How To Fail – Elizabeth Day

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*I received a free ARC of this novel, with thanks to Harper Collins UK and NetGalley.  The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*


Blurb:  Inspired by her hugely popular podcast, How To Fail is Elizabeth Day’s brilliantly funny, painfully honest and insightful celebration of things going wrong.

How To Fail x298This is a book for anyone who has ever failed. Which means it’s a book for everyone.

If I have learned one thing from this shockingly beautiful venture called life, it is this: failure has taught me lessons I would never otherwise have understood. I have evolved more as a result of things going wrong than when everything seemed to be going right. Out of crisis has come clarity, and sometimes even catharsis.

Part memoir, part manifesto, and including chapters on dating, work, sport, babies, families, anger and friendship, it is based on the simple premise that understanding why we fail ultimately makes us stronger. It’s a book about learning from our mistakes and about not being afraid.
Uplifting, inspiring and rich in stories from Elizabeth’s own life, How to Fail reveals that failure is not what defines us; rather it is how we respond to it that shapes us as individuals.
Because learning how to fail is actually learning how to succeed better. And everyone needs a bit of that.


How to Fail draws together various interviews and opinions from the How to Fail with Elizabeth Day podcast series.

The book is split into short essay segments such as ‘How to Fail at Dating’ or ‘How to Fail at Work’, neatly drawing together snippets from different interviews around individual themes.  All of the interviews feature people who have achieved career success, such as celebrities, authors, actors, talking about times in their life where they feel they failed and what those failures taught them.

The initial chapters of the book have a warm, anecdotal tone, but as she warms up Day gradually slides into a more academic style, presenting coherent and well-constructed arguments on topical issues such as the #MeToo phenomenon and modern gender politics.  This gives the book a mixed tone: part memoir, part thesis, which I found worked really well with the subject matter.

My only criticism here would be that the concept of the book and the podcasts is a simple one: finding the positive in failure; what can it teach us; which different path can it lead us down; how can we grow and improve from it.  This works really well in podcast format as you get the personal experiences and anecdotes, insights and emotions directly ‘from the horse’s mouth’.  In a book, I found that it began to feel a little bit repetitious, as this concept was applied in turn to each separate aspect of the author and interviewees lives.

Still, the content and tone of the book were engaging enough to carry me through and  I came out of the book thoroughly convinced of the principle and eager to apply it to my own outlook on life.  So for me, this book on failure would definitely be classed a success!


This is a book for anyone who has ever failed.  Which means it’s a book for everyone.  I don’t have all the answers (and it’s entirely possible I have none of them) but if you turn the final page having in some small way recognised yourself and felt less alone, then that makes me happy.  That means this book about failure is not, in itself, a failure.
Does that mean I’ve failed to write it properly.
I hope not.

– Elizabeth Day, How To Fail


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Find more from Elizabeth Day at her website here, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads.

How To Fail is available on Amazon right now!



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