My Top Reads for 2018

I read 37 books this year, 19 were non-fiction, 18 were fiction. There were so many I enjoyed, but these were my five star reads.

MEMOIRS

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Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates

Written as a letter to his son, this memoir offers an honest depiction of race in 21st century America. Toni Morrison calls it required reading, and I would agree. One of the most important books for Americans at the present moment.

 

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Night – Elie Wiesel

This Holocaust account offers a short, brutal view of life in the camps. Wiesel’s simple prose makes these heart-wrenching scenes even more impactful. A stark reminder of where discriminatory and dehumanizing rhetoric leads.

 

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Thanks, Obama – David Litt

This hilarious insider’s view of the Obama White House will give you nostalgia for what the Presidency used to be. Litt’s casual, self-deprecating style offers many laugh-out-loud moments, as an Obama fanboy joins the White House staff and discovers the complicated nature of US politics.

 

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I’m Still Here – Austin Channing Brown

A Black woman, named so she would appear white and male on a future resume, chronicles her experiences growing up in a world made for whiteness. From casual racism and sexism in the workplace to a horrific plantation tour that includes Black college students being asked to pick cotton, this book packs a punch.

 

FICTION

image.pngThe Way of Kings – Brandon Sanderson

This epic fantasy contains some of the best world-building in any fantasy novel, following the stories of a slave, a knight-lord, and a young scholar in the midst of a years-long war triggered by a mysterious assassination involving a power that has been lost to the world. This massive book is filled with intrigue and is just plain fun.

 

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The Return of the King – J.R.R. Tolkien

I finally actually read The Lord of the Rings, and while The Two Towers left much to be desired for me, The Return of the King was thoroughly enjoyable all the way through. The Ring is destroyed, and Sam carries Frodo up Mt. Doom. What else do you need to know?

 

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Red Rising – Pierce Brown

This blockbuster sci-fi, about a slave who rises to become a warrior in order to avenge his murdered wife, was nearly impossible to put down. While it borrows some obvious elements from Hunger Games, the action is excellently rendered and the characters are unpredictable and fun to watch.

 

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Exit West – Mohsin Hamid

A uniquely relevant novel about a pair of young lovers as they flee a war-torn nation in search of a new life. This short novel could have easily been 600 pages, but the succinct prose and short scenes manage to pack even more power as Sayid and Nadia journey through mysterious doorways and face tragedy and trials as refugees.

 

NON-FICTION

image.pngYour Inner Fish – Neil Shubin

A paleontologist, who discovered a ‘missing link’ between sea and land animals, traces back the evolutionary origins of the human body through fossils, an adventure to the Arctic, and genetics. A surprisingly accessible introduction to how we know what we know about evolution.

 

image.pngInspired – Rachel Held Evans

A popular liberal Christian writer tackles the ancient text at the core of her complicated faith experience. Evans uses scholarly research, narrative prose, and personal stories to share her journey wrestling with how an ancient collection of texts (all-too-frequently misunderstood, misinterpreted, and misused) can still be useful in an age of science and social awakening.

 

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The Future of Humanity – Michio Kaku

A speculative exploration of how humanity may move from Earth to Mars, and even interstellar travel. Kaku tackles many theoretical solutions to the problems humanity will likely face as we move beyond our own world in a fascinating and accessible way. It’s hard not to be hopeful and excited for the future.

 

Some Other Honorable Mentions (not 5 star, but very enjoyable):

  • Pet Sematary – Stephen King
  • Slaughterhouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut
  • Norse Mythology – Neil Gaiman
  • Braving the Wilderness – Brene Brown
  • Billions and Billions – Carl Sagan

 

 

 

Cover Reveal: The Rage of Saints (Shadow Watch Book 2)

Very excited to reveal the stunning cover for my next novel, The Rage of Saints! This is book 2 of The Shadow Watch series, and if you loved book 1, I think you will love this one even more!

Official Release Date: March 26

Pre-Order now available here.

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Blurb: 

The Shadow Watch has been undone. Their captain lies in the dungeons of the White Citadel, and the Gallows Girl has disappeared. Most of the surviving Watchers have joined the chancellor’s new magical army, the Sky Guard, led by Darien Redvar, but the Gallows Boy is shaken from the return of the monsters of the Old World, and he must soon choose, once and for all, where his loyalties lie.

Tori and Mischa trek to the Great White North with an Alyut shaman, who believes Tori is the one who will bring Restoration to his people. A resistance is growing in the North, but Tori may not be the god the people are looking for, and the price of revolution may cost Tori her heart as well as her life.

Meanwhile, another threat grows in strength. Old World monsters are rising up across the New World, and no one knows how they’ve returned. As nations ready themselves for a magical war, their return threatens to change everything.

New alliances are set in place, new friendships are forged, new loves kindled. But no one is safe, for there can be no war without betrayal.

 

My Tipping Point on Wattpad

It has been nearly five months since I last talked about Wattpad. Yikes!!

Sadly, at the very moment things began to take off for my book on Wattpad, I also entered one of the craziest seasons of my life — my first semester as a Middle School English teacher. It was all I could do to keep updating my story, and my blog updates got brushed aside.

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But now things are finally settling down, so I have to share what’s happened.

In the past 5 months, my fantasy, THE SHADOW WATCH, went from 8K reads to 106K reads! The first 8K reads took four months. Now, I am averaging 1K reads per day. Ironically, I was also far more active on threads and reading other people’s work when my reads were lower.

I felt I had a good story going, but needless to say, I was blown away when the reads started compounding.

For those of you just getting started, keep at it! I believe that if your writing is of quality and you post regularly, you will get noticed in time. Being more active last fall probably would have helped my cause further, but such is life…

Today, I thought I would share about my tipping points on Wattpad. Points when my readership suddenly shot up to a new level, and the book became more visible.

THE MAGICAL 10,000 READS!

Up until August, my reads averaged around 100 a day. At that time, I was posting at least twice a week. The day I crossed the 10K read mark changed things. I had 500 reads that day, and began averaging between 200-600 reads nearly every day that month. There were some outlier slow days. But simply crossing that threshold seemed to make my book more clickable, as I hadn’t changed anything else. All of a sudden, the reads and votes came flooding in at a much higher rate. I had more reads in August than I’d had altogether before that.

In September, I was forced to slow down my twice-a-week chapter posting schedule due to my crazy workload. Yet, still the reads held. Each month, the reads increased, but generally, I averaged somewhere around 400-600 reads per day for the entire fall.

I finished posting the book at the beginning of November. By that time, I had reached 50K reads. I was so burnt out from work and trying to keep up with writing, I hardly showed my face on Wattpad until mid-December, other than to respond to reader comments every couple weeks. In spite of the inactivity, my reads continued to hold.

That brings me to my next tipping point…

90K Craziness

I had begun to think my book had reached a threshold it would not pass until I managed to get the book featured on Wattpad (sadly, a few days ago, I discovered that my August application did not go through correctly, so that will have to wait). But this proved untrue.

After about 3 months of the same 500 reads or so a day, by the end of December my reads reached 90K. On Dec. 28, after crossing 90K, I had my first 1K read day. I have had 1K + reads every day since (minus one 900 day).

This has proven to be yet again, a tipping point for THE SHADOW WATCH.

While, I would not go so far as to argue this is the rule of Wattpad, for me, hitting those two points marked sudden, sharp increases in reads that held steady afterwards. I wonder what the next tipping point is?

I hope this is helpful to you! I have written a couple posts about the benefits of posting to Wattpad, benefits that I saw before I attained any level of success. And they hold true.

I have received no calls from agents due to hitting 100K reads on Wattpad. I know people who are pushing 1M reads, and are still having trouble finding representation in the traditional world. I have a friend who had a Featured Book with 200K+ reads who decided to self-publish and is seeing awesome results on Amazon now. I am working on a new draft of TSW at the moment, and plan to query some agents in the next couple months, and we’ll see what happens.

I do not think Wattpad is a path to publication, at least not typically. And I would still discourage people from approaching it with that mindset.

But I will say that it is a great experience to have your work read and loved by readers of your genre. Posting to Wattpad helped me finish THE SHADOW WATCH much faster than I probably would have. It also helped me keep the tension high throughout the book (a post for another day). Hitting those milestones (the first 2K reads, the first 10K, and the first 100K) have all been huge confidence boosts for my writing.

We’ll see what 2017 holds for TSW, both on and off Wattpad.

But either way, it was a great decision to try posting it there, and I personally would recommend giving it a try. At the very least, I guarantee you will connect with some cool people.

 

Keep on writing!

Stephen