It’s not every day you get a homework assignment that’s fun. But that’s exactly what happened to me recently when I heard from the folks at Shepherd.com. They wrote to ask me if I would be willing to make short recommendations about five of my favorite books – specifically, books that cover subject matter overlapping with a book of my own.
I like the innovative approach Shepherd is taking to engage readers and writers, so of course I said yes. Sounds easy, right? Well, first I had to decide which of my own books to feature. Flower of Iowa was the clear choice, not least because that was the novel of mine that had caught their attention in the first place.
The next step was to come up with a title that would encompass both my own book and the ones I would recommend. This was also a deceptively simple task; many authors already have made recommendations on the site, so categories as general as “best WW1 novels” or even “best gay historical romances” would be too broad. So, after giving it some careful thought, I finally decided on “The best gay male romances solidly grounded in time and place.” I thought that was a fair description of Flower of Iowa, and it encompasses the range of categories under which the novel has won literary awards.
As a result of all the above choices, I found myself contemplating the better part of half a century(!) of reading novels that arguably fit my description. Remembering them, then choosing and writing about the best of them, was a uniquely pleasurable exercise in nostalgia. You can see my list, and what I said about each book.