The best queer books across time & genre

The Books I Picked & Why

Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002)

By David Sedaris

Book cover of Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002)

Why this book?

My friend, Richard, gave me this book. He is not selfish or stingy, but he is also not the sort to give away books. He insisted and—stunned—I gently took it from his outstretched hand. 

I’ll admit I was a little like meh before I started reading, not being someone who enjoys hearing other people’s dreams or reading their pithy and edited diary entries. But this is pure genius, in a very meta way since we all know how the end turns out: David becomes famous.

Here, though, are the early days cleaning houses and doing too much cocaine. His family is, of course, captured, alongside his husband and their life in France. But even better are all the random and strange people who cross his path, making this not really a diary but, rather, a flash fiction collection of essays by someone whose fascination with the odd gleefully attracts more and more odd.

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The Angel of History: A Novel

By Rabih Alameddine

Book cover of The Angel of History: A Novel

Why this book?

A few years ago we at Gertrude lit journal decided to answer the question that kept coming our way: What are some great books written by queer people with narratives that center on queer people? Before the pandemic made a mess of things, we ran GERTIE, a book club that chose two fabulous queer books every quarter. This was our very first book selection, and—like with many firsts, perhaps—it holds a special place.

The Angel of History takes place during one night in the waiting room of a San Francisco psyche ward when visits by the Devil and 14 Saints reveal the life of Jacob, a Yemen-born poet who was born in an Egyptian whorehouse. Yes, you read that right. 

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Two or Three Things I Know for Sure

By Dorothy Allison

Book cover of Two or Three Things I Know for Sure

Why this book?

As with most of Dorothy Allison's work, Two or Three Things I Know For Sure lives in the dramas and intersections around abuse and anger and hope, fueled by her gritty, emotional lyricism. With this explosive, unapologetic narrative about herself and her “trash” family, Two or Three Things has the southern pacing that creeps up and swallows you. And in it we really learn who Allison is: a gritty, rugged, loving survivor in the truest sense.

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Gideon the Ninth

By Tamsin Muir

Book cover of Gideon the Ninth

Why this book?

I was hooked from the log-line: “Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead bullshit.”

Gideon is a glorious comic fantasy horror with some romance sailing between the genre-jumping. In this debut novel, representatives from each of the nine planets (or "Houses") of an empire meet on the first planet/House to uncover the secrets of necromancy (you read that right) that will show them the path to becoming a powerful Lyctor. In the process some of the representatives - all odd in their own delicious ways - are beheaded, some are brought back to life, and some have their souls pulled from their bodies and then eaten in order to gain power. Gideon, our heroine, and her arch-enemy Harrow - both from the Ninth House - battle with others, but mostly themselves, until they unite forces in a grand cinematic fashion and... (go read it).

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Her Body and Other Parties: Stories

By Carmen Maria Machado

Book cover of Her Body and Other Parties: Stories

Why this book?

We chose Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties (short stories) for our book club, one day before the news came out that it had been nominated for the National Book Award. A debut collection nominated? It’s that good.

My favorite story (aligning with many) is "The Husband Stitch", which was nominated for a Nebula Award for Best Novelette. In life, The Husband Stitch is a surgical procedure where more stitches than necessary are used to repair the cut or torn perineum during childbirth so the woman's vagina is tighter to increase her husband's sensation during lager intercourse - and is the absolute most spot-on title for this story I may have ever read. The story is about subjugation and a unified loneliness and, in the end, sacrifice. It has a beauty that reminds me of dark grey skies.

My second favorite story, a novella (as opposed to novelette), is created by streaming 272 synopses from the first 12 seasons of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. It's an insider's reimagining that you might not like, however, if you haven't seen Law & Order - but who hasn't seen Law & Order?

It also mixes genres, so if you enjoy reading psychological realism, sci-fi, comedy, horror, and fabulism rolled into one, this is your next, delightful and disturbing distraction.

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