Four Short Gay Novels To Read Right Now

Young Business Man Relaxing With Cup Of Coffee On Teracce

I am about one third of the way through Alan Hollinghurst’s door-stopper of a novel The Sparsholt Affair. While I love settling in to a 432 page by a master gay novelist like Hollinghurst, I’ll admit that short novels are often my favorites.  Books under 200 pages are perfect for reading over one weekend or plane trip.

I find slimmer books give me a satisfying sense of accomplishment and they are simpler to return to each evening after my son’s done with bath and tucked into bed. Here are my favorite short gay themed books, all under 200 pages.

  1. Everything Begins and Ends At The Kentucky Club by Benjamin Alire Sàenz (180 pages)
    A series of seven rich stories about life and love on the border between Texas and Mexico. A quote from the last story in the Lambda Literary award winning book: “And the only way to survive is to do the love thing, you know? Yeah, I think I called it the hurting game. Yeah, love hurts”
  2. We The Animals by Justin Torres (128 pages)
    “The smelled my difference – my sharp, sad, pansy scent. They believed I would know a world larger than their own.” The shortest book on this list. I read this tight poem of a novel about brothers growing up poor and different in New York City six years ago and am still captivated by it. Read more amazing Justin Torres in The New Yorker (subscription may be required).
  3. Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin (178 pages)
    A classic by one of America’s best writers. Baldwin takes us to 1950’s Paris and inside the dark mental struggles that often came along with being gay then. I feel like it should be required reading, certainly for every gay man, especially us gay men in big cities. I recommend this book with a big asterisk: Baldwin’s short novel boils with unhealthy self loathing that is dated (let’s hope so anyway) and might be too much for the newly out or those new to LGBTQ literature. “… And you bring me fever but no delight,” Giovanni tells David. Baldwin grabs the simultaneous passion and hatred –“the stink of love” — that closeted men have felt for their first love. The excitement of oysters and white wine at Les Halle’s early morning market is one of  my favorite scenes in literature.
  4. Sergio Y by Alexandre Vidal Porto (160 pages)
    A well-known therapist takes on a mysterious patient toward the end of his career. A wise bookseller at Three Lives & Co. asked me to start the book without reading anything about it. Even ignore the jacket copy, he said so I did. I’ve already told you more about this book than I knew when I started it. Give it a shot and read it in a night or two and come back here and let me know what you think.

Lambda Literary Finalists Announced

Rainbow Book Pile

This morning Lambda Literary announced the Lammy award nominees this morning.

Here are the nominees for the gay fiction category:

I’ve read three of these gay novels: After the Blue Hour, The End of Eddy, and Less. What I find exciting about seeing these three books together is how different they are. The dark and moody terror of After the Blue Hour is a world apart from the witty jet-setting age-anxiety in Less. The End of Eddy is an autobiographical novel about a struggling young boy in France.

I haven’t read any of the Gay Memoir/Biography nominees. Have you?:


‘Call Me By Your Name’ Heads To The Oscars Tonight


It’s a big night for gay literature. Call Me By Your Name – a gay coming of age movie based on the novel by André Aicman – is in the running for four Oscars tonight, including Best Picture.

While I’m thrilled to see a story about two men in love up for Academy Awards, I can’t help thinking back to Miz Cracker’s piece for Slate: Why has Call Me by Your Name attained such an iconic “gay” status when it is anything but? When its main characters seem almost aggressively isolated from gay culture or politics? When its precocious protagonist has to be reminded that it’s gauche to make fun of people who are openly gay?

It’s pretty peachy that James Ivory, an 89 year old out gay man, is expected to take home the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for Call Me By Your Name. Catch up on the story of Ismail Merchant and James Ivory in The New Yorker.

I’m hoping Call Me By Your Name is one more call to publishers and producers to keep telling our stories. More diverse stories and stories by LGBT novelists with LGBT actors and actresses portraying us. More novels! More movies!

I read Call Me By Your Name back in 2007, shortly after it came out. “This novel is hot,” said The New York Times. Have you read it yet?

How To Find Great Gay Books

Young Man Sunbathing Lying On A Towel In A Garden Near A Pool

Finding good gay books is hard. Too hard. Most of the gay bookstores have closed and the gay sections of Amazon and Barnes and Noble are hard to browse. There’s no one place to catch up on classic gay fiction and read reviews of new novels.

Here’s how I try to stay in the loop on the world of gay literature. I’m sure I’m missing some things – so please comment or email me if you have more ideas to share

  1. Lambda Literary is a non-profit supporting LGBTQ readers and writers. Annually they give out Lammys, the Oscars of the queer book world. The list of past Lammy winners can be a virtual bookstore of greatist hits. Lambda Literary’s new LGBTQ book reviews are a great way to stay in the loop on smaller press books that probably won’t show up in newspapers or magazines.
  2. Band Of Thebes is the best gay book blog. Whenever my reading list feels especially stalled, I can head here and find something great. The site had been on hiatus for a bit, but I’m so glad to see some new posts up lately. This The Most Anticipated LGBT Books of 2018 list is gold.
  3. Round-ups of great gay books bring new energy to your reading list. I just found this list of The Best LGBT Books of All Time from The Good Men Project.  “I wish someone had given me a list of required gay reading when I was coming out. Gay men gave me a lot of things back then (porn, theater tickets, crabs), but no one gave me book titles,” wrote Benoit Denizet-Lewis. This list of 21 Books Every Gay Man Should Read Right Now from Thought Catalog is a great round up of classics. I haven’t read them all but I do love the shout out to one of my favorites: Patti Smith’s Just Kids. There’s also this British list, this LGBTQ book timeline,
  4. Before I became a dad to a busy toddler, I had more time to leisurely read book reviews. Finding a book with a gay character mentioned in the New York Times felt like finding a goldmine – or a bitcoin. Lately I rely on Google Alerts to scan the book reviews for me. My Google Alert tracking “gay book latimes” helped me to find this review of Some Hell by Patrick Nathan. I have Google Alert searches set up to ping me gay book news from  Boston Globe, LA Times, New York Times and Entertainment Weekly.
  5. I got my introduction to gay reading through a gay book club I found via The Center here in NYC. Book clubs can be a great way to get our noses out of books and into real life. But here’s my hack: even if you can’t find time to attend the book group or don’t have a gay book group in you city or don’t feel comfortable going to the meetings, you can still read the books they are talking about. Meetup is a good spot to find some gay book clubs and see what they are up to.
  6. Ask for help finding a new read in a good independent book store. I realize not everyone feels comfortable doing this and some parts of the country don’t have independent book stores. The owners and managers of these stores try to shape their stores around what we’re reading. They also speak to publishers about the kinds of books their customers want. I believe buying gay books at independent book stores helps to make more gay books. Here’s my story of three books I found at Three Lives and Co.

Let me know what you’re reading and how you stay up to date on the best gay books.





Ugly Numbers and Cartier Rings

Screen Shot 2018-02-19 at 12.59.49 PMThe New Yorker has a tremendous personal essay this week by publishing exec Ben Loehnen.

On marrying his husband: “Once a cynic about marriage, I came to think that my ring was magic. This piece of metal, an object of no utility whatsoever, soon became my most prized possession. I loved the comfort and the aesthetic and the power of wearing it. I also came to appreciate that wearing a ring sent a signal.”

Go read it right now!


A great literary thriller – is it gay?


I wish the protagonist in The Destroyers was gay. Sharply, strongly, sassily gay. Since the author Christopher Bollen is gay, I expected (or at least hoped) that his main character Ian Bledsoe would be too.

Ian’s sexy, smart, screwed up and strangely likable. Ian goes for girls – but has a sharp eye for the men around him too. He admires men’s muscles, watches a gay couple have sex, and eyes his best friend’s below-the-belt wardrobe malfunction, comparing his friend’s scrotum to a newborn’s head.

The novel is a beautiful escape to the Greek island of Patmos interrupted by some hot takes on New York City. This line was one of my favorites: “The only redeeming quality left in a New Yorker is their ability not to take up space.”

The book reads a bit long to me, but the reader’s patience are rewarded with reflections on “all the jobs that growing this 1.5 oz. bag of potato chip to the beach grass of a Greek island . . . ” and the hymn On Eagle’s Wings.

Bollen dedicated this book to his agent Bill Clegg. Bill Clegg’s memoir Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man is a great gay memoir.

I like that this book makes reader’s question what a queer novel is or what it might be. Is a novel about gay men written a straight man, like Call Me By Your Name, any more or less gay than a book written by a gay man about seemingly straight men?