Swallowed by a Whale: a book review

My frenetic reading pace continues this week as I have already finished the next selection from my non-resolution Christmas book pile. As I wrote last week, the hefty books in my pile are still ahead of me, so while I am enjoying my current book choices, it is also good to be making tangible progress before the final slog.

While I only have one fiction option left to be read, I have decided I am going to go for this one next. It has been a while since I read a fiction book (if you ignore the audiobooks in the car of course) so I am looking forward to delving back into a fictional world with Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir.

First things first, let me tell you about being swallowed by a whale.

Swallowed by a Whale

My rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Without intending it, this booked ended up being my second anthology in a row. Consisting of short pieces (typically less than three pages) by a selection of authors both familiar and not, Swallowed by a Whale is very much a book of writing guidance. Divided into traditional writing tips (essentially numbered lists) and short essays on the writing life, the book can be taken as an instruction manual if you wish, or else inspiration and encouragement to get working on your first novel.

With a selection of artists and illustrators adding their advice visually to the mix, this book is a beautiful specimen. I am even prepared to break my own unwritten rule preferring paperbacks over hardcover choices (granted Whale is only available in hardback). Not all of the guidance in the book will be helpful for each reader, but regardless this book is a pleasure to read, look at and hold.

What I really liked

  1. As I have mentioned above the look and aesthetic of Whale is something else. It is a pleasure to read and look at, and the artwork just sings from the page to make this a real reading delight
  2. As well as discovering writing advice (some good, some probably less useful), Whale allows you to get just a little taste of the work of a variety of authors. Some I have not heard of before had me in stitches as I read their guidance, and has certainly seen them added to the future TBR pile as a result

The less good bits

  1. The writing tips are essentially bullet point lists and are grouped within the book in three blocks. Between each block, a selection of essays and artwork cover themes such as getting started and reflection. The issue, reading fifty pages or so of back to back lists in one go became tedious fast. Even accepting Whale is a quick read, the book would have been even easier if the guidance lists has been more evenly dispersed through the book rather than in three solid blocks. It certainly would have kept the attention easier


Swallowed by a Whale is a beautiful book, a quick and easy read and containing the occasional useful nugget of information for the aspiring/new writer. While it could benefit from a little reordering of the guidance, on the whole this was a great read I would definitely recommend.

Who should read this book? Aspiring authors, definitely, but also those who just enjoy writing and are looking to improve, and potentially even those who are hoping to discover a previously unknown author for their next read.

Have you read Swallowed by a Whale or got it on the TBR pile? What did you think of the book’s overall structure? Did the beautiful artwork draw you in and keep you wanting more? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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