23 Books Like Normal People by Sally Rooney

Books Like Normal People

Sally Rooney’s “Normal People” is a perfectly raw portrayal of complex relationships and the intricacies of human connection.

If you found yourself engrossed in the emotional rollercoaster of Connell and Marianne’s story and yearn for similar literary experiences,  here are some amazing books for you.

Let’s go.

Books Like Normal People

1. Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney

This novel, also by Sally Rooney, explores the lives of two college students in Dublin who form an unexpected and complicated connection with an older married couple. The narrative delves into themes of love, friendship, and the complexities of human relationships. The prose is sharp and insightful, capturing the nuances of interpersonal dynamics. 

Major Similarities: Written by the same author, this book shares Rooney’s characteristic introspective style and keen observation of character dynamics and social nuances. Like “Normal People,” it examines the intricacies of relationships and the impact of personal and external factors on people’s lives.

2. The Idiot by Elif Batuman

Set in the mid-1990s, this novel follows Selin, a daughter of Turkish immigrants, during her freshman year at Harvard. As she navigates the challenges of adulthood, language, and love, Selin’s story is both humorous and poignant. 

Major Similarities: Like “Normal People,” “The Idiot” focuses on young love and the journey of self-discovery against the backdrop of academia. Both novels are deeply introspective, exploring the complexities of the protagonists’ inner lives and relationships.

3. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

This is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read, delving into family history, love, and identity. Vuong’s writing is lyrical and moving, offering a raw and intense exploration of life’s beauties and hardships. 

Major Similarities: Both novels are marked by their beautiful, evocative prose and their exploration of personal identity, relationships, and the impact of the past on the present. They provide a deep emotional experience that resonates with readers long after they finish the book.

4. My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

A young woman seeks to escape her troubled life through a year-long hibernation, supported by a concoction of prescription drugs. This darkly humorous novel explores themes of isolation, self-discovery, and the search for meaning in contemporary life. 

Major Similarities: Both novels feature protagonists dealing with their own inner turmoil and societal expectations. The exploration of mental health, relationships, and the quest for identity are central themes that resonate with “Normal People.”

5. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

This novel tells the story of Eleanor Oliphant, a socially awkward and routine-bound woman whose life changes when she and a coworker save an elderly man who has fallen on the sidewalk. It’s a story about the importance of human connection and the unseen struggles people face. 

Major Similarities: Similar to “Normal People,” this novel deals with themes of loneliness, trauma, and the transformative power of relationships. Both books offer deep character studies and highlight the importance of empathy and connection.

6. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

Following the lives of four college friends in New York City, “A Little Life” is an epic tale of friendship, love, trauma, and the challenges of forging one’s path in the world. The narrative is deeply emotional, exploring the impact of the past on the present and the bonds of friendship. 

Major Similarities: Like “Normal People,” “A Little Life” provides a raw and intense look at relationships and personal growth. Both novels are celebrated for their emotional depth and the way they handle complex themes such as trauma and healing.

7. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

This novel opens with the disappearance of Lydia Lee, the favorite child of a Chinese-American family in the 1970s. As the family grapples with her loss, long-kept secrets emerge, revealing the pressures of unfulfilled expectations and the weight of unspoken feelings. 

Major Similarities: Both books explore the dynamics of family and personal relationships, the impact of expectations, and the themes of identity and belonging. They delve into the complexities of human emotions and the consequences of communication breakdowns.

8. Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

This novel tells the story of a marriage over twenty-four years, from two perspectives: Lotto’s, in “Fates,” and Mathilde’s, in “Furies.” It explores the secrets, dreams, and the true nature of a relationship that appears perfect from the outside.

Major Similarities: Similar to “Normal People,” “Fates and Furies” delves deep into the intricacies of relationships, examining the perspectives of both parties involved. It challenges the perceptions of love and partnership, revealing the complex layers beneath.

9. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This novel follows Ifemelu and Obinze, young lovers from Nigeria who depart for different parts of the world and face their own challenges abroad. It’s a powerful exploration of race, identity, love, and the sense of belonging in a globalized world. 

Major Similarities: Like “Normal People,” “Americanah” addresses themes of love and identity, focusing on the protagonists’ experiences in new environments. Both novels are insightful commentaries on societal expectations and the search for one’s place in the world.

10. The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

This novel follows Lucy and Gabe, who meet on September 11, 2001. Their relationship evolves over the next 13 years, as choices and events pull them together and apart. It’s a poignant exploration of love, choice, and fate. 

Major Similarities: Similar to “Normal People,” “The Light We Lost” delves into the intricacies of a relationship over time, examining the impact of life’s pivotal moments on love and choice. Both novels are emotionally resonant, exploring the depths of human connection.

11. The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

The novel follows a group of friends who meet at a summer camp for the arts in the 1970s and tracks their friendships, successes, and failures into adulthood. It explores the complexities of ambition, talent, and the nature of envy and support within close relationships. 

Major Similarities: Similar to “Normal People,” “The Interestings” delves into the evolution of relationships over time and the impact of personal and external factors on these dynamics. Both novels explore the nuances of friendship and love with a keen eye for detail.

12. Less by Andrew Sean Greer

This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel follows Arthur Less, a failed novelist on the brink of turning fifty, as he travels the world to avoid the wedding of his former lover. It’s a humorous yet poignant exploration of love, aging, and the search for happiness. 

Major Similarities: Both “Less” and “Normal People” explore themes of love, loss, and self-discovery. While “Less” does so with a lighter touch, both novels offer deep insights into the human condition and the complexities of relationships.

13. Outline by Rachel Cusk

This novel is a series of conversations between the narrator, a writer teaching a course in Athens, and the people she meets, offering deep reflections on relationships, art, and life. It’s known for its distinctive narrative style and its exploration of the way stories are told and understood.

Major Similarities: Like “Normal People,” “Outline” is characterized by its introspective quality and the exploration of human relationships through dialogue and thought. Both novels are praised for their deep psychological insights and innovative narrative approaches.

14. Swing Time by Zadie Smith

This novel follows two mixed-race girls who dream of becoming dancers, but only one has talent. It spans over two decades, exploring themes of friendship, race, and the complexities of identity and ambition. 

Major Similarities: Similar to “Normal People,” “Swing Time” delves into the intricacies of friendship and the journey of self-discovery. Both novels are attentive to the nuances of social and personal identity, examining how these factors shape the protagonists’ lives.

15. The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

Set in the early 1980s, this novel follows three college graduates as they navigate the complexities of love, literature, and mental illness. It’s a thoughtful exploration of romantic and intellectual aspirations at the cusp of adulthood. 

Major Similarities: Like “Normal People,” “The Marriage Plot” examines the transition from adolescence to adulthood, focusing on relationships, personal growth, and the challenges of defining oneself. Both novels are set against an academic backdrop, adding a layer of intellectual exploration to the narrative.

16. Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

A young adult novel about a group of teenagers at a therapeutic boarding school who discover a magical realm through a journal-writing assignment. It explores themes of trauma, healing, and the power of storytelling. 

Major Similarities: Though aimed at a younger audience, “Belzhar” shares with “Normal People” a deep exploration of emotional growth and the complexities of human relationships. Both novels address the themes of trauma and healing, albeit through different narrative devices.

17. The Ensemble by Aja Gabel

This novel tells the story of four friends in a string quartet over the span of nearly two decades, exploring the intricate dynamics within the group and the personal sacrifices they make for their art and each other. 

Major Similarities: Similar to “Normal People,” “The Ensemble” focuses on the deep bonds between individuals and the impact of personal and professional challenges on these relationships. Both books offer a keen observation of character and the subtleties of human interaction.

18. Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

Told in a series of fragmented vignettes, this novel explores the complexities of marriage, motherhood, and the pursuit of artistic ambition. It’s a poignant examination of love, betrayal, and the everyday moments that make up a life. 

Major Similarities: Like “Normal People,” “Dept. of Speculation” provides an intimate look into the lives of its protagonists, exploring the challenges and triumphs of personal relationships. Both novels are marked by their reflective and innovative narrative styles.

19. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Set in the planned community of Shaker Heights, Ohio, this novel explores the intertwined fates of the Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. It delves into themes of race, class, and the nature of art and identity. 

Major Similarities: Similar to “Normal People,” “Little Fires Everywhere” examines the complexity of relationships and the impact of societal norms on personal identity. Both novels are attuned to the subtleties of human dynamics and the tensions between individual desires and community expectations.

20. The Secret History by Donna Tartt

This novel follows a group of classics students at an elite college who explore morality beyond the boundaries of the law, leading to tragic consequences. It’s a compelling exploration of beauty, desire, and the darkness within. 

Major Similarities: Like “Normal People,” “The Secret History” is set in an academic environment and delves into the complexities of relationships among a tightly-knit group of students. Both novels explore themes of identity, morality, and the impact of intellectual pursuits on personal relationships.

21. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

A magical competition between two young illusionists sets the stage for this novel, which unfolds against the backdrop of a wandering magical circus that appears without warning. It’s a story of love, magic, and the power of imagination. 

Major Similarities: Although “The Night Circus” ventures into the realm of fantasy, at its heart, like “Normal People,” it explores the complexities of love and the deep connections between individuals. Both novels captivate readers with their atmospheric settings and the emotional depth of their narratives.

22. This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

This novel tells the story of a family grappling with the challenges of raising a transgender child. It’s a heartfelt exploration of parenting, transformation, and the lengths to which people will go for their loved ones. 

Major Similarities: Like “Normal People,” “This Is How It Always Is” explores themes of identity, love, and the complexities of human relationships. Both novels offer insightful reflections on the challenges and joys of understanding oneself and others.

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