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Friends by Robin Dunbar review – how important are your pals?

The psychologist’s fascinating study of friendship finds that the quality of our relationships determines our health, happiness and chance of a long life

You may not have heard of Robin Dunbar. But you will, perhaps, know of his work. Dunbar, now emeritus professor of evolutionary psychology at Oxford University, is the man who first suggested that there may be a cognitive limit to the number of people with whom you can comfortably maintain stable social relationships – or, as Stephen Fry put it on the TV show QI, the number of people “you would not hesitate to go and sit with if you happened to see them at 3am in the departure lounge at Hong Kong airport”. Human beings, Dunbar found when he conducted his research in the 1990s, typically have 150 friends in general (people who know us on sight, and with whom we have a history), of whom just five can usually be described as intimate.

Friendship, as Dunbar reveals, requires investment. It 'dies fast' when not maintained

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Being Lolita by Alisson Wood review – memoir of an illicit relationship

An account of a teenage affair with a teacher feels like therapy and lacks deep thinkingTeenagers ar...

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The Grande Odalisque by Jérôme Mulot, Florent Ruppert and Bastien Vivès review – escapist fun

A ‘Houellebecquian manifesto on art’ will transport you across the world in the company of three s...

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A man's world… Tabitha Lasley's extraordinary account of the lives of offshore oil workers

When the journalist set out to write about the men who work on the North Sea oil rigs, she didn’t e...

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Bright Star, Green Light by Jonathan Bate review – the parallel lives of a pair of romantics

A daring, dizzying attempt to connect Keats and F Scott Fitzgerald has plenty to take pleasure inIn ...

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Francis Bacon: Revelations by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan review – a captivating triumph

This magnificent biography gets to the heart of Bacon as an artist and a man A year before his death...

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Paul at Home by Michel Rabagliati review – sweet sorrows

In this latest instalment of the melancholy Paul series, our nerdish hero is lonely and adrift – as...

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