Celebrate Galentine’s Day with these 13 books with friendship stories in fiction and nonfiction for book club.
Looking for a friendship story for your next book club selection? What could be a more perfect excuse than a fictional holiday that will give you an excuse to brunch AND discuss a great book about friendship.
What is Galentine’s Day?
I think of Galentine’s Day as an official holiday, but its origin story might surprise you. This catchy holiday wasn’t created by Hallmark.
Instead, Galentine’s Day was created by the fictional Leslie Knope in an episode of Parks and Recreation.
Aptly titled the same name as the holiday (Season 2, Episode 16), Leslie gathers a group of her closest gal pals for brunch full of waffles and love.
In this memorable scene, Amy Poehler delivers these lines, “Every February 13th, my lady friends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast style,” she explains in the episode. “Ladies celebrating ladies.”
When is Galentine’s Day?
On February 13th, the day before Valentine’s Day, you can devote a day to celebrating your friendship with your best gal pals. We encourage our readers to embrace a book club selection together and have gathered 9 friendship stories you’ll love to celebrate.
That’s not all though, if you are looking for great movie or tv recommendations, we have you covered with today’s podcast with Mary Carver. Mary is a regular contributor on MomAdvice and the host of The Couch With Mary Carver. Her podcast celebrates TV, movies, music, and books all year-long.
Head here to read these show notes and get a list of fun ideas to celebrate this holiday with your favorite gal pals.
Listen to this episode in the embedded player or subscribe to the Book Gang wherever you get your podcasts.
Let’s celebrate this fictional holiday with some of the best fictional (and nonfiction) friendship stories!
Last Summer on State Street is a haunting coming-of-age story recommended for Jacqueline Woodson and Brit Bennett fans and one of the most moving stories of friendship that I have read.
This powerful and emotional journey is told poetically through the eyes of Felicia "Fe Fe" Stevens, a young girl living in Chicago's Robert Taylor Homes during the summer of 1998.
Alongside her friends Precious and Stacia, Fe Fe experiences the joys and struggles of growing up in a community on the brink of destruction. But everything changes when a mysterious new friend, Tonya, enters their lives.
As Fe Fe navigates the shifting dynamics of her friendships and her family, she must confront the painful reality of who she can trust and who she must let go of.
Set in the housing projects of Chicago, this tells the story of four girls living there as each family faces unique challenges and as they jump rope through the constantly changing shifts of their neighborhood.
The author chose the jump rope as a narration tool because they are woven and intertwined, reminding her of a visual for friendship.
Effectively, jump ropes can also capture someone and hold on to them, which is what plays out in our themes and this neighborhood.
Toya Wolfe writes like a seasoned writer, not a debut novelist, and uses her life story to shape these pages. She grew up in the Robert Taylor Homes in Chicago's South Side. It is hard to remember you are not reading a memoir because of the detailed intimacy in her storytelling.
If you need an audiobook, Shayna Small's magnificent narration enhanced the experience so much that I found myself holding my breath as she delivered these poetic lines.
Lisa See is masterful at complex and moving stories of friendship and sisterhood, so I would be remiss if I didn’t include one of the best books from her backlist.
In Hunan (a remote county in China) in the 19th century, where a young girl named Lily forms a powerful and lifelong bond with her "old same," Snow Flower. This story centers around the lives of these two girls who are paired as "old same" at the tender age of seven.
In Chinese tradition, this term refers to a type of emotional bond between two women, usually formed in childhood, that was formerly practiced in this region of China. This bond is as strong and enduring as a sister & typically involves a close and intimate friendship, with the women communicating and supporting each other throughout their lives. This tradition is specific to the regions of China and this province.
As is customary in their tradition, Snow Flower & Lily are paired together to be lifelong friends and to see each other through their marriages, children, and the ending of their lives.
They write back and forth in a unique secret language called nu shu on a fan to communicate with each other. This keeps their stories away from the prying eyes of men, releasing their true feelings about their new roles.
The messages written on their fan start in their girlhood and begins as an introduction to one another. It later reveals the true secrets of how they feel about their status and about one another, shared between only them.
In the beginning, Lily seems an unworthy match for Snow Flower and does not seem as learned and polished as her old same. Snow Flower appears to be the more polished one coming from a higher upbringing and is happy to share her writing, embroidery, and sewing knowledge. Lily offers advice on cooking, cleaning, and caring for the home. They seem the perfect match.
A secret and misunderstanding send their worlds into a spiral, and the reader is taken on a journey where their friendship is threatened to tear apart.
It is a friendship that endures through a war, through many pregnancies and miscarriages, through difficult marriages, but can it survive until the end of their lives? You will have to read this one to find out!
If you love this book, you will discover that all of Lisa See's stories are incredibly well-researched works of historical fiction because of Lisa's connection to China. Her great-great-grandfather came here to work on the building of the transcontinental railroad, and her rich family history has made this her most beloved setting for her story.
If you need an uplifting story about female friendships, The Kitchen Front is a wonderful historical fiction pick that will check all boxes.
In this story, four determined women compete for the opportunity to host a popular wartime cooking program (on the BBC) called The Kitchen Front. The prize is not just a job as the program's first-ever female co-host but also a chance to better their lives.
The backdrop of this story is WWII; the Nazis have won battles, the Blitz has destroyed cities, and U-boats have cut off the food supply.
This contest is meant to educate the public on how to cook their rations, but it means so much more to the contestants.
We have a young widow that sees this as an opportunity to pay off her husband's debts and secure a future for her children. Another character is a kitchen maid, where winnings would allow her to leave servitude and find freedom. For the lady of the manor, it's a chance to escape her wealthy husband's increasingly hostile behavior. And for a trained chef, it's a chance to challenge the men at the top of their profession.
With the stakes high, these four women are giving the competition their all, and are determined to come out on top, while the contest aims to bring the community together and uplift the spirit of the nation during trying times.
Of course, they find love and friendship between one another along the way and it grows into some REALLY heartwarming ways.
Personally, I have always been fascinated by Depression-era cooking and the smart resourcefulness that was required to feed a family. This well-researched historical fiction novel really dives deep into those creative wells and I think it is something that we can both admire and learn from.
Each chapter also shares their recipes to really showcase how these dishes were created.I learned SO MUCH more than I had expected about this era and how the ration system even worked.
Let’s celebrate female friendships and empowerment in the most unlikely places- the bare-knuckle boxing ring of 18th century England.
This page-turning novel combines the gritty atmosphere of Fight Club with a smart feminist angle that is a surefire winner for any Sarah Waters fan.
Born in a brothel, Ruth discovers her true calling as a bare-knuckle boxer. While Ruth wasn't born with the looks necessary to get those paid patrons, she does discover a hidden talent for getting these patrons to pay her to fight the other girls in the house.
Scarred by smallpox and trapped in a life of power games, Charlotte seeks an escape. While her path could be different, her scarred face means she doesn't meet society's beauty standards.
When the two women meet, their perspectives are forever changed, and they team up to fight for their places in society.
This sweeping historical fiction novel tackles how women creatively navigate societal hurdles and can lift each other to gain momentum in a male-dominated world.
As so many of us have caught the Royal bug these days, I wanted to mention another lovely historical fiction book that might allow you to immerse yourself further in this Royal-adjacent story.
Instead of exploring the story of the royal family and all of its mystery, Robson decides to explore it from another viewpoint: the women who made the wedding dress.
This captivating historical novel takes the reader on a journey through the lives of three strong and determined women hired to embroider the dress of Princess Elizabeth.
The story is set in London in 1947 against post-World War II Britain, a time of hardship and uncertainty.
Ann Hughes & Miriam Dassin are talented embroiderers tasked with the intricate stitching that will adorn the royal bride's priceless wedding gown.
After the royal ceremony, Ann moves and never tells her family about her life in London and the work she did for this famous gown.
In 2016, when Ann's granddaughter stumbles upon a box of her late grandmother's belongings, she finds a set of hand-stitched flowers with no background information.
What she discovers, though, is that these motifs are the same that decorated Queen Elizabeth's gown, and she begins to wonder if there was more to her grandmother's story than she realizes.
Heather travels to London to unravel the past that Ann never shared with her family and her secret friendship with Miriam, a celebrated artist, and Holocaust survivor.
An excerpt of the interview with Betty Foster, a woman who aided in the actual embroidery of the dress, appears at the end of the book and showcases how much her voice shaped Robson's writing and the gorgeous characters she has crafted.
With rich historical details, readers will appreciate this story of friendship, perseverance, and the resilience of the human spirit.
Looking for the perfect book to share with your besties for a Galentine's Day book club?
Look no further than this short and compelling novel that celebrates the beauty of female friendship. This is so compelling, in fact, that it made my best books of 2022 list.
Follow the heartwarming story of Edith and Ashley, best friends for over 42 years, as they navigate the challenges of life and love.
When Edi is diagnosed with ovarian cancer and begins living in a hospice, Ash is there by her side, struggling to be the best friend, wife, and parent she can be.
With a rotating cast of hospice characters and "Fiddler on the Roof" as their soundtrack, the two friends spend their last days together reminiscing with hilarity over all their years of friendship.
Through their reminiscing and playful antics, they find ways to keep Edi’s pain at bay and make the most of their last moments together.
The heartwarming scenes are described in vivid detail, bringing the reader into the heart of their friendship in this hospice setting.
Looking for a guide to building and strengthening your friendships? Look no further than this thoughtful tool from debut novelist Laura Tremaine.
This powerful book, part memoir, and part guidebook, provides readers with the tools they need to foster authentic and meaningful connections with the women in their lives.
Laura is a gifted colleague that I've followed over our many years of online adventures and I can attest that this is a fantastic pick for building and facilitating meaningful friendships.
In today's hyper-connected world, women still feel ashamed for sharing their personal experiences and being vulnerable. This book, written by Laura Tremaine, encourages readers to break through these barriers and build deeper relationships through openness and vulnerability.
Drawing on her experiences, including her childhood in Oklahoma, her shifting faith, and her marriage to a Hollywood movie director, Laura shares her journey toward building authentic connections. Each chapter includes reflective questions and prompts to help readers uncover their lives' unique details and stories and cultivate deeper connections with others.
Although I’m familiar with Laura’s story, I was still surprised by the beauty in her vulnerability as she shared the moments that shaped her. She’s not afraid to tackle big topics like postpartum depression, anxiety, and heartbreak.
What I appreciate the most is the sincerity that pulls through on every page. Although many of us may have been attracted to her life because of their Hollywood background, we stayed because Laura’s authenticity shows up in every space she touches.
This is a fantastic guide to the complexities of female relationships. To connect more with Laura's story, check out my Book Gang interview with the author.
This book selection is less a CELEBRATION of friendship but acknowledges the REAL challenges of female friendships in a laugh-out-loud format.
Some of you MAY be familiar with one of these authors, Caroline Moss, because she now runs the Gee Thanks Just Bought It podcast!
For a quick backstory on this book, though, Bustle had a great article with the authors that shared a little about the inspiration for this book.
"There’s a certain kind of email familiar to many women in their 20s and 30s. Its purpose is usually to plan a night out, a holiday weekend trip, or maybe a bachelorette party.
A lot of people are CC’d who are tangentially connected to each other — a cousin, a BFF from childhood, a college roommate — and they all have differing opinions.
These emails may include a detailed packing list (“Jean shorts. White pants. Hair ties.”) and itinerary (“6:25 p.m.: Pre-game with margs and cucumbers. 6:45 p.m.: Get cab to Brooklyn.”).
After five or 30 more messages and dozens of exclamation points, you end up owing someone money for a share house or matching thematic tank top you didn't plan for, payable by Venmo by EOD. These emails open with a greeting that elicits both stress and delight: Hey, ladies!"
In this ALL TOO RELATABLE plotline, this story follows a group of eight 20-and-30-something friends as they navigate through one year of holidays, summer house rentals, dates, brunches, breakups, and the planning of a VERY disastrous wedding.
The story is told entirely through emails, texts, DMs, and every other form of communication known to man, making it an instant classic for anyone who loves to read about the ups and downs of friendships.
The characters in the book include Nicole, who’s always broke and tries to pay for things in Forever 21 gift cards. There’s Katie, the self-important budding journalist, who thinks a retweet and a byline are the same things. And there’s Jen, the DIY suburban bride-to-be.
This satirical punch of a book will have you cringing and laughing as you recognize your friends and even yourself in these scenarios.
The email sign-offs and correspondences were so funny that I started sending screenshots to my husband.
I loved it from start to finish and hoped there would be a sequel where these women have kids and have to start thinking about someone besides themselves.
As a side note, if you are a Kindle reader, it is best served up through the Kindle app on your iPad because of the fun illustrations included within this book.
Many friendship stories celebrate how friends can weather health challenges together. Since The One Hundred Years of Lenni & Margot was a 2022 book club favorite AND topped my best books of the year I wanted to share one more story that will tick those boxes.
This story also celebrates the number 100, but it centers around 100 special days together to celebrate those little moments in life.
The story follows Annie Hebden, a 35-year-old woman stuck in a rut and struggling to move on from a tragic loss. That is until she meets Polly Leonard, an eccentric and bubbly woman determined to help Annie find joy and happiness in her life.
Polly, who has been diagnosed with a brain tumor, will not take no for an answer to her repeated aims at friendship, and this diagnosis makes Polly more determined to make the most of every day.
Polly has been told she has one hundred days left and decides she wants to pursue one hundred new ways to be happy... and she wants Annie to help her with this mission.
However, Polly doesn’t know that Annie needs this happiness push as much as she does.
In an interview with Huffington Post, Eva shared her inspiration for this novel. "I’d been through a couple of tough years in my life and found that things like life lists and gratitude lists had been very helpful.
I then saw some Facebook friends doing the #100HappyDays challenge and started to wonder: would that work if you’d genuinely experienced terrible tragedy? What if you only had 100 days left to live? From there, the story took shape quite quickly."
The book is told in 100 chapters (one per day) which ended up being a unique writing challenge for the author but added to the experience for the reader.
It reminded me of the importance of pursuing happiness, the power of forgiveness, and the beauty in healing old relationships.
I also love a persistent friend who will check in on you even when you are pushing them away- a perfect theme for Galentine's Day.
Other Backlist Favorites that Celebrate Female Friendships
If you have been with your gal pals as long as I have, I did want to offer some great backlist friendship stories that you might want to host a “reunion” book club together. These are three modern day classics that you might have read in your earlier years of friendship that could be revived for your next gathering.
This friendship classic novel tells the story of four best friends who share a pair of magical jeans that fit each of them perfectly. Despite being separated for the summer, the friends maintain a strong bond through letters and the jeans that bind them together.
The Red Tent is very loosely based upon the Biblical story of Dinah and a familiar classic passed on in many book clubs. The red tent is the gathering place where the women would commune during their cycles, to give birth, and where they went when they were ill. This little tent is a sorority of sorts where the women sit to share their stories and sing songs.
This dystopian novel contains a beautiful blossoming friendship between our main protagonist, Katniss, and her friend Gale. The two garner each other support as they work to survive the game and the inevitable rebellion that comes after.
This backlist series follows the friendship of four Louisiana women, known as the Ya-Yas, over the course of several decades. The story explores the ups and downs of their friendship and how they support and rely on each other throughout their lives.
What friendship stories would you add to this list?
Looking for more great books? Check out these lists!
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