Read Like a Whale: Self-Help and Great Fiction

When you're a librarian, everyone wants to tell you what they're reading—including a whale I met while observing American novelist Herman Melville's 200th birth anniversary this summer. While Moby-Dick, Or, The Whale portrays the whale as punitive and ferocious, this avid reader assured me there is much more below the surface. (See what our whale did there? He definitely has a sense of humor.) Read on for his recommendations.

(Prefer to read about a whale rather than like a whale? Check out my earlier blog post Moby Dick: The Hunt Continues.)


Let's get the obvious out of the way: Yes, whales enjoy a whale of a tale. (But they find the phrase a little stale.) Two favorites are The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, a murder mystery in which the protagonist is caught in a time loop with the deadline for solving the crime fast approaching, and the post-apocalyptic Blackfish City, featuring a woman (accompanied by a polar bear and an orca) who inspires a fight for survival. Booklist describes it as having "a kind of Hunger Games resonance that reaches beyond any genre boundaries." Both titles were among our 2018 Best of the Best selections, so clearly this whale is in the know.


Our whale confided that much of what he reads is self-help to counteract some of the negativity toward whales that's emerged in pop culture. He likened whales' experiences in a post-Moby Dick, post-Pinocchio world to the experience of social media shaming. He recommends picking up the witty and empathetic So You've Been Publicly Shamed, which explores why we shame and what happens once someone has been shamed in this way.

You probably won't be surprised to hear whales are natural introverts, so our whale welcomes recent books like Quiet: The Power of Introverts in A World That Can't Stop Talking and The Secret Lives of Introverts: Inside Our Hidden World. He said Hiding in the Bathroom: An Introvert's Roadmap to Getting Out There (when You'd Rather Stay Home) helped him with career development tips (Yep, even whales face the daily grind.), while Kind of Coping: An Illustrated Look at Life With Anxiety made him laugh—and feel less alone.

Our whale wanted to end with some self-help to propel you forward. ("It's like my friend Dory says: Just keep swimming.") You Are A Bad Ass: How to Stop Doubting your Greatness and Start Living An Awesome Life offers advice and simple exercises to deal with what's holding you back. And Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance demonstrates that persistence is the secret to success.

What would you recommend to our whale? Let us know your favorite self-help books in the comments.

(With thanks to fellow blogger Stephen, who dared to get reading recommendations from a zombie last Halloween and inspired this whale hunt of my own.)