‘Call Your Girlfriend’ Podcast Hosts Celebrate Books about Big Friendships

Posted by Sharon on July 8, 2020
Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman know the radical life-changing power of a good friendship. The two launched their hit podcast Call Your Girlfriend in 2014 with the tagline “a podcast for long-distance besties everywhere,” nodding toward the bicoastal nature of their own friendship.

Sow and Friedman’s latest collaboration is the book Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other CloseIn this frank and funny account of their first decade in each other’s lives, they pull back the curtain on the hard work involved in maintaining friendships and celebrate the joy and value that deep and abiding platonic friendships can bring.

To celebrate their book’s publication, Sow and Friedman shared some of the books that have most informed their own views on friendship. Big Friendship will be available in the U.S. on July 14.

We wrote our book the hard way.

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Of course, every author will tell you that they wrote their book the hard way. Writing is hard! But we’re talking specifically about our choice to write Big Friendship as a single narrative with a joint “we” voice. Although we are two very different people with different perspectives and writing styles, we agreed that there would be no dueling chapters, no separate sections, nothing to encourage readers to take sides as we explored the difficulties that inevitably come up when two people are this close to each other. We would land on a shared version of events. 

We wrote every sentence together, and it wasn’t an easy process. Which was fitting, because friendship itself is often hard. Yes, of course, friendship can be comforting and encouraging and life-affirming. But like all intimate relationships, close friendships can also break down in devastating ways. Even the most functional friends have their difficulties—and they often struggle to name and discuss them. We certainly have.

When we lacked words or understanding for what was happening to our friendship, we turned to books. And we’re not talking about the self-help section, because there is very little nonfiction to help you through a conflict in friendship. Where we ended up seeing our friendship difficulties reflected was mostly in fiction, which has long explored the terrain and texture of all kinds of friendships.

Here are 11 books we have turned to in order to better understand friendship in all its complexity.

 
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This novel is a masterful exploration of how friends (women, in particular) are held up as foils for each other, and how two women cope differently with the same set of unjust demands placed on them by the world.


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Much of what we know about women’s friendships in history is thanks to the letters between those who were writers. There is nothing like snooping on the internal workings of an iconic friendship, and these letters between Audre Lorde and Pat Parker do not disappoint.


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Jessica Francis Kane’s novel doubles as an instructive story about making time and space for our oldest friendships. The protagonist, May, realizes she has let her most important friendships lapse. So she devises a plan to visit four formerly close friends to reconnect with them in the messy, daily reality of their own homes.


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There is something so special about the tight-knit, small-group friend dynamic, and Waiting to Exhale shows how supportive friendships are the key to living your best life—not just in some idealized future, but right now.


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Swing Time is an absorbing story about the decades-long complicated presence of two women in each other’s lives. We love a complicated friendship!


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In the cadence of ’90s Southern California teen-speak, Nikki Darling explores the way our high school years are shaped by friendships. Her protagonist, also named Nikki Darling, is coming to a deeper understanding about her mixed-race identity through her friendships with both white kids and Latinx kids. This novel also contains a keenly observed portrait of the specific kind of friendship that blossoms between straight teen girls and gay teen boys.


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Although the narrator does not have intimate, long-term friendships of the kind we describe in our book, we relate to the way that Miranda Popkey uses conversations with other women as a way of knowing herself. It’s an experience we know well: coming to a deeper realization about yourself through dialogue with another person.


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Ann Patchett’s memoir of her friendship with the writer Lucy Grealy is a really lovely posthumous ode to the years they both spent working to establish themselves as authors. But we find ourselves wishing Grealy had lived long enough to co-write this book, or at least to publicly react to it.


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Sigrid Nunez writes about class differences within friendship, and takes a long view of the ways that youthful bonds can end up affecting your whole life. Narrator Georgette meets her friend Ann at college in 1968. Ann romanticizes the working-class background that Georgette is struggling to leave behind. They end up falling out after a violent fight. And Georgette reflects on all the ways this college friendship shaped her own course in the world.


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Barbara Pym offers a look at the lives of four unmarried people of retirement age in 1970s London. They all work in the same office and all suffer from the same problem: loneliness. Intense and affecting.


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How Could She is a funny (sometimes painfully so) novel about the collapse of a friendship. Comfortingly, the novel dispels the myth that you should already have things figured out in your mid-to-late 30s and goes into detail about what happens when you inevitably don’t.


What are your favorite books about friendship? Do you bond with your bestie over reading? Let’s talk books in the comments!

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Comments Showing 1-11 of 11 (11 new)

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message 1: by MundiNova (new)

MundiNova My favorite new books centered around friendship are City of Girls and Apeirogon.
But you can't go wrong with a classic like The Outsiders!


message 2: by Ivonne (new)

Ivonne Btro Elena Ferrante’s ‘My brilliant friend’ saga. It’s beautiful and frustrating, a deep connection between Lenu and Lila, for me, the four books are beautifully written by Ferrante, it made me feel all their good and bad times, their history since they were both little kids until they are elders is full of bittersweet moments, their relationship is complex, not easy to judge, there’s a connection between the two that’s not easy to break, even though there were multiple times when I was so frustrated with Lila to be as ‘erratic’ -for a lack of a better word- with Lenu.

I never comment on anything but I read the 4 books this year. I loved all of them. Hoping to get to know more about Ann and Aminatou with this book, I’m so excited for them, I admire them both. I can see they put so much effort into it.


message 3: by Amanda (new)

Amanda ONE OF MY FAVORITE TOPICS!!!

Haven't read a lot of friendship memoirs, which is part of the reason I'm so excited for BIG FRIENDSHIP! I think Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship by Gail Caldwell is the only other nonfiction book about friendship that I've read.

Fiction that hasn't been mentioned:
How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti
The Girls from Corona del Mar by Rufi Thorpe
Friendship by Emily Gould


message 4: by Melisa (new)

Melisa The Weekend by Charlotte Wood is an interesting fictional take on lifelong friendship from the perspective of three older women.


message 5: by Kristen (new)

Kristen Fort I came here to second the recommendations of the "My Brilliant Friend" series and "The Outsiders" and put forward for consideration "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe" by Fannie Flagg.


message 6: by Grace (new)

Grace Wonderful recommendations! One of my favorite books about friendship is "The Bean Trees" by Barabara Kingsolver. Can't wait to read Big Friendship.


message 7: by Pam (new)

Pam Need to add Queenie to this list. Her friends were her truth.


message 8: by soleil (new)

soleil Sula is one of the best novels of all time !!!!! Really really recommend !


message 9: by Cara (new)

Cara One of my all time favorites is Summer Sisters by Judy Blume- Vix & Caitlin’s relationship is deep and interwoven over three decades and i just love it.


message 10: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Ferrell One of my most favorite novels about friendship is Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah. (The sequel, Fly Away is great too!)


message 11: by Wendy (new)

Wendy Bianchini My favorite book about female friendship is The Mixquiahuala Letters by Ana Castillo.


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