The Lists

What are the Best Books about Friendship?

the best novels and books about friendship

Novels about friendships, particularly those that start when the protagonists are kids and last a lifetime, are among our favorite reads. But what are the best books about friendship? Our correspondent Abbie Martin Greenbaum has curated a list of some of the novels about heartfelt friendship that we love best.

why we love reading novels about friendship

What makes books about friendship so great? More than plot, and more than beautiful prose. Sometimes it’s a dynamic – between two people, between a group of people – that compels us to keep us reading until the wee hours of the morning, hungry for more.

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Of course, these books remind us of our own lives, our own friends, letting us see a reflection of ourselves and our memories within the pages.

But part of the pull of these kinds of stories is what they show us that we can’t see in our own lives. Fiction gives us the gift of hindsight, a way to pause and look at the trajectory of a friendship in a way we will never be able to truly do as we are experiencing it.

the best books about friendship

Reading about friendship is a way to understand the people we love more clearly, and to learn how to treat those platonic cornerstones of our lives with the kind of sacred attention that they deserve.

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what are the best books about friendship?

Here are 15 of the best books we’ve read about friendship, all of which will make you feel emotions as true as if they were about people you knew in real life.

best novels about friendship

1. The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

One of our favorite books about friendship, The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer, meets one of our top criteria. When reading about friendship, stories that are spread out over a long period of time are maybe the most satisfying of all. They give all of the things we love about reunion and reboot TV, without any of the bad parts.

You get to see how the characters have influenced each other and affected the arcs of each other’s lives, and the way in which decisions made early on have consequences that continue to play out through the entire book. Wolitzer’s popular novel about a group of friends who meet at a camp for the arts is a perfect example of the value in this kind of tale. This is an excellent story about fame and disillusionment, and it is staged within an unforgettable group of friends.

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2. South of Broad by Pat Conroy

South of Broad by Pat Conroy is another novel splayed over sections that alternate between adolescence and adulthood, It’s a dark, often wrenching novel about a group of friends in Charleston from the 1960’s to the 1980’s. The narrator, Leo King, brings together an unlikely and unlucky group of people, who help to brace each other through the many emergencies that life throws in their direction.

The novel seems to leap from one horrific disaster to the next, but through all of it, the friends are there to offer each other support. The breadth of time that the book covers helps to attach these characters to your heart, making every hardship they have to endure all the more emotionally effective.

3. Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

The experience of reading the wonderful young adult novel Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta is like waking up from a really amazing dream. Conversely, you might find yourself a little bit sad – sad that it is not real life.

Francesca Spinelli is dealing with an immense amount of upheaval. She has switched to a new school, where she has no friends and is struggling to find her place. And perhaps even more urgently, her home life is turned upside down by her mother’s battle with depression. Over the course of the book, Frankie finds the kinds of friends that everyone deserves to have: ones who help to get her through this rough period, and help her to really find herself. This is the kind of book that will tear you apart, but not let you go until it puts you back together again.

The best books about friendship. Courtesy Photos.

4. The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker

If you are less interested in the chaos of the friend group dynamic, consider The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker. It’s a book about two friends who are each other’s everything, including partners in their career. This is a book that shows exactly why we love friendship stories so much. The plot, the sequence of events – none of it matters as much as the two huge personalities at the story’s center. And it is a wonderful treat to spend so much time with Sharon and Mel. Prepare for them to slip under your skin in a way you are not expecting, and you will love this complex and realistic debut novel.

5. Dress Codes for Small Towns by Courtney C. Stevens

Centered on a group of high school kids living in the south, Dress Codes for Small Towns by Courtney C. Stevens is an of-the-moment look at the ways in which questions of gender, sexuality and love sometimes play into our friendships, especially at a young age.

However, unlike in other stories, where fraught love triangles and squares breed resentment and conflict, this refreshingly wholesome take is full of best intentions, featuring six people who really do just want each other to be happy. If you want a book that will only make you feel positively, and nostalgic about the friends you had when you were in high school, this is the one.

6. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

You have probably walked by A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara on a bookstore shelf before, and maybe found yourself deterred by its length, or the cover, or the fact that you have heard it is an incredibly upsetting 800 pages.

And yes, it is, and you should only read it if you are prepared to stomach the kinds of horrors that many books shy away from describing. But if you are looking for the kind of epic, devastating read that will stick with you for the rest of your life, there is no choice better. Jude, Willem, Malcolm and JB are written in such immense, life-giving detail, they will start to feel more real than the actual life around you. Your reality will temporarily become the book’s reality. Only a few books are really powerful enough to have this kind of effect, and the story of the friendship between these four boys makes this one of them.

The best novels about friendship. Courtesy Photos.

7. After the Shot Drops by Randy Ribay

While a lot of friendship books that center on two characters’ emotional journeys are about women, After the Shot Drops by Randy Ribay is an excellent young adult novel that gives the same kind of vulnerable and complex relationship to two young men.

And where a lot of these books show the ways in which our friendships can be a protection from the outside world, here we are shown an instance in which the outside world gets into our relationships, creating chasms where there weren’t any before.

Bunny and Nasir are best friends, but their relationship is tested when Bunny is admitted to a private school, and starts spending time away from Nasir. Intensely readable, these two characters are vivid and easy to empathize with, and the book is a great perspective on the ways in which class and race and privilege can play into our most intimate relationships.

8. Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty

If you are looking for a story that is more comedic than dramatic, Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty is a charming, sweet and funny novel about three friends in high school.

Emily, Lydia and Cassie find themselves caught in unexpected drama when their school is paired with an all-boys school for a pen pal project. The entire book is written through their letters, diary entries and emails, meaning that you truly get to hear these three girls’ very entertaining voices, and you will wish you could stay inside this fluffy, happy friendship forever.   

9. Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

In another book split between two time periods, Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson is the story of August. She returns home to Brooklyn after her father’s death, and finds herself remembering the three girls who were like sisters to her during her youth. Woodson’s beautiful writing is somewhere between prose and poetry, and it adds even more emotion this already-evocative story about the ways in which our friends are the ones who will get us through the worst and hardest moments of our lives.

the best novels about friendship. Courtesy Photos.

10. Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero

Anyone who thinks friendship is best served in the form of a caper or adventure will fall in love with Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero. This is a summery, energetic story of magic and grief. Three members of the Blyton Summer Detective Club return home to the place of their youth, where they lost the fourth member of their group thirteen years before. Here they are forced to solve a mystery – as well as to finally grapple with the events of the past. And vocalize truths that have previously been left unsaid.

11. The Neopolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante

The Neopolitan novels are a 4-part series comprised of these novels: My Brilliant Friend; The Story of a New Name; Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay; and The Story of the Lost Child.  The quartet of novels tell the story of Elena and Lila, childhood friends who grow up in in a poor but vibrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples  in the post-World War II era. Throughout their lives, their paths diverge and loop back together. The series is considered a masterpiece as a portrait of a nuanced relationship between lifelong female friends.

12. The Ensemble by Aja Gabel

In The Ensemble by Aja Gabel, a smart and emotionally compelling debut novel, four young friends form a chamber quartet. Together, they set about navigating the cutthroat world of classical music. And their relationships with each other. Chamber music is said to be “music among friends,” and playing it well requires a quartet to be in wordless harmony. Turns out the rest of life isn’t quite that easy.

The best novels about friendship

The best novels about friendship. Courtesy Photos.

13. Invincible Summer by Alice Adams

In Invincible Summer by Alice Adams, four friends meet in college in London and graduate in 1997, into an exhilarating world on the brink of the new millennium. As their dizzying twenties evaporate into their thirties, the once close-knit friends, now scattered and struggling to navigate thwarted dreams, lost jobs, and broken hearts, find themselves drawn together once again in stunning and unexpected ways.

14. Fleishman is in Trouble

The debut novel Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner is about many things, One of them is the friendship between two men and a woman. It starts in college when they’re all studying abroad, and continues as they move to Manhattan, marry, and deal with work, family and the challenges of being a parent. Ostensibly about the divorce of one of the men, the beating heart of the story turns out to be about the friendships between these three, how well they actually know each other, and the limits of what anyone will do for even their oldest friends.

15. American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson

American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson is a fast-paced novel about a black woman who is enlisted by the CIA to go undercover in an African nation titling toward Communism also has many themes and insights to share. The one that most sticks in our minds, though, is how when the heroine is in real trouble, the person she trusts with her life – and more importantly, the lives of her children – is her childhood friend, a man who has had a hard life and made bad choices. Despite all of that, he proves to be one of the few people she can actually count on when things turn lethal.

The best books about friendship. Courtesy Photos.

the best books about friendship

Those are our picks for some of the best books about friendship. What’s on your list? Happy reading!

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Abbie Martin Greenbaum grew up in New York City and currently lives in Brooklyn, where she drinks a lot of coffee and matches roommates together for a living. At Oberlin College, she studied English and Cinema, which are still two of her favorite things, along with dessert and musical theater. She believes in magic.       

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