Spring has sprung. And what better way to celebrate than by curling up with a good book? It’s great mental exercise. Not to mention, men who read are totally sexy.
Whether you’re looking for a juicy memoir, a historical romance, a great biography, or a classic work of literary fiction, we’ve got all the bases covered.
Check out these twelve rad reading recommendations sure to appease and please the gay book nerd in you.
The City and the Pillar by Gore Vidal
Gore Vidal’s 1948 landmark novel is a must-read for every gay man. Seriously, if you haven’t read this book, do. The coming-of-age novel tells the story of Jim Willard, a young All-American tennis player, and his relationship with his best friend, Bob. When the two go their separate ways after high school, Jim becomes obsessed with reconnecting with his childhood lover. Filled with frank discussions about sex and homosexuality, the book was met with quite a bit of controversy when it was first published, but it has since gone on to be considered a classic in gay literature.
Father of Frankenstein by Christopher Bram
Christopher Bram’s 1995 novel reads sort of like a gay Sunset Boulevard. Set in late 1950s Hollywood, the book is a fictionalized account the last days of legendary gay filmmaker James Whale and his twisted relationship with his gardener, Clayton Boone. The book was the basis for the critically-acclaimed 1998 film Gods and Monsters starring Ian McKellen and Brendan Fraser.
Dreadful: The Short Life and Gay Times of John Horne Burns by David Margolick
Author John Horne Burns’ life may have been brief (he died at 36), but he left his mark in gay literature with his 1947 classic The Gallery, which depicted gay life in the U.S. military. Biographer David Margolick details Burns’ troubled life, marred by heavy drinking and extreme self-loathing, in Dreadful. From Burns’ time as a prep school teacher, to his years serving in WWII, to his rise as a celebrated author, to his inevitable and untimely demise, Dreadful makes for a fascinating read about an all but forgotten American author.
The Talented Miss Highsmith by Joan Schenkar
While we’re on the subject of deeply disturbed American authors with substance abuse problems, Joan Schenkar’s award-winning biography of lesbian writer Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr. Ripley, Strangers on a Train) offers a haunting portrait of one of the most notoriously nasty authors of the 20th century. Highsmith may have been a literary genius, but boy did she have her demons. At 700-some pages, Schenkar leaves no stone unturned. But don’t let the enormous page count deter you. These pages turn themselves.
American Studies by Mark Merlis
Mark Marlis’ award-winning 1994 novel tells the story of a 62-year-old gay man looking back on his troubled life, beginning with his college years and an ill-fated relationship with famed literary scholar, Tom Slater. The book is currently out-of-print, but you can find used copies online. It’s also available on Kindle. Whatever means you use to acquire it, it’s definitely worth tracking down.
City of Night by John Rechy
When John Rechy’s groundbreaking debut novel was first published in 1963, it gave voice to a subculture that had rarely been revealed before. City of Night is about a young gay hustler in the 1960s as he travels from New York, to L.A., to San Francisco, to New Orleans. Of course, at the time of publication, the book was attacked by reviewers. Nevertheless, it became an international bestseller and is still in print today.
Body Counts: A Memoir of Politics, Sex, AIDS, and Survival by Sean Strub
Looking for a compelling political memoir? Sean Strub’s Body Counts is certain to satisfy your craving. Strub, who was the first openly HIV-positive candidate to run for U.S. Congress, recounts a life of political activism, the AIDS epidemic and the beginning of the modern LGBT rights movement. Body Counts gives readers a insider’s peek at the hardships gay men faced during the 1980s and ’90s.
Fish: A Memoir of a Boy in a Man’s Prison by T.J. Parsell
Human rights activist T.J. Parsell’s 2007 memoir tells of his experiences in the Michigan prison system where he was exposed to prolonged sexual abuse from fellow inmates. During his first night in prison, 17-year-old Parsell was gang raped by four men. Afterwards, they flipped a coin to see which one of them would “own” him. Today Parsell is one of America’s leading spokespeople for prison reform. Fish offers a haunting portrait of a very real problem that still plagues our prison system to this day.
The Man of the House by Stephen McCauley
In case you’re in the mood for something slightly less dark and depressing, check out Stephen McCauley’s novel The Man of the House. The story centers around 35-year-old Clyde Carmichael and his pursuit of dodging his family, getting over his ex who he broke up with four years ago, coping with his crazy straight roommate, and navigating a relationship with his best friend’s 10-year-son and his neurotic dog. (Sounds like every gay man we know.) Packed with McCauley’s signature dark humor and poignant insights, The Man of the House is a bittersweet novel about family, friends, and fathers.
Solstice by Joyce Carol Oates
If you’ve never read anything by Joyce Carol Oates, Solstice is a good, albeit slightly less conventional, place to start. Originally published in 1985, the plot centers are two women and their intense, co-dependent, borderline obsessive, and at times abusive relationship with one another. It’s not an explicitly “lesbian” book (the women are technically heterosexual), but it still makes for a fascinating read and offers a good introduction to Oates’ dark style of storytelling.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams
We’re breaking form a little here. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof isn’t a book, it’s a play — one of the greatest. And it’s definitely worth checking out. The Pulitzer Prize-winning drama by Tennessee Williams is set at a plantation home along the 1950’s Mississippi delta and tells the story of Southern belle Maggie and her mounting frustrations with her closeted husband, Brick. The 1958 film version starring Elizabeth Taylor glosses over the whole gay subplot, which is why you should read the play. (Although the film is also definitely worth watching, as well.)
The Two Hotel Francforts by David Leavitt
David Leavitt’s latest historical novel tells about the sexual relationship between two men during the summer of 1940. Refugees Pete and Edward meet in Lisbon, Portugal while fleeing war-ravaged Europe with their wives during the height of WWII. This fast-moving psychological novel will keep you turning the pages all the way up to the dramatic and bittersweet conclusion.