There is little worse than finishing a good book. I dread that moment endlessly. You’ve finally found something good to read, so good that you have ignored every responsibility and devoured it faster than a tub of Ben and Jerry’s. You’ve finally found a brilliant book, and now it’s over. All those characters you grew to care for, that plot that kept you hooked, is over. You’re left feeling like you just got dumped, wondering if you’ll ever find someone new again, but in this case, it’s a new book.
And you will. It doesn’t feel like you will, but you definitely will. To help with this, I’ve rounded up seven book recommendations based on some of the most popular reads. If you liked the first book, I think it’s likely you’ll enjoy the recommendation!
I love a blind book find. To me, a blind book find is when you randomly pick up a novel in a bookstore with no preconceived notions about it. You haven’t seen it on Booktok or wherever else, and you haven’t had it recommended to you. Instead, you spot it on a shelf or see it randomly mentioned wherever you shop online, and decide to purchase it.
Expectation by Anna Hope was a blind book find for me, and I am so glad that I discovered it on the shelves of my favourite bookstore! I was drawn to the simple cover, and after reading the blurb, it seemed like exactly what I was looking for. I was experiencing that traditional twenty-something angst - “Where am I going in life? Why do I barely see my friends anymore? My relationship ended, what’s next?” - and this book was a steaming cup of angst and hopefully answers.
It follows three women - Cate, Hannah and Lisa - who are three friends that met and lived together in their early twenties. They’re now ten years further along and not pleased with how their lives have turned out. Each has their own struggles, including flailing careers, wanting children and faltering marriages. Each of them grapples with their friendships with one another as well as their relationships, as they try to understand how they could be leading a meaningful life.
It reminded me a lot of Beautiful World, Where Are You? for several reasons. Firstly, both Rooney and Hope adopt that slow pacing that places focus on a character’s thoughts or motivators rather than their actions. Both authors aren’t afraid of unlikeable characters, and show the complexity of the bare nature of human relationships. Plot-wise, it’s a female-focused book with characters of a similar age. And at the core, both books are about friendship, imperfect friendships, and their importance in our lives.
I’m a big fan of novels centred on Greek mythology, to the extent that I wrote an entire article recommending them.
Ariadne is often described as a retelling of Theseus and the Minotaur, but that’s actually a pretty small part of the novel. It’s more about what happened next, for Ariadne, her sister Phaedra and even Theseus. Ariadne betrays her family by helping Theseus defeat the Minotaur and escape the labyrinth, but what happens next for this easily-forgotten hero?
2021 really was the year of novels about Greek myths, and both Circe and Ariadne emerged from this. I found these books to have a lot more in common than just Greek mythology. Both aimed to shed light on a forgotten voice of tales, and give a female-centric focus to myths. Both played with who was really the villain of the tale, as Ariadne showed that the supposed ‘hero’ Theseus wasn’t as worthy of this title, and Circe was too quickly assumed to be a villain in many myths.
I found it impressive that both books also managed to make the character’s time in solitude highly fascinating. They both end up living alone on an island, and yet the reader is compelled throughout these chapters, as the authors paint highly-perceptive and thoughtful narrators for us to follow.
If you love Greek mythology and the female-centric focus of Circe, then definitely give Ariadne a go. You might even like it more!
Discover more books about Greek mythology.
Okay, this is a risky recommendation. I’ve seen some negative reviews regarding The Unraveling of Cassidy Holmes, specifically about how they were expecting another Daisy Jones and the Six and that wasn’t the case. These are different books with a different tone, but I think if you liked the former, you’re likely to find the same in the latter.
The Unraveling of Cassidy Holmes starts with the news that former pop-star Cassidy Holmes has committed suicide. Right away, you know that this book is going to have a darker tone than Daisy Jones, also because it literally begins with a trigger warning. The novel takes place both in the past and present, as we learn more about the girl band’s rise to fame and how the remaining members are dealing with the loss of Cassidy. It was particularly interesting to have the sections narrated by Cassidy in the past, so you get a first-hand seat to her rise and fall.
So why do I think you’d like one if you enjoyed the other? Well, both books clearly deal with the music industry and fame, which is a delicious topic. In both books, there’s that rise to fame and the struggles that accompany it, as well as the forced collaboration between individuals.
Both are told very personally, Daisy Jones through an interview method, and Cassidy through first-hand narration by several characters. You get to see where individuals disagree over what happened and the power of your own perception of events. You get to question the reliability of a narrator.
Something else that stands out in these novels is that you start knowing the end in many ways. You know the end of the plot, yet you keep reading to try and work out how they reached this point. I love novels that can reveal so much and yet keep you fascinated, as there’s so much more to the truth.
This recommendation is special to me, as I love that I get to combine two of my favourite writers! I have been a big fan of Marian Keyes since I was too young to fully understand a lot of what she wrote. However, of all her books, The Break might be my favourite. And since discovering Taylor Jenkins Reid through Daisy Jones and the Six, I’ve read everything else she’s published.
After I Do is one of her earlier novels, and also focuses on a couple choosing to take a break. Ryan and Lauren’s marriage has reached its lowest point, and so they decide to take a year on their own to figure out what they want. It questions marriage, monogamy, identity and more.
I like that both novels didn’t stick to the cliches of a subject like this. It wasn’t some intense self-development novel where they end up starting an amazing business and earning millions. Instead, they follow a natural pace of exploring the grief of such a situation, and addressing questions many of us would have about those arrangements. It’s about finding your way back to the person you love, but also to yourself.
I was so excited to read Ghost, as I adored Dolly Alderton’s debut book Everything I Know About Love. Ghost certainly did not disappoint, as it was both touching and hilarious, with a hefty dose of Dolly throughout.
I discovered Queenie through an Instagram recommendation, so I chose it to be the first novel of my new book club. The entire book club was obsessed with it! We had several sessions as we read it, and we filled hours with passionate discussion about the novel. It’s a book that grips your entire soul, and Queenie is such a naturally flawed character that you want her to succeed, but you also sometimes want to give her a gentle shove.
So what’s this book about? Queenie Jenkins is a twenty-five-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London, and she has just been dumped. This book navigates her life as she struggles to fit in anywhere and searches for comfort in the wrong places. This book gave me such an insight into the experiences of a young black woman, mainly through her friendships and relationships.
Both books approach relationships yet in a very different light and are ultimately about identity and friendship.
As you can probably tell by now, I’m a big fan of Taylor Jenkins Reid! I absolutely love her books and the worlds she builds for a reader. I’ve seen The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo promoted everywhere, and my Tiktok is filled with people fan-casting a future film. I’m not sure exactly what draws so many of us to this novel, whether it’s the intrigue, the unlikely romance or the glamour of it. But if you liked the Hollywood side of Evelyn Hugo, then you might enjoy Funny Girl!
Funny Girl actually came out in 2015, but I only read it last year when I bought a stack of Nicky Hornby books second-hand. It follows Sophie Straw as she blossoms into a popular Television star in 1960s London. It’s funny, emotional and heartwarming. I loved the level of detail into the making of a sitcom and the various voices behind it. You get a close look at the writers, producers, actors and more. Sophie is a very different character to Evelyn, but also one who plays a role off-screen as much as on-screen, and someone searching to be loved.
If you haven’t read High Fidelity, you might have seen the film or TV series. It’s a great book, so I definitely recommend it, as it focuses on relationships and the ways the people we love can impact us heavily. It asks some pretty big questions about love and life, which is why it reminds me a lot of The End of the Affair.
This is one of Graham Greene’s most renowned novels, and I truly recommend everyone take the time to read it. It’s a beautiful book filled with pain, love, hate, loss and memories. The narrator, Maurice Bendrix, is a writer reminiscing on his affair with Sarah Miles. He struggles to comprehend the loss of her, and shifts his hatred to God whilst still questioning if he even believes in that.
On a surface level, both books are about breakups and identity. But deeper than that, both books approach how intrinsically linked love and hate can become. They question why we keep falling in love if we know the pain it leads to and how we keep going when it feels like your life is ending.
So when you finish your next book and you’re drifting into that sad slump, consider picking up one of these incredible books as your next literary adventure! There is always a great read ahead of you and a never-ending supply of books out there. But when you do find a remarkable book, hold it close and reread it as many times as you like.
Have I missed any books you would recommend? If you're looking for more recommendations, check out the 7 best books I read in 2021.
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Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
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