Amos Lassen doesn’t think of himself this way, but he is one of the most influential Amazon reviewers in the nation — especially when it comes to the categories for gay romance, gay fiction, gay and lesbian erotica, DVD, and documentary. An Amazon Top 50 Reviewer and a member of the Amazon Vine Program—a highly-coveted, invitation only badge—he has reviewed 3,683 products to date and receives hundreds of review submissions a month. He was kind enough to share a summary of his favorite titles for 2010. From indie publishers to top houses, from romance to poetry to literary fiction, Lassen’s carefully curated list is as diverse as his evolving tastes.—AG

1. MY LIFE AS ADAM by Bryan Borland Sibling Rivalry Press ISBN: 9780578051178 March 12, 2010There are seventy poems that introduce us to the poet and all of his joys and sorrows. Bryan is a young man who writes with style and elegance, with sadness and with humor and his poems tend to remind you of what it was like growing up, coming out and becoming an adult and they are filled with the boyish charm of a young writer who, I feel, at least, is destined for a big, big future in literature. In a world where so many try to break into literary circles, we are all aware of how difficult it is to do so. Mark my words, Bryan Borland has taken the leap into the pool and comes up a winner who I am sure we will hear a great deal from. He manages to touch on so much--religion, sexuality, Southern life, self-acceptance. Full Review Via Amazon

2. IF JESUS WERE GAY
by Emanuel Xavier
Queer Mojo/Rebel Satori
ISBN: 9781608640324
April 2010

Xavier writes to the emotions and he can make you laugh and he can make you cry. Almost every poem deals with love, lust, sadness and memory and they are all brutally honest. He holds back on nothing and says what he feels. His frankness may catch you off guard but it will make you think about things that seem to be quite ordinary but in reality are a bit more. I felt that the poems were both personal and universal at the same time and as gay men most of us share common experiences. He moved me with his profanity and uplifted me with his sanctity. What overrides everything, however, is Xavier’s originality and ambition. He has dared to put on paper that which burns within. Full Review Via Amazon

3. GAY BAR: The Fabulous, True Story of a Daring Woman and Her Boys in the 1950s by Will Fellows and Helen P. Branson University of Wisconsin Press ISBN: 9780299248505 October 7, 2010The 50s were a time when California law prohibited "inverts" from gathering in bars, and vice squad entrapment of "deviates" was usual. We meet a woman who was well ahead of her time and who believed that being gay was more than just sex and that gay couples who lived together considered themselves to be married partners. Basically, "Gay Bar" is about a straight women who owned a gay bar and I agree there is nothing special there—yet. What is special is Helen Branson who gives us this primary source text of what gay life was like "back in the day." As far as we know, the 1950s were an infamously anti-gay period in American history and this was when Helen decided to open her bar. Because of this she decided to provide a place for her gay friends to meet and socialize even though the gathering of gay men was prohibited by California law. The book is an invaluable look at an anxious time in our history and how gay men saw themselves and how they were seen by others. Here is a book that should be the centerpiece of every gay man's library—it is that important. Full Review Via Amazon

4. QUEERING THE TEXT
Biblical, Medieval, and Modern Jewish Stories
by Andrew Ramer
White Crane Books
ISBN: 9781590211830
June 3, 2010

The beauty of traditional religious literature is that it is open to interpretation and we are constantly finding new meanings to what was written centuries ago. Andrew Ramer looks at alternative versions of the texts and his inspiration comes from a large tradition of commentators. He looks at the texts and incorporates the works of Jewish feminists and rabbis of yore to give us some beautiful stories that show that there have always been LGBT people in the history of the Jews. It seems that there has been a resurgence in looking at Jewish tradition so in terms of LGBT studies. We have had two new prayer books published that are inclusive to our community but not exclusive to the rest of the world. I have been looking forward to this book since I first heard it was coming and it is all that I had hoped it would be—and then some. What it gives us is the beauty of his written word and the wisdom of his mind. I will always feel indebted to him for that. Full Review Via Amazon

5. SECRET HISTORIAN
The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist, and Sexual Renegade
by Justin Spring
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN: 
9780374281342
August 17, 2010

Samuel Steward was a professor of English, a novelist who wrote gay porn and literary fiction, a friend and confidant of Thornton Wilder, Alfred Kinsey and Gertrude Stein, a man with a taste for what was known as “rough trade”, and was into the sado/masochistic scene. He was known as Peter Sparrow and as the official tattoo artist of Oakland, California. Spring rebuilds the man and he does so from Steward’s journals and sex diaries, or his “Stud File,” which had notes about sexual liaisons that included Valentino and Rock Hudson. Spring’s biography is both entertaining and sympathetic and shows the marginalization of homosexuals during periods of Steward’s life. On the other hand, he celebrates the daring and creativity of the man who although closeted to a degree, dared to be who he was—he tested society to see how far he could go. This is one of those books that you cannot stop reading and Spring has given us a wonderful work of research and writing. Many have never heard of Steward but I have a feeling that could change with the publication of Spring’s biography. We get an in-depth look at gay life before Stonewall and before liberation. Few of us have any idea that gay life was ever like this. Steward’s life shows us what is was like to be an outsider in a world where he was not allowed to exist and yet managed to do so. Full Review Via Amazon

6. MUTE By Raymond Luzcak A Midsummer Night's Press ISBN: 9780979420863 April 1, 2010Raymond Luczak is one of the most amazing men I have ever read and I am very proud to read whatever he writes. I always know that something by Raymond is a treat. You see, Raymond is deaf and he manages to do very well in a world that hears. We feel what he feels in this powerful collection of his poetry as he takes us to places of both confusion and clarity. With his disadvantage, he has written more than ten books and he has been celebrated for his writing. I cannot imagine what it would be like not to hear what is going on around me. Raymond takes me there, in his own special way and he does so with caution and knowing that I can't experience what he does. I feel his pain and I ache his aches but I return to the world of sound and he does not. Every poem is a gem and the poet is the setting for a diadem that sparkles with wit and love. It is not just a book to be read—it is a book to be cherished and read and reread. Full Review Via Amazon

7. COUNTERPOINT
Dylan’s Story
By Ruth Sims
Dreamspinner Press
ISBN: 9781615815333
July 12, 2010

Dylan Rutledge is eighteen years old and feels that he is destined to become the greatest composer of the twentieth century.  Laurence Northcliff, a history master at the Venerable Bede School for Young Gentlemen, feels that Dylan has the talent and he encourages him but he does not realize that Dylan is in love with him and at the time this happened, this kind of love was forbidden and “dare not speak its name.” Set in England and in Paris, Sims has recreated the nineteenth century in great detail which provides a gorgeous background for the story. We also get a look at life and the sexual mores of the nineteenth century. Because homosexuality was both condemned and illegal, the characters aren’t regarded as members of society. Sims knows her literature and her research of the period shows. It is the characters that Sims has created that make this novel so special. They are totally human and the problems that they have are results of themselves and their flaws. You love them and you hate them and you cry with them and you laugh with them. This novel is perfection all around. The characters, the story, the writing are all excellent. Full Review Via Amazon

8. SAWDUST CONFESSIONS The Pleasures are Guilty as a Diva Disappears from Florida's Gayest Campground by William A. Sievert CreateSpace ISBN: 978-1450553032 February 3, 2010Philip and Franklin innocently move to Sawdust Pines, a gay/lesbian campground and trailer park in Green Swamp, Florida and all hell breaks loose. Living there is Rusty Rhodes, a drag queen cabaret singer who wants to be his alter ego, Dusty Rose. He/She has lots of grief from the camp director, Diana and Dusty disappears in the middle of a special performance. Since they are new to the place, Philip and Franklin are suspected of having something to do with this. Mary Angelique, a former nun, implicates the guys and everyone at the camp does not want the cops to come to see what happened. The members of Grape Court (aka the Sour Grapes) hide information from the deputy sheriff and they are aided in doing so by a group of make believe policemen who arrive and begin to worship each other. Here is where the fun begins and this may be the queerest, craziest book I have ever read—so, how about a sequel? I need to laugh some more. Full Review Via Amazon

9. BY NIGHTFALL
by Michael Cunningham
Farrar, Strauss and Giroux
ISBN: 9780374299088
September 28, 2010

As the book opens, Peter Harris and his wife, Rebecca, are stuck in a cab in Manhattan at night. Representatives of New York success, Peter is an art dealer and Rebecca edits a literary magazine. Peter has spent his life trying to find “the eternal.” He has been married for twenty-two years and has had an easy life but he has, of late, begun to feel a sense of disappointment. When Ethan, Rebecca’s younger brother comes to say with them, Peter finds his routine changing. Twenty-three-year-old, Ethan is exceptionally handsome, bisexual, but has a drug problem. In his work, Peter deals with beauty all of the time and he must decide, as he searches for new talent, what is beauty and how it can be promoted but when Ethan comes to stay, Peter begins to question his concept of beauty as well as his own sexuality. We also learn that Peter’s brother, Matthew, died from AIDS some twenty-five years before the novel begins as did his lover and many of his friends and Ethan reminds Peter of all of this. It was Matthew’s death that drove Peter to want to create something that would last and show the world that we are important in life and in death. Full Review Via Amazon

10. TALES MY BODY TOLD ME By Wayne Courtois Lethe Press ISBN: 9781590212479 May 3, 2010We meet Paul Lavarnway, a middle-aged gay man who has decided that it is time to settle down and lead a domestic kind of life. His husband, Eric, agrees to do the same. They soon find themselves at East Oak House in Two Piers, Maine with four other men. What makes it all so strange is that Paul has no memory of how he arrived there. He understands that he is in some kind of group therapy session designed to help him change his gay sexuality to straight. As time passes, Paul sees that there are four other men with him and the group leader and mentor is Brian who leads them to look at their pasts and their futures with no reference to the present. As Paul begins to remember, he discovers truths about himself, his partner, about the man who had come between them, and about a possible murder. Courtois does not just write a story, he writes literature that is easily read and devour. Full Review Via Amazon

11. MARY ANN IN AUTUMN
by Armistead Maupin
Harper
ISBN: 9780061470882
November 2, 2010

We met Mary Ann Singleton in the first “Tales of the City;” now, 20 years later, Mary Ann left her family and moved to New York to pursue her career. She came back to San Francisco because of personal problems and the gang was waiting for her. Mary Ann has been separated from Shawna, her daughter who has become a sex blogger and who is seeing Otto, a professional clown. Mary Ann is now almost 60 years old and she has important news that she can only share with Mouse and when she goes to tell him, she is forced to deal with her past and why she left her husband and daughter for her career. I think what I love the most about Maupin and the “Tales” books are the various subplots that go on simultaneously and the come together. Of course, Maupin’s characters are wonderfully drawn and the reader often finds himself right in the middle of the action. His stories are multi-layered and he uses irony to explore the human psyche. “Tales of the City” has entered the new millennium with a bang and they are just as wonderful and irreverent as they always were. Full Review Via Amazon



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  • Ron Fritsch

46 Responses to “Amos Lassen’s Top 11 Books of 2010 (so far)”

  1. William Sievert 21 October 2010 at 3:41 PM #

    I am very proud to find my comic mystery novel “Sawdust Confessions” on such a prestigious list. We all need to laugh at ourselves (and with one another), and that has been my goal in unleashing the madcap antics of a gang of gay male, lesbian and transgender camping enthusiasts. I love all of these characters and hope you share more of their zany adventures with you next year.


  2. Amos Lassen 21 October 2010 at 3:56 PM #

    There will be another list at the end of the year which will take into account the entire year–this list acutally only goes to what I read through August of this year and noticebly absent are lesbian books. This will be corrected in my yearly list.


    • Robin Anderson 9 December 2010 at 5:32 PM #

      Good evening Mr Lassen!
      I have just read your review on my novel ‘LA DI DA DI BLOODY DA!’ published in the States by Lethe Press. Your comments are a delight and much, much appreciated. Lethe Press have the sequel – ‘TRANNYS TO TIARAS!’ – which I trust you will be reading in 2011 and enjoy – not only as much – but hopefully even more!
      Regards,
      ROBIN ANDERSON – London, England.
      PS: At present there are six other ‘RA’s’ available and five more already with the publishers (incl T to t) for next year.


  3. Dennis Wayne Morgan 21 October 2010 at 5:05 PM #

    A great list of books.Congratulations to Bryan and My Life as Adam on being selected number 1.I loved it and am looking forward to seeing what Bryan brings us next.For me its a true test of a great writer when you want more.You don’t just read it and say that was good but you say what’s next.Bryan is young and has many years ahead to bring us lots.I for one am looking forward to it.


  4. Ruth Sims 21 October 2010 at 5:28 PM #

    Amos, what an honor to be #7 on a list with some amazing authors, and books that include poetry, nonfiction, and even Jesus! It’s always gratifying to be one of the top picks of any reviewer and especially one as respected as you are. I thank you; and Dylan, Laurence, and Geoffrey thank you.


  5. Bryan Borland 21 October 2010 at 5:43 PM #

    I don’t have the words to express my gratitude, Amos. Your reviews have introduced me to so many authors and to so many books that have had a tremendous impact on me. Now, to be reviewed by you, and to be included on this list – with these writers (who are giants of my world) – is thrilling, but it is also humbling. All I can say is thank you. I also have to thank Christopher Baxter, John Stahle, Philip F. Clark, Seth Ruggles Hiler, and especially my father, gone a year on December 20 – all of whom believed in My Life as Adam before I did. I’m a lucky guy – and I recognize that.


    • Amos Lassen 21 October 2010 at 7:36 PM #

      Bryan–I have learned a great deal from you as well and I need to make it perfectly clear that our friendship has nothing to do with your being number 1. I remember too well the day I got your book–before we were friends–I sat and read and wept and thought to myself that this guy is going somewhere, I am grateful for knowing you and Chris and I prize both of you as two of my best even though it only took five years for us to meet. You have a lot to live up to and I know you will


  6. Perry Brass 22 October 2010 at 8:00 AM #

    This is a wonderful selection of books. I love the off-beatness of it: books from small publishers, micro-publishers, and (even!) big publishers. It was no surprise to find the Sam Steward book on the list; it’s been listed enough, or a Michael Cunningham book. But I loved that Amos is listing books that hardly get reviewed or noticed, but that truly deserve notice and review. We need more Amos Lassens in the lgbt book world, and more lists, frankly. I used to say that the entire queer book world was held together by about a dozen men and women—well, too many of these people and their places have disappeared. So we need another dozen.


    • Amos Lassen 22 October 2010 at 5:40 PM #

      Thanks Perry-coming from an established writer like you that is a real compliment but believe me one Amos Lassen is enough–I know the guy. I feel that some of the best writing is often overlooked because it is self published or comes from a small press. In Bryan;s case, his book moved me to the core and I could not let it go unnoticed and there were others that might never have been read. I met several of the writers at Saints and Sinners this year and heard what they go through to be published. It is time to recognize them.


  7. Nick Nolan 22 October 2010 at 9:42 AM #

    What an intriguing collection, Amos! Once again, you’ve whetted my brain’s appetite for more great reading. You are a prince, and there is no one who compares with you in our literary community. With the Internet thriving more and more each day on the poisonous culture of ‘haters’, I really admire (and am personally thankful for!) how generous you are with your elegant, supportive praise. We need more like you.
    Thank you so much!
    – Nick


  8. Amos Lassen 22 October 2010 at 9:47 AM #

    Wow Nick–thank you so much. I am so lucky to have come into contact with such wonderful people.


  9. Steve Berman 22 October 2010 at 10:24 AM #

    A nifty selection of titles, Amos. More than half by small presses!


  10. Erastes 22 October 2010 at 12:32 PM #

    Wonderful selection, Amos – and a “SELECTION” is exactly what it is – you cover such range here, from mainstream to small pub – from memoire to romance – from fiction to non fiction – you rock.


  11. Vanessa Hart Miller 22 October 2010 at 11:41 PM #

    Looks like my Holiday reading list has been taking care of; as well as gifts for others. Thanks Amos for you hard work and passion. Your have world-wide impact. Looking forward to the updated list. Thanks for your dedication, and sharing your insight with us all.


  12. Otis Fennell 23 October 2010 at 12:51 AM #

    Amos, it is neat to witness you being recognized for your efforts to expand the book reading universe and so astute of you to share your seasoned thoughts and observations with other readers and authors.
    The book world is fortunate to benefit from your very active participation in spreading the good news about the beauty and the breadth of reading material that many unfortunately would perhaps miss. Thanks for bringing more souls into our literary universe.
    We are constantly amazed and reminded of your prior life as a avid reader and patron of our precious LGBT jewel of a bookstore in New Orleans as your former books stamped with your name move from our stacks to a new reader. Good reading to you for many many years to come my friend. Otis from FAB – Faubourg Marigny Art & Books.


    • Amos Lassen 23 October 2010 at 9:06 AM #

      aww–thanks O. You have always been there for me and I will never forget that. I am so proud to call you my friend. Incidentally I talked with Johnny Townsend recently and he said that many of the books in his library were once mine. It would be really interesting to find out where many of those books ended up—I think I gave about 1000 to your store.


  13. Hank Edwards 23 October 2010 at 9:29 AM #

    Amos –
    A great, diverse list of books here, just like the diverse group of people that make up our lgbt family. Congrats on your recognition and thanks for bringing to light so many authors on smaller presses that otherwise might be overlooked. You’re a true advocate of the struggling writer.


  14. adrian brooks 23 October 2010 at 6:45 PM #

    Congratulations to you, Amos, and well done on your so-well-deserved recognition as a reviewer and on your ‘Best Books’ list. I think it’s wonderful that, by following your passion, you nurture writers, build community and bring joy to so many people. Hats off to you and best wishes! Adrian


  15. Emanuel Xavier 25 October 2010 at 8:01 PM #

    Thank you Amos for including me as part of such a wonderful list and taking the time to read our books and share your joys and discoveries with others. It is this love and passion which inspires us all to continue writing our stories. We are blessed to have you on our side and we look forward to your continued success.


    • Amos Lassen 26 October 2010 at 10:04 AM #

      and we are all blessed by your poetry, Manny–.writers like make reviewing such fun.and so rewarding/


      • Amos Lassen 26 October 2010 at 10:05 AM #

        oops–that should read “writers like you”.


  16. Joshua Dagon 26 October 2010 at 11:28 AM #

    Amos—this is an excellent compilation! I don’t know of anyone on Earth more knowledgeable in our genre. A list like this from you is of obviously substantial benefit to all of us.


  17. Raymond Luczak 26 October 2010 at 4:01 PM #

    Amos–

    I’m still awed by the fact that you’ve chosen my book MUTE as part of your list. Out of so many that you’ve read, I’m flattered that my work was *that* memorable.

    Being #6 is sure a great feeling!

    Thanks again.

    Best,

    Raymond


  18. […] third collection of poems Mute (A Midsummer Night’s Press) is #6 on Amos Lassen’s Top 11 Books of 2010.  Meanwhile, Raymond has posted two book trailers in which he talks about the collection and […]


  19. […] From Lambda Literary online: Amos Lassen doesn’t think of himself this way, but he is one of the most influential Amazon reviewers in the nation — especially when it comes to the categories for gay romance, gay fiction, gay and lesbian erotica, DVD, and documentary. An Amazon Top 50 Reviewer and a member of the Amazon Vine Program—a highly-coveted, invitation only badge—he has reviewed 3,683 products to date and receives hundreds of review submissions a month. He was kind enough to share a summary of his favorite titles for 2010. […]


  20. […] by Amos Lassen on October 21, 2010 · 24 comments […]


  21. Paul Harris 21 November 2010 at 2:41 AM #

    I had the extreme pleasure of meeting Amos in person last year, shortly after he gave a 5 star review to my book, “Diary From the Dome, Reflections on Fear and Privilege During Katrina”.

    A former San Diegan who was stuck in the Superdome during Katrina, I found much in common with Lassen who left New Orleans due to the levee failures. He has a fantastic wit and keeps his sense of humor no matter what adversities he faces. A toast to you, Amos, to Tony Valenzuela, and to Lambda Literary.

    Paul


  22. DuaneSimolke 5 December 2010 at 9:05 AM #

    Amos, Thanks for helping readers discover new writers, as well as some of the more established ones! I look forward to your updated list.


  23. Bryan 25 December 2010 at 9:29 PM #

    Plagiarist.


    • Ruth Sims 26 December 2010 at 10:18 AM #

      Hmm. Seeing the most recent post, from Bryan, something occured to me: the most disagreeable things in the world are often the easiest. Slipping on ice, for instance, requires no thought or effort. Making a sour face when you bite into something nasty doesn’t either. One of the easiest things on earth, and one which also requires almost no thought and no effort, is to point fingers and call people names. That’s on the same intellectual plane as a second grader sticking out his tongue, poking his thumbs in his ears while wiggling his fingers, although that, at least, does require a little effort.


  24. William Sievert 27 December 2010 at 10:25 AM #

    Ruth, I concur completely with your beautifully phrased comment. For the record I also want to point out that, when I read Mr. Lassen’s review of my novel last spring, I was immediately impressed with his unique take on the book. It was clear to me that he not only had read it from cover to cover but that he also understood what I was trying to achieve with the story like no other reviewer before or since. Writers of LGBT-themed fiction are fortunate to have a strong voice like his among us.


  25. Amos Lassen 9 June 2011 at 9:40 AM #

    Thanks for all of the supoort


  26. Vince Pongor 9 June 2011 at 9:45 AM #

    By Nightfall is truly a masterpiece and Michael Cunningham is a genius. After I read The Hours I became obsessed with him. By Nightfall is a enthralling summer read.


  27. Greg Lilly 9 June 2011 at 9:52 AM #

    Amos captures the feel and tone of a book and conveys it through his reviews, a trait few other reviewers seem to accomplish. Thanks Amos for keeping us informed about books that we might have missed.


  28. Sallyu Bellerose 9 June 2011 at 10:18 AM #

    Great reviews that give a true taste of the books I’ve read. Loved by Nightfall and loved Bryan Borland. Borland is fabulous reader as well as writer. If I ever get a chance to hear him read again – I’m there. Nice list, since you nailed the 2 books I read, I guess I have to buy more books.


  29. Wlliam Maltese 9 June 2011 at 12:42 PM #

    Always interested in hearing your opinions on books and stuff!


  30. Nick Poff 9 June 2011 at 7:55 PM #

    Amos provides such a wonderful service for folks looking for new and interesting gay reads. I very much appreciated his reviews of my novels, and am convinced his honest and thoughful comments led to many more readers discovering Nick Poff. Thanks for all your hard work, Amos!


  31. Amos Lassen 9 June 2011 at 9:40 PM #

    I cannot believe I spelled support wrong. All of my reviews are located at reviewsbyamoslassen.com


  32. ted mccabe 9 June 2011 at 11:42 PM #

    Really a spectacular list of books! I really appreciate your bringing them to my attention as well as your many reviews over the years. I can think of few others that I can turn to in order to find out what’s current.


  33. Mark Abramson 10 June 2011 at 12:04 AM #

    thanks for all your kindness and good words over the years, Amos!


  34. Rabbi Andrea Myers 10 June 2011 at 12:12 AM #

    Thank you Amos, for being a living compendium of LGBTQ culture. You are a tremendous resource, and I am so grateful that you bring new and important literature to our collective attention.


  35. Mark Gunnells 10 June 2011 at 12:18 AM #

    Nice list. Some definite ideas for reading material.


  36. Terry 10 June 2011 at 10:12 AM #

    Great list, Amos! Thanks so much for your wise and well thought-out criticisms towards GLBT literature….


  37. Samo 10 June 2011 at 2:24 PM #

    Thank you Amos to be light in the dark for many of Us…With all resepct best wishes from Long Beach, CA…Samo


  38. Brucehart2002@aol.com 10 June 2011 at 11:16 PM #

    Love to read reviews by Amos. He really tells the facts and gives fair and unbiased reviews.


  39. Amos Lassen 27 January 2012 at 8:27 AM #

    This is one of the most widely read articles ever published at the LLF site yet the administration here has not answered any of the emails I have sent. I find this totally deplorable and unprofessional for an organization that can do so much good.



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