of alienation, self-delusion, and the often grotesque aspects of seeking connection in a disconnected world. Moshfegh’s sharp wit and dark humor shine through, presenting a compelling, albeit unsettling, mirror to the human condition.

Major Similarities: 

Like “My Year of Rest and Relaxation,” “Homesick for Another World” explores the themes of isolation and the human longing for connection and meaning in a world that often seems devoid of it. 

Moshfegh’s distinctive voice and darkly comedic lens are consistent across her work, making this collection a natural companion for readers who appreciated the introspective and critical examination of contemporary life found in “My Year of Rest and Relaxation.” 

The stories in “Homesick for Another World” further explore the complexities of human nature, making them a rich addition to the exploration of themes shared with “My Year of Rest and Relaxation.”

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