The Handbook
The Handbook

If you’ve become engulfed by the inner-workings of Marianne and Connell’s love affair as much as us, you’ll be itching for another romantic read that’ll whisk you away from the mundanities of lockdown life and into the nitty gritty of how intoxicating, heated and beautiful young love can be.

While there might not be as many Irish accents to fall head of heels for, you’ll sure become as engrossed in the thick of these eight narratives that are just as heated as Sally Rooney’s Normal People. 

Mr Salary – Sally Rooney

Of course it would seem too obvious to begin with Sally Rooney’s debut novel Conversations with Friends. While this book is an absolute must-read if you adore Normal People and want to get ahead of the curve before the televised series is released (yup, the producers of Normal People have dropped they’re currently working on the Conversations with Friends show during lockdown!), we want to draw your attention to Rooney’s short story Mr Salary. 

Having entered into the wonderful world of fiction through writing the short story of Mr Salary it only seems appropriate to include Rooney’s 48-paged story of love, illness and anticipation. Mr Salary follows Sukie who we meet as she returns home from Boston to, you guessed it, Dublin to visit her dying father. 

It’s here that we find out that following the death of the mother and championing a tiresome relationship with her father, she moved in with an older man, Nathan, at the age of 19. This quick read will have you yearning for more. 

One Day – David Nicholls 

Settle in because you’re about to embark on a rollercoaster ride that’ll play havoc with your emotions. 

Get your box of tissues at the ready as you dive into David Nicholls’ One Day that’ll see you coming face to face with a love story that spans 20 years. Following their graduation from the University of Edinburgh, the novel begins with Dexter and Emma spending a night together and how they envision their life planning out by the time they are 40. Each chapter starts on the 15th of July but a year apart. 

While it’s a story centred around love, One Day doesn’t shy away from fronting its readers with the reality of growing up and the brutal battles we’re all forced to face throughout our day-to-day lives.

An American Marriage – Tayari Jones

Sometimes marriage isn’t all it makes out to be. 

The union between Roy and Celestial may have started out as your usual, everyday American marriage story, but just one year into the love story and Roy is wrongfully convicted of rape. 

Roy is sentenced to 12 years in prison and the story unfolds around this landscape. It’s as Roy is stuck inside that he becomes agitated seeing his wife’s creative career blossom and a love erupt between Celestial and her childhood friend, Andre.

City of Girls – Elizabeth Gilbert

We’re headed to 1940s New York City now as we meet 19-year-old Vivian who has arrived with just her suitcase and sewing machine in tow. Having been exiled by her parents, this young lady is on the search for employment. Living at her Aunt Peg’s residence, Vivian is opened up to the world of theatre and she soon becomes one of the showgirls. 

While you might think this sounds entirely different from Normal People, both Elizabeth Gilbert’s Vivian and Rooney’s Marianne embark on journeys of discovery and soon realise that to become the women they long to be, they have to find where their footing in this world lies.

Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murakami

Sometimes the perfect pairs are those who are invertedly different but attract each other at the same time. Toru and Naoko’s story centres around their differences. 

Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood centres around two young individuals, Toru Watanbe, who is torn apart by the suicide of his high school friend, Kizuki, and Naoko, the girlfriend of Kizuki. We first meet Toru several years later, at an airport, where he is flooded with nostalgic memories of high school days after hearing a cover of the Beatles’ song ‘Norwegian Wood’. As the narrative progresses we see how these two characters are bound together by their differences and their haunting past.

Trust Exercise – Susan Choi

Freshman year for you and I was no doubt different to those students studying at the Citywide Academy for the Performing Arts. While we were faced with tedious high school dramas and exams, Sarah and David are continually battling between competitive performing classes, learning every instrument under the sun and tackling acting classes. It’s tough but these kids are special and so is their flourishing relationship. Well, I say flourishing but for a while everyone around them but themselves know they’ll end up being in a relationship. 

While Susan Choi’s narrative centres around this relationship it’s the ending that sparks the most feeling. You’ll be piecing every ounce of their love, journey and troubles together until the truth is finally revealed.

The Idiot – Elif Batuman 

Having been shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2018, Elif Batuman’s The Idiot explores the relationship of two intellectual Harvard students and their journey into adulthood. 

Turkish-American from New Jersey, Selin arrives at college swamped, yet excited, by the challenges and possibilities that lie ahead of her throughout college and beyond. Having met fellow student Svetlana and starting chatting to a mathematician from Hungary, called Ivan, she finds herself engulfed by the all encompassing feeling of love.

Looking For Alaska – John Green

Follow Miles Halter, aka Pudge, as he enters a kooky boarding school where he finds Chip “The Colonel”, Takumi Hikojito and Alaska Young. Pudge lives his life seeking “a Great Perhaps’, the famous last words of writer and physician Francois Rabelais, but instead finds a group of misfit friends and a new rebellious streak. 

These high school friends are bound together by their smart wit and hatred of the entitled ‘Weekday Warriors’. Every chapter counts down to an event that’ll change all of the characters lives.