Why I Love Listening To Audiobooks While I Work

During the pandemic, many of us who used to work in offices were forced to work from home, which bought many challenges and changes.

One of the main changes that has occurred has been our ability to listen to our own music or podcasts while we work. It’s actually one of the few benefits of working from home. While I definitely feel isolated and find it hard to find a good work/ life balance, I do like the fact that I can listen to what I like.

After all, when you’re in an office, you have to listen to something that everyone likes, which means that many of us often end up with the radio or a playlist of generic pop music. No one wants to say anything or put their headphones in, and given the focus on collaborative work and the need to answer the phone, that’s often impossible.

At home, if you get to work alone then you can listen to your own sounds. Even if you share a workspace with a housemate or partner, then you can at least wear headphones. Or you could just turn the sound down- I live in a shared house and literally no one complains about the sound of my audiobooks coming out of the tiny speakers on my phone.

While I don’t think for a second that listening to audiobooks is the same as reading a physical novel, it is a useful way to enjoy literature while I’m doing other tasks. I’d also recommend checking out podcasts themed around literature, like Potterless, a brilliant show about an adult man who’s never read the Harry Potter book series. While I still don’t support J.K Rowling and her blatant transphobia, I do love listening to the hilarious ramblings of an American who’s experiencing the books for the first time.

There are also storytelling podcasts such as This American Life, which combines journalism with storytelling to provide a unique take on current events and real life in America. It’s another great way to learn more about the world and see it from a new perspective.

I used to think listening to audiobooks and other audio shows would be distracting, especially in my job as a writer. I always used to believe that, eventually, I’d start typing the words I was hearing. However, I’ve learned since I started listening to audiobooks online at work, that they actually help me to concentrate and manage my workload. Often, I bribe myself by telling myself I need to get something finished before the end of the next chapter or I’ll switch the story off! It’s a useful technique, particularly if you happen to have the mind of a hyperactive toddler.

All this doesn’t mean I no longer read books. I always thought it would, but, in fact, I’ve found that audiobooks and physical books help me to separate my work life from my home one. During work, I listen to audiobooks and podcasts, which I find more soothing than music. After work, while I’m out and about or just before bed, I read my physical novels.

As I say, audiobooks and literary-themed podcasts are soothing to me while I’m working, but only certain ones. I think a John Grisham or an Andy McNab audiobook might be a bit too intense for a working day, whereas an Agatha Christie or a Ngaio Marsh story is relaxing. It sometimes helps if I’ve already read the book and know the plot, particularly if I’m having a busy or stressful day, or I’m feeling particularly anxious.

In all, while I still love reading physical books, I’m enjoying listening to stories and podcasts and I think others might too. It probably sounds really obvious, and not worthy of a blog post, but I think it’s relevant, particularly for anyone who’s still working from home and feeling isolated. I know from experiencing working with my team that many remote workers are struggling right now, and even with connected technology, it’s easy to feel alone. That’s especially true if you live alone or the people you live with are out of the house all day. With audiobooks and podcasts, you can hear a person’s voice and become immersed in a story while keeping busy at the same time.

Cathy Hayward Interview: “I read a lot of historical fiction because I love reading about different times in history and it also helps my own writing”

Check out my interview with The Girl In The Maze author Cathy Hayward, who talks me through how she came to create her debut novel and what’s next for her writing career.

Please let me know about The Girl In The Maze. How did you find the process of getting the novel written and preparing for publication?

The Girl in the Maze is historical fiction about three women, generations apart, linked by one terrible tragedy. It explores the theme of mothering and being mothered. I started a creative writing course in 2015 and somewhere in the second year, I realised that what I was writing was not lots of smaller pieces but part of a greater whole, which eventually became The Girl in the Maze. My mother, with whom I’d had a difficult relationship, had died while I was on the course.

It was while I was clearing out her flat that I was inspired with the main part of the plot – a woman discovering something in her late mother’s possessions which sets her on a trail of discovery about her mother’s life. I didn’t discover anything in my mother’s flat, but writing the story was a form of therapy in itself and I now feel at peace with our relationship which is why the book is dedicated to her. I tinkered with it in 2017 and 2018 but it was only in 2019 that I started to properly work on it and I finished it in the first Covid lockdown. My old writing tutor, who had helped me get it ready for publication, suggested I enter the Lost the Plot writing competition which I went on to win. The organisers, Agora Books, then offered me a publishing deal – an amazing moment. But that was after I’d had loads and loads of rejections from agents and publishers.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards history fiction and darker themes?


I didn’t consciously set out to write a dark book. I think you just write what you know. At the time I started writing in earnest, I had just lost both parents and was struggling to come to terms with my relationship with my mother and the fact that could never now be fixed. I knew loose details of my mother’s life and ended up writing a fictionalised account of her experiences to help me with my grieving. I also did an English and History degree back in the 1990s, so writing historical fiction allows me to explore both elements.

What is your career background and how did you come to write a novel?

I trained as a journalist and edited a variety of trade publications, several of which were so niche they were featured on Have I Got News for You. I then moved into the world of PR. I’ve been around writing all my life but hadn’t written creatively since I was at school. It was hitting 40 in 2015 which made me realise it was now or never. I signed up for a creative writing course with the intention of writing a novel and went from there.

Where do you take your inspiration? Are there any rituals you do to get yourself in the mood for writing?

I love a routine. I used to try to fit writing in and around work and life and it just always fell by the wayside. But once Covid hit, I used the time I would have been travelling to London to write and quickly got into a really good routine. I now write between 5 and 7am and then get the kids up and get on with my day job. It works really well, although I do have to go to bed early. My first two novels were inspired by old family history. I came up with the idea for my third while watching a documentary.

What style of writing do you enjoy yourself? Are there any particular writers you admire?

I enjoy a mix. I read a lot of historical fiction because I love reading about different times in history and it also helps my own writing. I’ve just finished all three of Stacey Halls books and particularly loved The Familiars. But I can’t resist a good thriller – the sort of book you read in one sitting because it’s just so good. This year I’ve been reading many fellow debut authors books, both to support them and see what else is out there. It’s been a great opportunity to read outside my usual genres – Neema Shah’s debut Kololo Hill about Ugandan Asians fleeing from Uganda after Idi Amin ordered their expulsion was incredibly moving and gave me real insight into the refugee experience.

If you could collaborate with any person, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?


I’ve always wondered what it would be like to collaborate with someone on a writing project. I see fiction books which are co-written and wonder how it’s done. Writing is such a solitary and personal thing, I wonder whether the co-writers fight about where the plot is going! That said, I’d love any opportunity to work with Kate Morton because I adore her epic books about family secrets.

Have you got any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

I’m just starting to go through the edits for my second novel, provisionally titled The Fortune Teller’s Promise, which sees university student Rosie home for the holidays to finish her dissertation which is about the Great War. Her mother suggests she talks to her great-grandmother Edith. Rosie reluctantly visits the old lady but is quickly drawn in by her vivid recollections of the start of the war and her father and brothers joining up to fight. But when Edith repeatedly slips up on dates and locations, Rosie starts to wonder whether her memory is beginning to fail her, or if their family history is not what it seems. 

I studied the Great War at university and loved it, so it’s been wonderful to revisit some of that literature again and do more research. But the story was also inspired by our family history. My late grandmother was engaged to be married to a man who was killed in the Great War.
I’ve also started my third book which is set in the 1970s and explore post-natal depression.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to later in the year?

One of the judges for the Lost the Plot prize was Laura Pearson, who also published her debut with Agora Books a few years ago and has since had two more books published. She’s been very supportive of me and is very active on Twitter. I’ve just bought all three of her books and am getting started on Missing Pieces, another story about family secrets and intrigue. I’m looking forward to Emily Gunnis’s new book The Midwife’s Secret, which comes out in October and also the second instalment of Richard Osman’s The Thursday Murder Club. I tend to read about two books a month and have a hefty to be read pile!

Huge thanks to Cathy for answering my questions- I’m also reading The Man Who Died Twice and it’s awesome. I’m excited to add The Girl In The Maze to my TBR pile!

Could Rise In Sale Of Advanced Reading Copies Change The Literature Market?

When I recently saw reports that advanced copies of books by famed writers, including Sally Rooney, have been selling online for high prices before the novel is release.

Advanced copies are what bloggers and book reviewers like me receive so that we can write reviews that come out before or at the same time as a book is released.

When you receive an advance copy, you’ll usually see a notice on the outside, and often on the inside too, which states that the advanced copy is not for sale and only for reviewing purposes. However, many disreputable bloggers are now selling their advanced copies for big bucks and publishers are pretty powerless to stop them.

In the past, it’s been overlooked if advanced copies get given to charity shops long after the book is released. That’s because it’s hard to police and, frankly, it isn’t making reviewers any profits. It’s simply a way for book reviewers to declutter their lives long after the review is published. However, actually making money from advanced copies has always been a no-no, and frankly, I’d not heard of many cases of it happening in the past.

Now, it’s clear that the issue is getting worse. Bloggers are profiting from advanced copies and giving decent, genuine book reviewers a bad name. With the rise of online blogging and social media influencers, even more book publishers and promoters are facing problems as they are having to give out more advanced copies to entice reviewers. As more advanced copies, either electronic or physical, are offered to bloggers, there becomes a great risk that some of them will be distributed for profit prior to the release of the novel.

Frankly, I think it’s utterly disgusting that some book bloggers are trying to profit from advanced copies of books, to the detriment of authors. Writers were already hard hit, both by the COVID-19 pandemic and other industry changes. They need the support of book bloggers and reviewers, rather than the theft of their intellectual property for profit.

As a book reviewer myself, I work hard to provide constructive reviews for the benefit of authors, as well as my readers. So, I think it’s dreadful to use advanced copies for anything other than to read and review. While it does make me happy to get a copy of books, particularly ones I’m excited for, ahead of time, I think it’s definitely a privilege that needs to be respected. Bloggers who sell advanced copies are giving the industry a bad name and are, for the most part, in the minority.

Looking to the future, I think that this mass selling of advanced copies of books by influential writers will lead to publishers changing the way they distribute books to bloggers. I think that it’ll become more common for advanced copies to be sent electronically, which is already the case, but more convenience than for tracking purposes.

Moving forward, I think that book publishers and promoters will start tracking advance copies and where they end up. I also believe that they will start to be more discerning about who they give advanced copies to. That might mean a change for online bloggers, who might have to prove their metal before they receive advanced copies. All these developments will take time, but they could make the book reviewing and promoting markets better in the long run.

So, at the end of the day, I think that this development in the literary market could help to make the book reviewing space better going forward. It’s a real shame that some greedy individuals are trying to profit from advanced copies, but in the future, hopefully, it’ll be easier for genuine book reviewers to get hold of them and support authors and their readers.

Five Great Non-Fiction Books To Give You An Insight Into The Fascinating World Of Reptiles

Reptiles are the unsung heroes of the natural world, in my humble opinion. They’re beautiful creatures that help regulate the world’s ecosystems, and many of them have truly unique superpowers, such as the ability to change colour, shed limbs to escape and regrow them later, and more.

However, when it comes to literature and reading, remarkably few authors, beyond the odd children’s writer, bother with tales about reptiles. When they do, it’s often keeping them as pets and how to care for them.

But there’s much more to reptiles than just the small selection that people commonly keep as pets, and in many cases the truth of their lives in the wild is stranger than any fiction ever will be.

That’s why I’ve put together this list of five awesome non-fiction books about reptiles so you can learn more about their incredible lives.

5. Snakemaster: Wildlife Adventures with the World’s Most Dangerous Reptiles: Austin Stevens is a world-renowned snake enthusiast who is to snakes what Steve Irwin was to crocodiles. He’s become a star thanks to his TV shows, and in his book he shares many exhilarating adventures and thrilling experiences working with dangerous snakes around the world. The book is very self-promotional and discusses the author’s life and work as much as it does the snakes that he works with, but it’s also insightful and many of the anecdotes are intriguing. The writer is clearly a snake expert and enthusiast who wants to share his knowledge on these fascinating creatures, as well as spend as much time as possible studying their behaviour and lives. If you love snakes and like a little thrill in your non-fiction reading, then this book has both. Many of the writer’s tales of working with some of the world’s most deadly snakes are breathtaking and scary in equal measure.

4.You’re Gonna’ Get Bit! Harrowing Tales of Herpetology: An impassioned tale of a love of reptiles, this is an engaging read that will make you want to step outside your comfort zone and start making all sorts of cold blooded friends. Author and reptile specialist Mark Ferdinand talks us through his love of everything from frogs to poisonous snakes and everything in between. His passion and love for nature comes through every page and makes the book a really amazing read. You won’t want to put the book down and will enjoy reading about everything from Ferdinand’s childhood getting his first reptilian pets to his job extracting and handling dangerous snakes. The book is both funny and enjoyable, making for an engaging combination of autobiography and information. You’ll learn, and laugh, a lot if you choose to read this intense book.

3. The Lizard King: The True Crimes and Passions of the World’s Greatest Reptile Smugglers: I’ve already mentioned this incredible book in my list of non-fiction books about animals to read if you loved Tiger King, but it’s definitely worth adding to this list as well. Writer Bryan Christy investigates the global illegal trade in reptiles, and how this lucrative and deeply dangerous market damages the habitats and lives of a wide range of reptiles. The book showcases the damage that the underground trade in reptiles has, and how it is powered by greed and an insatiable desire for exotic pets by avid collectors. The main focus of the book is one specific reptile dealer, who illegally imported thousands of animals into America from around the world and who the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were trying to snare for many years to come. Christy chronicles the investigation and the impact that illegal reptile smuggling has on the pet industry and the lives of individual animals.

2. Secrets of Snakes: The Science beyond the Myths: One of the many things that makes reptiles so intriguing is that their lives are often so unknown to us. While most mammals have been extensively studied and behave in ways that we can understand, snakes and other reptiles have their own unique ways of being. Most reptiles don’t experience emotions the way that we do, which means that we cannot relate to their behaviour as we do with most domestic and many wild animals. Taking a humorous and relatable approach, biologist David Steen unpacks some of the biggest myths and questions that many people have about snakes and offers ways that we can understand them. This fascinating book is approachable and understandable, making it great for anyone who wants to find out more about snakes but doesn’t want to keep them as a pet. Steen has experience observing snakes in the wild as well as in captivity, so he shows us a peek behind the curtain at these previously unknown creatures. He discusses a variety of different types of snake and breaks down the myths that have often hampered our relationship with these diverse and truly unique creatures.

1. Dreaming in Turtle: A Journey Through the Passion, Profit, and Peril of Our Most Coveted Prehistoric Creatures: If you want to learn more about one of the animals that is most exploited and damaged by humans, then I would heartily recommend this amazing book. It takes the reader on a tour around the world to see how humans are exploiting turtles, which the author compares to canaries in a coal mine, and how this exploitation affects the ocean that turtles call home. Journalist and reptile enthusiast Peter Laufer walks the reader through the enduring popularity and symbolism that turtles embody and how this is completely at odds with the cavalier way that people treat them and make their lives miserable and their homes uninhabitable. This book is gripping and deeply disturbing at the same time, and it’s a unique read for those who want to learn more about our impact on the environment and the lives of the creatures tat live in it with us. Often, for people, it’s hard for people to connect with a cause, even one as important conservation and caring for the environment, without an individual cause or case study. Laufer uses the hardships of the humble turtle to make a bigger point about humanity and our disregard for the flora and fauna that came before us and will probably outlive humans.

Back To Bookstores: How To Browse Without Being A Bellend

The world is slowly reopening after COVID-19, which means, among many other fun things, that we can all finally return to our favourite stores.

Many people love browsing through clothing stores or looking at shoes, while I, and many others, love browsing through book stores.

Book stores are great to visit, but I’ve noticed, as I return to them, that some people don’t have any manners or, apparently, social skills.

Things have been open for a while here in the UK, but I know that every country is different. What isn’t different, is that you need to be looking out for others while you’re shopping for books.

Buying books in a store is a valuable way to help local businesses in your community that have struggled since the pandemic began. It’s also a fun and soothing activity that is great for book lovers, but you have to do it right without behaving like an absolute arse.

So, what I’m trying to say is, whether you love second-hand bookshops like me, or you’re a fan of big chains and buying new books, don’t be a douche. If you need to know how, here are some tips.

Wear A Mask If You Can

The mask laws might have been rescinded in many countries, but where possible you should keep wearing one in crowded places. It’ll mean that if you do have anything, then you’ll reduce the chance of it spreading to others who share your space. It’ll also mean that you’ll reduce the number of pathogens that you could potentially transfer to surfaces that you breathe on. Many people might think that wearing a mask now is pointless, but it’s a kind thing to do. Also, during the time when masks were a legal requirement, you probably bought some reusable ones. You can’t use them for anything else, so you might as well wear them!

Sanitise Your Hands Before You Start Touching Stuff

Most shops have sanitiser at the entryway, so you can easily clean your hands before you start browsing. If you’re visiting a small bookshop that doesn’t have sanitiser for customers, then you should use your own sanitiser before you start touching books. Hand sanitisers aren’t an alternative to washing your hands, particularly after you’ve eaten, touched animals or used the bathroom. However, in between visiting different shops and touching surfaces like door handles, it can be a useful way to make sure that your hands are clean and reduce your chances of transferring bacteria from different areas.

Give Staff And Other Shoppers Some Space

Like the mask laws, social distancing rules have also been relaxed in many areas. Still, it’s kind to give other people their space. Some people might not be feeling very safe right now, and others might still be adjusting to being in close contact with others after the pandemic. So, don’t go getting up in strangers’ grills. If the bookshop that you’re visiting is small, then you might have to wait to get to a bookshelf or to move around the store. Be patient and remember that everyone is struggling right now, so your kindness could make a massive difference to someone. If you need to ask the staff for help, then be polite and respectful (as you should always be). Don’t crowd them and if the staff member asks you to wait behind a screen or stand back, just do it.

Only Pick Up Books You’re Genuinely Interested In Or Considering Buying

In bookshops, it’s fun to pick up books and read the blurb. However, if you’re not interested in buying it or learning more about it, then you shouldn’t pick it up. If you can read the blurb on the back without lifting the book, for example if it’s placed backwards on the shelf, then you should try to read the back without touching it. If you decide that you’d like to purchase the book, then you can pick up one copy to take to the counter. If the store has one of those mobile zapper things to scan the barcode with, then hold the book out for the cashier to scan, so they don’t have to touch it. If the bookseller has to type in a code, then try reading it out for them, again, so they don’t have to touch the book. It’s a simple kindness but it could go a long way. If the person serving you is willing to touch the book, then fair play to them, but remember that everyone is different and try to help where you’re able to do so.

Buy A Gift Voucher If You Don’t Want A Book

Book sales have risen during the pandemic, but many bookstores, particularly small independent ones, have still found the pandemic tough. So, it’s more important now than ever before that you support these stores if you want them to stay open so you can keep visiting them. If you don’t want to by a book during your visit, then you could consider buying a gift card to support the store. You could give the gift card as a present for someone you love, or you could just keep them for yourself to use at a later date. Buying a gift card means that the store has some extra money now, at a time when things are precarious.

Be Nice

It sounds super obvious, but just try your best to be kind as much as you can. If you think someone else is being overly cautious, or doing something that you don’t agree with, just leave it and don’t force your opinion on others. Everyone has their own way of coping with this crisis, so as long as it’s not harming you, try to accept others as much as possible. The main message of this blog post is that everyone has a different way of coping with the pandemic, and you should do your best to be mindful of that. If you do, then the chances are that more people will also be respectful of your own boundaries and you’ll find book shopping more enjoyable.

Mo Hayder Obituary

It’s with a heavy heart that I share the news that novelist Clare Dunkel, who wrote under the pseudonyms Mo Hayder and Theo Clare, as died at the age of just 59, after battling Motor Neurone Disease.

Mo Hayder, as she was most commonly known, worked around the world, before her debut novel Birdman was published at the end of 1999. It was a shockingly graphic tale of the investigation into the ritualist murders of multiple women in London. The novel was revered as refreshingly intense and deeply thriller by both readers and critics alike.

In book she introduced her main protagonist, Jack Caffery, who appears in several of her novels. He’s a driven detective inspector who’s not phased by anything. He’s often called to the scene of gruesome crimes. Many of Hayder’s books involve despicable crimes and horrendous crime scenes, or difficult topics, such as paedophilia.

As well as the Jack Caffery novels, the author also wrote four standalone novels and put together the screenplay for a Dutch language version of her novel The Treatment. A versatile writer and supportive member of the writing community, Hayder contributed a great deal to the world of literature and thriller writing. Her work inspired many other dark crime fiction writers, and helped to define the modern thriller market.

Despite having left school at just 15 years old to become a waitress, then working around the world, including in Tokyo, a city which she eventually named a novel after, Hayder later returned to the world of education and earned herself two Master’s degrees; one in film making from the American University in Washington DC and the other in creative writing from Bath Spa University. She also had jobs as a waitress, security guard and international English teacher before she started writing professionally and making a name for herself in the thriller writing community.

These jobs and degrees helped her to hone her writing skills, enrich her already extensive life experiences and get the confidence she needed to start writing professionally. Her first book was beloved by readers and critics alike, and all of her subsequent works have achieved similar success.

Her work is most notable for being gripping and gruesome, without being overly gory. Hayder got the balance just right, making her work appealing to a wide variety of readers. The author created amazing characters who did crazy and often terrible things. Every book was a roller coaster of emotions, and the author crafted beautiful narratives that kept readers hooked from start to well after they were finished reading.

As well as being international bestsellers, many of her novels also won accolades, including the coveted CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award. Her contribution was noted through the winning of these awards and by many reviewers who regularly pointed out the gripping nature of her work. Her work is often seen as similar to the very best Scandinavian crime fiction, as it uses many of the same tropes and similar plot devices to grip the reader and really shock them to the core.

Although Hayder’s bibliography isn’t exceptionally extensive under any name, she has made a lasting impact on the crime fiction and thriller genres thanks to her imagination and amazing skill with words. She helped to pave the way for many other writers to incorporate dark themes into their work and highlight the gruesome side of human nature.

Drawing on her extensive and varied life experiences as well as the people she knew and loved, Hayder created rich narratives and unique plots that would haunt readers long after they put her books down. Her second husband, to whom my thoughts go out at this difficult time, was a retired policeman, and presumably she drew on his past experiences, as well as her own, when writing her novels.

Shortly before her unfortunate demise, Hayder completed a new novel, The Book Of Sand, which was written under her second pseudonym, Theo Clare. The book is set to be released posthumously next year.

Ultimately, this latest novel will be an exciting addition to Hayder’s legacy of writing gripping, tense thrillers that show the very worst that humanity has to offer. It’s such a colossal shame that the thriller industry has lost such a celebrated writer, but Hayder’s work will live on and be loved by many generations to come. She’ll always be known as a master of suspense and turning difficult topics into engaging narratives. She died too soon but her work remains and will be a lasting reminder of her commitment and unique creative mind. My thoughts are with her family and loved ones, and I can only hope that her success in her profession brings them some small comfort as they grieve for their loss. It’s always a shame to lose a talented individual so soon, but she made an impression on millions of readers, as well as those lucky enough to know her and spend time with her in person.

Five Magical Books About Marine Mammals

Continuing my series of pastoral top five lists of books about nature and animals, I’ve decided to put together a list of books about marine mammals.

I’ve always been a massive fan of dolphins, whales and orcas. These majestic creatures live in the sea, which is my favourite place.

Swimming in the sea gives me a sense of freedom I’ve never experienced anywhere else. I’ve been privileged enough to swim in some of the most gorgeous natural bodies of water in the world, from the Pacific Ocean to the Daintree river.

In the sea is where I’ve always felt the most at home. I can’t imagine how amazing the lives of marine mammals that live their permanently must be.

Ever since I saw dolphins leaping alongside our boat in Australia, I’ve known first-hand that these incredible animals are deeply intelligent and communicative.

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed reading books about marine mammals and finding out some of the secrets behind their lives.

If you’re keen to find out more about marine mammals, whether it’s in the wild or the horror that is their lives in captivity, then this is the list for you. It’s exclusively non-fiction books, but many of them are so compelling that you’ll feel like you’re reading a story.

5. Orca: The Whale Called Killer: Erich Holt’s incredible book was first published in 1981, significantly before Blackfish made Orcas the centre of public and media attention. This book is a classic that is beloved by scientists, animal behaviourists and nature lovers alike. It gives an in-depth insight into the history of our understanding of Killer Whales, and how we’ve grown to understand them through arduous study. The book also points out that, despite all we do know about Killer Whales, we still know woefully little about them. Researchers have split their types into two: residents and transients. There’s even a school of thought that says that they could be completely different species. However, we still have much to learn, and Holt puts forward some compelling arguments regarding these phenomenal and beautiful animals. The author also did an amazing job of showing that, far from being bloodthirsty killers, Orcas are actually complex animals with their own unique societies. So, if you want to go back to where our knowledge of Orcas really began, then you should read Orca: The Whale Called Killer.

4. The Pinnipeds: Seals, Sea Lions, and Walruses: When most of us think about marine mammals, we think of Dolphins and Whales. But, there are plenty of other marine mammals, including sea otters and manatees. There’s also seals, sea lions and walruses, which are the subject of this incredible book. Author Marianne Riedman offers a unique insight into the lives and behaviours of these incredible and quirky creatures. The book is over 28 years old and was published in 1992, but it offers a great primer for anyone who’s interested in the history of our understanding of seal, sea lions and walruses. Riedman provides a great introduction to these beautiful creatures and helps readers to understand their lives and behaviour. It’s a very scientific book that is still accessible if you are interested in the classification of these animals, as well as information about their habits and communication styles.

3. Spying on Whales: The Past, Present and Future of the World’s Largest Animals: Whales often live very deep under the sea, and only rise to the surface briefly for air. As such, it’s understandable that we don’t know masses about many types of Whales and their everyday lives. Geologist and Academic Nick Pyenson explores the very latest in Whale research and what studies can show us about how these immense underwater creatures live. From research into fossils and Whale skeletons to field research on live Whales, Pyenson gives us an insight into how science is slowly unravelling the truth about these giants of the deep. His work spans many different countries and offers a valuable insight into what’s going on in the world of marine mammal research. The book originally came out in 2019, so it’s a few years old now, but it’s still pretty relevant and is a refreshing take on marine science. The author breaks down the science into language that’s easy for the layman to understand without being patronising or condescending, which is a real skill. As someone who’s read a lot of books about nature and animals, I can say that many behaviourists and scientists struggle to connect and communicate with their audiences, but Pyenson does it really well in this fascinating study of Whales.

2. Voices in the Ocean: A Journey into the Wild and Haunting World of Dolphins: Dolphins are one of the most world-renowned marine mammals, particularly bottle-nosed dolphins with their distinctive grins. Much of what we know of Dolphins comes from captive encounters, or wild watching of inquisitive pods of Dolphins who lark about near boats. In bestselling author Susan Casey’s epic book, we get a unique and intriguing glimpse into the lives of these sleek underwater animals. Casey explores how their lives and histories have become entwined with ours, and how their intellect and innovative communication abilities has helped Dolphins to flourish in almost every body of water in the world. There are even rare River Dolphins, and all of these different types have survived for thousands of years thanks to their collaborative natures and incredible cognitive abilities, which are much stronger than we give them credit for being. Dolphins might look cute with their seemingly permanent grins, but they can actually be very vicious if provoked and the species is carnivorous. If you always thought that Dolphins were just cute marine animals that smile and look pretty, then you really need to educate yourself by checking out this great book.

1. Death at SeaWorld: Shamu and the Dark Side of Killer Whales in Captivity: If you’re a fan of the Netflix documentary Blackfish, then this is the ideal read for you. Award-winning Journalist David Kirby tells the story of Marine Biologist Naomi Rose, and how she learned about Killer Whales in the wild, and the shocking difference between their natural lives and the time they spend in captivity in so-called humane establishments like SeaWorld. His book shows Rose’s fight against SeaWorld and how she and other campaigners worked to get these majestic animals released, even before the 2010 death of trainer Dawn Brancheau, which is the main subject of the Netflix documentary. The book reads like a thriller and gives an unbelievable insight into the horrific world of animal exploitation.

Most Men Don’t Read Books By Women: No Shit Sherlock

Author MA Sieghart recently made the point that disturbingly few men read books written by women.

She even made a point of using the byline ‘MA’, rather than her first name, Mary Ann, because she wants men to read the piece.

For men, I’m sure that this is a shocking truth, but for any woman it should come as no surprise that men don’t read books written by women.

Despite the fact that, supposedly, our right to vote and have our own bank accounts means, for many men at least, that we don’t need feminism anymore, it’s still true that every woman you know has experienced sexism and harassment, and that we’ve been told at least once that our opinions aren’t worth a damn because we’re women.

That’s why I try not to use my real name on the blog too much- I know that many men (and some other women) feel intimidated by women with opinions.

It’s a scary fact, but as MA Sieghart highlights, the lack of female authors in most modern men’s reading lists is the reason why many men still treat women like trash. They still honk at us, demand that we stop feeling whatever we’re feeling to smile for them, sexually harass us and generally treat us as lesser than mediocre men.

As the author of this fascinating opinion piece highlights, the data shows that while women are willing to read books written by men, the same cannot be said for the reserve.

That means that many men don’t hear stories of what it’s like to be a woman written by women. Diversity is key for any well-rounded personal education and self-improvement,

It also means that men are more likely to perpetrate violence against women if they don’t view us as intelligent, thinking individuals worthy of their time and empathy. You might recently have seen the ‘If England gets beaten, then so does she’ campaign from charities discussing the potential rise in violence against women if England’s team didn’t win in the recent European Cup prior to our loss.

After that, there were many instances of threats and online hate towards both women and ethnic minorities.

Seems scary, but women face a lot of violence and injustice at the hand of men, even to this very day, and one way to reduce this is to encourage men to read more books by female authors.

For that matter, men also need to read books by authors from a wide range of backgrounds. Whether it’s individuals from the LGBTQIA+ community, differently abled individuals or writers from different races and countries, those who aren’t white, able bodied heterosexual men often struggle to get their stories heard.

Boosting diversity starts at the beginning, which is why we need to improve diversity in school reading lists. We need more books in schools by a wide range of different writers.

It also means teaching kids, particularly boys, that reading the stories and ideas of those who are different to them, particularly women and members of the BAME community, is vital. It’s also fun and can broaden your horizons. Make kids read a variety of books; don’t just give them books that feature the odd black or female character, but are written by white men, like Of Mice And Men, To Kill A Mocking Bird or Disgrace.

Instead, I think that more kids should be reading books by strong women with important stories to tell, like Maya Angelou, Roxane Gay, Margret Atwood, Alice Walker and others. Reading these important stories will help kids to see a diverse range of people actually write about themselves, rather than having to read their stories second hand from the pens of white, male authors.

Improving diversity in reading means that we also have to work hard to improve diversity in writing. I’ve already lamented on the lack of female writers in many genres, including spy fiction, which desperately needs more women writers. Some of the deplorable depictions I’ve seen of female characters in some spy books and thrillers written by men is enough to make you cringe. I’ve seen women president characters that only do as they’re told by men through to women who open their blouses to flirt. Anyone who’s ever even spent time with women should realise that these scenarios are utterly ridiculous, but somehow grown male writers don’t, and these books actually manage to make it past editors, proofreaders and major international publishers and make it into print.

That’s why publishers and the literary community as a whole needs to make a greater push towards even more diversity. We need writers from different backgrounds to be able to publish their stories and make their voices heard. If more women and members of marginalised communities can get their work published, then they’ll be able to slowly help push aside the myriad of male stories trying, and failing, to portray the struggles that women and those from other communities face.

Also, the simple fact is that people can’t read more fiction written by women if it isn’t published and made widely available. As someone who does lots of interviews with writers, one thing I’ve learned is that many women struggle to get their work published. While men do too, women writers, particularly talented ones writing about feminism and the struggles they face in their everyday lives, are often the worst hit. That needs to change if we want to make meaningful strides towards more diversity in the reading lists of everyone, but particularly those who need it the most; those with the privilege. As a white woman and member of the LGBTQIA+ community I’m constantly aware of the deficiencies in my reading, and work to read as widely as possible, but if men aren’t doing the same then nothing’s going to change. I’m not saying I’m perfect, far from it, but I always try my best to improve and broaden my mind.

At the end of the day, I think that the lack of diversity in men’s reading habits seriously limits our society, and is central to the issues that women and members of the LGBTQIA+ and BAME communities face. Men who want to be our allies can do so by reading books by those from marginalised communities. By buying and reading these books you’ll improve your own perception of the world, broaden your horizons and also help to fund unique writers. You’ll be voting with your money and showing publishers that these authors deserve more publicity and support. This blog is a place for a diverse range of writers, so if you have any suggestions, or are a BAME, female or LGBTQIA+ writer yourself and want some promotion and support, then I’m here for you.

Leye Adenle Interview: “Like most writers, I’ve been writing much, much longer than I’ve been published”

Award-winning author of both short stories and full-length novels Leye Adenle talks me through his work and how he writes in a wide variety of different genres and makes every piece of work deeply compelling.

Tell me about how the books you write. Why do you have such a passion for such a wide range of different genres?

I’ve always enjoyed reading a wide range of genres; horror, romance, thrillers, sci-fi, even literary fiction. If it’s true that you become a writer because you’re a reader, it only makes sense that I would write, or attempt to write, what I love to read. Maybe I’ll add a horror to my thriller and sci-fi one day. Romance is probably the one genre I’m least likely to write – I just don’t believe in love anymore.

You write a lot of short stories: what do you like about this style of writing and how does it compare to writing full-length novels?

The short story format is simply beautiful. To achieve in a few pages what a novel does in hundreds is just elegant. It’s like paintings; what some painters do with great detail, some masters achieve with simple strokes. I love this format above all else.


What is your career background and how did you get into writing professionally?

My background is in economics and computers. You wouldn’t know it by looking at me now, but I used to be a computer nerd. Not anymore. Discovering wine and women cured me. Like most writers, I’ve been writing much, much longer than I’ve been published. As far back as primary school. At some point, I had to justify the hours spent dreaming up stories and writing them down, so I decided to try and get published. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life.


Are there any particular mediums or narrative troupes you like to use in your writing and why?

I hope not. I hope my writing is so fresh and so original as to be free of tropes and hackneyed terms and all that stuff readers have come to expect and recognise on sight. So original that my works become the tropes of other writers.


What books/ authors do you enjoy reading and how does this influence your writing?

I enjoy reading all authors, especially new voices. There is always a new writer to discover: from the past, writers writing in different languages, new writers, not yet published writers. There’s just so much amazing talent out there and I want to experience and enjoy them all.

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

Lee Child. Why? His Jack Reacher and my Amaka Mbadiwe would make a perfect duo for a thriller.

Have you got any exciting new plans or projects coming up that you’d like to share with me?

The third book in the Amaka thriller series is currently being copy edited and I’ve already started on the fourth. I’ve also written the first book in a new series – I’m currently editing that.

What are your aims for your future career? Where do you want your writing to take you in 10 years?

I want to keep writing for as long as I live. I hope that 10 years from today, I would have been a successful full-time writer for many years.


Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward in the future?

I am excitedly looking forward to Oyinkan Braithwaite’s next book.


Huge thanks to Leye for taking the time to answer my questions. You can find out more about his work at his website here.