honest, narrative, and straightforward
November 15, 2019 6:24 AM   Subscribe

I am almost done with Normal People and I want more.

I'm going to finish Sally Rooney's Normal People later today and I want to read more like it. What I like most about it (and her previous, Conversations with Friends) are:
- The writing
- Adult and young adult (but not YA) characters
- Nothing big happens but not nothing happens; it's life
- The writing, the writing, the writing is just gorgeous
- complex female characters
- contemporary setting

What do I read next?!
(Please no YA, sci-fi, or historical fiction; not in the mood right now.)
posted by quadrilaterals to Writing & Language (21 answers total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh, and not overly grim. Normal People is serious but it's not, like, a nihilistic meditation on the criminal justice system (looking at you, Mars Room) or society (My Year of Rest and Relaxation was fab, but not what I need right now). I am facing a dark Chicago winter and I need something engaging but not wrenching. There's a lightness, a humor to a lot of Rooney. There are sad things, pressing things in the story, but it feels real and not overwhelming.
posted by quadrilaterals at 6:28 AM on November 15, 2019

Best answer: The Idiot by Elif Batuman (though it's set in the late 90s so I'm not sure if that strains the definition of contemporary). It takes the interior life of its college-aged narrator seriously but it's also extremely funny and, like Rooney's books, kind of playful with the form of the novel.
posted by The Giant Rat of Sumatra at 6:40 AM on November 15, 2019 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Seconding The Idiot and adding Olive Kitteredge by Elizabeth Strout (or really any book by Strout) and Alice Munro’s short stories.
posted by sallybrown at 6:59 AM on November 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Oh and The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis (by Lydia Davis).
posted by sallybrown at 7:03 AM on November 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: How about Kayla Rae Whitaker's The Animators?
posted by uncleozzy at 7:08 AM on November 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

It's not out till April so does not solve your immediate reading needs but when it comes out, try The Knockout Queen by Rufi Thorpe.
posted by lyssabee at 7:14 AM on November 15, 2019

All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg
posted by veery at 7:15 AM on November 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The Elena Ferrante quartet came to mind immediately. The first is My Brilliant Friend. It is semi-contemporary - 60s/70s Italy. It is about the lvies of two women, and the writing is wonderful.
posted by hepta at 7:22 AM on November 15, 2019 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: Marking ones I've read and fit the "type" as best answers!
posted by quadrilaterals at 7:25 AM on November 15, 2019

Tender by Belinda McKeon came out a few years ago -- it's also by a young Irish woman, about young people at Trinity in Dublin and at home in a small town. I was reminded of this book when I read Normal People.
posted by JonJacky at 7:37 AM on November 15, 2019

Seconding All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg.
I'm alone. I'm a drinker. I'm a former artist. I'm a shrieker in bed. I'm the captain of the sinking ship that is my flesh.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:45 AM on November 15, 2019

Pretend I’m Dead by Jen Beagin might fit the bill
posted by Morpeth at 10:27 AM on November 15, 2019

Rachel Cusk’s Outline trilogy?
posted by less of course at 10:54 AM on November 15, 2019

Leif Enger's Virgil Wander is lovely.
posted by belladonna at 11:01 AM on November 15, 2019

Best answer: I loved Normal People, but I might have suggested My Year of Rest and Relaxation under your description so maybe we didn't get quite the same thing from it. Nonetheless, here are some other books I also loved that I felt had some emotional or stylistic similarities to Normal People:

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood
The Mothers by Brit Bennett
Florida by Lauren Groff
Autumn by Ali Smith
The Wallcreeper by Nell Zink
The First Bad Man by Miranda July

Here are a few more that I want to toss into the ring, even though they are only partial matches to your criteria, because they push many of the same buttons for me:

Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
I'll Be Right There by Kyung-Sook Shin
posted by somedaycatlady at 4:21 PM on November 15, 2019

Best answer: Pretty much anything by Curtis Sittenfeld.
posted by fso at 4:33 PM on November 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

After Birth by Elisa Albert. Not sure if it’s fits what you are looking for but it’s what I thought of after I read your question.
posted by bigyellowtaxi at 3:54 PM on November 18, 2019

Seconding the Elena Ferrante recommendation. The series meets all your requirements. Plus, I've recommended those books to other heavy readers in my life, ones whose literary tastes are often at odds with my own, and have heard nothing but praise for them.

Another suggestion that checks off many items on your list, yet isn't much like either of the Sally Rooney books or Ferrante's Neapolitan novels, is Madame by Antoni Libera.

It's a bildungsroman told from the perspective of a precocious highschool senior/college student. His humdrum life in 1960s Eastern Bloc Poland is interrupted by the appearance of a new French teacher at school.
posted by davedave at 11:21 PM on November 19, 2019

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner. It's about a decades-long friendship between two couples, and both of Rooney's novels reminded me of it.
posted by reclusive_thousandaire at 7:59 AM on November 20, 2019

Best answer: So I'm going out on a limb here, because I haven't read any Sally Rooney yet (but I'm going to, thanks to this question!), but to me, The Last Samurai (note: nothing at all to do with the movie of the same name) fits all your criteria really well.
posted by kristi at 11:13 AM on November 20, 2019

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