The best gay books 📚

Browse the best books on gay topics and characters as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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

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

By George Chauncey

Why this book?

The “urban culture” mentioned in the subtitle of this book will remind us of themes in other books about the modern city: the urban experience as one of flux and diversity, uncertainty and possibility, community and alienation, class and gender, sex and violence. Chauncey focuses on urban geography and spaces, especially boundaries, interstices, and enclaves. Most astonishing, and an important discovery, are the many spaces of “ambivalent toleration” for sexual and gender difference in pre-1930s New York. This meant spaces like the Bowery, Greenwich Village, Broadway, and Harlem, but also working-class, immigrant, ethnic, and racial subcultures where dominant normativities could…

From the list:

The best books on the modern history of cities

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Book cover of Lay Your Sleeping Head: A Henry Rios Novel

Lay Your Sleeping Head: A Henry Rios Novel

By Michael Nava

Why this book?

The first book in Nava’s best-known series, Lay Your Sleeping Head introduces defense attorney Henry Rios. Rios is struggling with addiction and an existential crisis; when he is drawn into investigating the murder of a young man he loved, he finds he is the only one willing to dig for the truth. Nava’s books are lyrical, intricate, and intensely thoughtful about what it means to be a gay man.

From the list:

The best books on gay mysteries (from a gay mystery writer)

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Book cover of Carved in Bone: A Henry Rios Novel

Carved in Bone: A Henry Rios Novel

By Michael Nava

Why 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…

From the list:

The best crime novels for fans of slow burn psychological suspense

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Book cover of Another Hill and Sometimes a Mountain

Another Hill and Sometimes a Mountain

By Tim Green, Marlayna Glynn

Why this book?

You think you had a tough childhood? Meet Tim Green. Born blue into an uneducated, poor, and incestuous family in 1950s Ohio, it's a wonder this child lived at all. However, grit and forces of luck arrived to meet Tim when he needed help. Luck involved the right policemen, care workers, social workers, and foster parents. Grit involved the resolve of Tim himself.

Like Frank McCourt, Tim Green learned early to look on the bright side of life. You'll read the most shocking things you can imagine in this book that will leave you shaking your head at the things…

From the list:

The best memoirs on surviving traumatic childhoods

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Book cover of How to Be Gay

How to Be Gay

By David M. Halperin

Why this book?

As befitting the cheeky title, this book – about what it means to be, and to become, a gay man – is incisive, erudite, and a lot of fun to read. A pioneer of queer theory (and with this intervention, I suspect, a renegade from it), David Halperin is an unapologetic camp. He challenges received wisdom about how gay sensibility supposedly is misogynist, passé, irrelevant or dead, and his reflections on everything from Joan Crawford’s pizazz, to the current state of gay marriage, vacillate between being capacious and withering. “Sometimes I think homosexuality is wasted on gay people” he sniffs…

From the list:

The best books that will make you see the world with fresh eyes

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Book cover of How We Fight for Our Lives: A Memoir

How We Fight for Our Lives: A Memoir

By Saeed Jones

Why this book?

Jones first emerged in bookstores with his poetry collection Prelude to Bruise. While some may have been expecting another volume of poetry as a follow-up, he released a memoir—an utterly powerful telling of his life, “written at the crossroads of sex, race, and power.” While Jones’ journey alone makes for intense reading, his prose makes the experience wholly unique; a poet to the core, Jones imbues his sentences with such singular voice and style that you’re left in awe of his command of language—and the possibilities to reimagine your own sentences.

From the list:

The best books to read if you want to learn how to write nonfiction like a motherfu*ker

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