11 Queer Summer Reads

Whether you’re off to bask in the sun on a Mediterranean beach, have a long train/plane journey ahead, or are just stuck at home for the holidays, HISKIND have got you covered for a selection of queer summer reads.

Contemporary Fiction

Christodora

By Tim Murphy

Set within the eponymous Christodora in Manhattan’s East Village, Tim Murphy’s compelling novel follows an eclectic array of characters – Milly and Jared, Hector, Mateo – from the 1980s to the 2020s. From the crisis of AIDS to a New York of the near future, Christodora explores love and loss, art and activism, AIDS and addiction. “There have been several whopping New York novels in the last couple of years,” writes Olivia Laing in The Guardian, “but none of them possesses Christodora’s generosity, its weathered and unflinching faith in what people can achieve.”

Days Without End

By Sebastian Barry

Sebastian Barry’s seventh novel won him the Costa Book Award for the second time. The judges described it as, “A miracle of a book – both epic and intimate – that manages to create spaces for love and safety in the noise and chaos of history.” The story follows Irish émigré Thomas McNulty and American John Cole, who enlist in the army and take part in both the Indian Wars and the American Civil War. He dedicated the book to his son Toby, who came out aged 16 in rural Ireland, with McNulty’s sexuality partially a tribute to him.

A Little Life

By Hanya Yanagihara

Yanagihara’s epic (736 pages in paperback), Booker Prize-shortlisted novel is as captivating as it is heartbreaking. Following four friends from college – Jude, Willem, JB and Malcolm – over the course of four decades, we see them grow and develop into successful, New York elites. Jude’s dark and harrowing past is inescapable, though, gradually and painstakingly revealed through numerous flashbacks. With a range of queer characters and complex, same-sex relations, it has been described as “The Great Gay Novel” (derived from the tradition of the Great American Novel). A must read – but have tissues at the ready.

Our Young Man

By Edmund White

Legendary gay writer Edmund White’s latest novel tells the story of Guy, a beguiling French model who finds success in New York – and, like Wilde’s Dorian Grey, seems not to age. From AIDS to Fire Island, BDSM to catwalk shows, White once again delivers a complex and rich exploration of modern gay identity. The cover quotes the Literary Review: “America’s most significant gay writer… Our Young Man is White’s most elegant, realised and charming novel in decades – vital proof that, in fiction, the old hand can outplay any of the young pretenders.”

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue

By Mackenzi Lee
(released 10th August)

Henry “Monty” Montague embarks on his coming-of-age Grand Tour across Europe, with his best friend/secret crush Percy in tow. Expected to take over his father’s estate upon his return, Monty wants to make the yearlong trip into an unforgettable and hedonistic adventure. A few wrong decisions turns their expedition into a manhunt – risking the relationship with the man he can’t help but love. “Witty, dazzling, and intriguing at every turn,” reads the blurb, “The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is an irresistible romp that explores the undeniably fine lines between friendship and love.”


Classic Fiction

Orlando

By Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf’s 1928 novel Orlando: A Biography is a landmark work of queer fiction. The eponymous hero is born a boy during the reign of Queer Elizabeth I; miraculously, they live for centuries, encountering major figures of aristocracy and literature up to the 20th century. During a stint as ambassador in Constantinople under King Charles II, they become a woman, seemingly nonplussed by the transformation. A cutting satire and a vital work of feminist and transgender fiction, Orlando is a beautifully crafted work of fiction.

Maurice

By E. M. Forster

E. M. Forster’s Maurice is a frank and heavily autobiographical account of homosexual relationships in the early-20th century – when homosexuality was illegal in the UK. Forster, a member of the queer Bloomsbury group, drew on his own experiences at Cambridge University and beyond to tell this tale self-discovery and sexual awakening. Completed in 1914, Maurice was only published posthumously in 1971, fearing the negative reaction it might generate due to its open treatment of homosexuality: “Publishable, but worth it?” read a note on the manuscript.


Non-Fiction

How to Survive a Plague: The Story of How Activists and Scientists Tamed AIDS

By David France

Expanding on his seminal documentary of the same name, David France here presents an extensive history of how AIDS was tamed. He tells the stories of the activists who fought for representation and rights; the scientists who developed the drugs that transformed AIDS from a fatal illness to a manageable disease. Winner of multiple awards and accolades – including 2017 Stonewall/Israel Fishman Non-Fiction Book Award and one of The New Yorker’s Books We Loved in 2016 – France’s book is a remarkable contribution to AIDS literature.

Straight Jacket: How to be Gay and Happy

By Matthew Todd

Former editor of Attitude Matthew Todd’s Straight Jacket is a hugely important book for the gay community. Part memoir, part self-help book, part polemic, he explores various issues – many in a deeply personal manner – that disproportionately affect gay men, such as anxiety, drug addiction and eating disorders. It offers practical advice but also serves as a call-to-arms for the LGBT community. “This is an essential read for every gay person on the planet,” says Sir Elton John on the cover.

Close to the Knives: A Memoir of Disintegration

By David Wojnarowicz

David Wojnarowicz was a queer artist and activist who died of AIDS in 1992. His writings are brutally honest, lacerating, acerbic, sometimes heartbreaking. Collected together in this memoir, republished in the UK this year with a new introduction by writer Olivia Laing, his essays, polemics and autobiographies serve as a unique and powerful perspective on New York in the 1980s, the bohemian Manhattan art world and the AIDS crisis. “My book of a lifetime, my book for these dark times, an antidote to stupidity, cruelty and oppression of all kinds,” writes Olivia Laing.

Fighting Proud: The Untold Story of the Gay Men Who Served in Two World Wars

By Stephen Bourne

Stephen Bourne’s incredible new history uncovers the hidden stories of gay men involved in the Two World Wars. From RAF hero Ian Gleed – twice honoured for bravery by King George VI – to the frontline infantry officers court-martialled after the war for indecent behaviour; from Alan Turing’s work on the enigma machine to Ivor Novello, who wrote the anthem ‘Keep the Home Fires Burning’. A “monument to the bravery, sacrifice and honour shown by a persecuted minority”, this book is a wonderful and insightful contribution to both British history and LGBT studies.
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