Top 10 Books of ’08 That Belong on A Gay’s Bookshelf

As 2008 slowly recedes out of view, we’re looking back at the best in pop culture over the course of the year. Yesterday, we looked at music and today we’re looking at the world of literature, be it fiction, non-fiction, or, in the case of our number one selection, graphic novels. While not all of our selections are gay, they all touch on the themes of that resonate deeply with the gay community: sexuality, family, public versus private identities. And hey, if you’re bisexual, 2008 was the year to visit a book store.

Let us know your favorite books of the year in the comments.

1. The Alcoholic by Jonathan Ames, illustrated by Dean Haspiel
It will probably raise a few eyebrows that Queerty’s best book of the year is a thinly veiled roman a clef by a straight novelist and New York Press columnist known for staging a show called “Oedipussy”, but The Alcoholic is an uncommonly tender look at love, friendship and addiction. The protagonist Jonathan A. first discovers alcohol with his best friend and after a late-night gay exploratory fling, he finds himself rejected. For years he struggles with the loss of his friend, seeking solace in women, drug dealers, his great aunt and of course, in drugs and alcohol. When he discovers the truth decades later: That his best friend was gay and loved him, Jonathan A. looks for an easy resolution, but the real-life Jonathan Ames takes the reader to a far more realistic conclusion. Get It.

2. The Sixth Form by Tom Dolby
Tom Dolby’s The Trouble Boy was good. The Sixth Form is great. Loosely built around Hansel & Gretel, it tells the story of two New England prep school boys, one brainy and cautious, the other rich and gay, who develop a deep bond as they explore their sexuality as well as their mysterious bohemian teacher, Hannah, who proffers their affection through baked goods. Yes, it sounds like a mishmash of cliché’s, but Dolby manages to get the ingredients proportioned just right. Get It.

3. Erotomania by Francis Levy
In this sex-charged, penis-obsessed debut novel, couples have sex not just in the bathroom of gay restaurants, but under the table, too. Sex is such a force that it destroys buildings–literally. In the tradition of all great picaresque, the absurdities and extreme visions presented in Erotomania reveal truth: In this case about self-obsession and delusion. Get It.

4. Hiding in Hip Hop: On the Down Low in the Entertainment Industry–from Music to Hollywood by Terrance Dean
An entertaining tell-all, Hiding in Hip Hop is more than simply a series of blind items about who’s gay in gangsta rap, though, if that’s what you’re looking for, you’ll find it. It’s also an insightful memoir about the contradictions of masculinity that fuel the image of hip-hop. Get It.

5. American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
Why wait for Laura Bush to write her memoir when Curtis Sittenfeld has already done it? Alice is bookish, but after the death of her first love in a car crash, falls for a rich, boozy Ivy League grad who makes his way, almost despite himself, to the White House. Get It.

6. Anything Goes by John Barrowman

All the wit and fun of openly gay Torchwood star John Barrowman’s personality is on display in his memoir, which recounts his childhood, life in school, theatre career and eventual television success. If it feels at times like Barrowman is putting on a show, it’s because he is; best to sit back and enjoy the performance. Get It.

7. Crisis: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay in America by Mitchell Gold and Mindy Drucker
This book belongs in every high school library in America. It should be read, not just by students, but by educators, parents and anyone working with LGBT youth. By focusing on the individual stories of at-risk LGBT teens, Crisis brings the perils of being a gay teenager to life. Get It.

8. Swish: My Quest to Become the Gayest Person Ever by Joel Derfner

If you’re going to title your book “Swish” you better know how to be campy. Joel Derfner’s self-depricating tales of learning to knit and becoming an aerobics instructor are laugh-out-loud funny while never devolving into cattiness. If Derfner has a tendency to pile on the schmaltzy sentimentality from time to time, it’s only fitting considering his book’s project. Get It.

9. When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris
There’s always danger when a humorist feels confident enough in his abilities that he no longer feels compelled to make the audience laugh every single minute and Sedaris’ latest collection displays some uneven moments that border on the needlessly esoteric. However, it’s good to see the This American Life contributor exploring new ground. The final piece, in which Sedaris recounts his attempts to quit smoking in Tokyo, is an instant classic. Get It.

10. The Memoirs of a Beautiful Boy by Robert Leleux
Robert Leleux’s memories of growing up on a ranch in Texas with his cosmetic surgery-obsessed mother is as outrageous as the personalities that inhabit the book. At times caustic and biting, Leleux’s novel is a coming-of-age story that leaves you excited for more from this first-time author. Get It.

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  • Steven

    thank you for this! i love, love, love reading but have had difficulty finding some good gay-themed books

  • James Bartlett

    yeah thanks

  • Alan down in Florida

    For the first two responders – have you tried Lambda Book Review or Insight Out Books or simply the Amazon Gay & Lesbian site?

    As for the list, how does a thinly disguised novel about Laura Bush qualify as gay content?

  • mikey

    Thanks for the List! Several sound just like what I would enjoy. Recently I read a wonderful book titled “Call Me By Your Name” sorry can’t think of the author at the moment. Its a coming of age story, love found love lost etc. It is very thought provoking.

  • patrick lehman

    I’m really liking your newly articulate political voice and I was (with the exception of Madonna) impressed with your best of music picks. So being unfamiliar with all these book selections except Sedaris, I will definately give them a try. I am glad you are growing up as a cultural source.

  • Cody

    “Swish: My Quest to Become the Gayest Person Ever” is an amazing book! I’ve read it twice this year. Thank you for the list, I too have a problem finding decent queer books that aren’t full of erotic stories.

  • Richard

    This is a great list!

    You may also want to look at one of our most recent titles, “The Dictionary of Homophobia” by Louis-Georges Tin, who published the Dictionary at great personal and professional cost (France, 2003, translation in Canada by Arsenal Pulp Press in 2008), and launched the International Day Against Homophobia in 2005.

    In 2006, he started a campaign “for a universal decriminalisation of homosexuality” which led to a Declaration in the General Assembly of the UN on December 18 2008. He is also the vice-president and spokesperson of the CRAN, the Coalition of Black organisations in France. We’ll be blogging a bit more about Tin in the near future at

  • seitan-on-a-stick

    I thought Carrie Fisher’s “Wishful Drinking” novel to be less NYU-based required reading…

  • sparkle obama

    is it time for “the gays” to change Our name?
    are we actually “gay americans” as that handsome, kooky governor put it?
    or is “gay” as a big-tent qualifier somehow limited & over –
    – as kitschy and troublesome an artifact as “colored” & “oriental”?

    one way to use up extra assh*le energy is to Change Our Name and force the world to go along with the change.
    it could be almost as symbolic as the use and meaning of the english word “marriage”, whatever that means.
    to make a sweeping linguistics change could be like casting a magic spell.
    what word encompasses …
    wait – there is LGBT
    maybe that’s it.
    whaddya think, blanche?

    i’m elgeebeetee, what are you, darling?

  • John

    Good afternoon! My name is John Collins. I am a newly published author of ‘Virgin to the Life’, available in eBook and paperback through It is the depiction of a young man named Jason, coming into his own in terms of his sexuality. His parents have discovered the secret he has been trying to keep under wraps for so long. He decides that he must fend for himself after his parents confront him about his sexuality and show a side of them unfamiliar to him. Jason decides to join the military, and seeks like minded individuals to befriend, experiences his first club, first pride, first love and the consequences that come along with his new found freedom.

    ‘Virgin to the Life’, available now through in eBook and paperback. Thank you in advance for your support…

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