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Book recommendations: A toast to friendship

Dive into our list of ten brilliant books that celebrate friendships in their many forms, created in partnership for Edinburgh City of Literature, for the Year of Stories.

Mayflies by Andrew O’ Hagan
Published by Faber

Everyone has a friend who defines your life. For James, it’s Tully Dawson – charismatic, curious and ready for adventure. In the summer of 1986, they set off on a musical pilgrimage to Manchester that sets the course of their lives. Thirty years later, their bond sees them through tragedy. Heartbreaking, life-affirming fiction at its very best.

The Young Team by Graeme Armstrong
Published by Picador

In his early teens Azzy Williams joins The Young Team. He fights, he raves, he falls in love. He drinks, he smokes dope, and he is always there to defend the YTP’s honour. He belongs. But as his life starts to unravel he starts to dream of another future, and it will mean saying goodbye to all he’s ever known. A powerful novel of life behind the swagger with raw, visceral, hypnotic prose.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
Published by Penguin

The Brodie set. The crème de la crème. They are the gaggle of school girls under the spell of the romantic, unconventional teacher Jean Brodie, whose life lessons inspire, charm and manipulate them. Some use what they’ve learned to become even more sophisticated social operators than their teacher—to devastating effect. Spark’s classic novel is sharp, unsettling and utterly brilliant.

The Sopranos by Alan Warner
Published by Vintage

The choir from Our Lady of Perpetual Succour School for Girls is being bussed to the national finals in the big, big city. It’s an important day for the school and the choir, though pub-crawling, shoplifting and body-piercing are the girls’ top priority rather than the competition. A funny and poignant novel of friendship and final hurrahs before life beyond schooldays beckons.

Duck Feet by Ely Percy
Published by Monstrous Regiment

This Saltire-winning novel takes us through Kirsty Campbell’s school days in a series of vignettes that will make you laugh, cry and gasp in recognition. With her close-knit family in working-class Renfrewshire, Kirsty and her friends navigate first love, drink, drugs, sex, identity, grief and growing up.

Sonny & Me by Ross Sayers
Published by Cranachan

Staying with school days, in Ross Sayer’s Sonny and Me we follow two pals as they investigate the disappearance of their favourite teacher, all while trying to navigate the social politics of the playground and the prospect of double English. Will their investigation get in the way of their friendship? You’ll have to read this warm, witty YA novel to find out.

Homelands by Chitra Ramaswamy
Published by Canongate

This book is about two unlikely friends. One born in 1970s Britain to Indian immigrant parents, the other arrived from Nazi Germany in 1939, fleeing persecution. It’s about migration, anti-Semitism, racism, family, belonging, grief, resilience and how we travel through life with what our pasts has given us.

Boy Friends by Michael Pedersen
Published by Faber

In 2018 poet and author Michael Pedersen lost a cherished friend. He processed his grief by writing him a letter, one that started out as a love letter to one man and turned into a tribute to all the wonderful male friendships who have transformed his life. Emotional, lyrical, beautiful reading.

Olive, Mabel and Me by Andrew Cotter
Published by Black and White

Who says you can only make beautiful friendships with other humans? In Olive, Mabel and Me, Andrew Cotter tells the heart-warming story of his two famous Labradors, and how they have enriched his life. It’s time to meet Olive – sensible, measured but always keen to roll in something she shouldn’t – and Mabel – endearing, slightly scatty but game for any adventure.

Pinkie & Boo by Chae Strathie
Published by Little Door Books

Books on friendship are vital to early readers too, and Pinkie and Boo, Chae Strathie’s brilliant and quirky picture book is a fabulously funny story about a feisty little girl, her toy monkey and their mischievous adventures.

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