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Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life's Fundamental Bond

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  577 ratings  ·  121 reviews
An engaging and deeply reported investigation of friendship: its evolution, purpose, and centrality in human and nonhuman lives alike.

The bonds of friendship are universal and elemental. In Friendship, journalist Lydia Denworth visits the front lines of the science of friendship in search of its biological, psychological, and evolutionary foundations. Finding it to be as o
Hardcover, 312 pages
Published January 28th 2020 by W. W. Norton Company
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Lydia Denworth
Jan 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
I not only read this, I wrote it! So I am understandably biased. But upon re-reading it in preparation for publication, I've realized something important. People ask about books you read that change your life. I can say that reporting this book changed my life. It gave me permission to hang out with my friends more. I hope it will do the same for everyone else who reads it. ...more
Clif Hostetler
This book provides an interesting review of human behavior at the intersection of sociology, psychology, neurology, and physical health. There have been a variety of population studies made that consistently show a positive relationship between the number of social contacts a person has and their expected lifespan. Consequently scientists have discovered corresponding physiological markers of physical health and robustness of the immune system which also vary in positive proportion to the variet ...more
Camelia Rose
This book, which centers around friendship, is part psychology and part animal study (primatology). It is well-written and easy to read.

What I've found in the book:

1. There is an evolution basis for friendship. Friendship (social bond between non-kins) does not only exist in human society. The author described several animal studies, especially primates. A study of the structure of social relationships among female baboons in Moremi, Botswana shows: 1) the strength of females’ social bonds is th
Nov 13, 2020 rated it did not like it
It was a chore to get through this book. It’s more about primates than anything, and reads like a literary review in many instances. The author spends more time introducing a researcher’s background than the research itself. And just when I thought we were getting to the meaty, human friendship-related studies (not until chapter 6, by the way), we went right back into the author’s anecdotal experience observing monkeys. I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone who’s interested in learning more a ...more
Jan 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I got an early copy of the book and I already feel like it has had an impact on me. It is a great kick off book for 2020. Instead of skipping wine in January for my health, I'm having more wine and seeing friends which is far more important and fun. It is a great read filled with both great science and personal anecdotes on the importance of investing in our most basic relationships. It makes a compelling argument for doubling down on good friends. I thoroughly enjoyed it. ...more
Apr 01, 2020 rated it liked it
This is a collection of other studies about mirroring and the need to bond. Basically, our brains are geared toward social interactions. This is basic evolutionary biology covered in a lot of other books. It is useful to have a focus on just one thread (friendship), but it did not seem all that new.
Ari Robin McKenna
Feb 21, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviews-by-ari
Though I appreciate the wide sampling of sources collated into a single volume, "Friendship" doesn't reach for revelatory depth. The strongest theme in the book is the author's personal anecdotes about her family, which while not unrelated or forced, end up becoming central to the book, the main take-away. ...more
Amber Spencer
Mar 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
I loved a lot about this. I had a lot of friends as a teenager, but I often felt bad for wanting to be with them. I have tried not to pass that on to my kids and realize how important friends are to teenagers and this book is filled with the science to back up my feelings.
As an adult I have found some really amazing friends and the ones that want to give back to the relationship with me are the ones I still hang out with and see. Friendship goes two ways. Making time for friends and making time
Leah MacFarlane
Jan 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this fascinating book on the science of friendship. The author presents an amazing amount of information in the most readable, compelling way. It is remarkable to find out how friendship has influenced and been influenced by human evolution, and the actual biological power of the friendship bond. Denworth creates wonderful images of her global travels to meet and see in person the network of scientists who are working on this ground-breaking area. They are all so memorably dra ...more
Anna Walker-Roberts
Feb 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I’m making a film about friendship, specifically about platonic best friends, and read this book as part of my research. I loved understanding more of the science and biology behind friendship. What really hooked me initially was Lydia’s dismissal of the friendship chapter in C.S. Lewis’ book The Four Loves. I read that book and wanted to rip out the whole chapter on friendship. I immediately felt like Lydia and I would be friends :)

She does a great job of sharing the science and data while int
Apr 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I started reading this book days before quarantining became our collective dystopian reality. Finishing it alone in my apartment, on the heels of a falling out with a friend of nearly ten years, while feeling sick and having not left my building for (I think) four days was poignant, to say the least.

Global context aside, this was an excellent read. Denworth handles this complicated, primal, and deeply personal topic with great care and strikes just the right balance between being playful and in
Moira Bailey
Jan 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Lydia Denworth’s Friendship translates cutting-edge science in telling a compelling story that details and underscores how close connections are not only necessary - they will extend, and potentially save, our lives. She reveals and revels in a topic that is universally important and endlessly interesting.
Charles Nguyen
Feb 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: friendships
I love this book as it talks about the science of friendship. Mix in a bit of monkey science with attachment, friendship in school, the deepness of connections, heredity or genetic expression, and rounding it off with the impact on our lives... woo! Much of this science is current and up-to-date. It's been a while since I've read something that triggered about 20 more books into my "to-read" list. Highly recommended for anyone who wants to think about what makes friends tick. Friendship must be ...more
Dec 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Lydia Denworth's comprehensive look at the evolution and necessity of friendship is highly informative and engaging. I don't think I've ever devoured a nonfiction book quite this quickly, and that was all due to Denworth's writing style--she ably breaks down even complicated scientific terms and ideas so anyone can understand them by illustrating unfamiliar concepts with stories and analogies from her own life.

Learning more about what scientists are currently discovering about the importance of
Mar 17, 2020 rated it it was ok
2.5 Did we really need 250+ pages to tell us the importance of friendship?
Alana Benjamin
May 16, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2020
If you are interested in the minutiae of the human connection in our lives, this is the book for you.
It is a very wonky exploration of the effects of friendship, loneliness, and lack of connection on our overall health and by extension life fulfillment and longevity. (a relatively new area of study)

In between the many many case studies and journal articles, there are some very interesting facts and information on attachment, social connection, and bonds as we age. I was most intrigued by facts
Steph Holmes
Jan 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I was fortunate to have read an early release of Lydia Denworth’s book—Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life's Fundamental Bond. It is beautifully written and seamlessly weaves cutting edge science with the essential role of friendship. I was completely engaged by the clear explanations of the work of the scientists who have studied multiple species—from rhesus monkeys to zebra fish—to explain our interactions with certain people and what we expect and, more importa ...more
Mar 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
But for the persistence of a close friend, the client would have died. That was the take-away from a client meeting I had a year or so ago. Like many people, the client was older, single and lived alone. Contrary to the client's normal ways, a Saturday evening dinner was canceled because the client was under the weather.

The next morning the client called in sick to teach Sunday School, and upon hearing this news the client's astute and caring friend new something was amiss and showed up at the
Brittney Sooksengdao
Jun 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Poignant time during quarantine to have read this book about how social isolation is as big of a risk factor for mortality as smoking. Super interesting read overall though. How crazy is it that we think it’s crazy to realize that spending our time cultivating a deep and meaningful social network of friends is ACTUALLY medically/societally/personally valuable towards physical health and longevity? It seems obvious and yet..
Aug 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Great book with lots of research. Denworth communicated tough scientific and psychological theories, experiments, and concepts in easily relatable and graspable language. She covers the evolutionary and biological need for friendships and how and why our brains respond to friendships the way they do. I wish there had been more about the evolutionary biology of friendships and less about the impact of social media.
Colleen Rice
Sep 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Straight-forward, no nonsense science leading to what seems an obvious conclusion? Here for it. This book was packed with different studies and ways to examine friendship that were all so fascinating. Despite its scientific density, it read easily and was highly engaging. I found myself sharing aspects of new-to-me human development with Ian nearly daily, and am reimagining ways to nurture my friendships that are spread all over the country. Great read!
Mar 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a great book on why you should have friends. I also appreciated the distinction it draws between types of personalities and friendships: solitude is when you're ok with not having / having few friends; loneliness is when you want more friends than you have. Loneliness has a detrimental effect that is comparable to trauma (e.g. poverty).

It is a book that's sympathetic to the lack of friends and the physical impact it has on people (people with close knit communities live longer). I liked
Tammy Strobel
Mar 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
FRIENDSHIP was engaging and enlightening. Denworth presented the science of friendship in a relatable way. Also, her personal stories cemented the ideas she presented in the book. Read this book and supercharge your friendships!
c2 cole
May 20, 2020 rated it liked it
I thought I'd be enthralled with this book as friendship is one of the topics that interests me most. And I thought it'd be a quick read since I'm reading it during the pandemic but no on both accounts. I found it grueling and had to force myself to finish it. I'm not sure exactly what was wrong with it. I felt as if Denworth included a lot of information on many studies in different areas, but not with enough depth for me to be truly interested. This was especially true in the earlier chapters ...more
Mar 27, 2020 rated it it was ok
This book was MOSTLY about how humans are social animals generally, not specific to friendship. The final chapter that got into friendship didn't feel particularly revelatory, although it reminds me of what I already know--how important my friends are to me and how cultivating those friendships is not only fun, but core to my physical and mental well-being. To summary the book in two sentences, "Waldinger[, Harvard professor who oversees a long-running study of well-being,] echoed Valliant, [fou ...more
Carman Chew
Dec 27, 2020 rated it it was ok
For a book on friendship, most of the book ends up ironically being about Denworth's family. Unfortunately, even with her dramatic writing style, the book reads more like a lengthy lit review of somebody who's only just realised that friendship is underrated.

I'm not quite sure what kind of insight I was expecting, but maybe it would've been helpful if she interrogated her life more and built on that to expand on concepts rather than jump from concept to concept via tangential threads. For what i
Alex Koay
Mar 02, 2020 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Christina Dudley
Mar 24, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This was an interesting read about the evolutionary purpose of friendship and biological underpinnings. I was delighted to learn that even fish have some fish version of pals. Sort of poignant to read about our need for social connection when we're all housebound, especially the older folks who might be in particular danger from loneliness.

If you're looking for a book that will make you want to call up and reinforce your ties to others, I would recommend The Village Effect.
Tres Herndon
Apr 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Interesting book. Some of it is kinda obvious, but the studies showing the physiological effect friendship can have (not just mental) is really cool. By the same token, loneliness can be very detrimental to your health. Especially with the pandemic, it's so important to keep up your friendships. ...more
Ian Rojas T
Nov 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
It is a really good book. It shows the relevance and importance of being socially active and the effects of loneliness in a person's life. It exemplifies the results of the studies shown with real life situations that keep you on reading. ...more
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Lydia Denworth is a Brooklyn-based science journalist whose work is supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. A contributing writer for Scientific American and Psychology Today, she has also written for the Atlantic and the New York Times.

Articles featuring this book

  Author Lydia Denworth is a science journalist who has written about everything from Alzheimer’s to zebrafish. In her latest book,...
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