J. Courtney Sullivan
I read this book about the lives of four Smith graduates and the way their friendships fare after college on the day that I moved out of the Brooklyn apartment I had been sharing with my own college roommates for four years. After the other girls left, I sprawled out on the one piece of furniture left in the apartment to read and kill time while I waited for the movers. They were four hours late and I didn’t even notice, I was so busy flipping pages. The experience was so timely and spot-on that I had to fight the urge to look over my shoulder and make sure the author wasn’t spying on me, but that’s the beauty of the book—it will feel familiar and true and totally personal to so many women who read it.
Louisa May Alcott
I know, I know, this one is technically about sisters, but I can’t think of more intimate, sometimes devastatingly close friendships than the ones that sisters forge. Sisters are the friends you can’t shake no matter how terrible the betrayal—would Amy and Jo have managed to patch things up after Amy threw Jo’s novel in the fire if they’d only been neighborhood pals? As a novelist who compulsively backs up drafts for fear of losing them, I think it’s safe to safe no. And this only makes the love that grows in these relationships that much more powerful and rare, and crushing when they do end, which is why I suspect I am not alone in the number of tissues it took to get through Beth’s big exit.
13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl
Don’t be fooled by the title of this one. Yes, it’s about one woman’s struggle with her body image across her life, but it’s also about so many other things—mothers and daughters and love and things that aren’t love but sure look a lot like it, or are at least as equally tempting, and yes, the sharper edges and sometimes dark complexities of female friendship. It’s as beautiful and funny as it is brash and honest and, ultimately, heartbreakingly true.
Pretty Little Dirty
This one predates most of the books setting the female friendship trend these days. I read it the year I moved to the city (which is longer ago than I’d like to admit) and still remember how viscerally the ending hit me. It was one of those perfect endings that feels completely surprising and unpredictable but inevitable when you look back on it all. Throughout, I was swept up by the chemistry between the girls, every bit as powerful and all-consuming as romantic love, and oftentimes even more formative. To read it is to be young again.
Bennington Girls Are Easy
This one is wickedly funny and unsparing in its observations about two naïve Bennington grads living in New York City. Equally charming and exasperating, the two post-college besties we follow in their post-collegiate wanderings perfectly illuminate all the absurdities and indignities of trying to make a life in the biggest, strangest, sometimes toughest city on the planet, but also the bits of magic—the perfect vintage find, greasy food in the middle of the night, and running into people you know on one of the busiest streets in the city the way people do in small towns. It’s a place so impossibly, overwhelmingly, idiosyncratically itself, the book makes clear, that you can only survive it intact with your best friend at your side.
Caroline Zancan knows a thing or two about writing friendship. Her debut novel, Local Girls, centers on three friends—Maggie, Lindsey, and Nina—19, sticky, and bored during a hot summer in a rundown town outside of Orlando. The girls spend aimless days at the beach chased by nights at local watering hole, The Shamrock. It’s there the friends encounter a celebrity straight from the pages of the gossip magazines and revel in the glow and glamour he gives off. Unfolding over the course of a single day, the women begin to see each other in a new light as Zancan lovingly reflects on the power and magnetism of female friendships. Here, Zancan shares her favorite books that center on tremendous friendships—read one, then pass it to your bestie!
Featured Image: Lubov Soltan/Shutterstock; Author Photo: Erinn Hartman