“How to Write an Autobiographical Novel” by Alexander Chee

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel isn’t what its title would suggest, or at least not right away. Reflecting on the experiences of coming into his queerness, becoming an activist, maintaining a garden, preserving a relationship, and more, Alexander Chee teaches his readers how to cultivate a writer’s life in this collection of essays.

“David Bowie Made Me Gay” by Darryl W. Bullock

A fascinating look into the past century of LGBTQ music, David Bowie Made Me Gay is a rallying cry in the connections it makes between queer people, music, and the ways we’ve used the art form to express ourselves even in our darkest times. It documents the music of greats like Ma Rainey and Billie Holiday to the anonymous gay camp albums available only through anonymous mail order all the way to Adam Lambert.

“A Passage to India” by E.M. Forster

After reading “Maurice,” I was excited to read more Forster. “A Passage to India” juxtaposes the prosperity of colonizers with the peril colonialism imposes on those subjugated by them. On a human level, the desperation of humans across cultures to connect fights against the social boundaries over which they obsess so deeply, creating heartbreaking conflicts and ambivalent characters.

“Slouching Towards Bethlehem” by Joan Didion

I haven’t been to California since I was four years old. As a New Yorker, I’ve come to slightly resent the state over the years as more and more friends move from the erratic city to the sun-kissed West Coast. Joan Didion’s collection of essays, primarily about the transformation of California between the 1940’s and late 1960’s, characterized California for me in a fresh and bittersweet new way. Her exposés delving into the underbelly of the hippie movement and Hollywood and how she came to see the state as home made it easy to understand why the work is revered as a classic.

“The Road to Unfreedom” by Timothy Snyder

Historian and journalist Timothy Snyder’s latest work is urgent and informative. He tracks the destabilization of democracy in Russia, Europe, and the United States from the late 2000s to now. It also contextualizes how rigged democracies and fascism became the norm in Russia within decades after the October Revolution, as well as outlining the specific efforts of Vladimir Putin to influence elections abroad and his motivations for doing so. It was released in mid-2017, before many of the latest developments in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, so it was chilling to read and realize just how many of its theories and predictions came true.