The best books for building community

Jeremy Sorese Author Of The Short While
By Jeremy Sorese

Who am I?

With my first book Curveball and now my second The Short While, I’ve attempted at telling stories about the various connections between people and how happenstance really does shape more than we can ever know. Both of my books are a little over 400 pages each, not because I don’t know how to edit but rather that only at that scale do I feel like I can adequately describe life as it has felt like for me. It’s what I love in the books listed below—that the way in which we find ourselves surrounded by the people we know never ceases to feel anything short of miraculous and absurd.

I wrote...

The Short While

By Jeremy Sorese,

Book cover of The Short While

What is my book about?

The Short While is a Queer Sci-Fi thriller about attempting to construct a life in the ruins of something larger than yourself. In the case of my book, it's a fallen totalitarian regime that once had the best of intentions. Written and drawn over the last five years, my second book has become a love letter to every attempt, made by myself or someone I love, to build a life with someone else, be it romantic or not. I’ve been referring to it as a story about a haunted house where the haunted house is America and the characters are all the eager young couple who bought something cursed sight unseen, and can’t move out now because they already made the down payment. 

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is readers supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl

By Andrea Lawlor,

Book cover of Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl

Why this book?

In my opinion, the Gays have more fun and Lawlor’s book is proof of this. “Orlando” by way of every Queer political, social, and romantic arrangement you can imagine, Paul’s story is a buffet of attempts to define his/her/their life in a way that rings true. Even in the directionless moments of that journey, there is an electricity in seeing each day as an active choice to readjust who you want to be and how you want to live. In the end, Paul doesn’t provide a clear answer as to what that should look like but rather relishes in how that journey is ceaseless and what a blessing it is that we get to keep choosing.

Broad Band

By Claire L. Evans,

Book cover of Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet

Why this book?

Both my first book Curveball and my new book touch on how losing access to information can only shrink someone’s ability to live their life effectively which, in an age where most of us have a near-constant Internet connection, can feel unimaginable, and yet, Broad Band proves that is more likely than we think. Evan’s book attempts to reframe the history of computing by recentering the often forgotten women at the center of that story, asking us to reimagine what our digital informational landscape could have looked like if care for everyone in our communities was more central to that story.

Boom Town

By Sam Anderson,

Book cover of Boom Town: The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, Its Chaotic Founding... Its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Becoming a World-class Metropolis

Why this book?

Although I write Science Fiction and Anderson’s book is Non-Fiction, the way in which he writes about the history of Oklahoma City has stayed with me. An author may choose to write their story through the point of view of a single person but we, as individuals, are never isolated. Our lives are constantly bumping against the history of everyone and everything around us, all shaped by forces we are rarely ever fully aware of. You may get sent to Oklahoma City to write about their basketball team and end up writing a 400 something page book about the entire history of Oklahoma City because, inexplicably, talking about the basketball team only makes sense after you do.

The World According to Garp

By John Irving,

Book cover of The World According to Garp

Why this book?

I first read Garp in my early 20s, back when I was single, working at a grocery store in Chicago, pining for the love and companionship of someone I hopefully would one day meet. I reread it last year, now in my early 30s, in love with someone who I now share a home with in New York. Garp is a perfect example of what life, and stories about it, feel like to me—how our time on Earth is spent holding on to things we can only lose. In my 20s, Garp stirred up dreams of domestic artistic bliss but now, finally with someone to lose, Garp feels like a flashing sign to keep your hands inside the vehicle at all times, as our shared roller coaster dips into the dark ahead of us.

Tales of the City

By Armistead Maupin,

Book cover of Tales of the City

Why this book?

What can be said about the Tales of the City books that hasn’t already been said? My love for the books has everything to do with Maupin himself—when he started the series as a correspondent at The Pacific Sun, he was newly out, a framed photograph of him shaking hands with Nixon in The White House hanging on his apartment wall. To me, the books were Maupin’s way of writing himself as a fallible gay man out into the complexities of the world, learning to be a more empathetic person one chapter at a time. Not every story finds its mark (what was with those cannibals in More Tales of The City) but on the whole, they’re extraordinary. 

Closely Related Book Lists

Distantly Related Book Lists