You and your college roommate have a standing phone date every other week despite living on opposite sides of the country and being busy with your respective spouses and kids. You and your first work wife still send each other Instagram memes on the regular despite having moved on to different jobs years ago. You and the first girl you befriended in kindergarten make it a point to plan a weekend trip every year. Friendship is a beautiful thing, so why not celebrate it by reading one of these 15 fabulous books about friendships of all kinds? (Bonus points if you turn it into a mini book club situation with pals near and far.)
The 15 Best Books About Friendship to Read Alongside Your Bestie
1. Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
In 2019, Bernardine Evaristo became the first black woman to win the Booker Prize, for her multi-voiced novel about an interconnected group of Black British women—including a newly acclaimed playwright whose work often explores her Black lesbian identity, a jaded teacher and a successful investment banker. Girl, Woman, Other paints a vivid portrait of the state of contemporary Britain and looks back to the legacy of Britain’s colonial history in Africa and the Caribbean.
2. Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman
Writers Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman are best friends and the hosts of the popular but now-defunct podcast Big Friendship. Their honest and hilarious 2020 book chronicles their first decade in one another's lives, from weathering life-threatening health scares and getting fired from their dream jobs to an unfortunate Thanksgiving dinner eaten in a parking lot in Rancho Cucamonga. An inspiring and entertaining testament to the power of friendship, Sow and Friedman will invite you to think about how your own bonds are formed, challenged and preserved.
3. Bring Your Baggage and Don’t Pack Light: Essays by Helen Ellis
When author Helen Ellis (American Housewife) and her lifelong friends arrive for a reunion on the Redneck Riviera, they unpack stories of husbands and kids; lost parents and lost jobs; dirty jokes and sunscreen with SPF higher than they hair-sprayed their bangs senior year; and a bad mammogram. In these twelve essays, Ellis recounts their stories to hilarious—and moving—effect.
4. The Group by Mary McCarthy
In 1933, eight young female friends graduate from Vassar College. This book is about their lives post-graduation, beginning with the marriage of one of the friends, Kay Strong, and ending with her funeral in 1940. We might be far removed from the ’30s, but any friend group in 2023 can relate to struggling with financial turmoil, family crises, relationship issues and more.
5. The Burning Girl by Claire Messud
Julia and Cassie have been friends since nursery school, sharing everything, including their desire to escape the stifling limitations of their Massachusetts hometown. But their paths diverge as they enter adolescence, with Cassie setting out on a journey that will put her life in danger and ruin her oldest friendship. A complex coming-of-age story, Messud’s latest is an examination of youth, friendship and the clash of childhood’s imaginary worlds with the often painful reality of adulthood.
6. Jollof Rice and Other Revolutions: A Novel in Interlocking Stories by Omolola Ijeoma Ogunyemi
At an all-girls boarding school in Nigeria, Nonso, Remi, Aisha and Solape forge an unbreakable sisterhood. The children of well-to-do families, these women have been raised with a thirst for independence. Leaving school and adolescence behind, they grapple with the possibilities and limitations of adulthood and the uncertainties of the world within and outside of Nigeria. Moving between Nigeria and America, Jollof Rice and Other Revolutions explores loss, family, friendship, alienation and more, illuminating the challenges its protagonists face and the risks they take to control their destinies.
7. Swing Time by Zadie Smith
With Swing Time, Smith (On Beauty, White Teeth) brings more of her keen observations about race and popular culture. This time, her focus is the complicated friendship between the narrator and her best friend as they navigate childhood dreams of becoming dancers against the backdrop of life in the housing projects, following them as their lives diverge in the decades that follow.
8. Truth & Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett
Writers Ann Patchett and the late Lucy Grealy met in college in 1981, beginning a friendship that would define both their lives and their work. Over more than 20 years, the two endured long, cold winters in the Midwest, surgical wards and everything in between. This tender yet brutal account of their friendship is about what it means when two lives are intertwined...and what happens when one is left behind.
9. The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
The Great Believers opens on a memorial service in 1985. The deceased is Nico, a young man who has just lost his life to AIDS—sending his circle of friends, and sometimes lovers, into a spiral of panic, sadness and rage. Set in 1980s Chicago and contemporary Paris, Makkai's (The Borrower) intertwining stories are about friendship, redemption and trying to find goodness in the midst of disaster.
10. Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney
Frances is an observant young woman pursuing a career in writing in Dublin. Her best friend is the beautiful Bobbi. At a local poetry performance, the two meet a well-known photographer, and as they’re drawn into her world, Frances is impressed by the photographer’s sophisticated home and handsome husband, Nick. But however amusing Frances and Nick's flirtation seems at first, it begins to give way to a strange intimacy in this 2018 novel about pleasures and dangers of youth and the messiness of female friendship.
11. Modern Lovers by Emma Straub
In the 1980s, Elizabeth, Andrew, Zoe and Lydia were members of a rock band with one major hit. Then, Lydia died at 27. Twenty years later, Elizabeth, Andrew and Zoe are living ordinary Brooklyn lives, until the past comes back to haunt them and these college friends—now in their 50s—are finally forced to address the ways they’ve changed.
12. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Yanagihara’s mesmerizing second novel is the story of four graduates of a small college in Massachusetts who move to New York to follow their dreams and escape their demons. Once there, their relationships deepen, and painful secrets (like seriously messed-up stuff) from their past emerge. Through Jude, Malcolm, JB and Willem, Yanagihara dives deep into male relationships, trauma, self-harm, chronic pain and more, and makes your average tearjerker look positively sunny. Still, despite trigger warnings for myriad reasons, it’s a gorgeously-written and thoroughly captivating book that readers probably won’t ever forget.
13. Best of Friends by Kamila Shamsie
Despite being different in almost every way imaginable, Zahra and Maryam have been best friends since their childhood in Karachi. Yet they never talk about their differences, even after a fateful night when a moment of adolescent impulse upends their plans for the future. Three decades later, they’re both powerful women in London when troubling figures from their past resurface, forcing them to finally confront their fundamental differences—and find out whether their friendship can survive.
14. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
The first installation in Ferrante’s enthralling Neapolitan Quartet, My Brilliant Friend begins to document the decades-long friendship between two girls, Lila and Lenu, in post-war Naples. It takes an oft-discussed topic—growing up—and injects it with such immense minutiae that you get totally sucked into their world. Though not entirely relatable (the girls have to struggle to be considered “worthy” of an education in the 1950s and one of them is pressured to marry at 16), Ferrante’s vivid descriptions of teenage friendship will have you reaching for your phone to call your oldest pal. Plus, we’re hard-pressed to think about a series that captivated nearly every woman in our life quite like this one did in the early 2010s.
15. The Most Likely Club by Elyssa Friedland
It’s 1997 in Bellport, Connecticut, and best friends and high school seniors Melissa, Priya, Tara and Suki are ready to light the world on fire having recently received their yearbook superlatives: Most Likely to Win the White House, Cure Cancer, Open a Michelin-Starred Restaurant and Join the Forbes 400. Cut to 25 years and nothing has gone according to plan. When the women regroup at their dreaded high school reunion, a forgotten classmate emerges with a surprising announcement, inspiring the friends to rethink their younger selves. Fueled by nostalgia and one too many drinks, they form a pact to push through their middle-aged angst and bring their teenage aspirations to fruition, dubbing themselves the “Most Likely Girls.”