1. Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin (Zach’s Pick)
This was James Baldwin’s second novel, and probably one of his most well known pieces of works. Giovanni’s Room tells the story of a man who moves to Paris and his relationship with another man named Giovanni. This book is so important because it was one of the first to really show the complicated ways in which gay men had to manage their identity, self and place in a world that didn’t want them do exist. This story takes place in Paris, but one doesn’t have to have been to Paris to feel a connection to Giovanni, his bedroom, and all that happens to the protagonists, David.
2. The City and the Pillar/Myra Breckenridge by Gore Vidal (Nico’s Pick)
While not one of Vidal’s “best” works (to me, he’s an essayist first and a novelist second), The Pillar and the City is a must-read because of its place in the queer canon as one of the first recognized and reviewed gay novels. It’s an incredibly dark and misanthropic work and a bitter pill to swallow, harrowingly depicting the costs of trying to live openly in the 1950’s. The Pillar and the City is dripping with loneliness, depression and social isolation, and if it’s ending is more shocking today, it’s nothing if not brutally honest. That exact sexual frankness would become a hallmark of his later writing, when he came into his own as a storyteller with works like Lincoln and Myra Breckenridge, which is one of the strangest and most indelible novels of its decade.