Having a sister is probably the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Granted, my sister Alex and I are pretty freakish: in our 22 years of sisterhood, we have never seriously fought. Not once. I am as shocked as you are. But besides acknowledging our relationship to be the work of a benevolent universe, my sister and I are best friends. I’d like and respect Alex — for her humor, intelligence, and impeccable taste in literature — even if we didn’t share genetic material.
One of the most awesome things about having a fellow English major sister (who also harbors a healthy appreciation for lowbrow melodramas) is that she’s basically a built-in book club. There is so much culture to consume in this crazy colorful world, and it helps to have a fellow intrepid companion with whom to navigate this constantly expanding cultural terrain.
Here are 11 memorable books you and your own awesome sister will love reading together: some are silly nostalgic favorites; others are insightful explorations of what it means to be a woman today; and still others are straight-up sugary romps. Like a good bottle of wine (on your parents’ tab, obviously), each of these books can be read and enjoyed on your own — but they’ll be infinitely more fun and fulfilling when shared with your sister.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares
When Alex and I read this book at ages 14 and 11, respectively, we loved Brashares’ uplifting, now-classic story of indelible girl-power friendship. But in our pre-Sex and the City days, we also loved matching up our personalities with the four colorful heroines, who were some of our first girl crushes. (In case you were wondering, Alex = Carmen/Lena/maybe a little bit of Bee; Caroline = just Tibby.)
How Did You Get This Number by Sloane Crosley
Crosley’s first essay collection, I Was Told There’d Be Cake , established the young author as a remarkably insightful, extremely awkward talent to watch out for. But we loved Crosley’s second book even more than her first: we recognized some of our own weirdnesses and insecurities and Woody Allen-worthy neuroses in Crosley’s epically mundane observations, like her extended ode to the particular annoyances of living in our hometown of New York in “It’s Always Home You Miss.” (“The question is never ‘Should I be annoyed?’ but ‘How annoyed should I be?’”)
Fear of Flying by Erica Jong
Alex urged me to read Erica Jong’s sex-positive feminist classic Fear of Flying as soon as I hit a passably “adult” age. Isadora Wing’s journey toward self-actualization presents a series of struggles — stability vs. passion, intimacy vs. independence — that all ambitious and intelligent women share. If you don’t have a sister, give this to your sister-worthy BFF.
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
It’s hard to pass up a good bodice-ripper — especially a well-written, thoroughly researched, time-traveling historical romance involving a chivalrous, flame-haired, six-foot-five kilt-wearing Scottish warrior. Despite being totally independent and self-realized modern ladies, you and your sis won’t be able to help but swoon over (and also lovingly mock) this first installment in Diana Gabaldon’s epic series. P.S. Your Mom’s gonna love it, too.
Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto by Chuck Klosterman
Chuck Klosterman’s 2003 essay collection is a must-read for over-analytical lowbrow junkies. If you and your sis were '80s or '90s kids, you'll appreciate Klosterman's analyses of such pop cultural treasures as Saved by the Bell and the Dixie Chicks. My sister and I especially loved “When People Stop Being Polite,” the critic’s painstaking deconstruction of MTV’s The Real World, as we, too, spent many an afternoon in the early 2000s watching all manner of drunken buffoonery in all manner of location-specific, high-tech mansions.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Betty Smith's 1943 coming-of-age novel is an American classic. Francie Nolan's way pre-gentrified Williamsburg childhood is loaded with old-timey charm, but it's also a heartbreaking look at the difficulties of growing up in a poverty-stricken yet ambitious family. Those family ties run deep in the Nolan clan, and their fierce love will undoubtedly resonate with you and your sister.
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells
Of course, you and your gal don't need to be linked by blood to consider each other sisters. No one portrays the lasting power of a soul-sister bond more lovingly than Rebecca Wells, whose lively Ya-Ya Sisters rally heroically for each other's happiness. They're there for each other when blood relatives aren't, and if you've ever had a friend like the Ya-Yas — whether or not she's your "real" sister — you'll fall in love with Wells' truthful depiction of an epic connection.
Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging: Confessions of Georgia Nicolson by Louise Rennison
Louise Rennison's hilarious YA novel — the first in the Georgia Nicolson series — remains as endearingly quirky today as it was thrillingly risque when we first read the book way back in '99. English schoolgirl Georgia is the ultimate odd-duck heroine — think of her as an Anglo counterpart to Mia Thermopolis, minus the royal status. Alex and I tore through the whole series: we lapped up Georgia's boobless plight; her confusion over inconsistent leg hair (i.e., why do the front of your calves get hairy, but the backs remain smooth?); and her borderline-stalkerish crush on dreamboat Robbie. (Most of these 14-year-old issues, by the way, remain relevant to us today. We have, however, learned how to wrangle that unpredictable leg hair.)
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
The Mindy Project is one of the best binge-watch-worthy shows ever created, and it's even better when you binge-watch it with your sister whose laugh is a literal guffaw (true story: my high school math tutor once asked if my sister was in actual pain when we heard her in the throes of a Friends marathon.) If you and your sister are readers (which I assume you are, or else why have you gotten so deep into this post?), why not binge- read Mindy's hilarious essay collection together? Reading this book is seriously as enjoyable and breezy but miraculously not a waste of your time as is watching the sitcom.
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
My sister and I both obsessed over this ultra-moody Gothic suspense/ghost story/psychological horror novel. An especially creepy highlight are the feral twin sisters Adeline and Emmeline, who haunted the novel's central character, the reclusive writer Vida Winter, during her childhood. They still haunt my sister and me, too, but we still kind of want to name our firstborn daughters after the ghostly anti-heroines. It's so nice to have someone with whom to share your sick fascinations, amirite?
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
You'll probably recognize your and your sister's own compulsive Gmail-chat habits in Rainbow Rowell's first novel, whose format alternates between a narrative and an email exchange between work BFFs Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder. The women aren't sisters, but their sharp and witty email exchanges, and their mutual love and support for one another (especially concerning matters of disintegrating relationships and hardcore workplace crushes), will resonate with you and your real-life sister just the same.
Image: Bill Dubreuil/flickr