Friendship is the best ship. And the best stories are often about friendship. Readers everywhere are fascinated by female friendship in particular—the highs and lows, the intricate and unspoken rules, the incredible power of these bonds. Just look at the popularity of classics like THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS or DIVINE SECRETS OF THE YA YA SISTERHOOD. So in honor of Galentine’s Day—a celebration of female friendship—here are 11 of our favorite novels on the theme.
Tall, blonde, beautiful, and strong, Joan Fortier is the epitome of Texas glamour and the center of the 1950s Houston social scene. Devoted to Joan since childhood, Cece Buchanan is either her chaperone or her partner in crime, depending on whom you ask. But when Joan’s radical behavior escalates one summer, Cece considers it her responsibility to bring her back to the fold, ultimately forcing one provocative choice to appear as the only one there is. THE AFTER PARTY unfurls a story of friendship as obsessive, euphoric, consuming, and complicated as any romance.
Rosemary Peterson’s calm, routine lifestyle is upended when the lido—an outdoor pool where she's swum daily since its opening and where she escaped the devastation of WWII and fell in love with her husband—is threatened with closure by a local housing developer. Thankfully a reporter takes interest in the story and teams up with Rosemary to save the neighborhood institution. THE LIDO is a charming feel-good novel that captures the heart and spirit of a community across generations—an irresistible tale of love, loss, aging, and friendship.
Four childhood friends are reunited in this twisty, chilling Ruth Ware thriller. When three women receive the text they’d hoped would never come from their fourth friend—it says only “I need you.” The four were best friends at boarding school, where they played “The Lying Game,” telling lies at every turn about their fellow students and faculty. But their game had consequences, and the girls were expelled under mysterious circumstances after the death of their art teacher.
Off the Shelf staffer Julianna is a huge fan of Melanie Benjamin’s historical fiction, and her latest, which brings the friendship of black-and-white film icons Mary Pickford and Frances Marion into technicolor, is not to be missed. In 1914, Frances arrives in Hollywood, trying to find work as a screenwriter, when she meets “America’s Sweetheart” Mary. They join forces, and become one of the most daring and powerful pairs in the industry, churning out hit after hit. But, as their professional success takes a toll on their personal lives, they must face their roles as friends, wives, artists, and women. It’s a sweeping, absorbing, and incredibly timely novel that’s perfect to read with your gals.
When they’re assigned to the same dorm their freshman year at Smith College, Celia, Bree, Sally, and April couldn’t be more different. Celia is a lapsed Catholic, Bree is engaged, Sally is grieving, and April is trying to reconcile her radical feminism with her college’s traditions. Together, they experience the highs and lows of college life, in the classroom and out, forming a bond that it seems will last forever. Though they take different paths after graduation, they reunite at Sally’s wedding, where their devotion is put to the test as one makes a life-changing decision. In this classic novel of female friendship, J. Courtney Sullivan explores the ways in which your friends shape who you are (sometimes without you even realizing) with heart and humor.
In this touching and witty debut, four college roommates must grapple with how the ideals of feminism they learned at Smith College apply to their real lives in matters of love, work, family, and sex. More than a chronicle of college friendship, it is a candid examination of the tangled and contradictory world that today’s young women live in.
Meadow and Carrie are best friends who have everything in common—except their views on sex, power, moviemaking, and morality. Their friendship is complicated, but their devotion to each other trumps their wildly different approaches to filmmaking and to life. Throughout the novel, the women grapple with the question of how to be good: a good lover, a good friend, a good mother, a good artist, a good person.
Mary McCarthy’s most celebrated novel follows the lives of eight Vassar graduates, known simply to their classmates as “the group.” An eclectic mix of personalities and upbringings, they meet a week after graduation to watch Kay Strong get married. After the ceremony, the women begin their adult lives—traveling to Europe, tackling the worlds of nursing and publishing, and finding love and heartbreak in the streets of New York City. Through the years, some of the friends grow apart and some become entangled in each other’s affairs, but all vow not to become like their mothers and fathers. It is only when one of them passes away that they all come back together again to mourn the loss of a member of the group.
For the “Sex and the City” fan
Eight Vassar graduates, known simply to their classmates as “the group,” are an eclectic mix of personalities and upbringings. Through the years after graduation and between two world wars, some of the friends grow apart and some become entangled in each other’s affairs, but it’s only when one of them passes away that they all come back together again.
INVINCIBLE SUMMER is the story of Eva, Benedict, Sylvie, and Lucien, who graduate college in 1997 into an exhilarating world on the brink of the new millennium. But 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. This is a story about finding the courage to carry on in the wake of disappointment and a powerful testament to love and friendship as the constants in an ever-changing world.
After a terrible accident leaves her best friend in a coma, Shelby drops out of her life in suburban Long Island and moves to New York City. What follows is a tale—sprinkled with Alice Hoffman’s signature magical realism—of a girl struggling to find her way in the world. With the help of her new family, a series of anonymous postcards, and a mysterious guardian angel, Shelby learns that she can not only survive, but thrive—if she is willing to stay out of her own way.
After a terrible accident leaves her best friend in a coma, Shelby drops out of her life in suburban Long Island and moves to New York City. What follows is a tale, sprinkled with Hoffman’s signature magical realism, of a girl struggling to find her way in the world. With the help of her new chosen family, a series of anonymous postcards, and a mysterious guardian angel, Shelby finds herself moving forward, toward love and joy in her life.
Bev Tunney and Amy Schein have been best friends for years, but now, at thirty, they’re at a crossroads. Bev is stuck in a seemingly endless cycle of temping, drowning in student loan debt, and (still) living with roommates. Amy is riding the tailwinds of her early success, but her habit of burning bridges is finally catching up to her. And now Bev is pregnant. As the two are forced into real adulthood, they are confronted with the possibility that growing up might also mean growing apart. FRIENDSHIP is the story of their relationship—a searching examination of a best friendship that is at once profoundly recognizable and impossible to put down.
Part of Broad City’s appeal is its depiction of female friendship—Abbi and Ilana are inseparable and they know each other better than they know themselves. Their on-screen chemistry is what makes the show. In Friendship, the protagonists are (spoiler!) also best friends, also in New York, and also struggling with things like money and acting like an adult. People magazine calls the book “a wry, sharply observed coming-of-age story for the post-recession era.”
For fans of A THOUSANDS SPLENDID SUNS, Gwen Florio pens a stirring novel set in Afghanistan about two women—an American aid worker and her local interpreter—who form an unexpected friendship despite their utterly different life experiences and the ever-increasing violence that surrounds them in Kabul.