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Holiday Book List · 2020

Twelve gay titles for the book lovers on your holiday shopping list!

Art

Tom of Finland: The Official Life and Work of a Gay Hero

Everyone knows Tom of Finland’s work even if they don’t know his name. With his iconic pencil drawings of leatherbound and uniformed muscle hunks with oversized phalli, Tom both embodied and helped shape the aesthetic of a generation. This new edition of Tom of Finland: The Official Life and Work of a Gay Hero makes a selection of his works from the 1940s to the 1980s available in beautiful coffee table format, including many explicit and color images that were not included in the original 1993 printing.

Photography

Loving: A Photographic History of Men in Love 1850s–1950s

This beautiful volume showcases hundreds of historical photographs of male couples from the collection of Hugh Nini and Neal Treadwell. They are shown arm in arm, relaxing, swimming, hugging, occasionally kissing—one couple even holding a sign: “NOT MARRIED BUT WILLING TO BE.” If we often can’t be sure of the nature of their relationships, that only gives our imaginations free reign to go where they will. To be reviewed.

History

The Deviant’s War · Eric Cervini

Beginning in the 1950s, astronomer Frank Kameny helped found the Mattachine Society of Washington and took on the government in the courts and on the streets in a lifelong fight for gay rights. In The Deviant’s War: The Homosexual vs. the United States of America, noted gay historian Eric Cervini has written an engaging, lucid, and well researched account of this very complex history, which will be of interest to anyone concerned with LGBTQ rights and history.

Art

Andy Warhol: Love, Sex, and Desire

For the Andy Warhol fan in your life, this new magnum opus from Taschen contains over 300 of “seductive drawings celebrating male beauty” by the king of pop art. Gareth Harris recently reviewed it, complete with tantalizing samples, in The Art Newspaper.

Poetry

All the Sonnets of Shakespeare

That Shakespeare wrote romantic sonnets to men as well as women has long been known. But readers’ ability to appreciate the poems has been hindered by our reliance on the 1609 edition, which does not include all of the poet’s work in sonnet form and which obscures the order in which the poems were written. By remedying these defects, this indispensable new edition of All the Sonnets of Shakespeare will help gay and straight readers alike better appreciate these beautiful poems.

Drag

Drag: The Complete Story · Simon Doonan

This lavishly illustrated summary of drag from the ancients to RuPaul bounces merrily from anecdote to anecdote, queen to queen, and century to century. Historical essays, examples of cross-dressing both ancient and contemporary, profiles and anecdotes of individual drag artists, and plenty of photographs round out Drag: The Complete Story.

Biography

The Man Who Ate Too Much: The Life of James Beard

James Beard was an American classic. After all, who could not love a man who defined the hamburger as the “universal entrée for those on diets” and advised burying some butter at the center of each patty to baste it from the inside out. The Man Who Ate Too Much tells the story of Beard’s life, both his culinary career and his gay New York life. Ligaya Mishan reviewed it in The New York Times.

Fiction

Memorial · Bryan Washington

Bryan Washington’s first book, Lot, won best gay fiction in the 2020 Lambda Literary Awards for his unsparing short stories of growing up a poor, gay person of color in Houston. In Memorial, published to praise in October, Washington returns with the tale of a young Black man and his Japanese-American lover, also set in Houston. Allan Hollinghurst recently reviewed both titles in The New York Review of Books.

Fiction

Boyfriend Material · Alexis Hall

Twenty-eight-year-old Luc O’Donnell is wasting his youth drinking, hooking up, and working at the Coleoptera Research and Projection Project—acronym “definitely not CRAPP”—a charity devoted to the preservation of dung beetles. Luc gets a respectable fake boyfriend to rehabilitate his public image, but finds himself falling in love for real. All in all, Boyfriend Material is a hilarious quick read.

Art

Boston’s Apollo: Thomas McKeller and John Singer Sargent

For the first time ever, art aficionados can enjoy this previously unpublished folio of ten masterful nude drawings John Singer Sargent made of model Thomas McKeller, displayed in a beautifully produced catalog of this summer’s show at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Boston’s Apollo: Thomas McKeller and John Singer Sargent also contains additional male nudes from Sargent’s œuvre, including the famous painting of McKeller, plus a welcome selection of biographical and critical essays.

Fiction

Joseph Chapman: My Molly Life · James Lovejoy

In this readable and engaging book, James Lovejoy has given us an entertaining and often sobering tale of gay life in eighteenth-century London. Any lover of historical fiction will find Joseph Chapman: My Molly Life a very worthwhile read.

Memoir

How We Fight for Our Lives · Saeed Jones

Saeed Jones’s second book won this year’s Lambda Literary Award for best gay memoir/biography. How We Fight for Our Lives tells the story of growing from a young, gay boy scared of what he was feeling into a man who accepts it.

Illustration cropped from American Library Association, World War I poster, 1918 (Wikimedia Commons)

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