Read with Pride: Staff picks for the TPL Reading Challenge 2020

June 1, 2020 | Amy

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In celebration of Pride Month, the Reading Challenge team got together and picked some of our favourite books by LGBTQ2S+ authors for each of the main Reading Challenge categories. Here are our suggestions.

We'll be holding a Pride-themed book discussion on Tuesday, June 9 at 5 pm. Everyone is welcome to join in! We'll be holding more Reading Challenge events throughout the year.

Missed it? You can still watch the event replay and check out the list of ebooks mentioned at the event.


A book that is older than you

In Cold Blood

In Cold Blood (1965) by Truman Capote

On Nov. 15, 1959 four members of the Clutter family were brutally murdered in their home after a failed robbery attempt. The small quiet town of Holcomb, Kansas was shaken. Who could have done this? In a town where everyone knew each other and no one locked their doors, suddenly everyone was on edge and looking askance at their neighbours. Capote was inspired to write his "non-fiction novel" (he called it that), after reading about the murder in the newspaper. The book is based on interviews, newspaper articles and Capote's correspondence with one of the perpetrators (Perry Smith) after he was arrested. His work first appeared as a series in the New Yorker in 1965. In 1966 the serial was published as a book. Capote weaves a poignant narrative of tragedy, how such a violent crime impacts a small community and changes it. In the end it left him so thoroughly disturbed and haunted, he took to drinking heavily and started using drugs.

I hate admitting that I like the book and the true-crime genre in general. But this is one of the best books in the genre. Capote doesn't just focus on the crime and the solving of it. Instead he focuses on the people surrounding it. He talks to townsfolk to get their opinions and to help paint a picture of who the Clutter family was and how they fit into the community. Another rarity in the book is the detail filled in by one of the murderers, Perry Smith. Capote stayed in contact with him, writing letters and visiting him in jail. As a reader you get what feels like the whole story, you read about the criminals attempted escape and their plans for after. It really does read more like a narrative than like a crime procedural, at times I forgot it was a non-fiction book.

Other categories you can use it for: a book about a real person, a book about something that scares you, a book about history, maybe even an experimental book?

– Pauline, Librarian

More recommendations for "a book that is older than you"

 

A book about a real person

Intolerable

Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes by Kamal Al-Solaylee

This memoir shares the story of the author's coming of age in the Middle East, his escape to England and eventually to Canada. Along with sharing his experiences of being a gay man in a part of the world that is intolerant to the LGBTQ+ community, the author also includes cultural history in the context of The Arab Spring of the early 2010s.

Other categories you can use it for: a book about a real person, a book about something that scares you or a book about history.

– Nalini, Branch Head

More recommendations for "a book about a real person"

 

A book originally written in a language other than your first language

Notes of a Crocodile

Notes of a Crocodile by Qui Miaojin

I like the straightforward writing of the main character's observations, experiences, raw emotions, and struggles with her sexuality. Originally written in Chinese.

Other categories you can use it for: a book you picked because you liked the cover or the title or a book told from multiple points of view.

– Diana, Senior Services Specialist

More recommendations for "a book originally written in a language other than your first language"

 

A book by an Indigenous author

Johnny Appleseed

Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead

Despite the sting of leaving home and the pain of returning back, the humour and frankness of the young Two-Spirit/Indigiqueer, Jonny Appleseed kept me reading. This book was a fascinating glimpse into First Nations life and the traumas Jonny Appleseed reveals when he talks about his life.

Other categories you can use it for: a book written by someone who is more famous for something else. Joshua Whitehead was better known as a poet before writing Jonny Appleseed!

– Diana, Senior Services Specialist

More recommendations for "a book by an Indigenous author"

 

A book that made you laugh

Wow no thank you

Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby

Samantha Irby is the comedy hero we need right now. Her hilarious essays on sex, aging, depression and chronic illness are revealing and completely relatable. Irby's most recent collection may be slightly less raunchy and more settled than her previous work, but fear not. Irby remains as frank and funny as ever.

Other categories you can use it for: a book about a real person, a book you picked because you liked the cover or title or a book you found helpful.

– Jennifer, Librarian

More recommendations for "a book that made you laugh"

 

A book you picked because you liked the cover or the title

The paying guests

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

Frances Wray and her widowed mother have a fine old house but not much else. As the world recovers from World War I, the Wrays mourn the losses of Frances’ brothers and cope with their financial downturn by renting part of their house to "paying guests" Lilian and Leonard Barber, an upwardly mobile young couple. Frances and Lilian quickly develop a friendship which grows into more.

The cover is beautiful. The font has an Art Deco vibe and the partial image of the woman is a fitting representation of Frances Wray, who lives her life carefully, terrified that the world will see who she really is.

Other categories you can use it for: a book about history. It's about life in England between the wars, the impact of WW1 on the economy, class system and life in general.

– Margaret, Librarian

More recommendations for "a book you picked because you liked the cover or the title"

A book that celebrates books, reading or libraries

Packing my library

Packing My Library by Alberto Manguel

Alberto Manguel is a sometime Torontonian and an eminent anthologist whose two Black Water collections of fantastic literature are among my favourite books of all time. And he also writes great books about reading, and about books. Packing My Library is his latest – an essay "with digressions" about his and his partner's grudging move from France to a small Manhattan apartment, with 35,000 books in tow. Elegiac, erudite and delightful, as always.

Other categories you can use it for: a book about a real person, a book about history (of books), a book that you would like to live in (I would love to have Alberto Manguel's library!), or a book of short stories or essays (it's a long essay, with short digressions).

– Wendy, Digital Content Lead

More recommendations for "a book that celebrates books, reading or libraries"

  • Less by Andrew Sean Greer

 

A book about something that scares you

In the dream house

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

Carmen Maria Machado won me over to the horror genre with her first collection of short stories, Her Body and Other Parties. Here, she writes an experimental memoir about intimate partner violence that is at once unabashedly intellectual, terrifying and deeply moving.

Other categories you can use it for: a book about a real person, an experimental or unusual book or (sort of, partially) a book based on a fairy tale, myth or legend. 

– Wendy, Digital Content Lead

More recommendations for "a book about something that scares you"

 

A book under 200 pages long or an audiobook under 5 hours long

Bingo Love

Bingo Love by Tee Franklin

This graphic novel explores the love story of two women of colour that spans 50 years. Mari and Hazel meet in high school in 1963 and their friendship grows into romance. Forced apart by their families and society, both opt for traditional roles: marrying men, becoming mothers and then grandmothers. When the women are in their 60s a chance meeting brings them together again and they realize they have a second chance.

Other categories you can use it for: a book under 200 pages or a book about history because of the focus on the difficulties of being queer in the 1960s.

– Margaret, Librarian

More recommendations for "a book under 200 pages long or an audiobook under 5 hours long"

 

A book you consider a classic

Fun Home

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

This groundbreaking, beautiful graphic memoir focuses on Bechdel's complex relationship with her late father, Bruce. Deftly exploring issues of sexuality, gender identity, love and death through the lens of classic literature, this often challenged title was adapted into a 2015 Tony Award winning musical. Follow this one up with Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama

Other categories you can use it for: a book about a real person, a book about something that scares you or a book you found helpful.

– Jennifer, Librarian

More recommendations for "a book you consider a classic"

 

A book you found helpful

How to understand your gender

How to Understand Your Gender by Alex Iantaffi and Meg-John Barker

I've always been uncomfortable with my assigned gender, and I started seriously considering my gender identity about two years ago. Since then I've read over a dozen books about gender, sexual orientation and pronouns. This is one of my favourites. I'd recommend it to anyone who has questions about their own identity, and to anyone who wants to know what it's like to question what you've always been told about who you are. I'll be reading Life Isn't Binary (available as an ebook!) by the same authors next.

Other categories you can use it for: a book you picked because you liked the title or cover, a book for young adults, a book about current events or two books on the same topic by different authors if you read more books about gender identity!

– Amy, Communications Officer

More recommendations for "a book you found helpful"

 

A book that you would like to live in

In An Absent Dream

In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire

This is book four in the series of Wayward Children books and while I'm normally an advocate for reading books in order, it's also set before book one so it's okay to read it first. In the Wayward Children books, McGuire asks the question, "How can you return to normal life after a trip through the wardrobe?" (or, well, doorway). The short answer is: you can't. In An Absent Dream is set in the Goblin Market, a High Logic, High Wicked world... AKA the place I'd hope to find on the other side of my doorway, although I'd also accept The Moors. These short books are exciting, compelling reading with a wonderful, diverse cast of characters.

Other categories you can use it for: a book you picked because you liked the cover or title, a book under 200 pages long or an audiobook under five hours long or a book based on a fairy tale, myth or legend.

– Amy, Communications Officer

More recommendations for "a book that you would like to live in"

 

If you're looking for more Reading Challenge suggestions, we have also updated our list of LGBTQ2S+ reads on our Books page. The updated list includes recommended Challenge categories!

We also created a list of books by LGBTQ2S+ authors for our 2019 Reading Challenge and there are great recommendations there too!

 


 

What are you reading for Pride Month? Do you have any favourite LGBTQ2S+ books to recommend? Share below in the comments, join the Reading Challenge Facebook Group or participate in live discussion online, Tuesday, June 9 at 5 pm!

Missed it? You can still watch the event replay and check out the list of ebooks mentioned at the event.

 

Updated June 3: Added a few missing booklists links. Added links to books that have been newly purchased as ebooks.

Updated June 10: Added the event replay and the list of ebooks mentioned at the event.

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