I am always eager to read books about friendship, especially books about how friendships form and evolve as adults. Friendships can be incredibly simple, or as complex as any dynamic found in familial or romantic relationships. Losing a friend, whether because of death, a distinct break-up, or even the slow drift apart, is an under-explored pain in literature, if you ask me. Maybe you have a squad of ride-or-die besties. Or maybe you still feel like the kid in the cafeteria holding the tray and wondering where to sit. Either way, I hope there’s a book on this list for you. If you like it, consider it a gift from me, your friend you haven’t met yet.
Happiness by Aminatta Forna
Some of the best explorations of friendship come through tales of unlikely friends. Happiness is one such story, when an American studying urban foxes and a Ghanaian psychiatrist literally bump into each other on a bridge in London. Their lives become further interconnected as a friendship blossoms. Although they are experts in different academic fields, those specialties give them each a keen understanding of loss.
Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman
Consider this book, a tie-in to the Call Your Girlfriend podcast, a case study in how to put friendships on an equal footing with the other relationships considered more important by society at large. We’ve all heard the truism that “relationships take work.” But have you ever considered what that work looks like when it comes to fighting for a friendship? This book will urge you to deeply consider this and other friendship questions.
Lobster Is the Best Medicine: A Collection of Comics About Friendship by Liz Climo
These comics are deceptively simple. They demonstrate something that isn’t always easy about friendship, about meeting your friends where they are and giving them what they need in that moment. It makes me think of how no one in the Winnie the Pooh world seems to mind that Eeyore can be a real bummer sometimes. Or that Tigger maybe needs to calm the hell down. Everyone is appreciated and gets an invite to the party. We can all strive to be as good to our friends as the cute little animals in this book are to theirs.
Serena Singh Flips the Script by Sonya Lalli
I’ve long said I was interested in books about friendship that use the storytelling beats typically seen in romance novels. Well, here’s such a book! Serena Singh is trying to prove to her family that her version of happiness does not match theirs, and that that’s okay. A new friendship with a co-worker is one of the relationships that helps her achieve her desired state of self-reliance, a state that paradoxically includes letting people in.
Homie by Danez Smith
This book of poems is about the lifeline friendship can be in a world rife with suffering, and about what happens when that line is severed by death. At the same time, the book captures the value of friends who have less gravitational pull but still add color to our lives. There’s warmth and humor amid the grief and pain, giving a rounded and exquisitely crafted meditation on friendship.
Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life’s Fundamental Bond by Lydia Denworth
If you’re curious about the science of friendship and the research into it as a topic, this book provides an accessible overview. The book delves into the biology and psychology underpinning why friendship is literally vital and conversely, how loneliness can be deadly. It also looks into what friendship looks like among social animals who are not humans. Have you ever wondered if fish have friends? The answer may delight you.
The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett by Annie Lyons
You’ll know if this is the book you need. If you hear that an irascible old person makes friends with a cheerful youngster and think, I could use an injection of candy-colored hearts and stars into my eyes, here you go. When Eudora Honeysett meets 10-year-old Rose Trewidney, her path (which had been straight toward the grave) is bent towards adventures with Rose and a renewed outlook on life.
The Subtweet by Vivek Shraya
The song “Game Shows Touch Our Lives” by the Mountain Goats has one of the best couplets about friendship: “People say friends don’t destroy one another / What do they know about friends?” If you expand that line into a whole book, you might get The Subtweet. It tracks a transformative friendship of two musicians after one covers the other’s song. Among books about friendship, this one truly shows that friendships can be as thorny, filled with jealousy and volatility, as any other relationship.
Elizabeth and Monty: The Untold Story of Their Intimate Friendship by Charles Casillo
If Old Hollywood fascinates you, here’s a friendship story that adds dimension to a landscape rife with stories of romantic drama, family dynasties, and dazzling professional trajectories. This book traces a friendship that survived Elizabeth Taylor’s tumultuous romantic life and Montgomery Clift’s struggles with addiction. The intense world of Hollywood causes people to fracture into many different selves. Richly researched, Elizabeth and Monty lets you glimpse at the selves these captivating and storied actors shared with each other.
This is a fairly short list, but there are plenty more books about friendship. Female friendships, male friendships, toxic friendships, have at it! Looking for nonfiction or comics? We’ve got those too. If you’re looking to actually make some new friends, well, it’s certainly not always easy. My best advice is to be yourself and ask potential new friends about what good books they’ve read lately. It’s worked for me!