The best books of 2016 by Uli Lenart from Gay’s The Word

What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell; Picador 

A hauntingly sensual novel about an academic and his relationship with a hustler in post-Communist Bulgaria. On an unseasonably warm autumn day, an American teacher walks down a staircase beneath the National Palace of Culture, looking for sex. Among the stalls of a public toilets he encounters Mitko, a charismatic young hustler. He returns to Mitko again and again over the next few months, and their encounters grow increasingly intimate and unnerving. Sparse and intensely beautiful, What Belongs to You tells the story of a man caught between longing and resentment, unable to separate desire from danger.

Straight Jacket by Matthew Todd; Bantam Press

Straight Jacket – How to be Gay and Happy is the part-memoir, part-wellbeing support guide by Matthew Todd, former editor of Attitude magazine. It is one of the most important books to ever be published on LGBT+ mental health in the UK. Often referencing real life stories known to him personally, Matthew Todd explores the issues that many of us can struggle with, including homophobic bullying, self-esteem and anxiety as well as problems around internalised toxic shame, alcohol and substance addiction, compulsive sex and depression. To move forward, first it helps to understand yourself; to help do that, read this book.

Guapa by Saleem Haddad; Europa Editions 

Set in an unnamed Arab country caught in the revolutionary wave of the Arab Spring, Guapa is the story of Rasa, a young gay man coming of age in the Middle East. By day he works as a translator longing for the nights when he can visit Guapa, an underground queer nightclub, and meet his secret lover, Taymour. When Rasa’s grandmother catches the two of them in bed together, he is overcome with shame. At the same time his friend Maj, a fiery activist and drag queen has been arrested. Compelling, original, nuanced and timely, Guapa heralds an eloquent new voice from the Arabic world.


Our Young Man by Edmund White; Bloomsbury 

Set in the decadent bubble of the 1980s New York fashion world, Our Young Man is the latest novel from Edmund White, one of the most influential and celebrated gay writers of all time. Gorgeous French model Guy is blessed by beauty and enduring youthfulness. Becoming the darling of Fire Island, he is an object of desire for men wherever he goes. In this eloquent, witty and insightful novel, Edmund White explores the capacity that physical beauty, currency of gay culture, has to enslave and obsess us.

The Good Son by Paul McVeigh; Salt 

The captivating and darkly hilarious story about a boy living in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. Mickey Donnelly is smart, which isn’t a good thing in his part of town. Despite having a dog called Killer and being in love with the girl next door, everyone calls him gay. It doesn’t help that his best friend is his little sister, Wee Maggie, and that everyone knows he loves his Ma more than anything in the world. Moving and absorbing, The Good Son was the winner of the Polari First Book Prize 2016.

All book titles are available from Gay’s the Word bookshop, 66 Marchmont Street, Bloomsbury, London, WC1N 1AB (0207 278 7654).

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