Wednesday, November 12, 2008

AfterElton’s 50 Best Gay Books!

Book it!

Three weeks ago, we asked you, readers, to vote on what you thought were the best gay books of all time.

The votes are counted, and the results are now in.

But first, some interesting statistics. readers like novels. Of the top 50 books in the poll, all but seven are works of fiction, and of the seven non-fiction books, five are memoirs. And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts and The Celluloid Closet by Vito Russo are the only two non-memoir non-fiction books to make the list.

A number of authors made the list twice, including Michael Chabon, Michael Cunningham, Mary Renault, Jeffrey Round, Alex Sanchez, Jim Grimsley, and Alan Hollinghurst. (Readers voted for the other books in the series that begins with Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, but that’s the only book that made the top 50.) No author made the list more than twice.

Unlike’s recent gay movie poll where most of the selections came from the last two decades, this list includes many books much older than that. Almost half were published before 1990, and four were published before 1970. The oldest book was The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde’s only novel, published in 1890.

And while we enjoy good literary fiction and the classics, we appreciate genre fiction as well, with six works of young adult fiction on the list, four of historical fiction, three mysteries, two fantasy novels, and even a play, Angels in America.

As with our poll of movies, most of the books on the list are by white authors writing about the experiences of white characters (albeit often surrounded by supporting characters of color). Exceptions include Giovanni’s Room, written by an African American, James Baldwin (though the book tells the story of two white characters); Call Me By Your Name by Egyptian-born author AndrĂ© Aciman; and Rainbow Boys and Rainbow High, two young adult novels written by Latino author Alex Sanchez.

What do some of the authors themselves have to say about making the list?

"It's wonderful to know that after 30-some years, Tales of the City still resonates with LGBT readers," says Armistead Maupin, author of the top-rated book. "My message back then was a simple one: that, gay or straight, the human heart is pretty much the same organ in everybody. You'd think that once-radical concept would be old news by now, but clearly there's still work to be done. The brutish new wave of church-generated bigotry that resulted in Prop 8 now makes it imperative for us to defend the very families we have built and treasured over the years. We must do so without equivocation and with all the strength and courage and righteous anger we can muster. I like knowing that Tales might still be useful in that regard."

“I'm deeply grateful to all the readers, through the years, who have read The Front Runner and talked it around to others – as well as all the booksellers who have faithfully kept it in stock,” says Patricia Nell Warren, author of another one of our highest ranking books. “For a book, this kind of history can't happen without them.”

“It's a privilege to be on any list that features James Baldwin,” says Jamie O’Neill, author of At Swim, Two Boys, another one of our top books. “Giovanni's Room and, even more, Another Country, are great works of 20th century literature.”

“I wrote the books I wished I'd been able to read when I was a struggling gay Latino teen — books that would've told me ‘It's okay to be who you are,’” says Alex Sanchez of his two books on our list. “I'm thrilled to have them on a list with so many gay classics that have inspired me over the years!”

For the record, several published authors write for, but their books were disqualified from the final calculations.

To see the entire liste, click