Good Men Read

Gay Authors Pick The Top 5 LGBT Books of All Time

In this age of constantly shuttering gay bookstores, it is nice to think back on the not-so-distant past when in any major city one could walk into a store and spend hours perusing titles by Gay and Lesbian authors or on LGBT themes. So it’s with a touch of nostalgia that I read the opening paragraphs to Benoit Denizet-Lewis’s recent feature for The Good Men Project: The Best LGBT Books of All Time. He writes of walking into the recently-shuttered A Different Light bookstore in San Francisco for the first time, the same way I once walked into the also closed Lambda Rising in DC. He picked up a copy of Larry Kramer’s Faggots; I picked out John Rechy’s City of Night.

In his piece for the Good Men Project, Mr. Denizet-Lewis asked some of the most notable LGBT authors and literary figures such as Michael Cunningham, John Waters, Edmund White, Kate Bornstein, and Sarah Schulman to contribute a list of “five books that every LGBT person should have on his bookshelf (or Kindle).”  The most popular selection was James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room. Other popular selections included works by Marcel Proust, Jean Genet, and Virginia Woolf. Personally I was very happy to see some of my favorites like Edmund White’s A Boy’s Own Story and Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty get their due.

What would be on your list of the top 5 LGBT books?


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  • Troy

    Lost Language of Cranes

  • so,,,

    I didn’t realize A Different Light had finally closed. What a shame — but the writing had certainly been on the wall for a while.

  • Right Wingers Are Socioptahs (John From England)

    James Baldwin and Alice Walker.

    Enough said.

  • Storm

    Andrew Holleran’s DANCER FROM THE DANCE

    John Reid/Andrew Tobias’ THE BEST LITTLE BOY IN THE WORLD


    Edmund White’s A BOY’S OWN STORY, or anything by Edmund White

    Felice Picano’s THE LURE.

    Additionally, so that novels don’t get elevated over fine short fiction,


  • Storm

    As a side-mention to the closing of gay bookstores, OUT-WRITE in Atlanta is also reportedly in danger of closing.

  • sleexplorer

    @Storm: great choices – dancer from the dance is one of the best books i have ever read – and nice someone remembers the lost language of cranes – a classic!

  • boom

    randy schilts’ and the band played on. not solely LGBT per se but relevant.

  • Fiffe

    I have to say I completely agree with James Baldwin as a top choice. Glad to read about it here on Queerty. Confirmation and motivation that I should finally complete my attempt to write a prequel to it from the perspective of Giovanni. The ending of this book always reminds me of the dreadful weight of hope, which would make an awesome title.

  • Jonathan

    City of Night by John Rechy
    The Velvet Rage by Alan Downs
    Song of Salomon by Toni Morrison
    The Color Purple by Alice Walker

  • Jonathan

    @boom: Absolutely! Good choice.

  • tarxien

    The Last of the Wine Mary Renault

  • TJ

    Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg

  • TMikel

    Our Lady of the Flowers – Genet
    City of Night – Rechy
    Eustace Chisholme and the Works -Purdy
    Tales of the City – the entire series – Maupin
    Rubyfruit Jungle – Brown

  • AladinSane

    Can’t believe no one has mentioned Ethan Mordden’s How Long Has This Been Going On? Very vividly depicts the emergence of gay consciousness with warmth and humor.

  • Jonny

    In no particular order:

    A Separate Peace by John Knowles

    Gionanni’s Room by James Baldwin

    The Persian Boy by Mary Renault

    The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

    The Hours by Michael Cunningham

  • Tim

    James Baldwin’s “Another Country” is way better than “Giovanni’s Room.” “Go Tell It On The Mountain” is also magnificent, though it’s gay content is much more subtle.

    My others are:

    Maurice by H.M. Forster
    A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood
    The Collected Poems by C.F. Cavafy
    Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust
    Fun Home by Allison Bechdel

  • JumpingUpAgain

    Ditto on MAURICE by E.M. Forster. ANSWERED PRAYERS by Capote has enough gay content to count, too (as well as being exquisite writing). And of course Proust.

  • bob

    How ’bout some non-fiction?

    Gay American History – Jonathan Katz
    Absolutely positively a must read.
    Gay and Lesbian Almanac – Jonathan Katz
    The sequel to Gay American History. Another must read, especially Eleanor Roosevelt’s letters.
    The Celluloid Closet – Vito Russo
    The book is an indictment, not a celebration, of Hollywood’s treatment of gays.
    Cleopatra’s Wedding Present (Travels through Syria) – Robert Tewdwr Moss
    An astonishing honest travelogue of gay life in Syria, made all the more poignant by the author’s death.

  • Eric

    I found Giovanni’s Room very underwhelming, maybe because I find the tormented homo narrative overwrought and tired as a young gay in 2011 who never struggled with his sexuality. And I never made it through an entire Tales of the City novel. Do they get any better (after the first 30 pages)?

    The Frontrunner
    The Hours

    Yeah, those are the only two that come to mind… Cunningham’s Flesh and Blood and A Home at the End of the World are worth a read too, but neither is as good as The Hours. Foucault’s A History of Sexuality Vol. 1 is worth the arduous process of deciphering Foucault, but it hardly ever mentions homosexuality by name. The Bear Books are a good read, a nice dose of history along with cultural theory (my forte). Everything else that stands out in my mind is pulp romance and erotica (not that I’ve read a lot of that *shifty eyes*).

  • JumpingUpAgain

    Eric : I think Tales Of the City is total junk, so you’re not the only one. I also find GIOVANNI’S ROOM to be a bit overrated, but I still think it’s good enough to be in- at least- the top ten gay novels ever. But it’s good that with gay lit, like with lit in general, we all have differing opinions and tastes.

  • Darren

    Maurice by E.M. Forster

  • D.tastic

    Berlin Stories – Isherwood

    City and Pillar by Gore Vidal was the first real gay book I read. I was sweating when I checked it out of the library. 1975. College freshman.

    Lost Language of Cranes

    Is Mysteries of Pittsburgh gay enough to count?

    Nocturnes for the King of Naples by Ed White was early in my gay reading and fondly remembered

    My Mothers Clothes by Richard McCann is a little jewel.

  • trees

    David Wojnarowicz- Close to the Knives

    Kevin Killian- Argento Series (or pretty much anything he’s done)

    Dennis Cooper- the George Miles cycle

    Yukio Mishima- Forbidden Colours

    Sarah Schulman- Rat Bohemia

    Tony Duvert- Strange Landscape

    I could go on forever here. Just thought some of the more ‘radical’ stuff should be repped, because there’s only so much fucking Edmund White worship I can stand.

  • slobone

    Anything by Ronald Firbank.

    Leaves of Grass.

    Anything by J. R. Ackerley.

    For non-fiction, Christopher and His Kind by Isherwood.

    Also, Gay New York by George Chauncey.

  • Baron

    ….althought it’s not high-brow literature, how can we leave out “Tales of the City”?!?!?!

  • Rick

    35 Cents by Matty Lee

  • Dan

    The Charioteer by Mary Renault

  • Adman

    Baldwin’s Another Country.

  • sleeben

    James Baldwin ‘Another Country’ (the row of James Baldwin books on my college bookshelf in the early 70s was my coming out…)
    Jane Rule ‘Desert of the Heart’ (don’t dump on me but… the novel is far too negelcted compared with the film – okay, I’m a queer bloke…)
    Sarah Walters ‘Fingersmith’ (superb writing!)
    Michael Cunningham ‘The Hours’ (decent film, too – even including Kidman’s Nose)
    Fritz Peters ‘Finistère’ (not a great book, but I read it at 13 and the rest, as they say, is hisstory)

    Vito Russo ‘Celluloid Closet’ (and the documentary is also marvellous)
    Martin Duberman ‘About Time’
    Len Richmond & Gary Noguera ‘The Gay Liberation Book’ (my prized possession from back then…)
    Lillian Faderman & Stuart Timmons ‘Gay L.A.’
    Randy Shilts’ ‘Trilogy’ (okay, I’m cheating here, but all three are wonderful books, despite his admitted flaws – Shilts is THE gay documentarist of the 70s)

    R.D Zimmerman ‘Closet’ (and all his Todd Mills thrillers)
    Katherine V. Forrest ‘Sleeping Bones’ (ditto all her Kate Delafields…)
    Joe Keenan ‘Putting on the Ritz’ (oh, so gay!)
    Robert Rodi ‘Closet Case’ (hilarious!)
    John Wilson Morgan ‘Simple Justice’ (in fact, all his Benjamin Justice mysteries)

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