Reading is typically an activity done in solitary, right? You gather up your big, beautiful book that’s been patiently sitting in your to-read pile, wrap yourself up in a blanket and go sit by a generous source of light (since it’s August and Dante’s Inferno outside, let’s switch “blanket” to “a bag of ice cubes”), and you take comfort in the fact that you’ve got an awesome date with your book — tonight knows no bounds.
However, it doesn’t always have to be that way. Reading can be an activity you do with a friend, much like Zumba or brunch. You don’t even need to be in the same room! All you need is the same book. Call it a two-person book club, call it bonding over literature — the point is that you’re sharing something amazing with your best friend.
You can really read almost anything with your bestie: crime noir, celebrity memoirs, investigative journalism that explores juicing culture. However, here is a list of books that not only cover friendship, but fiercely embrace loyalty, success, love, commitment, and the way the people in our lives change us and shape who we are.
1. The Girls from Corona del Mar by Rufi Thorpe
As I finished the last page of this book, I couldn’t help but give myself a few minutes to sob. This story is so emotional, so honest and piercing, I had to text all my friends to read it. The Girls from Corona del Mar is about two friends, Mia and Lorrie Ann, who grow up close in a stunted beach city. They grow apart, as some friends tend to do, but they keep weaving in and out of each other’s lives; what happens to these young women is incredible (and at times, horrifying). Read this with your friend when you want to assure her you’re not going anywhere, and that you’ll always have her back.
2. Friendship by Emily Gould
Friendship is a perfectly light, totally 2014 read. It speaks to anyone who has ever worked on the Internet or fumbled around with her English degree. But it can also resonate with anyone who isn’t (or wasn’t) quite ready to grow up yet. Amy and Bev are BFF until boyfriends and babies get in the way. It turns out their friendship isn’t quite as impenetrable as Amy thought, especially when the tables turn, financewise. This book is perfect if you and your friend are both going through that mid-20s, early 30s existential crisis.
3. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
We Have Always Lived in the Castle is actually a story about two sisters, not two friends. However, Merricat and Constance are incredibly loyal to each other, and that same loyalty is what fuels successful friendships. The story is pretty morbid (an entire family is poisoned one night, leaving two sisters, an uncle, and a cat behind, and it’s unclear who did it ... or is it? I'M NOT SAYING ANYTHING), but it all boils down to the relentless bond two girls have, and the kinds of bullets they are willing to take for each other. Read this haunting novel when you or your friend are going through tough times.
4. The Kind of Beauty That Has Nowhere to Go by Elisa Gabbert and Kathleen Rooney
This beautiful, petite poetry chapbook published by Hyacinth Girl Press is pretty much about everything: nostalgia, remorse, romance, snobbery. It’s like a dictionary, but catered to our own flaws and desires. Written by two friends, I promise this book will spark conversation between you and your bestie.
5. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling
I kind of love giving friends a copy of this memoir whenever they’re moving, or starting school or a new job. There’s something so soothing about the way Mindy Kaling writes. Like, everything is going to be OK. All you have to do is work your ass off and put yourself out there and be a good person. This book also covers the basics of best friendship 101, and it’s adorable.
6. You Shall Know Our Velocity! by Dave Eggers
You Shall Know Our Velocity! is about two friends who travel the globe in order to essentially escape reality (although, if you’ve read anything by Eggers, you’ll know it’s much, much more than that). With them, they have $32,000 to unload. Read this with your friend if the two of you always wanted to travel together (or if you already have!).
7. Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
This story isn’t exactly the most orthodox friendship novel, but I was always touched by the relationship between Alex and Jonathan. Jonathan, who has paid Alex’s grandfather quite a bit of money to help him, is searching for a very important woman in Ukraine. Part Holocaust, part odyssey novel, Foer uses magical realism beautifully, as the storyline of Jonathan and his traveling companions unravel. Alex, who initially tries to be the tough, cool guy, finds himself strongly affected by Jonathan’s family history. If you and your friend feel like crying for a bit, read this book. Also read this if you’ve ever changed your mind about someone and grew to love him as time went on.
8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
I know many of us have read this green little book in high school, but it’s actually worth the re-read (especially if you plan on renting the film adaptation, which features Queen Emma Watson). If you two have ever experienced finally feeling like you belong in a group of friends or community, you will love this read. Shy, hyper-intelligent Charlie is a true loner who watches things happen rather than experiences them. He meets Sam and her group of friends, who push him to try and change that.
9. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
Although it may take you several months to finish this tome, Don Quixote is one of the greatest stories about two friends, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. Don Quixote is a crazy, delusional, self-knighted knight, and Sancho Panza is his gullible fool of a “squire.” The two create chaos and adventure wherever they go. You should read this with your best friend because this book is where friendship stories were born. So many friend dynamics stemmed from Don Quixote , it’s awesome.
10. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Jo, Meg, and Beth only have each other when their dad goes off to war. Although these girls are blood-related, I think the kind of relationship they have with each other resonates with the kinds of close friendships women have with each other. This thick read covers everything from marriage to writing, slavery, and much more. Little Women is a book every woman should read, period, so why not read it with your best friend?
11. The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
Did you ever know someone who was incredibly talented when you were younger? Like, they won the championship in piano, or schooled everyone at the talent show in elementary school? Well, what happened to that person? Did those skills translate to adulthood? The Interestings follows a group of friends who meet at summer camp; some of those friends end up being really successful and wealthy, and some don’t. This book explores friendship, as well as envy and adulthood.
12. The Group by Mary McCarthy
This book reminds me a lot of the movie The Romantics . The movie is basically about these WASP-y twentysomethings who are part of their friend’s wedding. Things get weird. But they’re still successful and rich, so whatever. The Group is also about a group of friends who all graduated from a prominent East Coast college. They too, watch their friend get married. But the book trails off in successful ways I didn’t see happen in The Romantics. The group of friends travel Europe, they become involved in their careers, and they also drift apart. Until there is a death and they all come back together, like magnets. If you and your friend aren’t seeing much of each other due to life and its crazy ways, read this book together. Know that, even though you’re not together the way you used to be together, friendship has a way of surviving through anything.
Image: Summit Entertainment