Fictional Friendships
September 27, 2016 12:03 AM   Subscribe

I would like to read more books either a) focused on one group of friends or b) focused on strong friendships between two characters over time. I really like the friendships in Pamela Dean's Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary. I've been enjoying the friendships in Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Cycle as well. Please recommend more books with strong friendships! Any genre or type of fiction is fine. I'm looking for middle grade, YA, and adult books with this theme, so aimed at any age is fine.
posted by azalea_chant to Media & Arts (31 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
a little life (definitely adult)
posted by pando11 at 12:12 AM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

+1 A Little Life (warning: very depressing)

Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan Novels! It follows the friendship between two women, Elena and Lila, through their childhood and adulthood. I only just finished book two, but they were two of the best books I've ever read.
posted by joethefob at 12:13 AM on September 27, 2016 [7 favorites]

Oh god, definitely the Neapolitan novels!
posted by the marble index at 12:14 AM on September 27, 2016

Anne of Green Gables. The friendship between Anne and Diana spans several years (maybe decades?).
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 12:29 AM on September 27, 2016 [7 favorites]

A good portion of Charles DeLint's short fiction, and some of his novel, are centered around a group of friends in a fictional town in Ottawa. The stories often pay particular attention to two people, Jilly and Geordie. "Onion Girl" and"Widdershins" detail their friendship as it slowly grows into love over the course of a several decades. Genre is urban fairy tales / New Weird.
posted by ananci at 12:40 AM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Another vote for the Neapolitan novels.
The Betsy-Tacy books too.
posted by SisterHavana at 12:52 AM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Margaret Atwood's The Robber Bride
posted by Catseye at 1:04 AM on September 27, 2016 [4 favorites]

Quite definitely the Aubrey/Maturin series by Patrick O'Brien. A decades-long, strong, evolving, flawed friendship between two very different people. Taught me lots about how to be a better friend. Also amazingly elegantly and vividly written. 20 books in the series, but just the first, Master and Commander, is a perfect portrait.
posted by runincircles at 1:26 AM on September 27, 2016 [8 favorites]

I know you said fiction, but Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett is absolutely wonderful.
posted by bookworm4125 at 2:30 AM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

I came here to suggest both A Little Life (oh dear god that book nearly killed me) and the Neapolitan novels. With 20 pages left to go of the last one, I don't want to say goodbye to these two women. So good.
posted by third word on a random page at 4:43 AM on September 27, 2016

The friendship between the Narrator and the titular character, Owen Meany, in John Irving's "A Prayer For Owen Meany" is wonderful, funny, and heartbreaking at the same time. One of the best novels you will ever read.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 5:21 AM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Besides Anne of Green Gables, the friendship between Emily and Ilse in the Emily books by the same author is wonderful.

If you like Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary, have you read Tam Lin? I like the friendship dynamics there. People aren't perfect but the roommates support each other.

Seconding the Neapolitan books and the Aubrey/Maturin books.
posted by PussKillian at 7:22 AM on September 27, 2016

The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, which the over-arching theme is the mother/daughter relationship but the true meat of the book is about the friendships between the members of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, both through their childhood and into their senior years.

You may also like the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, which is a young adult novel.
posted by valoius at 7:43 AM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

'The Faithful Couple' by AD Miller takes the long-term platonic friendship between two men as its subject, which is pretty rare. I really liked it.
posted by eugenen at 7:43 AM on September 27, 2016

Tam Lin by Pamela Dean follows a group of friends through college, and the friendships (how they shift and grow) were excellently done.
posted by hought20 at 8:10 AM on September 27, 2016

This may be a little offbeat, but The Secret Place by Tana French is largely about friendship among a group of teen girls and how it affects the characters around them.
posted by holborne at 8:18 AM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

One of the biggest strengths of Seanan McGuire's writing is how she writes about our relationships between people and how they grow and change and develop. She also writes about family relationships, not just friends, but she also writes about family that turns into friends and vice versa. She's all around excellent. :) She writes the Toby Day series and the Incryptid under her own name, and then the Newsflesh books under the Mira Grant imprint (she's written a lot of other stuff, but those are my favorites, except for...)

Where I'd start, though, is Every Heart a Doorway, a book about a very different kind of boarding school and folks who have make friends or sink. Bring tissue.

Also, Gail Carringer's finishing school books, starting with Etiquette and Espionage, will scratch your itch. :)
posted by joycehealy at 8:48 AM on September 27, 2016

Every Heart a Doorway is a great recommendation. I'd also suggest The Scorpion Rules, by Erin Bow, and Wonder, by R.J. Palacio. The Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles also has a friendship at the center of it, at least for the first half.

For a merry little band of adventurers, I love the Siri Paiboun mysteries by Colin Cotterill, and if you're into comics, Rat Queens is just what you're looking for.
posted by gideonfrog at 10:12 AM on September 27, 2016

Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants
Harry Potter series
The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
Princess Diaries (although Mia and Lily do have arguments! Their friendship is not always 'strong').
posted by Crookshanks_Meow at 10:46 AM on September 27, 2016

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer follows a group of friends. It kind of sucks in some fundamental ways but the story is definitely squarely about how privilege affects friendships into adulthood.

A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan also follows a group of friends from youth into adulthood. It's a little more nuanced to me.
posted by vunder at 12:21 PM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Jacqueline Woodson's middle grade books about Margaret and Maizon: Last Summer with Maizon, Maizon at Blue Hill, and Between Madison and Palmetto. The first one in particular is about shifts in a strong friendship. A lot of Woodson's MG and YA books track strong friendships undergoing changes, actually. After Tupac and D Foster is another favorite of mine.
posted by mixedmetaphors at 3:10 PM on September 27, 2016

Okay. I've got a five year old. The two best friends that I can think of - that are awesome in every way - that have inspired my daughter in many ways - that have required a third re-read at her request - and there are only 10 small books.

Ivy and Bean

They exorcise ghosts from the elementary school bathroom, attempt to set world records, take up ballet to learn to force people to dance to death, who attempt to be good in order to attract their own wolf (they live in suburbia), Shanghai kids fron their own summer camps to start their own summer camp (that is awesome).

These are kids reads not YA - but back to babysitters club length books. Fast reads 3 chapters a night to a 5 year old and we giggle the whole time. It is a crime that there are only 10. These girls provide endless opportunity for entertainment.
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:19 PM on September 27, 2016

There's also a pretty good sci fi tradition of the ragtag band of found family on a space ship. The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is a great example of this.
posted by gideonfrog at 5:03 PM on September 27, 2016

Spider Robinson's Callahan's Crosstime Saloon books are great for this - all the charactesr care for each other and emotionally support each other.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 5:11 PM on September 27, 2016

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein.
posted by sigmagalator at 10:17 PM on September 27, 2016

Genre fiction: Elizabeth Bear's Eternal Sky is a fantasy trilogy that I loved, in large part because because of the often surprising, but convincingly sincere, bonds of friendship that form among the some of the characters. Independent of their faults. It ends up being an important strength of the people opposing the villains in the story, in a way that is infinitely far removed from some moralistic Saturday morning cartoon lesson.
posted by mark k at 10:30 PM on September 27, 2016

In adult fiction, I like Solstice by Joyce Carol Oates. About two older female friends. (Warning: problematic friendship.) I also think Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood was good on bullying female friendships (among children).

In YA, many of the books of Meg Rosoff feature great friendships. I'm thinking especially Just in Case, also How I Live Now, and Jonathan Unleashed. Also, the books of Will Kostakis, The Sidekicks and The First Third.

Older YA, The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett. And Ronia, the Robber's Daughter, by Astrid Lindgren.
posted by yesbut at 11:10 PM on September 27, 2016

Amy Tan's books.

Maeve Binchy's books.
posted by Amy NM at 6:01 AM on September 28, 2016

The aptly-named "Friendship" by Emily Gould. "Who Will Run the Frog Hospital" by Lorrie Moore. "Jane and Prudence" by Barbara Pym.
posted by sideofwry at 12:11 PM on September 28, 2016

Coming in late to say that She Poured Out Her Heart, by Jean Thompson, traces the friendship between two women over several decades. Sounds right up your alley.
posted by mylittlepoppet at 9:56 PM on September 28, 2016

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