Robin Dunbar is a British anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist and a specialist in primate behaviour. He is currently head of the Social and Evolutionary Neuroscience Research Group in the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford. He is best known for formulating Dunbar’s number, a measurement of the “cognitive limit to the number of individuals with whom any one person can maintain stable relationships”.
Friends: Understanding the Power of our Most Important Relationships
Friends matter to us, and they matter more than we think. The single most surprising fact to emerge out of the medical literature over the last decade or so has been that the number and quality of the friendships we have has a bigger influence on our happiness, health and even mortality risk than anything else except giving up smoking.
Robin Dunbar is the world-renowned psychologist and author who famously discovered Dunbar’s number: how our capacity for friendship is limited to around 150 people. In Friends, he looks at friendship in the round, at the way different types of friendship and family relationships intersect, or at the complex of psychological and behavioural mechanisms that underpin friendships and make them possible – and just how complicated the business of making and keeping friends actually is.
Mixing insights from scientific research with first person experiences and culture, Friends explores and integrates knowledge from disciplines ranging from psychology and anthropology to neuroscience and genetics in a single magical weave that allows us to peer into the incredible complexity of the social world in which we are all so deeply embedded.
Jude Rogers is a Welsh journalist, lecturer, arts critic and broadcaster. She is a music critic for The Guardian and also regularly writes features and articles for The Observer, New Statesman and women’s magazines such as Red. Her articles have also been published by The Times and by BBC Music and she broadcasts on BBC Radio 2, BBC Radio 4 and BBC 6 Music. She is a senior lecturer in journalism at London Metropolitan University.
The Sound of Being Human: How Music Shapes Our Lives
The Sound of Being Human explores, in detail, why music plays such a deep-rooted role in so many lives, from before we are born to our last days. At its heart is Jude’s own story: how songs helped her wrestle with the grief of losing her father at age five; concoct her own sense of self as a lonely adolescent; sky-rocket her relationships, both real and imagined, in the flushes of early womanhood, propel her own journey into working life, adulthood and parenthood, and look to the future.
Shaped around twelve songs, ranging from ABBA’s ‘Super Trouper’ to Neneh Cherry’s ‘Buffalo Stance’, Kraftwerk’s ‘Radioactivity’ to Martha Reeves and the Vandellas’ ‘Heat Wave’, the book combines memoir and historical, scientific and cultural enquiry to show how music can shape different versions of ourselves; how we rely upon music for comfort, for epiphanies, and for sexual and physical connection; how we grow with songs, and songs grow inside us, helping us come to terms with grief, getting older and powerful memories. It is about music’s power to help us tell our own stories, whatever they are, and make them sing.
Kimberley Wilson is a Chartered Psychologist, author and visiting lecturer working in private practice in central London. She’s a Governor of the Tavistock & Portman NHS Mental Health Trust and the former Chair of the British Psychological Society’s Training Committee in Counselling Psychology. Kimberley’s first book How to Build a Healthy Brain explored how to look after both physical and mental well-being. She hosts Stronger Minds, a podcast on topics such as food, lifestyle, psychology and mental health. She’s appeared on various TV shows including GMB and was a Great British Bake Off finalist.
Unprocessed: How the Food We Eat Is Fuelling Our Mental Health Crisis
We all know that as a nation our mental health is in crisis. But what most don’t know is that a critical ingredient in this debate, and a crucial part of the solution – what we eat – is being ignored.
Nutrition has more influence on what we feel, who we become and how we behave than we could ever have imagined. It affects everything from our decision-making to aggression and violence. Yet mental health disorders are overwhelmingly treated as ‘mind’ problems as if the physical brain – and how we feed it – is irrelevant. Someone suffering from depression is more likely to be asked about their relationship with their mother than their relationship with food.
Kimberley Wilson draws on startling new research – as well as her own work in prisons, schools and hospitals around the country – to reveal the role of food and nutrients in brain development and mental health: from how the food a woman eats during pregnancy influences the size of her baby’s brain, and hunger makes you mean; to how nutrient deficiencies change your personality.
We must also recognise poor nutrition as a social injustice, with the poorest and most vulnerable being systematically ignored. We need to talk about what our food is doing to our brains. And we need decisive action, not over rehearsed soundbites and empty promises, from those in power – because if we don’t, things can only get worse.