William Shakespeare expertly wrote ‘the course of true love never did run smooth,’ and a saying has never been quite so appropriate than when it comes to books like Call Me By Your Name.
André Aciman’s unforgettable story is about the powerful romance which blossoms between characters Elio and Oliver over the course of a summer in the Italian Riviera. Narrated by Elio and told retrospectively, he recalls the sudden attraction he felt towards Oliver and how this desire combined with fear, curiosity and obsession intensified and unfolded over the six weeks they spent together.
The depths of their feelings for one another which formed that summer, mark them for a lifetime so when they meet again 19 years later, their bond is still undeniably strong despite the different paths life has taken them on.
Call Me By Your Name is heart-achingly beautiful as are the rest of the books like it listed below, they highlight the inconvenient, excruciatingly painful and unfathomable force which is love in all its many forms.
Cautionary note – only proceed if you have lots of tissues handy!
9 Books like Call Me By Your Name
Carol, by Patricia Highsmith
Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel Carol was shamefully under my radar until relatively recently, it’s a gripping story which charts the unravelling romance between two women, Therese Belivet and Carol Aird during a time in society unaccepting of same-sex relationships.
Therese is a budding stage designer who is bored and uninspired by her day job in a department store, Carol is a mature and wealthy housewife who is just as bored and uninspired by her crumbling marriage. They meet when Therese serves Carol in the store, a meeting which sparks an undeniable attraction between the two women as they see in each other everything that is lacking in their lives; happiness, passion, inspiration, stimulation.
They embark on a road trip exploring the possibilities of a relationship together only to be thwarted and extorted by Carol’s husband who has had them followed, propelling their actions into perspective.
As with all novels like Call Me By Your Name, it is a truly irresistible read, loosely based on her own experiences, Highsmith’s Carol is an exploration into sexual identity and a story of love against the odds.
Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel García Márquez
Love as an emotional and physical disease is a central idea behind Gabriel García Márquez’s poetic Love in the Time of Cholera, the passionate love story of Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza which spans a lifetime.
Falling deeply in love when they were young, life takes Florentino and Fermina in different directions. Fermina marries a wealthy well-bred Doctor committed to the eradication of cholera leaving Florentino heartbroken, he throws himself into his business and 662 affairs to while away the years until he can steal a moment with Fermina again.
When Fermina’s husband dies suddenly, Florentino purposefully attends the funeral to rekindle the flame of love that never truly went out over the fifty years, nine months and four days since he and Fermina first fell in love.
As harrowing at times as it is heavenly, Love in the Time of Cholera explores love as this ideal dream and as a carnal depraved need for someone, it is an unconventional romance which readers of books like Call Me By Your Name are sure to be enchanted by.
Lie With Me, by Philippe Besson
If you like Call Me By Your Name for Elio’s retrospective on the love which marked him forever, then you are sure to be captivated by Philippe Besson’s beautiful novella Lie With Me too.
What spurns the narrator’s recollection is the chance encounter with someone who bears a remarkable resemblance to Thomas, the handsome boy he shared a secret affair with during his last year of high school. Thomas was his first true love, though divided by social class, shame and fear they were drawn to one another, stealing secret moments alone together then completely ignoring each other everywhere else to conceal their love.
Lie With Me is a deeply affecting coming of age story which captures the tenderness and significance of a first love and demonstrates that even after so much time has passed, that first love will haunt the rest of your life with the unanswerable burden of what ifs and what could have been.
The Only Story, by Julian Barnes
Does who we choose to love define us?
According to the narrator of the next book on this list of novels like Call Me By Your Name, it is the only story that really matters about him.
Quietly heartbreaking, The Only Story by Julian Barnes is divided into three parts and explores the relationship between Paul, the narrator, and Susan who is nearly 30 years his senior. Part one chronicles their meeting when Paul is just 19-years-old and Susan is 48 and married with two grown daughters, yet despite the obstacles, they pursue a love affair and ultimately end up living together.
Part two explores the years they lived together and Susan’s downward spiral into depression, alcoholism and her death, while in part three Paul mulls over the meaning of love and grapples with trying to make sense of what happened to Susan.
The Only Story is a sad almost regretful look back over a relationship and a couple that decided to stay together against the odds, it is painful in its poignancy but still a truly beautiful read.
Truth and Beauty, by Ann Patchett
Friendships can be just as deeply affecting as that of our first love or significant relationships, they mark our lives in much the same way as you will see in Truth and Beauty, the heartbreaking story of Ann Patchett and her friendship with fellow writer the late great Lucy Grealy.
Ann and Lucy became friends after enrolling in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, sharing a common passion for words and writing they became as much committed to each other as they were to a life of writing. Lucy suffered throughout her life; childhood cancer, chemotherapy, radiation and reconstructive surgery which caused her to lose the lower part of her jaw, years of pain and ridicule forever haunted her.
Despite her vast success as a writer and her strong bond with Ann who saw past her disfigurement, nothing could stop Lucy’s destructive and tragic path which resulted in her death from a suspected heroin overdose in 2002.
Ann wrote Truth and Beauty in the aftermath of Lucy’s death and luminously describes her unwavering warts-and-all devotion to Lucy, an absolutely illuminating portrait of love perfect for readers of books similar to Call Me By Your Name.
Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë
I couldn’t put together a list of love stories or romantic books like Call Me By Your Name without including a classic amongst the true love genre and I have chosen none other than Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. Brontë explores a variety of love forms in her 1847 gothic tragedy but ultimately the twisted, agonising and bitter sides of love which haunts you for an eternity.
Told through a fragmented narrative which recalls the life of the protagonist Heathcliff; his journey from rags to riches and his torturous relationships, particularly his relationship with adoptive sister Catherine, his one true love.
Common to the Victorian era, Catherine chooses to marry not for love but for a comfortable life and leaves Heathcliff to marry the wealthy Edgar Linton. This infuriates Heathcliff leaving him alone plotting and enacting revenge on all those who have wronged him. Wuthering Heights is a classic story of obsession, rage, revenge and forbidden love a rollercoaster read of epic proportions.
Already read this classic novel? Check out our list of more books like Wuthering Heights!
The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller
The Song of Achilles is Madeline Miller’s imaginative and romantic retelling of the Trojan War which charts the unexpected romantic relationship blossoming between Achilles and Patroclus, it’s a gripping read for fans of books similar to Call Me By Your Name.
When the awkward and simple young prince Patroclus gets exiled to the court of King Peleus he meets the heroic and godly Achilles and they form an unlikely friendship which soon develops into something far deeper.
As with a lot of great love stories, there is an impending sense of doom — in The Song of Achilles, especially when news of Helen of Sparta’s kidnapping reaches the court, forcing Achilles to join the war to rescue her. Fuelled by love and the fear of losing him, Patroclus follows Achilles to Troy little knowing this decision will ruin everything they hold dear.
You can see all the painstaking research and detail that Miller has put into this devastatingly beautiful and original retelling of the popular Greek Myth, demonstrating that even the most strongest and ‘super-humans’ among us aren’t free from the excruciating pain of love and matters of the heart.
Already read this novel? Make sure to check out our list of more books like The Song of Achilles!
Love Story, by Erich Segal
No list of all-consuming love stories would be complete without the tale that both defined love for many generations and broke their hearts at the same time, Erich Segal’s ultimate tale Love Story.
Oliver Barrett IV is a wealthy, athletic jock en-route for Harvard Law School
Jenny Cavilleri is a creative, studying music, from a working class background
They are from completely different worlds
But when these worlds collide their pull towards one another is inescapable, Oliver has to defy his family just so they can stay together. Oliver and Jenny weather it all only to remain stronger and even deeper in love until tragedy unexpectedly strikes, ending their life together long before it should.
Love Story has become a cult classic even some 50 years after publication it has been made into a vastly popular film of the same name and gave us the memorable line “love means never having to say you are sorry.” An exquisite portrayal of what true love is and means and definitely one for readers of books like Call Me By Your Name.
Modern Love: True Stories of Love, Loss And Redemption, edited by Daniel Jones
If need a break before devouring another gut-wrenching full-length rollercoaster of a read like Call Me By Your Name, then delving in and out of the Modern Love essay collection may be the answer for you.
Since its debut in 2004, the New York Times Column of the same name has featured a mixture of the most heartbreaking, hilarious, painful, beautiful, touching, hopeful, unconventional and unbelievable true stories of love in all its forms.
Daniel Jones has compiled the most memorable including a dying woman’s online dating profile for her husband to find love again, the couple who saved their marriage by taking up tennis and the man who met his girlfriend while tracing the children he’d fathered by donating sperm. My personal favourites include ‘When the Doorman Is Your Main Man,’ ‘When Cupid is a Prying Journalist’ and ‘Truly Madly Guiltily.’
Reading Modern Love is a journey through the soul, the stories are relatable and brutally honest and will make you feel inspired to give love another chance if you are at that moment wanting to give up.
As you can see, some of the most important love stories like Call Me By Your Name are also the saddest, they do however shed some light on the age-old question whether it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?
And just like love, these books are sad at times, heartbreaking and painful in places, it doesn’t stop us reading another searching for that perfect fit because the pain is totally worth it in the end.