Summer has arrived, which means it’s time to slip into your swim trunks, hit the pool and/or beach, and work on that tan. First you’re going to need a great book to take with you. So to help you out, we’ve compiled a diverse list of titles for you to check out this summer.
Poignant memoirs. Quirky romances. Serious nonfiction. Sexy thrillers. Literary classics. Even a graphic novel. We’ve got all the bases covered.
Check out these 12 summer reading recommendations…
The Animals: Love Letters Between Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy edited by Katherine Bucknell
48-year-old Christopher Isherwood was already an acclaimed author when he met 18-year-old Don Bachardy on the beach in Santa Monica in 1952. Within a year, they were living together as an openly gay couple, defying convention both in the closeted world of Hollywood and with their 30 year age difference. Their love affair lasted until Isherwood’s death in 1986. The Animals contains more than 500 pages of letters written between the men, detailing their unique partnership, their affairs and jealousy, the pressures of increasing celebrity, and what it was like to be openly gay at a time when America did not approve of love between two men.
A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood
While we’re on the subject of Christopher Isherwood, his 1964 novel A Single Man is an absolute must-read. It chronicles a day in the life of George as he copes with the sudden death of his partner. Isherwood called A Single Man his favorite of his novels. In 2009, the book was adapted into an award-winning film starring Colin Firth and Julianne Moore and directed by Tom Ford.
Allan Stein by Matthew Stadler
Matthew Stadler’s award-winning 1999 novel follows the journey of a compromised young teacher to Paris to uncover the sad history of Gertrude Stein’s troubled nephew Allan. Having been fired from his job because of a sex scandal involving a student, the teacher travels to Paris under an assumed name — that of his best friend, Herbert. In Paris, “Herbert” becomes enchanted by Stephane, a fifteen-year-old boy. As he unravels the gilded but sad childhood of Allan Stein, “Herbert” is haunted by memories of his own boyhood, particularly his odd, flamboyant mother. Moving from the late twentieth century back to the 1900s, effortlessly blending fact and fiction, Allan Stein is a charged exploration of eroticism, obsession and identity.
Fanny And Stella: The Young Men Who Shocked Victorian England by Neil McKenna
In April 1870, Thomas Ernest Boulton and Frederick William Park were arrested outside the Strand Theatre in London for dressing up as women. Now, Neil McKenna’s meticulously researched Fanny and Stella offers and in-depth look at what was one of most widely-attended, most sensational trials of Victorian England. With a cast of peers, politicians, prostitutes, drag queens, doctors ,and detectives, Fanny and Stella exposes the startling underbelly of 19-century London that is both tragic and comic and impossible to put down.
Ceremonies by Essex Hemphill
Essex Hemphill’s powerful collection of essays and poems beautifully captures his experience as a gay black man during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Essex, who died from complications of AIDS in 1995, addresses the sexual objectification of black men in white culture, relationships among gay black men and straight black men, HIV/AIDS in the black community and the meaning of family. The book was published in 1992 and is currently out of print, but there are plenty of used copies floating around out there. It’s definitely one worth tracking down.
Pee-Shy by Frank Spinelli
In this poignant new memoir, Frank Spinelli writes about growing up in 1970s Staten Island and the sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of his Boy Scouts leader. As a result, Spinelli developed paruresis, a phobia which makes urinating around others nearly impossible. (Many victims of sexual abuse are similarly “pee shy.”) When Spinelli learns that his abuser has been adopting young boys, he makes the decision to expose the man, and confront his own unhappiness.
What Did You Eat Yesterday? by Fumi Yoshinaga
This might be one of the cutest books ever. Part romance part cookbook, What Did You Eat Yesterday? is a three-volume graphic novel that tells the story of Shiro and Kenji, two middle-aged gay men living in Tokyo, and the many meals they’ve shared together. After long days at work, the men always make time to sit down at the dinner table, where they discuss their troubles, hash out their feelings, and enjoy delicately prepared home cooked meals. The most delicious part is that you can join in the fun with recipes at the end of each chapter.
Splendora by Edward Swift
Edward Swift’s provocative and hilarious 1978 debut novel is about a small Southern town that’s turned upside down by a new arrival: Miss Jessie Gatewood (formerly known as Mr. Timothy John Coldridge). Miss Jessie is the new town librarian, but she has much bigger plans than just shelving books. She intends to give the town and its people a much-needed makeover. But even as she is influencing the fashion sense of the local ladies — and winning the heart of the lovesick Brother Leggett, Splendora’s Baptist minister — a surprising plan for vengeance occupies the fabulous Miss Gatewood’s mind.
Paradiso by José Lezama Lima
Poet José Lezama Lima’s only novel Paradiso was first published in Cuba in 1966 and quickly hailed as a masterpiece. It tells the story of José Cemi, who, in the wake of his father’s premature death, comes of age in turn-of-the-century Cuba. Due to the graphic gay love scenes and the novel’s ambivalence towards the political situation of the day, Paradiso was met with controversy and publication problems. Today, however, it is widely considered one of the most accomplished novels in Cuba’s history.
Brother to Brother: New Writings by Gay Black Men edited by Essex Hemphill
Originally published in 1991, this collection of essays, poems, and short stories covers everything from coming out, to homophobia, to sex, to HIV/AIDS, and more, all told from the unique perspectives of over two dozen gay black men. The book was originally conceived by Joseph Beam, as a follow-up to his anthology In the Life: A Black Gay Anthology. When he died from complications of AIDS in 1988, Essex Hemphill took over the responsibility of editor. Brother to Brother was re-released in 2007 and is considered a classic in gay literature.
Hold Tight by Christopher Bram
If you’re never read anything by Christopher Bram, you’re seriously missing out. Hold Tight is a juicy erotic thriller set in gay brothel in New York during WWII. Hank Fayette faces a dishonorable discharge from the U.S. army unless he agrees to go undercover as a prostitute. What ensures is a series of erotic, funny, and suspenseful events that will keep you turning the pages all the way through to the end.
The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell by William Klaber
In the mood for some great historical fiction? William Klaber’s debut novel should satisfy your itch. The story is a fictional retelling of the life of Lucy Lobdell, an American woman who, in 1855, cut her hair, changed clothes, started living her life as a man. She was eventually arrested and put on trial for the crime of wearing men’s clothes. The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell is a fascinating story about gender identity and inequality in 19th century America.