95 books like Buying Gay

By David K. Johnson,

Here are 95 books that Buying Gay fans have personally recommended if you like Buying Gay. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government

Jim Elledge Author Of An Angel in Sodom: Henry Gerber and the Birth of the Gay Rights Movement

From my list on gay history before Stonewall.

Who am I?

In post-Roe America, gay people face the very real possibility of our rights being stripped from us, underscoring the importance of this adage: “Those who forget their history are condemned to repeat it.” That's why years ago, when I realize that many gay men were ignorant about gay history before Stonewall, I began editing anthologies of gay writings from the past. That led me to writing biographies and histories in which I explore gay men’s experiences, hoping my work shines a light on our forgotten past.

Jim's book list on gay history before Stonewall

Jim Elledge Why did Jim love this book?

One of the darkest events in gay history has been brought to light in Johnson’s book. During the late 1940s and ’50s, the Federal Government engaged in a purge of gay men (and women) who worked in its offices by linking them to communism, an association politicians strengthened as the Cold War progressed. Fueled by their lies and guided by FBI Director (and closeted gay) J. Edgar Hoover, the persecution, called the “Lavender Scare,” spread from Washington, D.C. across the U.S. The government-sanctioned homophobia cost thousands their jobs, families, and friends when their sexuality was made public. Some committed suicide. Having this book at hand helped me understand the complexities of gay men’s lives during this horrific period.

By David K. Johnson,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Lavender Scare as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Cold War America, Senator Joseph McCarthy enjoyed tremendous support in the fight against what he called atheistic communism. But that support stemmed less from his wild charges about communists than his more substantiated charges that "sex perverts" had infiltrated government agencies. Although now remembered as an attack on suspected disloyalty, McCarthyism introduced "moral values" into the American political arsenal. Warning of a spreading homosexual menace, McCarthy and his Republican allies learned how to win votes. Winner of three book awards, "The Lavender Scare" masterfully traces the origins of contemporary sexual politics to Cold War hysteria over national security. Drawing…


Book cover of Indecent Advances: A Hidden History of True Crime and Prejudice Before Stonewall

Jim Elledge Author Of An Angel in Sodom: Henry Gerber and the Birth of the Gay Rights Movement

From my list on gay history before Stonewall.

Who am I?

In post-Roe America, gay people face the very real possibility of our rights being stripped from us, underscoring the importance of this adage: “Those who forget their history are condemned to repeat it.” That's why years ago, when I realize that many gay men were ignorant about gay history before Stonewall, I began editing anthologies of gay writings from the past. That led me to writing biographies and histories in which I explore gay men’s experiences, hoping my work shines a light on our forgotten past.

Jim's book list on gay history before Stonewall

Jim Elledge Why did Jim love this book?

As with physique photographs, I never associated murder with gay history, but newspapers were full of reports of it, often in coded and lewd language, as early as the 1920s. The cases were virtually identical. An older man meets a younger, attractive one and invites him home. In a fit of “homosexual panic” after the older man’s “indecent advance” toward him, the younger kills the older but, tried, is found innocent, given a light sentence, or paroled. Juries, judges, newspaper reporters, and the police engaged in and promoted such extreme homophobia. Indecent Advances helped me understand a principal excuse our society used in an attempt to cover up its hatred of gay men. 

By James Polchin,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Indecent Advances as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A grisly, sobering, comprehensively researched new history.' - The New Yorker

Indecent Advances is a skilful hybrid of true crime and social history that examines the often-coded portrayal of crimes against gay men in the decades before Stonewall.

New York University professor and critic James Polchin illustrates how homosexuals were criminalized, and their murders justified, in the popular imagination from 1930s 'sex panics' to Cold War fear of Communists and homosexuals in government. He shows the vital that role crime stories played in ideas of normalcy and deviancy, and how those stories became tools to discriminate against and harm gay…


Book cover of Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940

Who am I?

I started my career teaching high school. I attended amazing professional development institutes, where scholars showed me how the stories I’d learned and then taught to my own students were so oversimplified that they had become factually incorrect. I was hooked. I kept wondering what else I’d gotten wrong. I earned a Ph.D. in modern US History with specialties in women’s and gender history and war and society, and now I’m an Associate Professor of History at Iowa State University and the Coordinator of ISU’s Social Studies Education Program. I focus on historical complexity and human motivations because they are the key to understanding change.

Amy's book list on books about twenteith-century U.S. History that make you rethink something you thought you already knew

Amy J. Rutenberg Why did Amy love this book?

If you’ve ever wondered about where the terms “coming out,” “tea room,” or “fairy” came from, this book has the answers. But more importantly, this book showed me the extent to which my preconceived notions about the relationship between gender and sexuality were simply wrong.

Chauncey’s careful and readable reconstruction of gay communities in early twentieth-century New York illustrates very clearly that ideas of masculinity and deviance and the meanings attached to sex between men are socially constructed and change over time.

His story also showed me how much history can hide in plain sight and how there are still so many stories left to tell.

By George Chauncey,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Gay New York as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The award-winning, field-defining history of gay life in New York City in the early to mid-20th century

Gay New York brilliantly shatters the myth that before the 1960s gay life existed only in the closet, where gay men were isolated, invisible, and self-hating. Drawing on a rich trove of diaries, legal records, and other unpublished documents, George Chauncey constructs a fascinating portrait of a vibrant, cohesive gay world that is not supposed to have existed. Called "monumental" (Washington Post), "unassailable" (Boston Globe), "brilliant" (The Nation), and "a first-rate book of history" (The New York Times), Gay New Yorkforever changed how…


Book cover of Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.A.

Jim Elledge Author Of An Angel in Sodom: Henry Gerber and the Birth of the Gay Rights Movement

From my list on gay history before Stonewall.

Who am I?

In post-Roe America, gay people face the very real possibility of our rights being stripped from us, underscoring the importance of this adage: “Those who forget their history are condemned to repeat it.” That's why years ago, when I realize that many gay men were ignorant about gay history before Stonewall, I began editing anthologies of gay writings from the past. That led me to writing biographies and histories in which I explore gay men’s experiences, hoping my work shines a light on our forgotten past.

Jim's book list on gay history before Stonewall

Jim Elledge Why did Jim love this book?

Gay American History was an epiphany for me and thousands of other gay men and women who were eager to learn about our history because books about it were few. I can’t describe the wonder I felt as I opened the book to thousands of rare documents (letters, diary entries, newspaper articles, book excerpts, medical and legal reports, etc.) that connected me to LGBT individuals who lived centuries earlier. Puritans, indigenous people, cross-dressing (“passing”) women, military personnel, artists of every ilk, government officials—their struggles, their defeats, and their victories, I learned, were no different in essence from those of the LGBT individual of the 21st Century. Gay American History is, in short, a treasure trove of information.

By Jonathan Ned Katz,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A collection of documents provides a continuous chronicle of homosexuality in America, from colonial times to the present, and of the persecution of gay males and lesbians throughout American history


Book cover of Racism and the Making of Gay Rights: A Sexologist, His Student, and the Empire of Queer Love

Donna J. Drucker Author Of Fertility Technology

From my list on the history of sexuality in modernity.

Who am I?

I have long been drawn to how people of the past think about their sexual identities, attractions, and behaviors. I conducted my PhD research at the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University, where I spent many happy hours reading letters and books voicing people’s unfiltered desires for sexual arousal, connection, and expression. I found the punched-card machines that Alfred Kinsey used to organize data from his personal interviews oddly compelling, and that interest developed into a long-term engagement with the intersection of gender and sexuality with science and technology. I share my fascination with readers through my books on Kinsey, machines used in sex research, contraception, and fertility technology.

Donna's book list on the history of sexuality in modernity

Donna J. Drucker Why did Donna love this book?

Interest in the German sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld and his Institute for Sexual Science (active 1919–1933 in Berlin) has grown since the television program Transparent included him in its second season in 2015.

Laurie Marhoefer’s new book challenges his status as a queer history hero, highlighting how his views on sexual emancipation, cross-dressing (as drag was then known), and transgenderism were embedded in racism and colonialism. Marhoefer also tells the lesser-known history of Hirschfeld’s companion in later life, Li Shiu Tong, who after Hirschfeld’s death in May 1935 continued his own research on human sexuality. 

Li’s previously unknown manuscript and notes—rescued serendipitously from a waste bin soon after his death in Vancouver in 1993—is a stark reminder of how many histories of sexuality are at risk of being (almost) similarly lost.

By Laurie Marhoefer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Racism and the Making of Gay Rights as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1931, a sexologist arrived in colonial Shanghai to give a public lecture about homosexuality. In the audience was a medical student. The sexologist, Magnus Hirschfeld, fell in love with the medical student, Li Shiu Tong. Li became Hirschfeld's assistant on a lecture tour around the world.

Racism and the Making of Gay Rights shows how Hirschfeld laid the groundwork for modern gay rights, and how he did so by borrowing from a disturbing set of racist, imperial, and eugenic ideas.

Following Hirschfeld and Li in their travels through the American, Dutch, and British empires, from Manila to Tel Aviv…


Book cover of Street Zen: The Life and Work of Issan Dorsey

Koshin Paley Ellison Author Of Wholehearted: Slow Down, Help Out, Wake Up

From my list on an introduction to Zen.

Who am I?

Sensei Koshin Paley Ellison is an author, Soto Zen teacher, and Jungian psychotherapist. Koshin co-founded the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care, which offers contemplative approaches to care through education, personal caregiving, and Zen practice. He is the author of Wholehearted: Slow Down, Help Out, Wake Up. And the co-editor of Awake at the Bedside: Contemplative Teachings on Palliative and End of Life Care. He is a recognized Zen teacher by the Soto Zen Buddhist Association, White Plum Asanga, and American Zen Teachers Association. 

Koshin's book list on an introduction to Zen

Koshin Paley Ellison Why did Koshin love this book?

This book inspired my own integration of service and Zen. Issan Dorsey is a person who did not hold back. This portrait of a teacher whose creativity, love, honesty, joy, and compassion continues to awaken new possibilities for engaged Buddhism.

By David Schneider,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Street Zen as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Drag queen. Prostitute. Drug addict. American bodhisattva.

These words describe the unlikely persona of Issan Dorsey, one of the most beloved teachers to emerge in American Zen. From his early days as a gorgeous female impersonator to the LSD experiences that set him on the spiritual path, Issan's life was never conventional. In 1989, after twenty years of Zen practice, he became the Founding Abbot of San Francisco's Hartford Street Zen Center, where he established Maitri Hospice for AIDS patients. Featuring Bernie Glassman's foreword to the second edition, as well as a new foreword by Koshin Paley Ellison, Street Zen…


Book cover of Carved in Bone

John Copenhaver Author Of The Savage Kind

From my list on slow burn psychological suspense.

Who am I?

I’m a historical mystery writer, English teacher, and book reviewer for Lambda Literary. I love to write and explore buried and forgotten histories, particularly those of the LGBTQ+ community. Equally, I’m fascinated by the ways in which self-understanding eludes us and is a life-long pursuit. For that reason, as a reader, I’m attracted to slow burn psychological suspense in which underlying, even subconscious, motivations play a role. I also love it when I fall for a character who, in life, I’d find corrupt or repulsive.


John's book list on slow burn psychological suspense

John Copenhaver Why did John love this book?

One of the qualities of mystery fiction that continues to draw me to the genre is the complex interplay between past and present. Nava’s 8th Rios novel utilizes separate narrative lines that resonate and then, like a parallel perspective drawing, converge in a powerful emotional twist. The first line is the story of Bill Ryan, a young gay man who, after being cast out of his home in Illinois, flees to 1970s San Francisco to discover himself and the gay community. The second line is Rios’s recovery from alcoholism and his investigation of Ryan’s suspicious death during the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. Ryan and Rios serve as foils: Ryan is a man losing the war with his self-loathing. Rios, in contrast, is winning his war.

By Michael Nava,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

November, 1984. Criminal defense lawyer Henry Rios, fresh out of rehab and picking up the pieces of his life, reluctantly accepts work as an insurance claims investigator and is immediately is assigned to investigate the apparently accidental death of Bill Ryan. Ryan, part of the great gay migration into San Francisco in the 1970s, has died in his flat of carbon monoxide poisoning from a faulty gas line, his young lover barely surviving. Rios’s investigation into Ryan’s death–which Rios becomes convinced was no accident–tracks Ryan’s life from his arrival in San Francisco as a terrified 18-year-old to his transformation into…


Book cover of What Belongs to You

Shastri Akella Author Of The Sea Elephants

From my list on international queer heroes.

Who am I?

When I first wrote The Sea Elephants, my protagonist (Shagun) and I were both asexual. My writing professor read the novel and said it’s dying to be a gay love story. Eventually, when I came out and rewrote the book from my newfound identity of queerness, I searched for queer stories that, like mine, were set outside the US or had non-American leads. And I realized that this is a significant gap that needs to be bridged. I felt a tremendous sense of solidarity with the books I did find. They made me feel less alone. Later, as an assistant professor of English, I’ve taught all of these books.

Shastri's book list on international queer heroes

Shastri Akella Why did Shastri love this book?

There are very few books that capture the particular suffering of loving someone and not being loved back.

Greenwell’s powerful debut novel is one of them. Set in the capital city of Bulgaria, the novel begins with an encounter that the narrator, an American teacher working abroad, has with Mitko, a sex worker. It is written in prose whose beauty, beat by beat, is as achingly beautiful as the unrequited love the narrator has for Mitko. This is one to savor slowly.

My copy is heavily underlined. Garth, a trained opera singer, reads like a dream. Accompany your reading with his readings from the work (they’re on YouTube). 

By Garth Greenwell,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked What Belongs to You as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Startlingly erotic and immensely powerful, Garth Greenwell's What Belongs to You tells an unforgettable story about the ways our pasts and cultures, our scars and shames can shape who we are and determine how we love.

Winner of the Debut of the Year Award at the British Book Awards.
Shortlisted for the James Tait Black Prize.

'A searching and compassionate meditation on the slipperiness of desire . . . as beautiful and vivid as poetry' - Hanya Yanagihara, author of A Little Life

On an unseasonably warm autumn day, an American teacher enters a public bathroom beneath Sofia's National Palace…


Book cover of The Book of Salt

Jasmin Darznik Author Of The Bohemians

From my list on reimagining BIPOC history.

Who am I?

I came to America from Iran when I was five years old. There's something about immigration that's taught me to be a "first-class noticer," which was Saul Bellow's requirement for a writer. Because I always feel a little (or more) outside of things, people, places, and languages hold a wonderful strangeness for me. Writing is where I try to make sense of all that. As an immigrant, I’ve been especially drawn to stories about people whose lives haven’t always been included in literature. For a novelist, history can be an invitation or a provocation. For me, it’s both. Reading about the past pulls me into its mysteries; the mysteries inspire me to invent. 

Jasmin's book list on reimagining BIPOC history

Jasmin Darznik Why did Jasmin love this book?

I love novels that pluck figures from the sidelines of history and place them up-front-and-center. In this case, the figure is the real-life Vietnamese-born man who served as Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas’ cook in Paris. Full of atmospheric detail, the writing in this novel is absolutely exquisite. I felt immersed in 1930s Paris, a world that’s long entranced me, but I was seeing it from an entirely new perspective. Truong offers tantalizing glimpses of Bihn’s life in the Stein-Toklas household, but the most memorable scenes happen when he’s alone, walking through the streets of Paris, on his way to meeting a lover, or regaling us with stories of his childhood in Vietnam and his fraught but tender love for his father. It’s a beautiful tale of exile and homecoming.

By Monique Truong,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A novel of Paris in the 1930s from the eyes of the Vietnamese cook employed by Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, by the author of The Sweetest Fruits.

Viewing his famous mesdames and their entourage from the kitchen of their rue de Fleurus home, Binh observes their domestic entanglements while seeking his own place in the world. In a mesmerizing tale of yearning and betrayal, Monique Truong explores Paris from the salons of its artists to the dark nightlife of its outsiders and exiles. She takes us back to Binh's youthful servitude in Saigon under colonial rule, to his…


Book cover of London Triptych

Kevin Klehr Author Of Winter Masquerade

From my list on gay themed not about romance.

Who am I?

I usually write queer fiction with an urban fantasy or magic realism bent, although I’ve dabbled in dystopian novels and a couple of romance novellas. I have an interest in bringing to light modern queer works that aren’t rooted in erotica or romance because I know firsthand the misconceptions that are placed on writers of gay fiction. And too often I’ve had to find tactful ways to explain what I write when people assume I’m limited by genre.

Kevin's book list on gay themed not about romance

Kevin Klehr Why did Kevin love this book?

This novel weaves three unique stories told by three very distinctive gay men who live in London at completely different periods of time. What unites them? Internalised homophobia, something as a gay person I remember from a long time ago. Each character yearns for someone. Each in a distinct way. Rent boy, Jack, longs for his regular client, Oscar Wilde. Lonely artist Colin desires the model he paints while staying closeted in the 1950s. And David’s desire lands him in prison in the 1980s.

Each story travels at the same pace with each character reflecting similar highs and lows. And you don’t have to be gay to identify with this well-written novel.

By Jonathan Kemp,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"London itself is as powerful a presence here as the three gay men whose lives it absorbs." —The Times Literary Supplement

"Vivid and visceral, London Triptych cuts deep to reveal the hidden layers of a secret history." —Jake Arnott, author of The Long Firm

Rent boys, aristocrats, artists, and criminals populate this sweeping novel in which author Jonathan Kemp skillfully interweaves the lives and loves of three very different men in gay London across the decades.

In the 1890s, a young man named Jack apprentices as a rent boy and discovers a life of pleasure and excess that leads to…


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