16 Books To Fill The Sally Rooney-Sized Hole In Your Heart Once You've Binged Hulu's "Conversations With Friends"

·12 min read

It's been two years since Hulu premiered Normal People (I'm still dreaming of Connell's gold chain), and now comes the hotly anticipated premiere of their adaptation of Sally Rooney's debut novel, Conversations With FriendsHere are some books to soothe your millennial angst if you've devoured everything Rooney has written so far. (Her latest book, Beautiful World, Where Are You came out in September 2021 — check it out if you haven't already!)

1.Happy Hour by Marlowe Granados

In Marlowe Granados's sparkling debut, she takes us along with 21-year-old Isla and her best friend Gala as they experience one heady summer in New York City. They whirl from parties to horrible dates to trying to sell their clothes at flea markets to weekends in the Hamptons, all while trying to figure out how to afford living in the city. This is one of the most refreshing

In Marlowe Granados's sparkling debut, she takes us along with 21-year-old Isla and her best friend Gala as they experience one heady summer in New York City. They whirl from parties to horrible dates to trying to sell their clothes at flea markets to weekends in the Hamptons, all while trying to figure out how to afford living in the city. This is one of the most refreshing "coming-of-age" novels I've ever read, and a book that I'm still thinking about months after finishing it. Rarely do narrators have as captivating voices as Isla, a modern-day descendent of Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany's. Delightful as a summer cocktail at a rooftop bar, you won't want Happy Hour to end.

Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie bookstore via Indiebound here. You can also try the audiobook version through Libro.fm.

Verso Fiction

2.Luster by Raven Leilani

Luster is a book I have been constantly recommending since I read it in 2020. What starts out as the story of a flailing millennial who enters an open relationship becomes so much more when Edie, the protagonist, loses her job and the couple she's involved with invites her to stay at their home. As one could imagine, it gets messy, but Leilani makes their story a compelling narrative because she refuses to neatly categorize or pathologize the characters' behavior. As they deal with dynamics of race and class as well as differing generational perspectives, you may not always agree with their decisions, but it's hard to look away. For more, check out BuzzFeed's profile of Leilani from when Luster was released!Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie bookstore via Indiebound here. You can also try the audiobook version through Libro.fm.

Luster is a book I have been constantly recommending since I read it in 2020. What starts out as the story of a flailing millennial who enters an open relationship becomes so much more when Edie, the protagonist, loses her job and the couple she's involved with invites her to stay at their home. As one could imagine, it gets messy, but Leilani makes their story a compelling narrative because she refuses to neatly categorize or pathologize the characters' behavior. As they deal with dynamics of race and class as well as differing generational perspectives, you may not always agree with their decisions, but it's hard to look away.

For more, check out BuzzFeed's profile of Leilani from when Luster was released!

Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie bookstore via Indiebound here. You can also try the audiobook version through Libro.fm.

Picador USA

3.Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan

This is the book for anyone who's ever read Sally Rooney and said,

This is the book for anyone who's ever read Sally Rooney and said, "I wish this were queerer!"

Ava, who recently arrived in Hong Kong from Dublin to teach English to wealthy children, finds herself caught up in a love triangle with Julian, a British banker, and Edith, a Hong Kong lawyer. Julian provides Ava with financial stability but is lacking in the love department. Edith sweeps her off her feet, but Ava isn't sure if she likes the vulnerability she feels when she's around Edith. Forced to choose between the two, which way will she go? Filled with bisexual longing and a healthy dose of humor, Exciting Times lives up to its title.

Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie bookstore via Indiebound here. You can also try the audiobook version through Libro.fm.

Ecco Press

4.Play It as It Lays by Joan Didion

When Joan Didion passed away in December 2021, it hit me hard. But while I was a fan of hers, I had only ever read her nonfiction. So I made a goal to correct that oversight and read Play It as It Lays in January. Since then, I've been recommending it to everyone I know who wants a quick but impactful read.Widely regarded as one of the best novels about Hollywood, it's a delicious fever dream of a book. Told in a series of short chapters mainly from the perspective of 31-year-old struggling actor Maria Wyeth, this book is a fast-paced, emotionally charged race to the finish. Typical of Didion, the language is vividly descriptive, economical, and laser precise. If you haven't read it, what are you waiting for?Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie bookstore via Indiebound here.

When Joan Didion passed away in December 2021, it hit me hard. But while I was a fan of hers, I had only ever read her nonfiction. So I made a goal to correct that oversight and read Play It as It Lays in January. Since then, I've been recommending it to everyone I know who wants a quick but impactful read.

Widely regarded as one of the best novels about Hollywood, it's a delicious fever dream of a book. Told in a series of short chapters mainly from the perspective of 31-year-old struggling actor Maria Wyeth, this book is a fast-paced, emotionally charged race to the finish. Typical of Didion, the language is vividly descriptive, economical, and laser precise. If you haven't read it, what are you waiting for?

Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie bookstore via Indiebound here.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

5.Topics of Conversation by Miranda Popkey

Frequently compared to Sally Rooney's work upon its release, Miranda Popkey's novel is constructed from a series of conversations, with each chapter named after the location and year the conversation takes place. In that sense, there's not a lot of plot, because most of it is gathered through context clues. This loose structure serves to deftly illustrate that life is made up of conversations that seem inconsequential, but when presented in a certain order, there's more of a story than initially appears. The episodic format of Topics of Conversation makes the point that there's always something in all the seeming

Frequently compared to Sally Rooney's work upon its release, Miranda Popkey's novel is constructed from a series of conversations, with each chapter named after the location and year the conversation takes place. In that sense, there's not a lot of plot, because most of it is gathered through context clues. This loose structure serves to deftly illustrate that life is made up of conversations that seem inconsequential, but when presented in a certain order, there's more of a story than initially appears. The episodic format of Topics of Conversation makes the point that there's always something in all the seeming "nothing" of everyday life.

Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie bookstore via Indiebound here. You can also try the audiobook version through Libro.fm.

Knopf Publishing Group

6.Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson

Looking for something similar to Normal People? Try Caleb Azumah Nelson's excellent debut, Open Water. Two young people meet on a winter night, both Black British artists trying to make an impact on the world with their work. They have much in common, but classism, racism, and toxic masculinity threaten to derail their relationship. Nelson expertly navigates the complicated emotional terrain of his characters, creating a layered portrait that asks readers how love is supposed to exist when discrimination is so deeply woven into the fabric of our society. Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie bookstore via Indiebound here. 

Looking for something similar to Normal People? Try Caleb Azumah Nelson's excellent debut, Open Water. Two young people meet on a winter night, both Black British artists trying to make an impact on the world with their work. They have much in common, but classism, racism, and toxic masculinity threaten to derail their relationship. Nelson expertly navigates the complicated emotional terrain of his characters, creating a layered portrait that asks readers how love is supposed to exist when discrimination is so deeply woven into the fabric of our society.

Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie bookstore via Indiebound here.

Grove Press, Black Cat

7.Quartet by Jean Rhys

Jean Rhys may be one of the original Hot Sad Girls, so I wanted to pay tribute to her by including her semi-autobiographical novel Quartet. Based on her affair with married writer Ford Madox Ford while her husband was serving a prison term (making the relationship mess in Conversations With Friends looks like child's play), this book is perfect for anyone who wants to commiserate over a failed relationship. Jean is here for you! There's lots of crying, gaslighting by horrible men, and mind games played between all the characters in this quartet. As relevant today as it was when it came out in 1928, it serves as a reminder that although circumstances may change, human nature doesn't change all that much.Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie bookstore via Indiebound here. 

Jean Rhys may be one of the original Hot Sad Girls, so I wanted to pay tribute to her by including her semi-autobiographical novel Quartet. Based on her affair with married writer Ford Madox Ford while her husband was serving a prison term (making the relationship mess in Conversations With Friends looks like child's play), this book is perfect for anyone who wants to commiserate over a failed relationship. Jean is here for you! There's lots of crying, gaslighting by horrible men, and mind games played between all the characters in this quartet. As relevant today as it was when it came out in 1928, it serves as a reminder that although circumstances may change, human nature doesn't change all that much.

Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie bookstore via Indiebound here.

W. W. Norton & Company

8.New Animal by Ella Baxter

Grief hits everyone in different ways. In this darkly comic debut by Ella Baxter (featured in BuzzFeed's roundup of upcoming indie releases), Amelia, a cosmetic mortician by trade, deals with the grief of suddenly losing her mother in two distinct ways: attempting to reconnect with her birth father, and joining a local BDSM community. I'll admit I initially raised my eyebrows at the premise, but in Baxter's hands this story is unique and compelling. New Animal is funny, sad, and illuminating about the nature of mourning. Turns out, there's a lot to be learned about grief from the kink community. Who knew?Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie bookstore via Indiebound here. You can also try the audiobook version through Libro.fm.

Grief hits everyone in different ways. In this darkly comic debut by Ella Baxter (featured in BuzzFeed's roundup of upcoming indie releases), Amelia, a cosmetic mortician by trade, deals with the grief of suddenly losing her mother in two distinct ways: attempting to reconnect with her birth father, and joining a local BDSM community. I'll admit I initially raised my eyebrows at the premise, but in Baxter's hands this story is unique and compelling. New Animal is funny, sad, and illuminating about the nature of mourning. Turns out, there's a lot to be learned about grief from the kink community. Who knew?

Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie bookstore via Indiebound here. You can also try the audiobook version through Libro.fm.

Two Dollar Radio

9.You Exist Too Much by Zaina Arafat

Zaina Arafat's debut novel starts with a scene of the narrator, a Palestinian American girl, in Bethlehem being berated by a group of men for exposing her legs. Fast-forward a few years, and our narrator comes out to her mother, whose response is,

Zaina Arafat's debut novel starts with a scene of the narrator, a Palestinian American girl, in Bethlehem being berated by a group of men for exposing her legs. Fast-forward a few years, and our narrator comes out to her mother, whose response is, "You exist too much." This statement has a reverberating effect, coloring the way she continues to move through the world, from awkward teenager to successful DJ and writer living in Brooklyn. Structured as a series of vignettes jumping back and forth in time, You Exist Too Much deftly explores one young woman's search for where she "belongs," both physically and emotionally. The complexities of navigating conflicting identities is something many queer millennials have in common, and this is a book I know will resonate with many.

Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie bookstore via Indiebound here. You can also try the audiobook version through Libro.fm.

Catapult

10.The Portrait of a Mirror by A. Natasha Joukovsky

A reinvention of the myth of Narcissus that's part social satire, part relationship drama, this book kept me reading because I had to know what was going to happen! If Edith Wharton had written Succession and placed it in the New York City art world, it might look something like this. Joukovsky excellently crafts her characters' outlandish personas, while lampooning how ridiculously they behave, in a way that had me marveling at how skilled her writing is. A biting social satire that demands to be read by anyone who's ever wished Gossip Girl took itself a little less seriously. Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie bookstore via Indiebound here. You can also try the audiobook version through Libro.fm.

A reinvention of the myth of Narcissus that's part social satire, part relationship drama, this book kept me reading because I had to know what was going to happen! If Edith Wharton had written Succession and placed it in the New York City art world, it might look something like this. Joukovsky excellently crafts her characters' outlandish personas, while lampooning how ridiculously they behave, in a way that had me marveling at how skilled her writing is. A biting social satire that demands to be read by anyone who's ever wished Gossip Girl took itself a little less seriously.

Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie bookstore via Indiebound here. You can also try the audiobook version through Libro.fm.

Overlook Press

11.Little Rabbit by Alyssa Songsiridej

I'll admit that as a performer, I'm drawn to any fiction about the arts. But Little Rabbit takes on the tricky issues inherent in creating with collaborators in the most incisive way I've ever seen. As the unnamed narrator becomes involved with a choreographer she meets at a residency, their lives become entwined in love and work (always a dangerous combination). What boundaries are necessary, and which ones can be flexible? How can anyone advocate for themselves when their professional future could be at stake? Songsiridej unflinchingly deals with these issues and more, resulting in a book I'm recommending to all my friends who are artists in any discipline.Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie bookstore via Indiebound here.

I'll admit that as a performer, I'm drawn to any fiction about the arts. But Little Rabbit takes on the tricky issues inherent in creating with collaborators in the most incisive way I've ever seen. As the unnamed narrator becomes involved with a choreographer she meets at a residency, their lives become entwined in love and work (always a dangerous combination). What boundaries are necessary, and which ones can be flexible? How can anyone advocate for themselves when their professional future could be at stake? Songsiridej unflinchingly deals with these issues and more, resulting in a book I'm recommending to all my friends who are artists in any discipline.

Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie bookstore via Indiebound here.

Bloomsbury Publishing

12.Cleopatra and Frankenstein by Coco Mellors

If Conversations With Friends has you yearning to read about more dysfunctional relationships, look no further than Cleopatra and Frankenstein. Cleo is an English painter who impulsively marries Frank, a man 20 years older, in order to stay in the US and obtain financial security. The book follows the effect of this seemingly isolated personal decision that has unexpected reverberations throughout the lives of their inner circle. This is a perfect read who loves a story with finely drawn characters you'll grow to care about. Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie bookstore via Indiebound here.

If Conversations With Friends has you yearning to read about more dysfunctional relationships, look no further than Cleopatra and Frankenstein. Cleo is an English painter who impulsively marries Frank, a man 20 years older, in order to stay in the US and obtain financial security. The book follows the effect of this seemingly isolated personal decision that has unexpected reverberations throughout the lives of their inner circle. This is a perfect read who loves a story with finely drawn characters you'll grow to care about.

Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie bookstore via Indiebound here.

Bloomsbury Publishing

13.Three Rooms by Jo Hamya

Is a room of one's own too much to expect anymore? Jo Hamya's debut takes inspiration from Virginia Woolf's famous A Room of One's Own, and relates it to a common millennial struggle: housing. As the protagonist goes from renting a room at university, to couch surfing while trying to establish herself as a writer, and to ultimately ending up returning to her childhood home jobless, Hamya has a fresh way of portraying the struggles many young adults currently face heading into the workforce. Reflecting the experiences of many, the writing is fresh, timely, and incisive, making for an unforgettable read.Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie bookstore via Indiebound here. You can also try the audiobook version through Libro.fm.

Is a room of one's own too much to expect anymore? Jo Hamya's debut takes inspiration from Virginia Woolf's famous A Room of One's Own, and relates it to a common millennial struggle: housing. As the protagonist goes from renting a room at university, to couch surfing while trying to establish herself as a writer, and to ultimately ending up returning to her childhood home jobless, Hamya has a fresh way of portraying the struggles many young adults currently face heading into the workforce. Reflecting the experiences of many, the writing is fresh, timely, and incisive, making for an unforgettable read.

Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie bookstore via Indiebound here. You can also try the audiobook version through Libro.fm.

Mariner Books

14.Friends and Dark Shapes by Kavita Bedford

The narrator of Friends and Dark Shapes has just lost her father when the book starts. Dealing with an enormous loss while she feels more lost in her own life than ever, approaching 30, and sharing an apartment in Sydney with her friends, this story of chosen family is charming and compassionate. It's a smart, emotionally grounded look at friendship, growing up, and finding community in an ever-changing city that packs a gut punch. It's relatable for anyone who struggles with change in their life, and beautifully highlights the importance of having a strong support system to help you even when you're not sure how to help yourself. Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie bookstore via Indiebound here.

The narrator of Friends and Dark Shapes has just lost her father when the book starts. Dealing with an enormous loss while she feels more lost in her own life than ever, approaching 30, and sharing an apartment in Sydney with her friends, this story of chosen family is charming and compassionate. It's a smart, emotionally grounded look at friendship, growing up, and finding community in an ever-changing city that packs a gut punch. It's relatable for anyone who struggles with change in their life, and beautifully highlights the importance of having a strong support system to help you even when you're not sure how to help yourself.

Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie bookstore via Indiebound here.

Europa Editions

15.Other People's Clothes by Calla Henkel

In Other People's Clothes, we meet Zoe and Hailey. Zoe's best friend was recently murdered, so to distract herself she goes to study abroad in Berlin, where she lives with Hailey, partying and cultivating their new European party girl personas. Two American exchange students studying abroad in Berlin, living in the apartment of a famous writer of thrillers — what could possibly go wrong?! Henkel's debut is legitimately thrilling, with plot twists galore, while gleefully skewering the millennial obsession with obtaining celebrity, no matter the cost. Buckle up for a wild ride, because there's no way to predict how this one ends. Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie bookstore via Indiebound here. You can also try the audiobook version through Libro.fm.

In Other People's Clothes, we meet Zoe and Hailey. Zoe's best friend was recently murdered, so to distract herself she goes to study abroad in Berlin, where she lives with Hailey, partying and cultivating their new European party girl personas. Two American exchange students studying abroad in Berlin, living in the apartment of a famous writer of thrillers — what could possibly go wrong?! Henkel's debut is legitimately thrilling, with plot twists galore, while gleefully skewering the millennial obsession with obtaining celebrity, no matter the cost. Buckle up for a wild ride, because there's no way to predict how this one ends.

Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie bookstore via Indiebound here. You can also try the audiobook version through Libro.fm.

Doubleday Books

16.Acts of Desperation by Megan Nolan

Love addiction. It's a phrase that gets thrown around a lot, but what is it actually? In her debut, Megan Nolan doesn't provide readers with any easy answers to this question, but she provides an honest portrait of someone who finds herself in an all-consuming relationship. Acts of Desperation begins with the unnamed narrator falling in love with a Ciaran, a writer whose magnetic presence hypnotizes her. Though their relationship doesn't last long, it continues to preoccupy her long after the breakup, leading her down an obsessive path where she'll do anything to get him back. But what is there to do when the thing you want the most might not be what you really need?Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie bookstore via Indiebound here. You can also try the audiobook version through Libro.fm.

Love addiction. It's a phrase that gets thrown around a lot, but what is it actually? In her debut, Megan Nolan doesn't provide readers with any easy answers to this question, but she provides an honest portrait of someone who finds herself in an all-consuming relationship. Acts of Desperation begins with the unnamed narrator falling in love with a Ciaran, a writer whose magnetic presence hypnotizes her. Though their relationship doesn't last long, it continues to preoccupy her long after the breakup, leading her down an obsessive path where she'll do anything to get him back. But what is there to do when the thing you want the most might not be what you really need?

Get it from Bookshop or from your local indie bookstore via Indiebound here. You can also try the audiobook version through Libro.fm.

Little Brown and Company

I'm off to go find the perfect gold chain and gaze longingly out at the ocean until the next Sally Rooney adaptation premieres.

Do you have any books like Conversations With Friends that you'd recommend? Let us know in the comments below!