The best books about poisonous relationships (queer, with a dollop of angst)

Who am I?

Growing up in a mostly pre-Internet time, I was hungry for androgynous and queer characters and didn’t know why. Books offered an escape hatch into the heads of the people I wanted to be. As I got older, writing was how I processed this disconnect, but for a long time, my lack of clarity negatively affected many of my relationships. It was through words (mine and others’) that I learned who I am. Amongst other things, a fragile and flawed and wildly imperfect person. It’s been great to see all the wholesome, positive LGBT rep that’s come out in literature over the last years, but my heart and stories will always belong to the bad-angel queers struggling to get a foot into Heaven. 


I wrote...

A + E 4Ever

By Ryszard I. Merey,

Book cover of A + E 4Ever

What is my book about?

A Stonewall Honor Book and ALA Rainbow book, A + E 4Ever is a big, inky splash following two genderqueer teens trying to survive a year in high school. Ash is an androgynous new kid with a fear of being touched. Eu is a tough lad with no problems throwing a punch. Eu thought she wanted girls, but one look at Ash and cue the heartache and hijinks! Like their friendship, the art and writing are messy and hard to define—the dynamics explored can be uncomfortable, but a reader willing to come out of their comfort zone (visually and narratively) will be satisfied by the raw chords struck.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Gutterboys

Ryszard I. Merey Why did I love this book?

Oh man, this book! It’s everything I want: Sweet, simple, cute, nostalgic, at times, just awful. Gutterboys taught me that a book with a soul and a soundtrack and a firm jab in the gut is the type of book I want to make. Set in the 80s, Jeremy is a naïve suburban Jewish teen who falls crazy-stupid in love with a gorgeous older hustler. Colin won’t date Jeremy, but he does take him on a New York adventure that will only unhinge innocent Jeremy more and more. If you like that intoxicatingly toxic unrequited gay love, give it a go!

By Alvin Orloff,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Gutterboys as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


A twisted gay tale of unrequited love in Lower Manhattan in the early 1980s filled with scenes of humorous debauchery. Jeremy, a shy 19-year-old, falls madly in love with Colin, a disturbed yet well-read older hustler. Though Colin rejects Jeremy as a lover, he takes him on as a protégé, introducing him to the hilariously depraved world of new wave nightclubs and gay bars in the days before AIDS and the war on drugs. Innocent Jeremy, protected by the guardian spirits of his beloved dead grandmothers - one a fiery Jewish socialist, the other a proper British matron - becomes…


Book cover of Narcisa: Our Lady of Ashes

Ryszard I. Merey Why did I love this book?

I picked up Narcisa in Portland’s legendary Powell’s bookstore over ten years ago on a whim and it ended up worming its way into my top ten books of all time. The prose is chaotic, evocative, drippy, disgusting, engaging, fantastic. Narcisa is a predatory, magnetic mess of nature and like the narrator, you’ve got to keep flying with her until she throws you down. I was floored and inspired by Shaw’s ability to tame such a blizzard of turmoil between two thin paper covers.

By Jonathan Shaw,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Narcisa as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first trade edition of the cult classic from the artist/author hailed by Iggy Pop as “the great nightmare anti-hero of the new age,” legendary tattoo artist Jonathan Shaw, that chronicles a scandalous, degenerative addiction between two people—a wild, brutal, passionate, and unstoppable ride into depravity and darkness through the back alleys of Rio De Janeiro and New York City.

A legendary tattoo master and notorious creator of trendsetting underground art, Jonathan Shaw has created a masterpiece with this powerful story that captures the destructive addiction of love, sex and drugs, embodied in two people whose irresistible passions threaten to…


Book cover of City of Night

Ryszard I. Merey Why did I love this book?

The search for the self is an act of self-indulgence and that search and that act is on full display in this 60s gay classic. I adore Rechy’s prose, it’s just so different and beautiful, and although this is an old story, much of its loveliness and loneliness and promiscuity has never changed. I read City of Night and reread it for the tender, cracked characters who keep looking so patiently into every dark corner. 

By John Rechy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked City of Night as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Bold and inventive in style, City of Night is the groundbreaking 1960s novel about male prostitution. Rechy is unflinching in his portrayal of one hustling 'youngman' and his search for self-knowledge among the other denizens of his neon-lit world. As the narrator moves from Texas to Times Square and then on to the French Quarter of New Orleans, Rechy delivers a portrait of the edges of America that has lost none of its power.
On his travels, the nameless narrator meets a collection of unforgettable characters, from vice cops to guilt-ridden married men eaten up by desire, to Lance O'Hara,…


Book cover of Detransition, Baby

Ryszard I. Merey Why did I love this book?

You won’t get the Good Tran Narrative here—Torrey Peters’ bestseller teases out a gloriously complex and problematic relationship between a fatalistic trans woman, her detransitioned ex-girlfriend, and the woman he just got pregnant. Full of drama, wisdom, taboo, and truth, I adore Detransition, Baby for its spotlight on unadulterated queer and/or trans characters full of gallows humor and heart.

By Torrey Peters,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Detransition, Baby as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • The lives of three women—transgender and cisgender—collide after an unexpected pregnancy forces them to confront their deepest desires in “one of the most celebrated novels of the year” (Time)

“Reading this novel is like holding a live wire in your hand.”—Vulture

Named one of the Best Books of the Year by more than twenty publications, including The New York Times Book Review, Entertainment Weekly, NPR, Time, Vogue, Esquire, Vulture, and Autostraddle

PEN/Hemingway Award Winner • Finalist for the Lambda Literary Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Gotham Book Prize • Longlisted for The Women’s…


Book cover of Giovanni's Room

Ryszard I. Merey Why did I love this book?

Okay, this is an old book, but I have never, ever gotten over it. A classic remembered for the openly gay relationship, provocative at the time of publication, I remember this book and cycle back to it regularly for Baldwin’s masterful writing and his honest depiction of what living with the constant knowledge of mortality does to you: It makes you mean. It makes you ugly. And a book like this is a gift to take the edge of that fear away. 

By James Baldwin,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Giovanni's Room as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When David meets the sensual Giovanni in a bohemian bar, he is swept into a passionate love affair. But his girlfriend's return to Paris destroys everything. Unable to admit to the truth, David pretends the liaison never happened - while Giovanni's life descends into tragedy.

United by the theme of love, the writings in the Great Loves series span over two thousand years and vastly different worlds. Readers will be introduced to love's endlessly fascinating possibilities and extremities: romantic love, platonic love, erotic love, gay love, virginal love, adulterous love, parental love, filial love, nostalgic love, unrequited love, illicit love,…


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A Daily Dose of Now: 365 Mindfulness Meditation Practices for Living in the Moment

By Nita Sweeney,

Book cover of A Daily Dose of Now: 365 Mindfulness Meditation Practices for Living in the Moment

Nita Sweeney Author Of How to Make Every Move a Meditation: Mindful Movement for Mental Health, Well-Being, and Insight

New book alert!

Who am I?

As a thirty-year meditator, certified meditation leader, and award-winning author, it’s my job to keep up on the latest books about mindfulness and Zen practice. Despite seeing new volumes being published regularly, I return to these books as great sources of solid practice information. Each of these authors explains meditation in accessible terms, easy for readers to follow and understand. I can’t remember who said that a confused reader is an antagonistic reader, but they are right. The books I’ve suggested offer clarity. They help readers begin or continue their practice and understand how and why meditation is worth their time.

Nita's book list on why meditation is worth your time and effort

What is my book about?

Reduce stress, ease anxiety, and increase inner peace—one day at a time—with a year of easy-to-follow mindfulness meditation techniques. Certified mindfulness teacher, bestselling author, ultramarathoner, wife, and dog-mom Nita Sweeney shares mindfulness meditation practices to help anyone break free from worry and self-judgment.

Mindfulness meditation trains you to live in the present moment—the now. Feel calmer. Think more clearly. Respond more effectively and enjoy a more fulfilling life. Even in tiny doses, mindfulness is scientifically proven to enhance physical and mental health, boost creativity, and improve cognition function.

A Daily Dose of Now: 365 Mindfulness Meditation Practices for Living in the Moment

By Nita Sweeney,


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