By Milica Lukic
We, humans, are social beings, and yes, even introverts need a friend or two. Did you know it’s scientifically proven that nurturing close friendships is beneficial for our mental health? However, not all friendships are unicorns and rainbows. Apart from being social creatures, people are unique and complicated in their own way, so their relationships sometimes are too.
For that reason, books addressing the topic of friendship can be so captivating. The following list offers you five extraordinary novels that mainly focus on best friends.
1. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is a 2001 novel about four teenage girls who’ve been friends since birth and must spend the summer apart for the first time. Tibby will be working at a Wallman’s store and filming a documentary about people she meets around the town. Lena goes to Greece to visit her grandparents, who attempt to set her up with a local boy. Bridget goes to soccer camp, where she ends up falling in love with one of the coaches. Finally, Carmen spends the summer in South Carolina with her father and his new family.
Aside from the invisible string of friendship, they stay connected through a randomly bought pair of jeans that somehow fit all four girls perfectly despite their different figures. That’s why they decide to send the jeans to one another during what turns out to be the most memorable summer of their lives.
The main themes are female friendship, search for love, and loyalty. It’s a YA book, but I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a charming, wholesome read, regardless of your age.
2. Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy
This is another heartwarming novel loved by so many readers. It was published in 1990, but it’s set in the 1950s in Ireland. The story starts with two best friends, Benny and Eve. While Benny is an only child of loving and overprotective parents, Eve’s an orphan raised by nuns in a Catholic convent. The two grow up together and start University College in Dublin.
Benny and Eve’s friendship is tested when they meet fellow students Nan, a stunning girl looking to marry rich, and Jack, a handsome and popular boy. When Jack falls for Benny, the group of friends is surprised, as is Sean Walsh, a creepy man who works in Benny’s parents’ shop and wants to marry her, which is pretty much in line with the parent’s wishes.
A series of unexpected events follow, shaking up the circle of friends. The themes of friendship, loyalty, love, education and family are prominent throughout the story, so if it’s something you enjoy, don’t hesitate to pick up this book.
3. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
Tuesdays with Morrie is different from all the other books on this list because it’s about a friendship between a professor and his former student. Additionally, this is a memoir, i.e., nonfiction. Despite being published decades ago (in 1997), this piece is timeless because it offers so many wise words on matters such as life and death, teaching and learning, friends and family, religion, etc.
Mitch (the author of the book) is a journalist in Detroit, and one day, he learns that his favorite college professor, Morrie Schwartz, is suffering from ALS, an incurable illness. Mitch remembers his unfulfilled promise from years ago that he would keep in touch with the professor and decides to reach out.
The two reconnect, and Mitch starts visiting Morrie every Tuesday, realizing they don’t have much time left. The professor lets Mitch record his final lessons, discussing the topics previously mentioned. If you give it a chance, you’ll see this is a moving and thought-provoking read. It’s simple yet deep and unforgettable.
4. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
This is another coming-of-age novel that holds a special place in my heart. It was published in 1999 and is set in the early 1990s, following a withdrawn and intelligent teenage boy called Charlie. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is an epistolary novel, which means it’s written in the form of letters, but we never learn who they are intended for.
Our protagonist is dealing with some heavy things: the death of two loved ones. One of them is his friend from middle school who committed suicide last spring, and the other one is his Aunt Hellen, who died in a car crash when he was seven.
What brings some color into Charlie’s life is his new friendship with Patrick and his step-sister Sam (who Charlie starts liking romantically). This helps Charlie deal with painful memories and present problems. It’s very important to underline that the novel addresses themes that may be triggering for some readers (such as drug use, rape, and depression). I’d say the main message is how crucial it is to participate in life and work through your issues.
5. The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante
This volume consists of four novels: My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child, published between 2012 and 2015. The author is a pseudonymous Italian author. The story is set in Naples, and the very beginning happens in 2010 when 60-year Elena (nicknamed Lenù) learns that her childhood friend Lila has disappeared.
The series builds such a complex and realistic world that you’ll feel you know the characters in person. The reader follows the lives of the two best friends starting from the 1950s. The girls often seem more like frenemies but are so deeply connected that you can’t imagine one without the other. Both are intelligent, but Elena is bookish and mostly passive, whereas Lila is unpredictable and rebellious.
They grow up in a poor neighborhood full of vivid characters, and we see their experiences in school, dating, marriages, motherhood, and many other complicated affairs. The story’s too long to tell you more details, but know that you’ll also find interesting talks on class, politics, feminism, and different philosophical questions.
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Feature image by Olga Tutunaru on Unsplash.