1. The Three Musketeers, 1844
In this swashbuckling historical buddy tale set in 17th-century France, four (yes, four, not three) young men defend the king against Cardinal Richelieu.
2. Betsy-Tacy, 1940
Maud Hart Lovelace
This kids’ novel, the first in a series about three best friends, brought small-town turn-of-the-century Minnesota to life.
3. The Group, 1963
In the much-loved saga, the lives of eight very different Vassar grads play out in the period between the two world wars.
4. The Last Picture Show, 1966
In what is arguably McMurtry’s most affecting, melancholy novel, three 1950s teenagers stumble awkwardly toward adulthood in their football-crazed Texas town.
5. The Outsiders, 1967
Are you a greaser or a Soc? The all-time YA classic and middle-school reading-list mainstay etched Ponyboy and his loyal gangmates into our collective consciousness.
6. The Last Convertible, 1978
This nostalgic tale of the Greatest Generation features a group of WWII-era Harvard classmates, the women they love, and the glorious Packard that ties them together.
7. Tales of the City, 1978
Originally a newspaper serial, this novel follows the tenants of 28 Barbary Lane, a San Francisco apartment building that’s the domain of eccentric landlady Anna Madrigal.
8. The Class, 1985
Harvard figures in a couple of these books; this one from the Love Story author chronicles the intertwined fates of five alumni from the class of 1958.
9. It, 1986
King’s horror classic finds a group of kids, the Losers’ Club, linked by their shared fear of a shape-shifting monster. We never said these friendships had to be warm and fuzzy.
10. Crossing to Safety, 1987
A powerful, moving meditation on life and love that describes the enduring friendship of two couples through four decades.
11. Satisfaction, 1987
It’s not Harvard but 1970s-era Radcliffe, where four women — all daughters of famous men — are thrown together in a suite, never dreaming they’ll be in one another’s lives for years.
12. The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, 1988
Chabon’s incandescent debut coming-of-ager explores everything from sexual fluidity to the Mafia, but it hinges on the complicated friendship among its three young protagonists.
13. The Joy Luck Club, 1989
Those who play mah-jongg together also raise daughters and face life’s tragedies together in Tan’s modern Asian-American classic.
14. A Home at the End of the World, 1990
This funny and heartrending novel by the author of The Hours, about a trio of sometime lovers, sometime friends, examines a bond deeper than romance.
15. The Secret History, 1992
Tartt’s cult-hit fave traces a close-knit group of New England college kids who decide to murder a particularly annoying member of their clique.
16. A Fine Balance, 1995
Four characters from very different walks of life come together during India’s political upheaval of the 1970s and ’80s.
17. Wicked, 1995
Maguire’s imagined friendship between the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda made this novel a best-seller and the Broadway musical a phenomenon.
18. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, 1997
It’s hard to say which is the more magical moment — when, at the age of 11, Harry discovers he’s a wizard, or soon after, when he forms his first real friendships.
19. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, 2001
It’s tough being away from your high school besties for the first time, but some miraculously flattering denim can be the tie that binds.
20. The Rule of Four, 2004
Ian Caldwell & Dustin Thomason
In this thriller, two Princeton chums investigating a mysterious Renaissance text realize its secrets are literally deadly.
21. The Wednesday Sisters, 2008
Meg Waite Clayton
Four moms in 1960s Northern California stick together as times start a-changing.
22. Commencement, 2009
J. Courtney Sullivan
A gaggle of whip-smart women’s-college alumnae take on the terrors and joys of early adulthood.
23. The Red Book, 2012
Deborah Copaken Kogan
A diverse group of graduates of the Harvard class of 1989 (Harvard again!) reckon with their success or failure at ”having it all” at their 20th reunion.
24. The Interestings, 2013
Creative teens become friends for life at arts camp, and in adulthood they grapple with jealousy, soaring success, mortality, and perhaps worst of all, total mediocrity.
25. Friendship, 2014
This insightful and very modern novel follows the strained bond between Bev and Amy, who struggle to get their lives together after turning 30.