How to Improve Your Brain During a #TubeStrike

Here we are, another week, another tube strike!

If, like me, your ‘alternative route’ last time was a disaster, and you found yourself on a packed-out bus, squashed against the window, thinking ‘whyyyy?’, then we have something that might make your journey a little better.

Whether your commute is no different, or your average travel time has increased ten-fold, why not use the time to improve your brain?

It’s known that brain performance is enhanced by regular mental exercises, including crosswords and sudoku. Packed with illuminating insights and dozens of witty, and often, perplexing puzzles, How Puzzles Improve Your Brain both helps to create a healthier brain, whilst explaining how the puzzles are changing it.

“These mind-training exercises will make you brighter than you’ve ever been.” – Mail on Sunday
How Puzzles Improve Your Brain


“Thoroughly well-researched…Very entertaining… It made me think and play in ways I had not done before and actually explained what my brain was doing whilst attempting these puzzles.” – Puzzlemad

Kim Scott, (puzzle master for Scientific America) has designed puzzles that can target, and improve, specific areas of the brain while Richard Restak, a leading neuroscientist, describes the science behind how they reshape and strengthen the brain.

So make the most of your journey and attempt to improve your brain with some of Kim Scott’s puzzles below….(answers will be at the end of the post – no cheating!)

  1. First things first, a test for your ‘Visual Thinking‘. How many squares of any size are in the figure below?


2. Next, something to test your ‘Mathematical Thinking‘….

3. For something a little more wordy, simply complete each analogram by choosing two words from the list below. For instance, ARM is to HAND as LEG is to FOOT, because the FOOT is attached to the end of the LEG in the same way that the HAND is attached to the end of the ARM. Each word is used only once.

ARCHERY                                  HEART                                 RUNNING
BOW                                            HOUSE                                 SHEET
BREAD                                        ICE                                        SWEATER
CHEDDAR                                  LEG                                       TARGET
CHEESE                                      PAPER                                 TIMES
CRUST                                        PEANUT                               VIOLIN
ELEPHANT                                PLUS                                     WATER
FOOT                                           ROOF                                    YARN

4. And finally, something to test your memory…(I think this is what I need to work on sometimes)
puzzles-4Puzzled out? We hope not! There are plenty more puzzles (282 pages of them to be exact) to be found in How Puzzles Improve Your BrainWhat’s more, the puzzles are divided into three sections devoted to different skills – memory, perception and cognition – so it’s easier for you to be able to target a particular area of the brain that you might want to improve.

“One of the world’s leading neurologists… A fascinating study of how to ‘stop the rot’ and have a lot of fun doing it.” – Avanti

So, if you find that you’re bored of the Evening Standard’s Quick Crossword, or asking yourself ‘what can I do to keep my brain working at its best?’, get yourself a copy of How Puzzles Improve Your Brain, and by the next #tubestrike, your brain will be on top form!



  1. There are 30 squares.
  2. The number of combinations is too big to imagine in your head. So ask a simpler question: How many nights can three people sit in a different combination of three chairs each night? It’s not hard to list all six combinations:
    – and this fact helps you to solve the larger puzzle. Consider the starred chair. If person A sits in the starred chair, there are six ways to seat the remaining three people in the remaining three chairs. Similarly, if B sits in the starred chair, there are six ways to seat the remaining three people. The 4 possible people in the starred chair times 6 ways to seat the remaining three people = 24 combinations.
  3. puzzles-3ARM is to HAND as LEG is to FOOT
    MOUNTAIN is to PEAK as HOUSE is to ROOF
    LOAF is to BREAD as SHEET is to PAPER
    EGG is to SHELL as BREAD is to CRUST
    SQUARE is to DIAMOND as PLUS is to TIMES
  4. puzzles-5

Happy #NationalRunningDay folks!

Did you know that over 2.2 million of us run at least once a week?

People run for many reasons – to keep fit, to have some ‘me time’, to enjoy their natural surroundings….

Me? I just love cake, and figure that if I run, I don’t feel as guilty gorging into that scrummy piece of freshly-baked-melt-in-the-mouth carrot cake on the table.


Well, runners everywhere rejoice! For it is #NationalRunningDay and we have the perfect book for you.

Whether you’re a casual jogger, a beginner looking to train seriously for the first time or an experienced runner hoping to improve your time, there is a better way to train than relentlessly pounding the miles.

Build Your Running Body features over 150 workouts, from weight-training to resistance work and plyometrics that can be tailored to suit runners of any level, training for any distance.

There’s also exercises to prevent injury and the best methods to rehabilitate common problems, nutrition guidance, almost 400 photos to make following the programme as easy as possible, interviews and tips from leading runners and coaches that explain how elite runners train and race strategy for the weeks leading up to a race.

“This is the best running book ever” – Bob Anderson, founder of Runner’s World

So, see you at next year’s London Marathon?

Build Your Running Body cover

Want to know more? You can read an exclusive extract on Outdoor Fitness Magazine’s website!

Get your copy of Build Your Running Body here.

World AIDS Day 2014: Let’s Get To Zero

It was World AIDS Day on Monday (December 1st), the annual global health day dedicated to raising awareness about the virus, supporting the people who live with it and remembering those who have died.

According to the World AIDS Day website, around 100,000 people are currently living with HIV in the UK. Across the world, an estimated 34 million people have HIV and, since it was first clinically observed in 1981 in California, 39 million have died from it.

Though we still have a long way to go, recent scientific research suggests that the virus is becoming less deadly. A study by the University of Oxford, published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal, focused on more than 2,000 HIV+ women from South Africa and Botswana. It found that as the virus adapted to the human immune system, it weakened itself in the process, and thus, took longer to transition to AIDS.

Elsewhere in the world, campaigns are working to reduce the number of infections and deaths. San Francisco’s ‘get to zero’ programme aims to reach ‘zero new HIV infections, zero deaths from HIV/AIDS and zero stigma’. It’s a city that has worked tirelessly to confront the epidemic, as reported in TIME Magazine’s excellent article ‘The End of AIDS’ – “since 2010, the percentage of HIV-positive people in the city who are taking ARVs and have undetectable levels of HIV in their blood – which means they are unlikely to pass on the virus – has increased from 56% to 68% in 2012. Nationally, only 25% to 28% of patients fall in this category.”

Of course, San Francisco was home to Randy Shilts, author of Stonewall Book Award-winning And the Band Played On. This definitive history charts the spread of the AIDS epidemic from the very beginning in 1976 to 1985, with a briefer look at the events after 1985 that brought this disease to international attention. A masterpiece of investigative journalism, it weaves together over 1000 personal stories of those in the gay community and medical and political establishments. Together with his social and political reporting, Shilts also exposes how AIDS was ignored, or denied, by many national institutions.

Though he was tested for HIV whilst working on And the Band Played On, he refused to find out his diagnosis until after he’d finished writing. In 1987, Shilts learned that he was HIV+. The year before his death in 1994, he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists’ Association.

And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts

And the Band Played On is part of Souvenir Press’ Independent Voices Series, dedicated to publishing writers who provide alternative viewpoints and challenge conventional wisdom, making available work that has been unavailable in the UK although it is as relevant today as on its original publication.

Buy a copy of And the Band Played On here.

For further reading, see UNAIDS, World AIDS Day and WHO.

Author Corner: Jena Pincott on the Surprising Science of Pregnancy

The latest post in our Author Corner comes from Jena Pincott, author of Do Chocolate Lovers Have Sweeter Babies? The book explores the weird and wonderful science of pregnancy – the why rather than the how-to, and is a fascinating must-read for curious mums- and dads-to-be.

 Her guest blog post tackles 12 old wives’ tales about pregnancy, including morning sickness, baby brain and labour pain. All these and more can be found in her new book Do Chocolate Lovers Have Sweeter Babies? which is available now from Souvenir Press in hardcover, paperback and as an e-book.

 Science vs. Pregnancy Myths

Science tackles 12 old wives’ tales about pregnancy.  Guess which ones endure?

Myth #1: Girls steal their mothers’ beauty:  False. You might even argue that being pregnant with a girl enhances your beauty! Statistically speaking, women carrying girls have more sex during pregnancy than those carrying boys.  Our breasts also grow larger when carrying a girl than a boy.

Myth #2:  You’re eating for two. Not really. You’re actually eating for 1.1.  Even in third trimester, this means eating only, say, three bananas more daily than you would pre-pregnancy.

Myth #3:  You’ll crave dirt and clay.  Possibly true. The scientific explanation: Clay seals the stomach — and, in the past, may have helped to protect mother and foetus from toxins, bacteria, and viruses.

Myth #4: Basketballs are boys, watermelons are girls:  False.  Truth is, your belly can be both a basketball and a watermelon during different phases of the pregnancy.  If you’re pregnant with your first child, you’ll carry higher for longer into the pregnancy because the ligaments holding up the baby are tighter.

Myth #5: Girls make us sicker than boys:  Somewhat true.  A hormone called hCG contributes to pregnancy sickness. Generally speaking, female foetuses put out higher levels of hCG than do male foetuses.

Myth #6: More babies come out on a full moon.  False. The full moon doesn’t trigger labour, according to multiple studies that track births and the lunar calendar. (Note:  Nor are more loony people admitted to psych wards at this time.)

Myth #7:  You can induce your own labour.  Mostly false. In studies, most home-induction remedies such as walking, sex, spicy foods, castor oil haven’t had any significant effect on triggering labour.  BUT there is limited evidence that nipple stimulation (breast pumping) helps the process along if you’re already close to going into labour naturally.

Myth #8: The Chinese birth calendar accurately predicts gender.  False. Multiple studies have shown that when it comes to predicting gender, the Chinese birth calendar is no more accurate than flipping a coin.

Myth #9: Babies look like their fathers.  Not necessarily.  Of course some do, but this doesn’t happen as a rule. The strange thing is that we really think babies often look like their dads— possibly because fathers favour look-alikes. From an evolutionary perspective, this may have reduced the risk of infanticide.

Myth #10: Pregnancy is a turn-off for men. Nope. To the contrary, some studies find that men are generally as attracted or more attracted to their wives during pregnancy than beforehand. While couples may not have sex as often as before (expectant fathers may have a lower sex drive), pregnancy is not the turn-off they fear. From an evolutionary perspective, the pregnant woman benefits from her mate’s support, and sex helps couples bond.

Myth #11:  You’ll forget all about the pain.  Maybe. There’s a 50/50 chance that, five years from now, you’ll think labour pains were less painful than they felt at the time.  Only a small percentage of women look back at their labour pain and remember it as worse than they felt at the time.

Myth #12:  You’ll get pregnesia.  Probably. Many (but not all) studies find that pregnant women experience difficulty storing and retrieving memories. This may be due to hormones or the foetus diverting resources to grow her own brain. While your visual memory is intact (in fact, your ability to recognize and remember faces is better than ever), your ability to remember to do what you  say you’re going to do, or recall a name or street address, may be impaired.   Women carrying girls may be especially afflicted.



Latest reviews

What better way to end the working week than with a round-up of all the latest wonderful reviews and media attention that Souvenir Press titles have been attracting over the last week or so?

Have a read of the most recent reviews, and please do let us know if you see any on the web that we’ve missed!

Welcome to Biscuit Land by Jessica Thom

“Jess writes openly and honestly about living with Tourettes and about the ways in which it can and does affect her daily life. I found this an informative, honest and very moving account and found I learned a lot about Tourettes… I’m really glad to have read this book, to have had the opportunity to get to know Jess Thom a little through her words and to have discovered more about what Tourettes is like through her open, moving and brave first-hand account.” – The Little Reader Library blog (read the full review)

“Teaching the world about Tourette’s… celebrate the creativity and humour.” – The Daily Express (read the full article)

Telling Tales in Latin by Lorna Robinson

” I live in perpetual search of the perfect Latin textbook, and this book is very close indeed! … An excellent choice of text to teach children aged 9 and upwards the rudiments of Latin, and as the book has all the vocabulary needed for the OCR exam, it is a very versatile text.” – The Garden Window blog (read the full review)

She Comes First by Ian Kerner

“Before you give up on oral sex… if you yourself don’t know what the options are… get yourself a copy of Ian Kerner’s manifesto She Comes First: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pleasuring a Woman and make sure your boyfriend reads it too… It is a veritable paean to the art of good oral sex, packed with instructive sentences… I cannot recommend it highly enough.” – Suzi Godson, The Times

Do Chocolate Lovers Have Sweeter Babies? by Jena Pincott

“In-depth, yet accessible, this is a great read for any info-craving mother (or father)-to-be.” – BBC Focus

“Pregnancy is a weird and wonderful time for your body… Jena Pincott reveals some of the quirkiest secrets of this fascinating experience.” – Prima Baby

Where the Ghosts Walk by Peter Underwood

“Britain’s number one ghost hunter… A monumental volume, destined to become one of the very best in the landscape of paranormal literature.” – Cornish Guardian

The FitMama Method by Marie Behenna

“So informative and written in such warm, friendly manor. It’s full of useful information on diet and fitness during pregnancy, breathing techniques and birthing positions.” – EverythingIsRosy blog (read the full blog post)

Have you written a review of a Souvenir Press title and want it to be included in our next review round-up here on the blog? Leave me a message in the comments, on Facebook, on Twitter, or by email using the address in the Contact Us page.

What is Hypnobirthing?

With the latest news on the royal pregnancy being that the Duchess of Cambridge is looking into hypnobirthing for the birth of the couple’s first child next month, interest in this birthing method is due to sky-rocket.

Here at Souvenir Press we publish Hypnobirthing by Marie Mongan, founder of the HypnoBirthing programme. HypnoBirthing – The Mongan Method is now in its twentieth year, and has to date helped thousands of couples through its practice. The book from the USA was first published in Britain by Souvenir Press in 2007, and has already been reprinted eleven times in the UK, due to its overwhelming popularity.

So, what is hypnobirthing?

Hypnobirthing is a complete birth education programme, that teaches simple but specific self hypnosis, relaxation and breathing techniques for a better birth. It teaches positive thinking, visualisation, breathing and physical preparation exercises that will leave you confident and free of the fear of pain that most women assume to be a natural accompaniment to birth. It is designed to put you in control of your birth, so that you are always be aware of what is happening to you, and around you.

Why is it so good?

If, like the Duchess of Cambridge, you are keen to have a natural birth, HypnoBirthing methods can be used by the 95% of families whose pregnancies fall into the normal, no- or low-risk categories. It can teach you many things that are not covered in normal antenatal classes, including:

  • Breathing techniques that actually help the birth (and it’s not the panting that most people think they have to do. Think about it – why would anyone want to hyperventilate during labour?)
  • How to massively reduce the need for any medication at all
  • How to reduce your risk of needing an episiotomy during birth with a stunningly simple massage technique
  • How to be confident and informed when dealing with the medical staff – when to question, what to ask…and when it’s time to let them take charge
  • How to release any fears you might have about childbirth…regardless of where they come from
  • How to bring about your own easy start of labour with these simple, natural techniques, if you go beyond your “estimated due date”
  • Most importantly, you’ll know how to relax and stay calm and in control – regardless of what’s happening around you

(List taken from the HypnoBirthing UK website)

To learn more about hypnobirthing, take a look at the HypnoBirthing UK – The Mongan Method website, or visit the Souvenir Press website to read more about the best-selling book that will introduce you to the methods taught in the HypnoBirthing classes.

HypnoBirthing cover

Author Corner: Dr Kai Kermani on Autogenic Training

Dr Kai Kermani is author of Autogenic Training and a leading name in this field of holistic therapy. Read his exclusive blog post for Take Home a Souvenir, to find out what autogenic training is, and how discovering autogenic training changed his life.

About 30 years ago I came across the name Autogenic Training for the very first time, in one of my post graduate study courses for stress management. Like many of you, I had never heard of this technique, and enrolled upon an 8 week course.

This turned out to be the best decision I have ever made: it stood me in good stead for the very difficult times that were to follow over the years. From an accident which left me blind, to the death of my beloved partner six months after my accident, a major heart operation and a massive fire at my home which destroyed everything dear and precious to me, daily practise of Autogenics for the last 30 years has helped me navigate all the major and minor stresses and trials that life has thrown at me.

Despite everything, including my blindness, I am now in a state of complete inner peace, tranquillity, joy and contentment; if my inner peace is disturbed by external circumstances, I can easily return to my peaceful centre with the help of autogenic training.

What is Autogenic Training?

It is one of the most powerful relaxation and self-healing techniques which I have ever come across in my long career in holistic general practice and after my blindness in the use of complementary therapies especially healing which is now my profession.

The technique has 3 different parts which can be utilised for whatever the individual’s needs are. First and foremost, of course, it is a powerful relaxation technique. The emotional off-loading exercises are amazingly powerful and effective in ridding one of suppressed emotions whether current or long standing – something which I used copiously during the various traumatic times in my life. The exercises on gratitude and forgiveness are particularly powerful as they enable the individual to free themselves from the bondage of guilt and regret that afflicts most of us. With the help of some powerful positive and specifically designed affirmations, it can also be a very powerful self-healing technique.

It also has two short exercises which can be used anywhere or any time to help one remain completely relaxed in situations where there is no possibility of doing a full exercise or any other form of meditation. For example while driving, or even using it in some of our interminably long and boring meetings!

As for my book, Autogenic Training, it consists of 3 different sections. The first gives advice on general health and wellbeing. The second section consists of a tutorial on Autogenics so that the individual can easily learn it even if they have no access to qualified trainers, and third section covers over 50 specific conditions which can be helped by the practise of Autogenics in combination with other mentioned techniques.

I thoroughly recommend Autogenic Training to anyone who is interested in making an investment for life for their wellbeing and happiness. This recommendation is not just based on my own personal experiences but also hundreds of people whom I have taught personally or thousands who have used the book before.

Anyone who is interested in finding out more about my healing work can do so by visiting my website.

Dr.Kai Kermani, BSc(Hons.), MBBS, LRCP.,MRCS.,DRCOG.,MRCGP.,BCRP.