9 Books Featuring Gay Characters for Pride

LESS, by Andrew Sean Greer.  Funny, sweet, and beautifully written, with lovable, fallible characters, great comic timing, exotic locales, and moments of real insight into human nature.  I adore this book, though sometimes it hits a little too close to home: The main character is a neurotic novelist who bumbles through life and relationships, just as I do.

AT SWIM, TWO BOYS, by Jamie O’Neill.  Historical fiction at its best, centered around the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916 but primarily a love story about two teenage boys caught up in the violence happening all around them.  Intelligent, thoughtful, and well-researched, it’s also sexy as hell without being overly graphic.  The writing is top-notch, alternately funny and poignant, though sometimes I found the Irish dialect a challenge.

CLICKING BEAT ON THE BRINK OF NADA, by Keith Hale.  Originally published in 1985, this is a great coming-of-age story about adolescent first loves.  The writing is crisp and straightforward, with tons of heart and some lovely erotic moments.  The first-person narrator is completely engaging and adorable. The first time I read it I was still struggling with my sexuality, and it really made me feel less alone. 

THE COMING STORM, by Paul Russell.  An intense, darkly atmospheric book about the social mores and hidden passions at a prestigious private school for boys.  A gifted young teacher and a troubled student become sexually involved, and there’s hell to pay.  The characters are highly nuanced, the dialog is rich, and the fallout from the illicit relationship is quietly devastating.  Intelligent, erudite, and very moving.

THE PROPHETS, by Robert Jones, Jr.  Two young slaves on a plantation in the Deep South fall in love, and the whole world crumbles around them.  Jones is a terrific writer, alternating between sweetness and brutality with enviable ease.  The story is told through multiple viewpoints and each character is fully fleshed-out.  This is not an easy read emotionally—at times it’s downright painful—but it’s absolutely worth the journey.

THE GHOST ROAD, by Pat Barker.  The third book in the REGENERATION trilogy, this tells the story of the extreme trauma of trench warfare for British soldiers in World War I.  Great storytelling about fragile, sensitive human beings trying to survive in an insane world.  Psychologically fascinating, with a hugely effective anti-war theme.

A HOME AT THE END OF THE WORLD, by Michael Cunningham.  Two boyhood friends and former lovers enter an unusual relationship with a free-spirited woman, and when a baby comes into the picture things get gloriously messy.  This is a tremendous character study, and a rich meditation on the nature of love and family.  Sad, sweet, realistic, and ultimately hopeful.

DREAM BOY, by Jim Grimsley.  A short, powerful book about two teens in a highly homophobic, rural southern town.  The claustrophobic, haunting settings—a graveyard, a broken-down old mansion, a school bus on a deserted road—are perfect contrasts to the growing love between the two boys.  Not a cheerful read, with a lot of tension, blood, sexual abuse, and violence, but the disturbing story lingers in the imagination like a dream, and the tenderness of the love story is equally unforgettable.

When his difficult mother is diagnosed with ALS, a sharp-witted yet sensitive artist named Noah York reluctantly returns to his New Hampshire hometown – and all the ghosts he left behind. Fans of Andrew Sean Greer, Jonathan Tropper, and Armistead Maupin will adore this outrageously funny, deeply touching, buoyant new novel from the award-winning author of Leave Myself Behind.

As it turns out, you can go home again. But sometimes, you really, really don’t want to . . .

Home, for Noah York, is Oakland, New Hampshire, the sleepy little town where Noah’s mother, Virginia, had a psychotic breakdown and Noah got beaten to a pulp as a teenager. Then there were the good times—and Noah’s not sure which ones are more painful to recall.

Now thirty-seven and eking out a living as an artist in Providence, Rhode Island, Noah looks much the same—and swears just as colorfully—as he did in high school. Virginia has become a wildly successful poet who made him the subject of her most famous poem, “The Lost Soul,” a label Noah will never live down. And J.D., the one who got away—because Noah stupidly drove him away—is in a loving marriage with a successful, attractive man whom Noah despises wholeheartedly.

Is it any surprise that Noah wishes he could ignore his mother’s summons to come visit?

But Virginia has shattering news to deliver, and a request he can’t refuse. Soon, Noah will track down the sister and extended family he never knew existed, try to keep his kleptomaniac cousin out of jail, feud with a belligerent neighbor, confront J.D.’s jealous husband—and face J.D. himself, the ache from Noah’s past that never fades. . . . All the while, contending with his brilliant, unpredictable mother.

Bittersweet, hilarious, and moving, and as unapologetically candid and unforgettable as Noah himself, The Language of Love and Loss is a story about growing older, getting lost—and finding your way back to the only truths that really matter.