Read a freakin' book

Maybe I’m just bitter because my last name means “bookbinder” in German, but for all the buzz surrounding the iPad, Kindle, Nook and other electronic tablets, one ironic truth still remains – the average American isn't exactly a ravenous reader.

Sure, we have handsome hardcovers on our bookshelves and Oprah’s latest on our bedside table, but there is reason for speculation about how often we’re actually turning those pages. According to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll released in 2007, one in four adults read no books in the previous year. None.

Now, maybe that’s all about to change as our gadget-obsessed countrymen and women go to great lengths to swipe their fingers across flat, glowing, high-resolution liquid crystal. Maybe new toys will be just the gimmick big kids need to get back to basics and read a freaking book.

. . . Or maybe they’ll just upload photo albums to Facebook.

In the spirit of bookbinding and in support of adult literacy, I'm hoping to rally around something that happened yesterday in grade schools around the nation. In case you missed it, April, 12, was national Drop Everything and Read Day. Since everyday is a good day to drop, stop and read, here’s a list I cobbled together of books that might pique the interest of SDGLN readers. It’s by no means the comprehensive, all-inclusive enumeration of gay must-reads, but it can get you started with some fiction, non-fiction and a few in between. If you have any favorites to add, leave a comment. Happy reading.

“Of all the diversions of life, there is none so proper to fill up its empty spaces as the reading of useful and entertaining authors. Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” - Joseph Addison


Mary B.'s Gay Summer Reading List

When I Knew by Robert Trachtenberg (2005)
"A collection of anecdotes by 80 gay men and women about that moment when they first knew at some level the truth of their sexual orientation. Each story is accompanied by a photograph or cartoon that helps make the book visually appealing. Some of the selections are comical; others are poignant. These people tell their stories with humor, courage, and defiance." -- Peggy Bercher, Fairfax County Public Library

The Last Time I Wore A Dress: A Memoir by Daphne Scholinski (1998)
"Her memoir, bound to become a classic, tells the story in a funny, ironic, unforgettable voice that isn't all grim; Scholinski tells her story in beautifully evocative prose and mines her experiences for every last drop of ironic humor, determined to have the last laugh." --Time Out New York

At Least in the City Someone Would Hear Me Scream by Wade Rouse (2009)
Rouse, author of the critically acclaimed America’s Boy: A Memoir, this time chronicles the "Misadventures in Search of the Simple Life."

Virtually Normal by Andrew Sullivan (1996)
"The author, editor of The New Republic, describes the major arguments in the continuing debate between the gay rights and special rights camps. He delineates the philosophical, religious, and social foundations and implications of each position, from the misplaced moral outrage of the far right to the victim politics of the left, and forecasts their respective political futures in the light of their logical conclusions and new political realities." -Library Journal

Before Night Falls: A Memoir by Reinaldo Arenas (1994)
In this powerful memoir of passions both personal and political, Cuban author Arenas (Hallucinations) describes his voyage from peasant poverty to his oppression as a dissident writer and homosexual. ... The 47-year-old Arenas, who was suffering from AIDS, committed suicide in New York City in 1990." - Publishers Weekly

From Disgust to Humanity: Sexual Orientation and Constitutional Law by Martha C. Nussbaum (2010)
From the Publisher: "A distinguished professor of law and philosophy at the University of Chicago, a prolific writer and award-winning thinker, Martha Nussbaum stands as one of our foremost authorities on law, justice, freedom, morality, and emotion. In From Disgust to Humanity, Nussbaum aims her considerable intellectual firepower at the bulwark of opposition to gay equality: the politics of disgust."

Trans-Sister Radio by Chris Bohjalian (2001)
"A controversial, highly original novel about a lot more than gender issues and sexual orientation. It is about the precarious dance on the checkerboard of sex. It is about life choices, lifestyle, tolerance and intolerance, and, above all, a commitment to love. Some might consider the resolution an equivocation, but this book is impossible to put down." - USA Today

Stone Butch Blues: A Novel by Leslie Feinberg (1993)
From the Publisher: "This brave, original novel is considered to be the finest account ever written of the complexities of a transgendered existence."

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris (2001)
This is the fourth collection of short pieces from Sedaris, noted essayist and NPR radio commentator. Read Naked, "Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim and his latest When You Are Engulfted In Flames. Or read one of Augusten Burroughs' (the poor man's David Sedaris). It's no wonder Sedaris has inspired witty, memoir reading and writing disciples, as he is the a master at turning life experience into hilarious, easy to digest gems.

Close Range: Wyoming Stories by Annie Proulx
You've seen Brokeback Mountain, now read it, along with 10 other stories from the critically acclaimed Pulitzer Prize winner and the National Book Award recipient, Annie Proulx.

Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown (1983)
"Bawdy and moving, Brown's tale of the unsinkable Molly Bolt is about growing up a lesbian in America--and living happily ever after. A truly incredible book." -The Boston Globe.

And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts (1988)
The classic bestselling work of investigative journalism that changed the public perception of the AIDS epidemic.

Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women by Elizabeth Wurtzel (1999)
Elizabeth Wurtzel is the author of the bestselling Prozac Nation. "Here in her second book, she takes to task a double standard imposed on women: the cultural insistence on goodness and society's complete obsession with badness." -Barnes and Noble

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