It’s rare to stumble across a book that hasn’t been recommended by somebody – whether that’s a friendly bookseller, a well-read friend or a trusted source on social media. But what happens when you’re left bereft, having finished a recommended book you totally adored – and don’t know what to read next?
Fortunately, that’s where we come in: we’ve rounded up our favourite reads that align with some of the most-hyped books on TikTok, Instagram and Goodreads.
Ah, TikTok’s favourite university murder novel. The Secret History may be just shy of 600 pages, but don’t let its heft put you off. Unforgettable characters and an immersive dive into the snowy, seemingly idyllic liberal arts school Bennington are the icing to a dark and brooding plot that will keep you gripped.
If you like it, read: If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio
Yes, we know the cover looks a little familiar. And you might get deja vu from the premise, too: a group of precocious, glamorous and mysterious friends at an elite arts conservatory are bound together by their love of acting. But outsider Oliver always feels like he’s out of the spotlight. When a tragedy occurs, he is convicted of his friend’s murder, and serves 10 years in prison. It’s only upon his release that the truth threatens to come out.
If you like it, pre-order: The Cloisters by Katy Hays.
Tarot, medieval art and a group of charismatic researchers collide in this gripping read, out in January 2023.
Poet Ocean Vuong’s debut novel was released to critical and commercial acclaim in 2019, debuting at number six on The New York Times bestseller list and earning glowing reviews in the UK and America. This, perhaps, the author might have been able to dream of, but news that On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous appeared in standardised English Literature exams in Australia was new to the author. In any case, it did him a favour: this heart-wrenching depiction of immigrant life in America has become a firm favourite among the BookTok community.
Avni Doshi spent eight years writing her debut novel, struggled to get it published and then got shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Burnt Sugar picks up on the themes of intergenerational trauma and the relationships between mother and child that define On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, but offers a different landscape – that of Pune, in India.
Normal People by Sally Rooney (2018)
If you’ve not read Normal People by Sally Rooney, chances are you’ve heard of the Irish author’s international smash-hit novel or its 2020 TV adaptation. Normal People is the tale of Connor and Marianne, two teenagers in a small town in Ireland, who come together despite existing in opposite social circles. As they grow up, their positions shift and change, but the tether between them remains a complicated constant. When Normal People won the Costa Prize (it was also shortlisted for the Booker), Rooney became the youngest ever winner.
We’re not just suggesting this gorgeous novel because it also won the Costa Prize, but because Caleb Azumah Nelson’s debut tells of a captivating and heart-breaking on-off love story between two unnamed characters living in South London. Set against a backdrop that explores society’s attitude to race and masculinity, Open Water packs a punch into its 146 pages.
Read more: What to read if you’re heartbroken
The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon (2019)
British author Samantha Shannon calls her standalone novel a “feminist retelling of Saint George and the Dragon.” Fans will know Shannon for her still-ongoing dystopian series, The Bone Season, but The Priory of the Orange Tree won her a whole new audience. A twisty tale of knights, queens, dragons and power struggles, Shannon also folds an intriguing romance into her fantasy.
If you like it, read: Matrix by Lauren Groff (2021)
Rebellious nuns, torrid affairs and a brilliantly subversive look at female power in the Middle Ages, the follow-up to Lauren Groff’s wildly successful Fates and Furies presents the 12th Century as you’ve never seen it before. Poignant, funny and deeply memorable, if you’re interested in seeing history anew, Matrix is worth a read.
The surf is high, the sunsets are stunning and the drama runs deep: Taylor Jenkins Reid’s gloriously camp ode to the Pacific Coast Highway is a delicious summer read that will transport you all year long. Following the magnetic Riva family, who attempt to escape their tragic beginnings with the trappings of fame and fortune, Malibu Rising condenses decades into hours as history unravels over the course of the party of the decade.
Cowley Heller’s novel unfolds on the other coast of America and in the present day, rather than the Eighties, but its clever structural dovetailing – and explosive final pages – make it a great chaser for Malibu Rising. Transporting the reader from London in the Nineties to Manhattan in the Sixties, before winding up at a dreamy Cape Cod coastline where all is not as it seems, The Paper Palace makes for immersive reading.
Madeline Miller's debut The Song of Achilles won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2012, but it wasn't until 2021, almost ten years later, that it became a New York Times bestseller. What happened? #BookTok, of course. Told from the perspective of Patroclus, Achilles' closest friend, it's a lyrical, heart-breaking adaptation of Homer's Iliad, beloved by TikTok users for its queer romantic representation and ability to make you cry.
Booker Prize-winning author Pat Barker also tackles Trojan War mythology in The Silence of the Girls (and its brilliant sequel The Women of Troy), told this time from the point of view of Briseis, a queen turned captive. Barker's feminist retelling stands out for its powerful prose, beautiful in its simplicity, and the way it wrestles the epic drama from its usual male-centric gaze.
The words of former Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman have guided millions of young readers since she started publishing books more than 30 years ago. Few have held the impact, though, as those of Noughts & Crosses, her radical and heartbreaking dystopian YA novel that re-imagines a star-crossed lovers narrative through the prism of race.
Try: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Angie Thomas’s 2017 novel was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, and appeared on the silver screen the year after. However, the book treads in similar waters to that of Noughts & Crosses – the gulf between the poor, Black neighbourhood where 16-year-old Starr has grown up, and the privileged white one where her unarmed best friend is shot by a police officer.
Are you partial to a friends-to-lovers trope? If so, you're probably already familiar with Emily Henry's summertime smash hit (and New York Times bestseller), You and Me on Vacation (or People We Meet on Vacation, as it's known to our friends across the pond). It's an absolute masterclass of the genre: beautifully written, funny, full of loveable characters, and, by god, does Henry know how to write slow-building sexual tension.
Read more: Emily Henry: How TikTok changed my career
If you like it, read: The Summer Job by Lizzy Dent (2021)
For more genuinely laugh-out-loud fiction, guaranteed to get you even hotter under the collar, try Lizzy Dent's 2021-published debut, The Summer Job. Our heroine, Birdy Finch, is spending her summer at a luxury hotel in the beautiful Scottish Highlands, pretending to be a world-class wine expert. Expect: mishaps, messy relationships, a hunky chef, and tantalising descriptions of food and drink... you might want to read it before the TV adaptation drops, too!
To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han (2014)
American author Jenny Han mined her own experiences of teenage crushes for this addictive first-person story through the slings and arrows of young love and lust, which was adapted for Netflix in 2018. By the time To All The Boys was released, Han had more than proved her worth as a master of YA romance – her previous coming-of-age trilogy, starting with The Summer I Turned Pretty, made the New York Times Bestsellers list. Upbeat, fun and sweetly gossipy, To All The Boys is a charming plunge into all the feelings that people have, but don’t always discuss.
If you like it, read: Heartstopper by Alice Osman (2016)
Chances are you’ve encountered Heartstopper on Netflix – the 2022 live-action adaptation made stars of its actors Joe Locke, Kit Connor, William Gao and Yasmin Finney – but that’s not the only thing it has in common with Jenny Han’s novel. Osman’s graphic novels explore the challenges of first relationships through an LGBTQ+ lens while normalising non-heteronormative love stories.