If you loved Boy Swallows Universe, here are 10 books to read next.

Back in 2018, Aussie journalist Trent Dalton became an overnight literary darling when his debut novel Boy Swallows Universe was released. It struck a chord with readers, who fell in love with this gut-wrenching coming-of-age story. 

The semi-autobiographical tale follows the life of 12-year-old Eli Bell as he grows up in the 'burbs of Brisbane amidst nefarious characters linked to his mother and the underworld.

So adored was Dalton's novel that it has - unsurprisingly - received the adaptation treatment, finding its way onto Netflix in a seven-part series released this month. And just like that, all anyone can talk about is Boy Swallows Universe… again.

Watch the trailer for Boy Swallows Universe. Post continues below.

Video via Netflix.

If you've already devoured the series (and read the book four times) and you're looking to sink your teeth and heart into something similar, you’ve come to the right place.

Right now is the perfect time to make a good dent in your reading list so we've pulled together a bunch of reads that'll tickle you right in the Boy Swallows Universe bone. 


Prepare to cry, feel inspired and discover parts of yourself you never knew existed.

Candy by Luke Davies.

If you're in the mood for another gritty Aussie novel that tackles love, addiction and loss, then look no further than Candy, released in 1997 by Luke Davies. This story focuses on a Sydney-based couple who fall madly in love while simultaneously descending into the pitfalls of heroin addiction. Make no mistake, this love story is a bleak one, full of tragedy - but at its core, there is a deep unbridled passion between these wayward star-crossed lovers.


Moby Dick by Herman Melville.

While the classic novel Moby Dick might not instantly spark any modern-day similarities, Dalton himself says he drew a lot of references from the 1851 Herman Melville classic while writing Boy Swallows Universe. You'll find very similar themes of destiny, fate and the power of the universe running between both novels, both of which are packed with symbolism at every turn of the page.


Cloudstreet by Tim Winton.

When it comes to iconic Australiana coming-of-age stories, you can't go past Tim Winton's Cloudstreet. This one will stay in your heart and mind long after you've closed the book. The way Winton is able to oscillate his prose between narrating the lives of two families starting a new life in 1940s Perth, and the poetic depiction of neurodiversity, is truly breathtaking.


All Our Shimmering Skies by Trent Dalton.

We simply couldn't pull together a Boy Swallows Universe reading list without including some of Trent Dalton's other work. Released in 2020, this follow-up novel steps back in time to WWII-era Darwin and follows the life of Molly Hook. This unique story is definitely a departure from Dalton's debut, but is one that delivers with beautiful writing all the same.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy.


One of the biggest through-lines present in Boy Swallows Universe is how Eli navigates his identity and how that relates to his father (and the father figures in his life). 

If those particular themes resonate with you, The Road by Cormac McCarthy is a must-read. In this novel, a father and son set out on an epic journey in a post-apocalyptic world as they try to fight for survival against all the elements placed in their path.


Life of Pi by Yann Martel.

Open up the spiritual side of your mind and bury yourself in Yann Martel’s 2002 novel Life Of Pi, which rightfully won The Man Booker Prize for literary excellence. After surviving a catastrophic event which saw the ship he was travelling on sink, Pi embarks on a journey of survival in a small boat shared with a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan and a tiger.

The Basketball Diaries by Jim Carroll.


Another book Trent Dalton says inspired Boy Swallows Universe is the 1978 memoir The Basketball Diaries, written by Jim Carroll. Set in New York, Carroll returns to his high school days where he was a plucky young basketball player who got mixed up in a life of heroin at the age of just 13. While his story is harrowing, it has a particularly moving ending, which saw him come out the other side of addiction.

Lola In The Mirror by Trent Dalton.


At the end of 2023, Dalton returned with a new release and it's certainly a must-read for fans of his work. In Lola in the Mirror, we are taken on a wild romp with a mother and daughter who are on the run, fending off danger at every turn. Once again, Dalton's enduring quest to beautifully capture the meaning of fate is present here and will break your heart all over again (in the very best way).

Monkey Grip by Helen Garner.


Back in 1977, Helen Garner released Monkey Grip, a novel that tells a generational tale of love, life and addiction. This gritty story follows the life of Nora, her young daughter Gracie, and the wayward characters that drift in and out of their lives. Garner's writing here proves just what an incredible talent she is.

48 Shades Of Brown by Nick Earls.


So it's not all gut-wrenching reads, we've wrapping this list with a bit of light by recommending the comedic genius of Nick Earls. 48 Shades Of Brown is a coming-of-age story that depicts the life of Dan, who finds himself at a fork in the road early in life. This is as close as you'll get to understanding the inner workings of an Aussie teenager on the cusp of adulthood, with giggles assured for anyone who reads.

Which book is your favourite? Tell us in the comments section below.

Feature Image: Booktopia, Canva.

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