These Are 9 Books That Will Make Gay Men Feel Better

Written by | Books, Entertainment

Shirtless Man Reading

When they’re in a bad mood, some people can eat, drink or Netflix themselves back to happiness. But if you’re a gay man looking to get out of a funk, these are nine books that will make you feel better every time.

Berlin Stories, Sense and Sensibility, A Prayer for Owen Meany

The Covers of “Berlin Stories”, “Sense and Sensibility” and “A Prayer for Owen Meany”

1. The Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood

Was Christopher Isherwood Gay?

Yes, and famously so. When asked about why he went to Berlin in the 1920s, he said he went for the boys.

Why Should You Read The Berlin Stories?

It’s so gay, it’s practically cliché. After all, the stories would go on to inspire the show Cabaret. And Liza Minelli, daughter of fairy godmother Judy Garland, won an Oscar for starring int he film adaptation. (Though in the book, Sally is British. Scandalous!) However, it’s also an exciting and intriguingly autobiographical book. It also includes other, non-Cabaret-related stories from the life of Isherwood as a young Englishman in Berlin in the 1920s.

Why Do I Return to The Berlin Stories?

During a funk, I’m reminded of all the wonderful things I’ve chosen in my life. They remind me to keep going, to keep trying new things, enjoying the adventure which finds me, and the new friends I make along the way. Also, sadly, rereading it in our current political climate is rather…chilling.

Is There a Film Adaptation of The Berlin Stories?

Oyou’ve all seen Cabaret. A good way to learn more about Isherwood as a writer is to watch Chris and Don. It’s a 2007 documentary about the life of the writer and his partner of over 30 years the portrait painter, Don Bachardy. It moved me–and a certain editor-in-chief I know–to tears when we first saw it.

2. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Was Jane Austen Gay?

Queer academics of history and literature speculate she was. Regardless, it would be hard to define what “gay” or “lesbian” was 200 years ago.

Why Should You Read Sense and Sensibility?

Its central characters, the Dashwood sisters, each have rich hopes and complex fears about their future. This makes for a nice break from the hopelessness and fear we encounter in this age of social media echo chambers and political turmoil. Also, its witty observations and sly humor shine brilliantly.

Why Do I Return to Sense and Sensibility?

Austen’s books still resonate 200 years later because fundamentally they are about the human condition. If you didn’t realize how cathartically she is making fun of her own societal peers and adversaries when you read it in high school, you may appreciate it once you have a little more life experience. It gives me a sense that there is, ultimately, order in the world. It was once even enough to relax me after an evening stuck watching Fox News in a former in-law’s living room.

Is There a Film Adaptation of Sense and Sensibility?

The fabulous Emma Thompson won an Oscar for the screenplay and stars as elder sister Elinor. You may also recognize the woman playing her younger sister Marianne. She went on to star in a silly little film about a boat which everybody saw even though they knew the ending.

3. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

Was John Irving Gay?

No, but the strong bonds between his male characters are worth reading by gay men.

Why Should You Read A Prayer for Owen Meany?

Johnny Wheelwright, the novel’s narrator, has spent most of his life single, without any interest in pursuing the opposite sex. One character even describes the narrator of the novel, Johnny Wheelwright, as a “non-practicing homosexual.”

Why Do I Return to A Prayer for Owen Meany?

Readers will realize Wheelwright is really describing his greatest love. He and the titular owen were boyhood friends. They were united by a tragedy and share a bond so strong that, as a kid, I wondered if they were gay. But over time, I’ve come to see it a a deep, strong, brotherly love. It might be akin to what you share with your closest gay friends who have gotten you through tough times. It is a potent reminder that many kinds of love are possible.

Is There a Film Adaptation of A Prayer for Owen Meany?

There is an adaptation called Simon Birch. But it was famously so awful that Irving removed his name from it. If they tried again, novel has a wealth of great humor. Wheelwright’s grandmother deserves to be played a feisty older dame like Maggie Smith, Judy Dench or Lily Tomlin.

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Falconer, A Boy's Own Story, Washington Square

The Covers of “Falconer”, “A Boy’s Own Story” and “Washington Square”

4. Falconer by John Cheever

Was John Cheever Gay?

Cheever did not identify as gay. However, he admitted to experimenting as a boy. And the theme of homosexuality appears throughout his writing. The book had such impact that his daughter was often asked if her father was a drug-addicted homosexual.

Why Should You Read Falconer?

The New Yorker published over a hundred stories by Cheever. That august publication about a heroin-addicted man who “has been convicted of fratricide and sentenced to 10 years in the Falconer Correctional Facility, where he finds redemption in homosexuality.”

Why Do I Return to Falconer?

I read it after my ex and I broke up. Then, again after we divorced. It showed me – each time, with different meaning – that life is never over when you think it should be done. Even if something horrible happens, even if you feel locked away, something will always draw you out.

Is There a Film Adaptation of Falconer?

No. But that would be quite a movie!

5. A Boy’s Own Story by Edmund White

Is Edmund White Gay?

Yes, and his books should be in every home library of the well-read gay man.

Why Should You Read A Boy’s Own Story?

It’s a classic of gay literature. It tells the story of a young man in the 1950s coming to terms with his homosexuality. I gave it as a gift to many newly out friends when we were still figuring out “the whole gay thing.”

Why Do I Return to A Boy’s Own Story?

White’s characters experience rejection and loss while traveling through the world – in a way that will feel familiar to many gay men. When I read it the first time, it made me feel that my own story is also important. Around that time, a professor of writing told me I’d never be able to write like White (or other greats I admired like Forster or Isherwood). And perhaps I have not had the same success they’ve had. But, I still write. Every day, I try to collect and write down things from my gay life which are beautiful, sad, humorous, and true.

Is There a Film Adaptation of A Boy’s Own Story?

Alas, no. But it’s calling out to be crafted by someone with a distinct, modern, gay sensibility – such as Gregg Araki.

6. Washington Square by Henry James

Was Henry James Gay?

James was a lifelong confirmed bachelor. So, from our vantage point, we may infer that James was most likely gay. Other indications include the fact that his stories often focus on Americans living abroad to find their own truth. His heirs burned his papers shortly after James died. We may never know if he wrote more candidly about his romantic or sexual inclinations in them.

Why Should You Read Washington Square?

If you’re interested in but intimidated by the great works of the 19th century, this one is shorter and easy to digest. You’ll quickly find yourself wrapped up in the life of heiress Catherine Sloper and her forbidden love for Morris Townsend.

Why Do I Return tp Washington Square?

James writes so well about people and society. He does it so honestly I should and with such humor that it is nearly as easy to understand as if it were set in the present day. He was a lifelong bachelor, and all his private papers were burned.

Is There a Film Adaptation of Washington Square?

Yes, it’s a 1940s classic called “The Heiress.” The legendary Olivia de Havilland plays Miss Sloper in this stunning adaptation. Meanwhile Morris Townsend is played by the equally-legendary Montgomery Clift – an actor who is known to be gay in real life. The ending will make you say, “Wow!”

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Gigi, Theft by Finding, Howards End

The Covers of “Gigi”, “Theft by Finding” and “Howards End”

7. Theft By Finding Diaries: 1977 – 2002 by David Sedaris

Is David Sedaris Gay?

Oh, yes he is!

Why Should You Read Theft By Finding?

When you read the collections of short stories and essays by Sedaris, you gradually come to get a sense of his mother, father and siblings. But in his diaries, readers get a much more unfiltered look at the antics of this now-famous family (including Emmy-nominated actress Amy Sedaris) long before they were famous.

Why Do I Return to Theft By Finding?

I first flipped through this thick brick of a bestseller as a reference when I was reviwing Sedaris’ recent and unexpectedly somber collection of essays Calypso, I thought it would befun to choose a random page and see what was going on in Sedaris’ head at that time. The stories proved so irresistible that I had to go back and tackle it in chronological order. And now my finacé Jewell and I have developed a fun habit. We take turns reading passages aloud from it to each other.

Is There a Film Adaptation of Theft By Finding?

I’m sure fans would love to see a film about Sedaris’ life cobbled together from Sedaris’ prolific bounty of memoirs, essays and diaries. But the universe has not seen fit to bless us with one yet.

8. Gigi by Colette

Was Colette Gay?

Yes! After finding success, she settled down happily with a person born who would today likely identify as transgender or gender non-comforming. The Keira Knightley-starring biopic Colette tells this story.

Why Should You Read Gigi?

The titular Gigi is a young girl is born into a very unique family that has passed the role of courtesan through its female members. Our heroine’s grandmother and great-aunt are anxious for her to grow up and embrace her destiny. Ultimately, she rejects their goals just as Colette left her domineering publisher-husband in real life.

Why Do I Return to Gigi?

I have read many short stories by French writer Collette, but there is something so pleasant about this particular work. It is inspiring how her female characters make their own decisions. And there’s something inspirational about the Bel Époque, the time period of Colette’s most known pieces. Diana Vreeland of Vogue credited part of her success to being born during that time.

Is There a Film Adaptation of Gigi?

Yes. Like Cabaret, if you’re into musicals, you certainly have seen or should see this one. The film has some of the lustre of My Fair Lady. And like that Audrey Hepburn classic, queer luminary Cecil Beaton dressed the set, transforming it into a main character. It was directed by Liza’s dad, the (by some accounts gay) Vincente Minnelli. Throw in a charming Leslie Caron and a dashing Louis Jourdan, and it’ll have you singing “Thank Heaven for Little Girls.”

9. Howards End by E.M. Forster

Was E. M. Forster Gay?

Yes – in a big way. He was a friends with Christopher Isherwood and English-born American poet, W. H. Auden. Allegedly, Forster stopped publishing because he was unable to write about gay subjects, characters, and themes as openly as he desired. Sadly, he died just a few years after homosexual acts between two consenting adults were decrimilazied in England. However, Maruice a novel he wrote about a gay love affair was published posthumously.

Why Should You Read Howards End?

It revolves around three families that beautifully represent the classes of Edwardian England. The Schlegels are interested in the arts and drawn to a Bohemian lifestyle but bound by the expectations of the middle class. Meanwhile today, we’d likely call the conservative Wilcox Family part of “the one percent.” And the Basts represent the poorer classes. A chance encounter brings them all together, and intrigue results.

Why Do I Return to Howards End?

Forster’s writing is so clean and lean, yet so very elegant. It’s not fussy like Henry James (though there is much to love about that Victorian style of writing, too). And the way Forster examines his characters – their desires, their interests, and their lots in life – is inspiring. If I’m stuck in a rut in terms of writing or even life more generally, Howards Ends reminds me to connect with what I love, what inspires me, and what gives me hope for the future.

Is There a Film Adaptation of Howards End?

Yes, yes, yes! I was only a kid when it came out. My mom and I went to see it, and we both loved it. I actually suggest watching it before reading the book. Why? Although the film and book differ slightly, it’s great fun to see Emma Thompson, Helena Bonham-Carter, and Anthony Hopkins portray main characters on screen. Then they can again lend their famous faces to the characters in your mind as you read it.

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Last modified: November 21, 2019