Outpacing all others, the book of the year is New Yorker critic Hilton Als' collection of essays White Girls, [Kindle] a work of such dazzling thought and originality you'll soon see how the title applies to Truman Capote and Malcolm X and Michael Jackson. As in the best queer tradition, his outsider status strengthens and expands his perspective. Below, Lisa Cohen deftly writes Als' book is "about the power, beauty, and dangers of 'being too much.'" David Ebershoff says simply, it's a "crazy-genius mix" and "you've never read a book like it." Als earned nearly twice as many mentions as the survey's next most popular title.
And yet the long tail is thriving. Across ninety-two entries, the majority of titles are mentioned only once. What does it mean that many brilliant books appear on the list with only a single nod? Are we too fractured? Or are there too many categories to keep track of?
Either way, the answer is to read closely.
You'll see the universal drift toward nonfiction reflected here in the continued rise of the queer memoir. Cited multiple times are: Judy Grahn's early days in A Simple Revolution: The Making of an Activist Poet, Alysia Abbott's story of being raised by her gay dad as he and his circle of friends one by one succumbed to aids in Fairyland [Kindle], Rigoberto Gonzalez's family stories in Autobiography of My Hungers, Damian Barr's funny coming of age and coming out during the Thatcher years in Maggie and Me [Kindle], and Nicole Georges' wryly drawn scenes in her graphic triumph Calling Dr. Laura.
The two most popular fiction titles are Ali Liebegott’s SF to NYC Cha-Ching![Kindle] and Caleb Crain's big debut about an expat in Prague in the 90s, Necessary Errors [Kindle]. Across genres, this is an excellent time for rediscovering our degayed past. Jeanette Winterson's new novel takes place in 1612. And Peter Cameron unearths a gem written by G.F. Green forty years ago of which he says, "I can think of no other book that is so overtly and unapologetically queer."
Here's to never apologizing. And to ever better reading.
After the jump, the full list...
(These six books are the only other fiction titles with multiple mentions: Denton Welch's In Youth Is Pleasure from 1944, David Leavitt's The Two Hotel Francforts [Kindle], Kevin Killian's Spreadeagle, Patrick Flanery's Fallen Land, Allan Gurganus's Local Souls [Kindle], and Jonathan Strong's Hawkweed and Indian Paintbrush. In poetry: Anne Carson's Red Doc> and David Groff's Clay.)
(Benjamin Alire Sáenz has two books on the list: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe [Kindle] and this year's PEN/Faulkner winner Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club [Kindle]. The other twofer author is Jeanette Winterson with her new novel The Daylight Gate and last year's instant classic Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?)