Book Review: Friendaholic by Elizabeth Day

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Elizabeth’s previous books (both fiction and non fiction), and devour each episode of her ‘How To Fail’ and ‘Best Friend Therapy’ podcasts – so when I heard she had a new book out, I was delighted to be granted an advance review copy from NetGalley. Here’s the blurb:

As a society, there is a tendency to elevate romantic love. But what about friendships? Aren’t they just as – if not more – important? So why is it hard to find the right words to express what these uniquely complex bonds mean to us? In Friendaholic: Confessions of a Friendship Addict, Elizabeth Day embarks on a journey to answer these questions.
Growing up, Elizabeth wanted to make everyone like her. Lacking friends at school, she grew up to believe that quantity equalled quality. Having lots of friends meant you were loved, popular and safe. She was determined to become a Good Friend. And, in many ways, she did. But in adulthood she slowly realised that it was often to the detriment of her own boundaries and mental health.
Then, when a global pandemic hit in 2020, she was one of many who were forced to reassess what friendship really meant to them – with the crisis came a dawning realisation: her truest friends were not always the ones she had been spending most time with. Why was this? Could she rebalance it? Was there such thing as…too many friends? And was she really the friend she thought she was?
Friendaholic unpacks the significance and evolution of friendship. From exploring her own personal friendships and the distinct importance of each of them in her life, to the unique and powerful insights of others across the globe, Elizabeth asks why there isn’t yet a language that can express its crucial influence on our world.
From ghosting and frenemies to social media and seismic life events, Elizabeth leaves no stone unturned. Friendaholic is the book you buy for the people you love but it’s also the book you read to become a better friend to yourself.”

The book is a fabulous take on platonic friendship – combining Elizabeth’s own anecdotal experiences, research into the topic, interviews with friends, and other essays on friendship. It therefore gives a well rounded view of the topic – although primarily looks at the author’s own experiences.

I found it really interesting – not least because I definitely also used to subscribe to the ‘quantity equalled quality’ belief. And also, like Elizabeth, found the Covid pandemic and personal traumas (for Elizabeth her fertility journey, and for me a child with a chronic health condition) put some ‘friendships’ into question.

I enjoyed the references from a plethora of different sources – including ancient texts (my son is applying to do Classics as as degree, so I have a new found interest in ancient history from various University open days) and more recent research – which made the book feel ‘deeper’ than solely a memoir. One fact that stuck with me is that on average people change half of their friends every 7 years (something personally evidenced for me by considering the guest list for my 50th next year compared to my 40th nine years ago).

The chapter on Elizabeth’s quest to have a biological child was really moving (and was also published in The Times) and helpful about what to say – and not to say – to a friend in similar circumstances, or to be honest, any childless woman you talk to. Despite having 4 children myself – I really hope I’m not a tw*t when talking to people without children – but it did make me check my own fertility privilege.

Having listened to Elizabeth and her best friend Emma on their joint podcast ‘Best Friend Therapy’ – I really felt I could ‘hear’ their voices in the chapter where they discuss friendship together – and what a wonderful friendship they have.

As a whole, the book has really made me evaluate my current – and historic – friendships, and feel less ‘guilty’ for friends I have drifted apart from. As Elizabeth says, why should we expect friendships to be ‘forever’ – some are for different times in your life, and that’s fine – and you can remember them fondly without considering them a failure (bringing in the old ‘How To Fail’ strand of Elizabeth’s career as well!)

A lovely non fiction book – that I’d recommend to all of my friends (and ex friends, and frenemies, and social media only friends etc etc!!)

Many thanks to NetGalley, the publisher and Elizabeth for my ARC. It’s out TODAY (30 March 2023)


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