Books Without Romance

I love romance novels, but I don’t always love romance as a side plot. I know I am not alone, as I wrote a post a few years ago where I shared a few books without romance and that post continues to get views every day. I have read many books since then and thought it was about time I updated that list!

A Psalm for the Wild Built

A Psalm for the Wild-Built is a novella that focuses on friendship between strangers and how a tea monk and a robot can learn about themselves and one another. It is really beautiful, light-hearted, and heart-warming. There is also no romance, at least not in this first book in the series.

Unsettled Ground

Unsettled Ground is about the relationship between siblings and follows two characters who are forced to adjust to the unknown in their fifties as the death of their mother. This book is tragic in a lot of ways and Claire Fuller handles the subject matter in a special way. I trusted this story in her hands and a part of me hopes it wins the Women’s Prize.


Don’t let the fact that Darling is a Peter Pan retelling lead you to believe that it is a fantasy or that there will be a romance between Peter and Wendy- that is not where this story goes. Darling is an edge-of-your-seat thriller and will have you turning the pages. It was such an original retelling and I loved the epilogue. I cannot wait to read more from K. Ancrum- I do believe that her other books do have romance!

Project Hail Mary

I am noticing that a lot of the Sci-Fi that I read does not have romance! Though there are a lot of exceptions, I think Sci-Fi is a good genre to explore if you are looking to read more romance-free novels. Project Hail Mary being one of them! As much as I loved The Martian, Project Hail Mary took it to another level. I think what I loved most about this book was the unexpected friendship at the center of it- that is all I will say!

Klara and the Sun

Another Sci-Fi! Klara and the Sun follows and AI who is purchased by a child and acts as her companion. There is something so bittersweet about this book and the dynamic between child and robot. I love the way that Kazuo Ishiguro views the world and makes the reader think!

Mondays Not Coming

Monday’s Not Coming is another book about friendship and it is absolutely crushing. It follows Claudia, who is convinced that her best friend, Monday, is missing. We flashback to before Monday’s disappearance and then back to the present and it is so well handled. Tiffany D. Jackson is brilliant!

Punching the Air

Punching the Air is written in verse and is a story that has really stayed with me. From what I remember, there may be potential for a romance, but that is not at the heart of the story. We follow Amal, who has been wrongly convicted of a crime and seeks to tell his truth through his writing and his art. A must read, and the illustrations throughout the book really add to the story.


Piranesi is one of the best books that I have read so far this year and it is wholly original. There is no time for a romance in this story, especially since our main character, Piranesi, is alone for the majority of the novel. It is bittersweet since Piranesi longs so much for connection. I also loved that the story was told through diaries entries!

Transcendent Kingdom

Transcendent Kingdom is the second book on this list that is currently shortlisted for The Women’s Prize and another won that I would be happy to see win. I loved the themes explored in this novel, especially the focus on mental health, addiction, and the relationship between science and religion. It also touches on the complexities of familial relationships, particularly between mother and daughter.

Anxious People

I am still making my way through Fredrik Backman’s backlist, but I think he is a great author to turn to if you are looking for books without romance. I could have easily put A Man Called Ove on this list, though is does reflect on Ove’s marriage with his late wife. Anxious People is more of a mystery and takes place over the course of a day, though we do get some background into a few of the characters. It was nothing like I expected, but I really liked it!

The Fifth Season

There is so much happening in The Fifth Season and it can be a lot to take in, but there is no romance! It was the best book that I read in 2020 and I truly think that N.K. Jemisin is a genius. Go into this one knowing next to know and realize that you will be confused for awhile, but it is so worth it!

Hum If You Don’t Know the Words

A lot of the historical fiction that I read has a romantic subplot, but that is not the case in Hum If You Don’t Know the Words. The book is set in South Africa during the apartheid and followings two perspectives- Robin, a young girl, and Beauty, the woman who cares for her. The bond between these two is really special and this is another book I would label as bittersweet.

I would love to hear any of your recommendation in the comments!

27 thoughts on “Books Without Romance

  1. I’ve had my eye on Darling since the start of the year but I’m realising now, reading this, that I actually didn’t know anything about it😭 I barely remembered it was a Peter Pan retelling and I had no clue it was a thriller. You’ve made it sound really cool though!!

  2. I love this so much. I don’t mind romance in fiction but sometimes it feels so shoehorned in and like the story itself would shine so much better without it. I wish more writers would take the chance and leave it out!

  3. You’ve got me really curious about Darling and The Fifth Season! I’m always looking for books with no romance because, sure it’s a fun genre it’s not my fave and I can totally do without it.

    1. I went through so many of the books I’ve read over the last few years and most of them have some form of romance! I couldn’t believe it, especially since if I want romance I prefer to read a romance novel rather than having it as a side plot. It’s not always needed!

  4. Great Post Kristin. I never thought of this before, but you’re right, it’s a refreshing change to read a book without a romance.

  5. Joining the chorus to say that I too find romance-free books refreshing every once in a while. Great list! I haven’t read any of these yet but will have to look into them.

  6. This is a great list! The only book I’ve read from it is Monday’s Not Coming, but I’ve definitely added a few of these to my tbr.

  7. I love that you did this post! I definitely find myself from time to time loving the plot of a book and wishing the romance wasn’t taking up page time. Especially in YA, it feels like there often MUST be a romance when books would sometimes be stronger without one!

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