The best writers, they say, are readers. We wouldn’t call ourselves the best writers in the world, maybe, but we’re both voracious readers! Our tastes are eclectic, wide-ranging, and we’ve never met a genre we won’t at least try out. Here are five of our favorite, must-read books each!
1. The Virgin Suicides, by Jeffrey Eugendies. Told by a euphonious, anonymous group of narrators, it’s a story of five sisters who, one by one succumb to a stifling upbringing in the late 70s Detroit suburbs. Told with almost religious reverence, we’re exposed to the mysterious Lisbon girls and their final days.
2. The Everlasting Story of Nory, by Nicholson Baker. Nory is young American girl living in England. The story follows her thoughts on adult life, her frequent nightmares of teeth, and dreams of her future. In full disclosure, had my son been a girl, we were going to name her Eleanor, just so I could call her Nory.
3. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler. Raised alongside a most unusual foster sister, Rosemary Cooke looks back on her upbringing and the reasons behind her own current life and her brother’s turn to domestic terrorism.
4. White Oleander, by Janet Fitch. Astrid is the only daughter of self-absorbed poet Ingrid. The story follows her journey through a series of foster homes after her mother murders her lover, and continues to orchestrate her daughter’s life from behind bars.
5. Wonder Boys, by Michael Chabon. Grady Tripp was once a famed writer; now his life is falling apart—in part because of the 2611 page, and counting, novel that has invaded every corner of his being. The novel chronicles an eventful weekend where even Tripp’s mess of a life still has room to turn upside down.
1. Kassandra, by Christa Wolf. I’m German, but the truth is there are very few German authors I ever really connected with. One is Michael Ende, the other is Christa Wolf. Kassandra is a very artistic retelling of the ancient Greek story of Troy, told from the perspective of Kassandra, who is the King of Troy’s daughter and the seer who foretold that Troy would fall. It’s the most incredible story about women and what it has always meant to grow up in a world of men.
2. Juliet, Naked, by Nick Hornby. It always feels like an odd choice as a favorite book, but after reading it least 10 times (a few which were audiobook sessions) I still can’t wait to dive back in. I love its take on music and fans and people. I love the dialogues, the meta feeling to it, and the redemption it offers.
3. 1984, George Orwell. As a massive fan of pretty much every politico-literary dystopia, this was a tough choice. But 1984 feels like the most prophetic and important read of the genre. I have read it several times over the years, it has strongly influenced my beliefs and convictions and I think it is one of the most important pieces of fiction in the western canon.
4. The Time-Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger. It’s one of those books almost everybody has read, but it has always stuck with me. Trend-book or no. I think when it comes to love stories, and stories about families, it’s always inspired me a lot. I’m also a huge fan of the way it mixes genre influences with romance with literary fiction to such great effect.
5. After Dark, Haruki Murakami. I love Murakami’s style and most of his novels. After Dark is short and effective novel that hovers between reality and those other spheres. Beautiful and haunting magical realism that I’ve always found intensely inspiring.
After Life Lessons
Laila Blake and L.C. Spoering
Genre: post apocalyptic
Publisher: Lilt Literary
Date of Publication: April 28, 2015
Number of pages: 350
Word Count: 95.000
Cover Artist: Laila Blake
Years after the end of the world, the scattered survivors have begun to reconcile with their fate and are starting to build communities from the rubble. Life has been kind to Aaron and Emily, and maybe it is that infusion of hope that leads them on a winter trip to search for Aaron’s family. But the world outside their little haven has grown harsher, the conditions rough and dangerous.
Not everybody they meet on their journey allowed the grim realities to harden their hearts, however. Malachi and Kenzie - an easy-going drifter with a bum leg and amnesia, and a teenage girl who has lost everyone and everything - are on an ill-conceived mission to Mexico, while Iago and his band of nomads work to forge trading connections between the small settlements of the south.
All of them will discover new nightmares on the road, far surpassing the threat of the last rotting zombies still roaming the countryside. And now they must come together to fight for peace and justice in the world they trying to rebuild.
Warning: This novel contains language some might find offensive, some gore and situations of a sexual nature. Reader's discretion is advised.
Excerpt 3: Kenzie & Malachi - 966 words
“Is that a house over there?” Mali asked, and Kenzie looked where he pointed, ahead down the tracks. She felt a momentary sense of annoyance that he’d seen it first while she’d had her nose on the ground, looking for more loot. But then she shrugged.
“Kinda small for a house.”
“What kind of house did you live in?” he asked, poking her in the side before picking up his pace. Given his bum leg and the fact that he was eight hundred years old and falling apart, it just meant he moved with a more acceptable speed.
“It’s skinny, I mean,” she grumbled, stomping just a little. “Like, no bed could be in there. It’s not like I lived in a mansion...”
He grinned a sweet, winsome smile, but Kenzie ignored the quip and squinted into the distance. It was hard to see because of the sun, but she tilted her head this way and that, biting at her lower lip. Finally, she laughed.
“It’s a train, doofus.” But she looked far too delighted for the insult to sting.
“Really?” He shaded his eyes despite the hat on his head actually doing the job. There was a sort of impressed tone to his voice that made Kenzie straighten her back in pride.
“See? Told you if we followed the tracks we’d find something.”
This time, she couldn’t help it. She tried to keep his pace, but before she knew it, she was skipping ahead, pressing her nose against the dusty windows. They made her sneeze, but she looked with longing at the cushioned seats. They looked like heaven to her hurting ankle.
Malachi finally arrived next to her, a little out of breath. He pushed his hat back on his head to look through another window, more easily than she with his height.
“Huh,” he breathed, tipping his forehead against the glass, making an instant sort of mud with his sweat. “I wonder when they stopped using this.”
“Who cares?” she asked with the kind of childlike glee she usually hid far better. “It’s ours now.” And she whooped, once and happy, until a sound washed every hint joy from her face.
Something banged against the wall of the compartment. Kenzie jumped back, Mali on her heels. The next came muffled against the window. One rotted hand stood out quite clearly against the gloom, leaving a trace of brown slime on the glass.
They both stood still. The zombie was old, clearly, and locked safely inside the train car—the doors were shut and latches firmly in place, if a little rusted.
“Oh.” Mali looked at Kenzie with a small smile. “So that’s why this is just sitting here.”
She huffed. “Okay, maybe it’s his.” Pouting a little, she banged back against the window with a stick she’d used to swipe at the tall grass with. The zombie growled, threw itself harder against the window. It didn’t even quiver in its frame, and Kenzie couldn’t help but chuckle. “Sucks for you,” she said, eyes on the dead thing.
Mali, for his part, backed a bit further away with each new advance. “Maybe we should just let him have it,” he suggested.
“No way,” she protested, smashing the stick against the window again. “I bet he just stank up that one compartment. And where else are we gonna sleep?”
She glared at the thing as it hurled itself against the window once more, like a stupid dog when the postman was in the yard. Her smile turned something dangerous then, a cool, distant thing.
“I bet I can take it.”
Mali opened his mouth, but couldn’t speak. After a second or two, he closed it, lifted his hands, and tried again. “Are you kidding?”
“No.” And it was as though she’d only just realized that herself. She squinted her eyes at the window, watched it move like a tiger in a cage. “I’m serious. Fuckers have taken enough from me. I want that train.”
He lowered his hands very slowly. There was an expression on his face that Kenzie couldn’t quite puzzle out, but she was already so busy planning, she didn’t bother to think about it for more than a beat.
“All we have to do is be ready and lure it out,” she informed him, setting her pack on the ground in front of them. “I mean, it’s all in the surprise, right? If we’re ready, then it’s like shooting fish in a barrel.”
“Fish don’t generally try to kill you though,” Mali pointed out, but his voice petered away almost immediately.
“Sharks do,” Kenzie pointed out, “and, like, piranhas.” It was a silly argument, but she didn’t put any effort into it, as she rifled through her things. She found the thickest sweater she could find, then wrapped a scarf around her hands and grabbed her knife.
“Kenzie, wait a second,” Mali said. He had his arms crossed in front of his chest. He looked green.
“No.” She was louder than she had intended to be, looked angrier, too. “We have to stop just… letting them have everything. It’s just one. Look how rotted he is.” A few more of her things went flying, scattering across the ground until she found a piece of rope, and grinned, nodding to herself before she focused on Mali again. “If we want to become more… like, proactive, we gotta train somewhere, don’t we?”
The man was silent again, and she could see something like a fight on his face, like he wanted to agree with her but couldn’t, not without a struggle. She waited, hopping from foot to foot, before she sighed heavily.
“I don’t want to be scared all the time,” she told him, and, finally, Mali nodded. Like she knew he would.
About the Authors:
Laila Blake is an author, linguist and translator. She writes character-driven love stories and blogs about writing, feminism and society. Her work has been featured in numerous anthologies. Keeping a balance between her different interests, Laila Blake’s body of work encompasses literary erotica, romance, and various fields in speculative fiction (dystopian/post-apocalypse, fantasy, paranormal romance and urban fantasy) and she adores finding ways to mix and match.
A self-proclaimed nerd, she lives in Cologne/Germany with her cat Liene, harbors a deep fondness for obscure folk singers and plays the guitar badly. She loves photography, science documentaries and classic literature as well as a number of popular TV-Shows.
L.C. Spoering has a degree in English writing from University of Colorado, and a lesser degree in sarcasm earned from the days of yore on AOL. A storyteller since she started talking, she now spends her days writing, reading and contemplating the universe through various pop culture lenses.