6 Books To Give Your Best Friend

02/19/2015 12:01 pm ET | Updated Feb 19, 2015

Slide these in her bag. Send these to her by snail mail. Read these with her — and discover (once again) why the two of you always have so much to talk about.

By Michele Filgate

  • 1 Because Your Friend Is A Superstar... Always.
    Almost Famous Women
    By Megan Mayhew Bergman

    Megan Mayhew Bergman's beautifully crafted new short-story collection, Almost Famous Women, focuses on real women who lived exceptional lives and deserve to be remembered—especially because they've been largely forgotten. These women (like their better-known peers Joan of Arc or Eleanor Roosevelt) take risks that put them in emotional or physical peril, often in pursuit of happiness. Our favorite: Hazel Marion Eaton, who rode an Indian motorcycle in a motordrome in 1921. As Hazel lies on the hospital bed after an accident, Bergman imagines her reflecting on her earlier years growing up in the country and what led her to pursue her untraditional career: "What makes you empty and what makes you full?" Others tales include the adventures of Oscar Wilde's niece, Dolly, and the aviator Beryl Markham — both of which serve as a reminder that every life has a story behind it, sometimes fascinating enough to be turned into compelling fiction.
    — Michele Filgate
  • 2 Because You've Looked Under Your Friend's Bed... And All That Clutter Is NOT Making Her Happy
    The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing
    By Marie Kondo

    "The best way to choose what to keep and what to throw away is to take each item in one's hand and ask, 'Does this spark joy?' If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it," explains Marie Kondo in her best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Kondo is a consultant with a three-month-long waiting list who has developed her own way of decluttering based around the idea of how an item makes you feel (not how it functions). It's possible for anyone to get organized, Kondo argues, and the most important rule is to tidy up by category in a short amount of time. For example, tackle all of your books in one day instead of trying to clean each room over the course of a week and getting burned out. The hardest lesson, but one she's seen client after client learn, is a surprising one: "Life becomes far easier once you know that things will still work out even if you are lacking something," she writes. "If we acknowledge our attachment to the past, and our fears for the future by honestly looking at our possessions, we will be able to see what is really important to us."
    — Michele Filgate
  • 3 Because An Intelligent Guidebook To Life's Dilemmas Always Come In Handy
    How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer
    By Sarah Bakewell

    Hundreds of years after the death of Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, it might be time to brush up the on 16th-century French philosopher. Why? "He wanted to know how to live a good life," writes the British Sarah Bakewell, "meaning a correct or honorable life, but also a fully human, satisfying, flourishing one." Her book, which examines Montaigne's most famous essays, is part biography, part self-help; it's broken into thematic chapters ranging from "Live temperately," to "Do something no one has done before." How to Live is, in many ways, a discussion that reminds us why we read — and think — in the first place: To question everything. "This great world," Montaigne said, "is the mirror in which we must look at ourselves to recognize ourselves from the proper angle." So, how do we live? We live by paying attention, by being born, by reading, by surviving love and loss, by guarding our humanity — proving we're more similar to 16th-century writers than one might think. Especially in our search for happiness.
    — Michele Filgate
  • 4 Because You Two Like To Read About Characters That Remind You Of... You Two
    The Boys of My Youth
    By Jo Ann Beard

    Jo Ann Beard's autobiographical essays are so humorous, lyrical and true to the shared experiences of longtime friends that you'll feel like she's inside your own head. The title of the book is deceiving; most of the essays focus on sisters, cousins, mothers. In the final one, "The Boys of My Youth," Jo Ann writes about her best friend, Elizabeth, alternating between flashbacks from their childhood and adulthood, including phone conversations in which they both remember different aspects of their younger years. For example, the time in their late thirties when both get flung "at the same time out of our marriages" and would "spend an hour on the telephone each week... hating our exes in a robust, vociferous style, and lying paralyzed on our living room floors sobbing." It's one thing to look back at your tough times by yourself; it's another thing to have a friend who can cringe along with you — while loving you all the more for those so-called mistakes.
    — Michele Filgate
  • 5 Because One Day, Your Friend Might Need The Power Of Bologna
    We Mammals in Hospitable Times
    By Jynne Dilling Martin

    Martin's debut poetry collection We Mammals in Hospitable Times touches on topics as wide-ranging as polar bears and a 16th-century love letter, and yet returns to small moments, infused with truths that resonate with just about everyone. "Sometimes seeds lodge deep in clothing," she writes, "and years later sprout out of gravesites and dresser drawers." One of the most lyrical poems in the book, "Luminescence," offers the perfect description of failed relationships: "For years, I carried the pelts of past loves/ hammered to my chest like birds of prey/ nailed to a hunter's wooden gate." Later, plain old bologna is examined and transformed into a (hilarious) testament to resilience due to its ability to swell up in a microwave and survive when "most things would just die." Martin is a dreamer and questioner who recognizes both the painful absurdities of the world and our ability to thrive despite them, if only because "our beginnings never know our ends."
    — Michele Filgate
  • 6 Because All The Single (And Taken) Ladies Need To Be Heard On A Global Stage
    We Should All Be Feminists
    By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

    As most of us know, award-winning novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's TEDxEuston talk on feminism was recently sampled in Beyoncé's "Flawless." Now this compact but passionate speech is available in book form. "The problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognizing how we are," writes Adichie. Girls are brought up "to see each other as competitors... for the attention of men" while boys are raised to prove themselves with their masculinity. Her conclusion: "If it is true that the full humanity of women is not our culture, then we can and must make it our culture." Pair this slim but substantive book with Roxane Gay's best-selling essay collection Bad Feminist, both of which illustrate how being outspoken can sometimes also be the best way to be heard.
    — Michele Filgate

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