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Top Books Read in 2018

Rachel Saylor


1. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: Young Adult Fiction

The Hate U Give is a must read for every American. It is such a poignant story, especially for the current state of this country. Although being able to understand what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes is rather difficult without having actually done so, Angie Thomas takes you on a journey of facing the realities, in modern times, of growing up black in America.

This is not just a coming of age story, it is a narrative about social injustice, prejudice and the segregation and misunderstanding of cultural differences within America. It doesn’t matter how old a reader is, this book should be read by all.

2. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens: Historical Fiction

Delia Owens’ imagery is breathtaking in this novel. I happen to love that it takes place on the coast of North Carolina, for obvious reasons, but it is also a landscape and world I am unfamiliar with even though it is the state I grew up in.

It is a riveting growing up tale and murder mystery. The story jumps from the protagonist’s past childhood lived in poverty and isolation, as well as her present (in the late ‘60s). It explores the beauty of even the least desired landscapes and encourages the reader to find beauty in every aspect of nature. Sometimes you have to look a little closer or deeper to find it, but it exists there. The novel also explores the ways in which our pasts can define our futures.

3. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert: Non-Fiction, Personal Development

Elizabeth Gilbert describes ideas as ethereal sentiences that we can attract if we are dutifully working on our creative endeavors. She also believes ideas can leave just as quickly as they come and find another willing mind if you aren’t ready, too busy, or aren’t willing to put in the time and effort for it. Gilbert’s engaging and humorous anecdotes of how big magic has taken place in her life and others around her make you want to not only believe in it but experience it for yourself.

Such a good take on the creative process and how to embrace or pivot in the ups and downs that are always present.

4. Deep Work by Cal Newport: Non-Fiction, Personal Development, Business

There were so many times while reading this that I exclaimed, “Yes!” and, “I love this!”

In our modern day technology-filled world where every email, comment, like or message vies for our time on top of our own lack of dedicated schedule and willpower to focus, it can be damn hard to produce even an hour of hyper-focused work in a day. Throughout Deep Work, Cal Newport points out where we are falling short in our ability to focus and exactly how we can remedy this in our life so that we can create our best work yet.

Newport gives easy-to-follow pragmatic tips and strategies to live a life of deep work. If you are tired of ending the day feeling glum about not accomplishing much that is meaningful, or look at the end of the quarter or year and realize you spent more time on tasks that didn’t bring you big results and breakthroughs and are ready to tap into your best work yet, this book will give you the steps and the accountability you need. If you are willing to sacrifice the distracting stimuli and live out Newport’s suggestions, it could revolutionize not only the way you work but also how you approach your life in general.

5. Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman: Fiction Contemporary, LGBTQ

Call Me By Your Name is a story about discovering your first love and the sorrow and joy that accompanies it. It’s about feeling vulnerable when first exploring sex while you are still awkward and unsure of your footing, yet eager and ecstatic to have such a strong connection with someone. It also shows the beauty of having a deep, intimate connection with your parents. How a relationship with them in which you can discuss vast topics and feel free to be open and honest with them brings about the possibility of loving acceptance without conditions. It will make you want to kiss your mom and dad on the cheek or pull them into a hug more often with passion, sending vibrations of your love for them through your touch.

6. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood: Fiction Dystopia, Classics, Sci-Fi

With the Hulu adaptation coming out, this book has come to the forefront of pop-culture. It is frighteningly realistic and conceivable. It turns out, every aspect of the book was inspired by real political and cultural instances in the ’70s and ’80s. Margaret Atwood drew from the turn of Reagan’s conservative leadership in the U.S. as well as the introduction of televangelism. She drew inspiration from Argentina in the late ‘70s when around 500 children in the lower class “disappeared” and were later placed in certain leader’s homes. The list goes on and they are interesting to look into.

The Handmaid’s Tale will make you value what you have in life, inspect every inch of your love’s body and tendencies, remind yourself to not take everything for granted in your privileged day-to-day, to stand up and fight for women, the LGBTQ community, minorities and any oppressed groups of people, and for you women readers - to proudly carry your womanhood.

7. The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman: Fiction Fantasy, Magical Realism

If you’re into magic, tincture making, or are a fan of Harry Potter, you’ll love this book. I hadn’t realized the connection between this book and the predecessor book which was made into a movie Practical Magic, which I love.

It’s an entrancing story that will stick with you long after the last page is read. This is a book I foresee reading over and over again.

8. Mercy for Animals by Nathan Runkle: Non-Fiction Vegan, Animals

Nathan Runkle is a compelling storyteller and captivated my attention from the beginning. Not only does he pull on heartstrings with visual descriptions, but he also is informative in the way he explains current laws state to state as well as federally as it pertains to farm animals welfare.

This book and hearing Nathan talk in person have truly changed the way I approach food and my understanding of the animal agriculture industry. It is easy to overlook what is really happening on the farms that provide most of the grocery stores with the meat and dairy products we purchase. We live in a day in age where we are desensitized to the inner-makings of the food we put into our bodies because it is conveniently out of our reach and does not require that we do the research ourselves.

I urge you to educate yourself and decide for yourself if you agree with the practices farms use and if you want to support such practices.

If eating less meat or going vegetarian or vegan have been an interest to you, but you just haven’t been able to push yourself to do it, I highly recommend you read this book. It will help you make the decision.

9. Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner: Historical Fiction Literature, Classics

Gave me goosebumps. Almost cried. What a sorrowful yet hopeful novel.

It is like the clashing of Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier — with a west rather than east setting — and all of the proprieties of a Jane Austen novel that are fought to be upheld.

The story follows a proper woman in the 18th century who is an accomplished artist. She moves out west to follow her new husband whom she barely knows before agreeing to marry. It is told from the perspective of her grandson in the 1970s. He, an older man with a recently amputated leg, spends his days devouring his grandmother’s correspondences throughout her life to piece together her tale. Throughout his explorations, he is hard on his grandmother’s thoughts and actions specifically relating to how she viewed and treated her husband, his beloved grandfather. He searches and discovers why she behaved as she did, why she thought the way she did, and gleans some understanding of his own circumstances from it.

Wallace Stegner’s descriptions are captivating, the development of his characters robust, and he paints the wild west with hopelessly devoted pioneers craving success from the new world they plan to build. It gave me an appreciation for the life I have out here in the west now because of such pioneers.

10. One Day in December by Josie Silver: Fiction Chick-lit, Romance, Contemporary, Christmas

This literally took me one day in December to read. It’s a light page-turning Chick-literature novel.

The protagonist, while traveling home in London after a long, unfulfilling day at work, on the top of a double-decker bus, makes an electrifying connection with a man outside of the bus stop. The bus drives away before either of them do anything about it, and she spends over a year looking for him in every tube, bus, and bar she’s in. Then one day, she finally finds him, only he’s her best friend’s new boyfriend.

Such a great, relatable cozy read.


I HAD to include this last book because I went crazy over it. You may not know yet, but I’m a huge Young Adult fan—especially those sweet romantic ones :)

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Jenny Han has easily become one of my new favorite YA novelists. The way she depicts teenagers is authentic and realistic.

In To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, you can’t help but relate to and love all of her characters. It’s such a quick read and way too much fun. It’ll make you feel like a schoolgirl again. I’m pretty sure I squealed out loud several times while reading this.

Happy Reading!


2018 Review

Rachel Saylor


It’s important to look back on your year and celebrate your successes as well as reflect on what went wrong or didn’t work out as planned. I know for myself I can feel as if I didn’t accomplish enough in the past year, that I messed it up and didn’t see through all of the projects I set out for myself. However, I am here today to discover the good things I did and hopefully surprise myself. This is my attempt to convince you to do the same, so here’s hoping it works.

In 2018, even though I didn’t publish my short memoir, Fire Diaries, (a long time coming), or edit one of my books to completion, there are things I did accomplish. I did finish writing my first YA modern realistic novel and I sent it out to a large group of beta readers and got great feedback from them. I also joined my first critique group and learned some valuable editing and storytelling techniques that have enriched my craft. I found opportunities to put myself out of my comfort zone by going to writer meet-ups where you write prompts and read aloud to others. I met and connected with many writers throughout the year. I attended one of my first writer specific conferences and by chance met two great ladies. We bonded quickly and formed a critique and accountability group which has pushed my writing in the best way.

Although I’ve put my first novel, Jasper’s Mountain, to the side, for now, I did spend time rewriting the book a couple of times over this year. I feel as if I have more questions than when I started out with it, but I worked my little butt off diving deeper into that world.

I wrote twenty-five chapters in my new Chick-literature humor novel, Late Bloomer. This book is  light-hearted and funny, and I’ve had so much fun writing it. I plan to finish the first draft of this book early this new year.

After almost completing my third book, I’ve come to the realization that I don’t stick to one genre and I am 100% OK with that, in fact, it gives me clarity and freedom to not feel confined to one particular genre, which has always stressed me out.

I read forty-six books—some of which really helped me stretch my mind and gave me fresh and new perspectives. (I’m going to do a post about the top books of my 2018 reading list soon).

There were ups and downs throughout the year—when is there not? And before I wrote all of these successes of enriching my craft and carving away at it, I felt as if the year was mostly made up of non-accomplishments than accomplishments. This reflection is the boost I needed in order to shape and imagine all of the positive steps this new year will bring.

My wish for you this new year is that you have the courage to embrace the positive possibilities out there for you to grasp onto. Hit reply to this email and tell me one thing you are proud of accomplishing last year in 2018. We need to celebrate our successes more often and I want to cheer you on!

Cheers to this next fantastic year,

You Need Inspiration

Rachel Saylor


You know who can be your biggest inspiration? Yourself. I know you're thinking, Yeah, but when I'm feeling down and uninspired, I really need the help of someone else to pull me out of it and get me jazzed again about my craft, life, circumstance etc. 

But I want you to think of the best version of yourself. When you feel on top of the world like you can accomplish anything you set your mind to. When you know it's mindset and drive over your current place and situation. In a way, that is someone else or at least a different mindset that's being overshadowed by your current self. Sit down (or stand), channel your best self and write the inspiration and motivation your current self needs to hear. 

It works. And I'm speaking from experience here. My most thought-provoking, inspiring material comes during times of distress. It's like I'm being the friend on the other side, reaching a helping hand out to myself to get back up and dust the dirt off my butt. In fact - to get real meta with you - it's why I'm currently writing this. I didn't wake up feeling amped with creative juices and excitement this morning. Instead, I felt lazy justified by the creeping thoughts of self-doubt. 
I don't want it to get the best of me, so I'm placing a supportive hand on my shoulder and whispering the words that I have deep within myself: 

"You have a unique gift to share with the world. There are stories within you that need to be told. Your specific life experiences and perspective work to create this particular viewpoint, and it is a beautiful thing. Now go, create, and get lost in the creation. You've got what it takes." 

I believe these words for you too. 

I'd like to challenge you to inspire yourself with your own words. Take as little or as much time to write it out. No need to be modest. And let me know how it goes for you. 

Cheers to being your own biggest supporter. 

P.S. If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s a link to an interview I did with my writer buddy, Cameron Frank, on his weekly digest where he highlights authors around the 🌎.