So what do I mean by GLBT* favorites? Pretty simple: these are a few of my own personal favorite books by gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender authors, and/or about GLBT characters.
- One of my best discoveries in recent years was Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman. I'm not quite sure just what aspect of the book makes it so wonderful. Is it the setting, a luxurious vacation home in Italy? Or the refreshingly frank examination of a short-term sexual relationship that affects the rest of the youthful characters' lives, long after it was supposed to be forgotten in the past? The extremely nerdy Latin and ancient Greek that the characters study? The lovely, languid prose? Whatever the magic was, it didn't just win me over -- every patron I've recommended it to has ended up enthusiastically checking out more of Aciman's work.
- Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City series has grown from a gossipy, wacky, and hilarious newspaper serial (hey, that's how Dickens got his start, too!) to a poignant story of beloved characters' aging. The TV series based on it were (IMHO) uneven, but also iconic; check out a DVD and try it for yourself. Don't miss his stand-alone novels, either: The Night Listener was based on the strange true story of the author's friendship with the fictitious author JT Leroy.
- Baby Bebop by Francesca Lia Block can be found in the recently-issued Dangerous Angels collection of her popular Weetzie Bat series. Her playful language and mixture of gritty urban settings and whimsy make her a perennial teen favorite, and I've reread them more times than I can count.
- Fun Home by Alison Bechdel is one of those graphic novels that I recommend to people who hate graphic novels. It's a funny yet emotionally intense autobiography. And don't worry, morbid souls: the "fun" stands for "funeral."
- Secret Historian by Justin Spring is subtitled "The life and times of Samuel Steward, professor, tattoo artist, and sexual renegade," which already sounds like a pretty eclectic biography, but doesn't even come close to encompassing the amazing life experiences of someone who helped write an encyclopedia, corresponded with literary greats like Gertrude Stein, slept with celebrities like Rudolph Valentino, wrote classic gay pulp fiction, discovered a parasitic twin...and more! I read this because it was selected for my book club, and by the end, I couldn't believe that I'd never heard of this guy. He almost literally did it all!
- Bailey's Beads by Terry Wolverton is about the fraught relationship between a woman whose partner lies in the hospital in a coma, and her partner's mother. It's a complex book, incorporating poetry and a novel-within-a-novel, but by the end, you really feel like you understand the characters through many different lenses, with an ending that's satisfying without being "happy."
- The Story of the Night by Colm Tóibín is a dark Bildungsroman set in Argentina. Tóibín is an Irish author who has won multiple awards and is growing increasingly prominent. Many book clubs are reading his latest, but I still feel that this title, his second, is his most beautifully written.
- Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan is a refreshing young adult novel in which the main characters are gay...but that's no problem at all. Set in a high school where different sexual orientations and gender expressions are viewed as normal and not really a big deal, if you like GLBT fiction in theory but hate all the angst, this might be the book for you!
*Or LGBT, GLBTQ, QUILTBAG, or your inclusive acronym of choice.