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Top Shelf With Gyan Yankovich

The Just Friends author on chaotic characters, the books she’s looking forward to reading this year, and one she recommends to everyone

By Laura Brading

Whether it’s books about friends, books written by her friends, or the bookshelves of friends she peruses for inspiration, friendship was a theme that continued to show up when I caught up with Gyan Yankovich for this fortnight’s Top Shelf feature.

And it should come as no surprise. Yankovich’s debut book Just Friends published last week and the topic is on her mind. Exploring what it means to be, to make and, sometimes, to lose a friend, the book is a celebration of friendship in its many different forms. It asks why, when friendship can mean just as much as a marriage, we don’t celebrate them too. And how often do we stop to consider them deeply?

Now to the book chat…

A book you recommend to everyone:
I have a special love for Boy Friends by Scottish poet Michael Pederson. I came across his book by chance in a New York bookstore, the same month I started writing Just Friends. It has the most beautiful cover, so I picked it up right away. I bought it, then looked up Michael and realised his New York book launch was happening the last night of my trip. The timing felt divine.

I’ve never read anyone write about friendship, particularly male friendship, the way Michael does. Boy Friends is written for one of Michael’s close friends, Scott Hutchison, the lead singer of Frightened Rabbit, who tragically passed away. It’s a meditation on intimacy, growing up, grief, loss, and the joy of friendship. It’s a book everyone should read.


The writers debut book explores the joy, influence and power of modern friendship

A book you hated but everyone else loved:
I’m sad to say I didn’t love The Idiot by Elif Batuman. At least, I didn’t love it as much as everyone else seemed to. I stuck with this book through a whole month of summer – my favourite time to read – and finished it feeling disappointed in both the characters and slow-moving plot.

A book that changed your perspective:
I recently finished reading The Guest by Emma Cline. Without giving the entire narrative away, it’s about a young woman who essentially finds herself stuck in the Hamptons without a place to stay or anyone to look out for her. It is, without a doubt, one of the most stressful books I’ve read in a long time, but there’s nothing like a truly chaotic main character to remind you that actually yes, you are capable of making good decisions.

On a more serious note, The Most Important Job in the World by Gina Ruston (one of my smartest and most cherished friends) is about the decision whether or not to become a parent, and – as with all of Gina’s reporting – made me reconsider everything I know about reproductive justice, labour (in all its definitions), fertility, and so much more.

A book you’re looking forward to reading:
After reading and loving Such A Fun Age, I’m really looking forward to Kiley Reid’s new book, Come and Get It. Also high on my to-read list is Splinters by Leslie Jamison.

I have a handful of friends who know, very specifically, the kind of books I love

How do you choose what to read?
Almost every book I read has been recommended to me by a friend. My phone’s photo album is filled with screenshots of friend’s Instagram stories of books they’ve just finished and loved, and text messages from friends telling me what I need to read next. I have a handful of friends who know, very specifically, the kind of books I love, so I’ll always reach out for their recommendations or peruse their bookshelves whenever I’m at their house.

Contemporary or classic?
I love reading books at the same time as other people, which means I’m almost always reading a new(ish) release. I love being part of the book conversation – debriefing with friends as soon as they’ve finished reading and listening to review podcasts – but this means I read a lot more contemporary books than I do classics. I have grand plans to catch up on all the classics I know I “should” read, but I can’t promise anyone when that will be.

Gyan Yankovich is a writer and editor based in Sydney, Australia. She is the lifestyle editor at the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. She was previously based in New York, where she held editor roles at Man Repeller and BuzzFeed. Her work has been published in The Cut, Vox, The Guardian, VICE, and more, exploring lifestyle, culture, and relationships. Just Friends is her debut book.

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BY Laura Brading

Laura is PRIMER's books editor

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