Will Schwalbe and Chris Maxey: We Should Not Be Friends


While an undergraduate at Yale University in 1983, Will Schwalbe had no clue what kinds of people he would meet at the secret society he’d reluctantly joined. Its goal was to bring together the 15 most different students across campus so that they’d meet people who were nothing like them. Chris Maxeythe “friend” from the book’s title was a motorcycle-riding, boisterous jock, a star wrestler with ambitions to become a Navy SEAL (he later served for six years). He was a stark contrast to the artists, writers, and liberal arts majors Will had spent most of college getting to know, and Will recalls wanting nothing to do with him: “I liked the other kids a lot, but Maxey made me nervous. I couldn’t think of anything to say to him, and the feeling seemed mutual. It was clear that the less time we spent together the better.” 

A shift was set in motion after Will presented his “audit,” an hours-long presentation each member gave about their lives.  He was surprised when Maxey offered to beat up anyone who gave him a hard time for being gay. “I should have disapproved, firmly believing that violent retribution is never the right answer to violence,” writes Will. “Yet I couldn’t help smiling.”

We Should Not Be Friends: The Story of a Friendship details their incredible decades-long friendship as they’ve navigated life’s challenges, such as Will’s confrontations with homophobia and fear amidst the AIDS epidemic, Maxey’s brain tumor, and Will’s struggle with chronic disease. A shared history recalled by both friends, the memoir illuminates the significance of having friends entirely unlike oneself and the unique connections that often form between the gaps.

Will Schwalbe is the author of Books for Living and the New York Times bestseller The End of Your Life Book Club, a moving memoir about a mother-son book club that earned an “A” from Entertainment Weekly and was one of Amazon’s Top Ten books of 2012. He is co-author with David Shipley of the acclaimed book Send: Why People Email So Badly and How to Do It Better, which was a national bestseller and was shortlisted for the Quill Award for the best business book of the year.

Chris Maxey is a former Navy SEAL and co-founder of the Island School in the Bahamas, an all-ages summer school that allows students to “learn about native ecosystems and environmental sustainability through immersive, place-based experiences.”

Praise for We Should Not Be Friends

We Should Not Be Friends is as funny, warm, brutally honest and entertaining as it is profound. It’s unlike any memoir I’ve ever read.”— Louise Penny

“One of the most important—and noble—human qualities is our ability to bond with people with whom we have absolutely nothing in common. It’s pure fraternal love, entirely for its own sake. Will Schwalbe has written a gorgeous book on exactly this topic . . . what a pleasure to read about a human trait that might one day save, rather than destroy, the human race.” Sebastian Junger

“In this searching, tender, insightful, and wise memoir, Will Schwalbe traces an altogether unlikely friendship through the triumphs and vicissitudes of adult life. Reading this beautifully written and generous book, you will find yourself thinking of your own friendships and the greatest gifts we can give one another: listening deeply and taking the risk of becoming — and offering — our true selves.”— Dani Shapiro

“This marvelous, warm, life-affirming book gave me a fuller understanding of the friendships that have sustained my life, and will make readers fiercely appreciative of their own chosen family.”— Isaac Fitzgerald

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