Whether you’re making the trek out to Fire Island, spending a weekend in Key West, or sunning on your own pool deck, no beach bag is complete without a good read. Looking to spend some leisure time with some of your favorite queer wits? Want to catch up on some of the gay page-turners and tell-all bios you may have missed this year? We’ve got all that and more on Queerty’s summer reading list.
Calypso by David Sedaris
The undisputed master of the anecdotal essay returns with more tales from his uniquely odd perspective. Sedaris’s latest collection is as hilarious as ever, but there’s a vein of pathos this time around that’s more pronounced. Nestled amongst stories about his quirky family and reports from the trenches of a long-term relationship are observations on middle age and mortality. His reckoning with his sister’s suicide is particularly moving, superbly executed with Sedaris’s usual dark humor.
My Life As a Goddess by Guy Branum
(Out July 31)
Fans of the comedian and podcast host will be thrilled to spend some more time with Guy Branum. From a small town childhood that just didn’t seem to fit to an ill-considered detour into law school to stand-up comedy, this collection of essays tracks his life story alongside examinations of his favorite pop cultural ephemera. Branum brings his considerable intelligence and wit to bear not only on being gay, fat and effeminate in a world that’s generally hostile to all three, but also on Bewitched,The Devil Wears Pradaand This Is Us.
I Can’t Date Jesus by Michael Arceneaux
(Out July 24)
The very first sentence on the very first page of this collection made me laugh out loud. In brutally honest and impassioned essays, culture writer Michael Arceneaux exposes the hilarity of growing up and trying to exist as a gay black man in contemporary America—because if you don’t laugh, what the hell else are you supposed to do?
My Ex Life by Stephen McCauley
The author of The Object of My Affectionrevisits familiar territory in his latest novel, exploring the complicated relationship between gay men and straight women. Independent college counselor David Hedges’s life is upended when his partner leaves him for another man and his ex-wife reaches out for help with her own college-bound daughter. Along the way, McCauley provides his warm, genial takes on love, friendship and Airbnbs.
Into? by North Morgan
Touted as “Less Than Zerofor the Instagram age,” North Morgan’s latest novel skewers the empty pursuits of gay circuit culture as ruthlessly as Brett Easton Ellis skewered the aimless, moneyed ennui of the 1980s. Londoner Konrad Platt relocates to L.A. after a breakup, immersing himself in the drug-fueled world of perfectly sculpted models and social media “influencers,” looking for connection. This is the summer read all the #instagays and #booksluts will be posing with in their tiniest Charlie by MZ bikinis in your feed.
Summer, with its lengthening days and increased leisure, is also the ideal time to catch up on books you may have missed over the last few months. If you haven’t had a chance to pick up Scissor Sisters frontman Jake Shears’s memoir, Boys Keep Swinging, do it now. Equal parts coming of age narrative, New York nightlife chronicle, and rock-and-roll tell-all, it’s a fabulous summer read—Elton John-size sunglasses not included. For something more literary, engross yourself in The Sparsholt Affair, Alan Hollinghurst’s sprawling tale of gay life in England since World War II, in which a sex scandal touches the lives of several generations of gay men. And if you’re loving FX’s Poseand want to spend more time in the world of Harlem’s 1980s ball culture, Joseph Cassara’s The House of Impossible Beautiesis the book for you. Cassara takes inspiration directly from Paris is Burning, weaving a fictional narrative involving some of the real-life personalities from the 1991 film.
You could also spend your vacation days exploring old favorites that are getting a new life this summer on TV and in theaters. Amazon’s three-part miniseries A Very English Scandaldropped recently, and its madcap tone owes a lot to John Preston’s book on which it was based. In it, Preston mines the true story of a British politician’s plot to have his ex-lover murdered for all its Monty Python-esque, too weird to be believed humor. On the other end of the spectrum is Justin Torres’s haunting autobiographical novel, We the Animals. Reading it, you’ll wonder how documentary filmmaker Jeremiah Zagar managed to translate for the screen so perfectly this heavily impressionistic story of three brothers growing up in a volatile, unpredictable household. It’s the kind of book that evokes childhood’s blissfully unsupervised summers—and will make you glad for the rosé close at hand.