SFGN’s Bookworm Gives 7 Must Haves for Our Bookshelf

Check, check, check.

For the past couple weeks, that’s all you’ve been doing. Making out checks, checking your balance on your plastic, and checking names off your gift list.

So what’s left? Isn’t it true that there’s always that one hard-to-buy-for person you put off buying for? And what about yourself – don’t you deserve a reward for finishing your holiday shopping?

If the answer to that last one is “YES!” then look for these Lucky Seven Best LGBT Reads…

So you’re already in the holiday mood – and no matter if that’s a good mood or a grumpy one, you’ll want to read “A Little Fruitcake” by David Valdes Greenwood.

Starting with his fifth Christmas, Valdes Greenwood remembers how much he wanted a doll of his very own that year. A little later in his life came a time when he questioned the presence of a Santa at all. And you can’t forget those old sibling skirmishes at Christmas, or the time when a kid realizes he’s not a kid any more and Christmases are changed forever. In a succession of chapters, Valdes Greenwood brings all these universal memories back, and more.

Or maybe you’re in the mood for a book that totally engulfs you until you’re so wrapped up in it that you forget where you are. “The Absolutist” by John Boyne is a book like that. I read it last year, and I’m still blown away by it.

It’s the story of Tristan Sadler who, at the end of World War I, realizes that, to heal the scars he has inside, he must get rid of a pile of letters written by his friend, Will. When he passes them to Will’s sister, she is grateful for some of her brother’s final possessions, but she wonders what really happened to him… and so, Tristan tells her.

This is one of those books that will leave you speechless with its beauty and brutality. It’s one you’ll want to make your friends read. And when you’re done, it’s the one that will make you a John Boyne fan forever.

Sometimes, though, you need something a little on the wild side, and “Gypsy Boy” and “Gypsy Boy on the Run” by Mikey Walsh are two raucous, OMG-shocking, can’t-miss biographies.

Walsh grew up in an uber-machismo Romany family, the eldest child of many. His father and grandfather were both famed boxers, so Walsh’s father was determined to make his son into a pugilist by beating him every day. But Walsh wasn’t the boxer-type; he was more an arty guy and, when he was 13, he realized he was gay. “Gypsy Boy” tells that story in greater detail, and “Gypsy Boy on the Run” picks up on that and elaborates about his escape from his father and his father’s death threats.

Read them in order. You won’t be sorry for a minute.

And speaking of family, I absolutely loved “Stuck in the Middle with You” by Jennifer Finney Boylan. It’s a story of a man who fell in love with a woman. They had a family and, when the kids were still quite small, the man became a woman.

Yes, this is a story about being transgender, telling your family, and re-navigating the world – but more than that, it’s a book about love, pride, and hope for the future. Finney Boylan talks about the adoration a father has for his sons and their mother, both as a man and as a woman. He discusses watching his children grow into his new role, and how they’ve made their old-new lives wonderful for them all.

This is one of those feel-good memoirs that you’ll want to share with a favorite parent.

“Astray” by Emma Donoghue didn’t get near as much attention as her previous novel “Room,” and that’s too bad. I liked both, but “Astray” had the edge for me.

It’s a collection of short stories, each of which is connected to an object, a newspaper article, or an old photo. It’s as if you opened a box in someone’s attic, pulled out a bottle, a picture, a bit of cloth, and it whispered a story to you.

I got goosebumps as I was reading this because Donoghue took me on a journey of significant insignificance. Read it, and you’ll look at the ordinary differently.

And finally – and especially at this time of year – you absolutely must read “Retail Hell” and “Return to the Big Fancy,” both by Freeman Hall.

These books (again, read them in order) are about Hall’s years working for a department store he calls The Big Fancy. It’s cut-throat there, a dog-eat-dog place where the managers are faux-cheery, customers are entitled spoiled brats, co-workers are the-word-that-rhymes-with-witches, and corporate doesn’t care about anything but money.

These books are hilarious and if you’ve ever worked in retail, you’ll identify. If you haven’t worked in retail… then you really need to read them!

There you are: Lucky Seven (Oh, I guess that’s Eight) Best LGBT Reads that you need to have on your shelf. Check ‘em out!

“A Little Fruitcake” by David Valdes Greenwood
c.2007, DaCapo Press
$14.95 / $18.00 Canada
182 pages

“The Absolutist” by John Boyne
c.2011, Other Press
$16.95 U.S.
320 pages

“Gypsy Boy: My Life in the Secret World of the Romany Gypsies” by Mikey Walsh
c.2012, Thomas Dunne Books
$24.99 U.S. & Canada
288 pages

“Gypsy Boy on the Run” by Mikey Walsh
c.2013, Thomas Dunne
$24.99 U.S. / $16.99 Canada
306 pages

“Stuck in the Middle with You” by Jennifer Finney Boylan
c.2013, Crown
$24.00 / $28.00 Canada
288 pages

“Astray” by Emma Donoghue
c.2012, Little, Brown and Company
$25.99 / $29.99 Canada
275 pages

“Retail Hell” by Freeman Hall
c.2009, Adams Media
$22.95 / $27.95 Canada
272 pages


“Return to The Big Fancy” by Freeman Hall

c.2012, Adams Media                                    $22.95 / $23.99 Canada                        272 pages




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