How To Fail’s Elizabeth Day: what she loves right now, from new novels to luxurious pyjamas

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The journalist, author and host of the hugely successful How To Fail With Elizabeth Day podcast – the eighth series of which has just launched – shares her current obsessions. 

Perhaps because of its subject matter, Elizabeth Day never expected her podcast How To Fail to be a huge hit. But the show, in which the journalist and author invites notable people to discuss their biggest disappointments and disasters, has become a bona fide phenomenon. Now in its eighth season – the first episode, featuring musician and fellow podcaster Jessie Ware, dropped on 3 June – it regularly tops the iTunes charts, and has made Day a household name among millennial women.

“It does feel strange, in an incredibly wonderful way,” Day tells Stylist of the podcast’s success. “When I launched the podcast, I genuinely had no expectation for it. It came out of a crisis in my own life, and therefore it was a very personal journey. To see the reaction was just a beautiful gift for me, because it made me feel less alone. It really has changed my life.”

Beyond saying that it’s “jam-packed full of strong, wise women”, Day is reticent to reveal who else will be appearing on the podcast this season: “I keep it secret so it’s a nice surprise on a Wednesday morning.” She can, however, talk about her new book Failosophy: A Handbook For When Things Go Wrong, publishing with 4th Estate in October, which blends lessons on failure from her own life with insights from her podcast guests, listeners and readers.

“I really wanted to give voice to a diverse range of opinion and philosophies,” Day says. “I’m so aware that I speak from a position of such extreme privilege, being a white middle class woman. Certain people are allowed to fail and they’re given space to fail, and other people aren’t. [Failosophy] has brought together all of the profound wisdom of my many guests, and many people who have challenged me to think about failure differently, so I’m really glad I got a chance to do that.”

But failure isn’t all Day thinks about. She’s also a film, history and literature fan, and has strong opinions on fashion (during lockdown she’s been living in Lululemon leggings – “expensive, but so worth it” – and Rixo dresses, for “when I want to feel like I’m making the most of the day”). Below, she shares more of her current obsessions with Stylist.

  • You Must Remember This

    You Must remember this podcast

    “This podcast is like a secret history of Hollywood, and I find it completely fascinating. It’s presented by Karina Longworth, who is a fantastic film historian – she’s brilliant at revealing all this stuff you didn’t know about Hollywood, particularly unsung heroes and overlooked women. 

    “She’s just starting a new season all about Polly Platt, a film producer who never got the credit she deserved. That’s kind of the point of the season, to resurrect her reputation. I learn something new every time I listen to it and it’s really entertaining.”

  • John Lewis & Partners Lemon Squeezer

    “It’s not very glamorous, but it’s such a satisfying gadget. When I was young my mother had one of those old-fashioned citrus squeezers and I never thought of buying my own when I grew up, even though I like drinking hot water and lemon. I used to try and squeeze lemons by hand, but then you get loads of pips in the juice and it’s such a faff. I sound like a dick, but this met a need I never even realised I had.”

    Shop lemon squeezer at John Lewis, £7.50

  • The Vanishing Half By Brit Bennett

    The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

    “This has just come out in the UK as an ebook – it’s out in hardback on 11 June. It’s a story about two twins in the Deep South of the 1950s: they’re both black, but very light-skinned, and one of them can pass as white. She chooses to do that, and leaves her roots and her twin sister behind. The book follows the women and their families over the next 50 years. It’s a beautiful and profound meditation on identity and how we become who we are.”

    Pre-order The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (Dialogue Books) at Waterstones, £14.99

  • Missoma x Lucy Williams Gold T-Bar Chunky Chain Necklace

    Missoma necklace lucy williams

    “I’ve actually been wearing Missoma jewellery during lockdown to stop myself feeling like Stig of the Dump – I love it. Now I’ve got my eye on this chain. I’m obsessed with it, but I can’t quite justify buying it for myself right now.”

    Shop Lucy Williams gold T-bar chunky chain necklace at Missoma, £295

  • Desmond & Dempsey Pyjamas

    Desmond & Dempsey pyjamas

    “I just bought a whole pile of pyjamas because during lockdown I’ve realised how much time I spend in them. It’s the sort of thing I never normally treat myself to because I just don’t think it’s worth it, but that’s ridiculous because I wear them so much. My favourites are from Desmond & Dempsey.”

    Shop long pyjama set at Desmond & Dempsey, £150

  • Secret Smokehouse Smoked Salmon Pate

    “This smokehouse in London Fields does incredible pate. I love all of their stuff – I’m obsessed with smoked fish.”

    Shop smoked salmon pate at Secret Smokehouse, £6.50 

  • They Were Sisters by Dorothy Whipple

    they were sisters by dorothy whipple

    “I’ve been discovering the work of an amazing between-the-wars author called Dorothy Whipple. It’s published by Persephone Books, which specialises in overlooked female authors in that interwar period. It is the most extraordinary and brilliantly subtle but moving look at three sisters, and the interplay between them as they grow into adulthood. 

    “It’s the kind of book that doesn’t get published much anymore, because it doesn’t seem very high concept or thrilling. But it’s such a wonderful character study – and for women who are sisters, as I am, it’s got a particular resonance.”

    Shop They Were Sisters by Dorothy Whipple at Persephone Books, £13

  • Clinique High Impact Mascara

    “I’ve only just started using this and honestly, it makes my lashes look so much longer and more defined than they are. And it doesn’t have any clumps in it.”

    Shop Clinique High Impact Mascara at Lookfantastic, £20

  • Made Faux Sheepskin Armchair

    “I recently moved into a new place, and there was this corner on the landing that needed something – but I wasn’t sure what. This faux sheepskin chair fits perfectly without overwhelming the space, and it’s really comfortable. The cat likes it as well, so that’s a good sign.”

    Shop Moby chair at Made, £349

Failosophy: A Handbook For When Things Go Wrong by Elizabeth Day (£10, 4th Estate) is published on 1 October 2020. Pre-order here

Images: © Jenny Smith Photography

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Moya Crockett

Moya is Contributing Women’s Editor at stylist.co.uk and Deputy Editor of Stylist Loves, Stylist's daily email newsletter.

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