Category Archives: Book Suggestions

To the Books that Shaped Me

By- Tray Taylor
IG: @allusiontorealuty

My yearning to be a writer stems from my love of storytelling and the stack of books I used to carry around with me that was always far too big for lil me to even carry down the stairs.  

Here’s the thing though – before I could even read I would sit on the couch with that stack of books and make up a story within the book because I didn’t know what the sentences actually said.

Lately I’ve been thinking back to that memory a lot, trying to remember how passionate younger me was to tell a story. How it all started with a stack of books. 

There have been so many authors and books since then that have further shaped me into the writer I am today. 

So, yes …it’s time to take a trip down memory lane:

Perks of Being a Wallflower

I remember when I first got my hands on this book in middle school. I was what one would classify as an avid reader when I was younger. That definitely faded once I got into my teenage years (except I always read every book my teachers assigned..I still don’t know how people got away with not doing that…). However, I remember not being able to put this book down. The way it is written through letters and how relatable (at least to me, Charlie seemed to be). Filled with quotes that I adore to this day like, “Not everyone has a sob story, Charlie, and even if they do, it’s no excuse.” This is the book that made me fall back in love with reading all over again – this is the kind of book that reminded me why I had always dreamed of being a writer.

Virginia Woolf

In my undergrad years I went to Millersville University and majored in English Lit. The most memorable and enjoyable professor I had was Dr. Steven Max Miller (who unfortunately recently passed away before I could ever tell him this). I loved taking his classes because he was an interesting man who knew his sh*t. Why was he so different? I’ve had many (not all) English teachers and professors in the past that have acted “above it all” or never really encouraged me to be a writer or reader. Dr. Steven Miller was different – he introduced me to the great works of Virginia Woolf. One of the first of her works that we read was The Waves and I fell in love. After that semester I felt the need to learn more about Virginia Woolf and read everything she ever wrote. A personal favorite of mine is A Room of One’s Own and of course, The Waves

JD Salinger

No…this isn’t JD Salinger…this is me dressed up as Holden Caulfield for Halloween

Yes, I’ll admit I have a thing for JD Salinger and own almost every piece of literature he has ever written. I’ve once even dressed up as Holden Caulfield for a Halloween party (pictured above). The first time I read Catcher in the Rye I couldn’t get through the first page, it bored me to death. Then, I revisited the book (a more angsty time in my life..because yes Holden is angsty that’s why I adored him) and I fell in love with every word. It was around the time that I came out of the closet, so I somehow was seeing myself through the lens of Holden. The years following I filled my bookshelves with more literature by Salinger and adored his creation of the Glass family. I romanticized JD Salinger and his words – longing to one day write words as relatable to readers as he had written. Knowing what I know now, yes I recognize Salinger wasn’t the greatest human and Holden is misogynistic and problematic. My favorite conversation I’ve ever had was with a former student I used to coach as I was warming her up for a field hockey game and how she called me out on my love for Catcher in the Rye and JD Salinger. She cringed for me, but I can’t help it – I still have to admit his works have influenced me as both a reader and writer. 

Rubyfruit Jungle

I devoured this book the first time I read it and I’ve read it multiple times since then. There are parts of this book that felt relatable, but the true glittery lining for me when reading Rubyfruit Jungle was it was the first book I remember with LGBTQIA+ main characters in it. After having just come out recently, this book was validating. 

Bossypants

There are two celebrities that I I absolutely adore – the first is Christine Baranski and the second is Tina f**king Fey. When she was on SNL (AHEM the first woman to be THE headwriter) – I sometimes only watched just to see her on Weekend Update (because she was rarely in skits – all of her work was mostly behind the scenes as a writer.) Then she left and started 30 Rock, which I didn’t get into until the second or third season (which then I became obsessed with and still today quote that show like some people will know what I mean when I say BLERGH!) Anyway, when she came out with this book I read it in on the couch in just three hours – I never got up to eat or go to the bathroom. I was that entranced and I remember laughing out loud page after page – and I can count on one hand the amount of times a book has made me do that (Cry? Yes…but laugh? RARELY). If you’ve never read her book, I recommend it. I’ve had the privilege of meeting her twice and I can only one day hope I can thank her again someday for inspiring me to pursue my dreams of being a writer …and that she won’t remember me as the frazzled waitress that left her own tables to go into another restaurant to get a family photo with Tina Fey (see below). 

Chuck Klosterman

This is one of the MANY Chuck Klosterman books I own..this just so happens to be the first one I read

There was a time when my dream was to be a rock journalist and reading Chuck Klosterman books fueled that desire. I was hooked on almost every word he used to write, and still own all of his books. I’m not his usual fan-base, I recognize his books can be seen as a bit “bro-ish”. However, I still think it’s important to highlight the impact his books had on me wanting to be a writer. If it wasn’t for Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs I may have given up on my dreams (as silly as that sentence sounds). 

David Levithan

One of my favorites…I recommend more in the paragraph below

If you’ve never read anything by David Levithan, please go buy one of his books or check out a title of his at your local library. Here are some that I recommend: Boy Meets Boy, Two Boys Kissing, The Realm of Possibility, and The Lover’s Dictionary. My first librarian job was when I stumbled upon David Levithan books. It was that same feeling warm and fuzzy feeling I remembered getting when I first read Perks of Being a Wallflower. Except the difference was, I could relate to the main characters directly because they too identified within the LGBTQIA+ community. Discovering David Levithan was refueling my fire of falling in love with wanting to write my first book, and wishing I had his books to read as a teen instead of only having access to books with straight characters. 

Sara Farizan

At the time I first read Sara Farizan I hadn’t read any recently published books that had Queer women as the main focus. So, discovering both Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel and If You Could Be Mine rocked me with all the gay feelings. Please if you’ve never read these books, I highly recommend checking one or both of them out. I should note I discovered her books before there were so many new LGBTQIA+ titles coming out every month or so (which is a beautiful thing!) It just feels important to note this, because for me discovering these books felt like a special moment for me as a reader, writer, and Queer. 

Adam Silvera

Adam is a writer that I imagine throws his entire being and emotion into his words – you can feel that when you read his work. History is All You Left Me was the first book I read of his, and it was perfect timing because my first breakup since coming out had just happened. When you finish his stories you really do wish you were best friends with him at the end. That kind of impact is what I wish I will one day accomplish as a writer, and that alone should encourage you to read some of Adam’s work. 

There are other book titles and authors that I could highlight that have influenced me over the years – but who would want to read a post THAT long?…

Queertober Reads Pt. 2

“Not a choice. Not a preference”
By Tray Taylor
IG: @allusiontoreality

In light of LGBTQIA+ history month and continuing my Queer book suggestions, I want to just put a reminder out there for folks…

Please be mindful of your word choice, because the words that you choose are in fact a choice. Whereas someones gender or sexuality is not, nor is it a preference.

Words have the power to be just as harmful as a fist- so be aware of the language you are using.

And on that note…happy Friday & happy (quee)reading!

Source: Google Images

Funhome by Alison Bechdel
Who is it for? Adults and Young Adults
Why I recommend it: This graphic novel brought me joy, and brought to life the magnificent phrase, “ring of keys moment”. If you say, wait – isn’t that a musical? and haven’t read the book… please go run to your local library or bookstore, now.

Source: Google Images

Pansy by Andrea Gibson
Who is it for? Teens, Young Adults, and Adults
Why I recommend it: Honestly, all of their poetry will leave you in your feelings and wanting more – but this book particularly is just a personal fave. After you read a poem – look up their spoken word performances (their performance really brings their poetry to life).

Source: Google Images

All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
Who is it for? Teens, Young Adults, and Adults
Why I recommend it: Recently released this year – a memoir that needs to be read and one that will make it impossible to put down until you finish. It’s a book that needs to be in ALL libraries.

Source: Google Images

We Are Lost and Found by Helene Dunbar
Who is it for? Teens and older
Why I recommend it: Set in the 80’s this book is a coming-of-age, feel good story – but make it gay. And who doesn’t need a good book like that right about now?

Source: Google Images

Fresh Ink: Anthology
Who is it for? Teens and older
Why I recommend it: An anthology of sorts that has dashes of Queerness within – written for Young Adult, but I am an advocate for adults reading more YA.

Source: Google Images

Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake
Who is it for? Pre-teens and above!
Why I recommend it: A Queer book for the younger ones – this story is so Queer positive and I really wish this was required reading in classes. Just look at that beautiful cover.

Source: Google Images
Source: Google Images

If You Could be Mine AND Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan
Who is it for? Young Adults and Adults
Why I recommend it: I wish I had these books when I was a teen, but unfortunately I had to wait till my twenties. If you want your heart to flutter, insides to feel warm, and fall in love with another author – these books by Sara Farizan are for you.

Source: Google Images

Prince & Knight by Daniel Haack and Stevie Lewis
Who is it for? Everyone (especially littles!)
Why I recommend it: The action, the love, the illustrations – this picture book is a winner. While your little is reading a rad book, they are also being shown that the Prince CAN fall in love with the Knight. Because, remember, kids should be taught young that they can like whoever they fancy – and books are sometimes the best teachers for important life lessons!

Source: Google Images

Queer, There, & Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed the World by Sarah Prager
Who is it for? Everyone
Why I recommend it: We should all be learning about the Queer folks who changed our world. LGBTQIA+ history isn’t taught or talked about enough – so if you read this book you are learning & you can teach others. It’s a win-win situation and what an excellent ally move (or if you are Queer you’re learning about pieces of your community’s history, and how badass is that!)

More book suggestions to come next week for Queertober reads!

Queertober Reads Pt. 1

“Authenticity”
by Tray Taylor
IG: @allusiontoreality

Two important facts: If you didn’t know, my day job is being a librarian and it’s LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning,Intersex, Asexual/Aromantic, and beyond) history month. This used to be the month that I would head to Philly for Outfest, but that looks different this year (as have many “usual” things).

So, this week I’m putting on my librarian hat and throwing some Queer books out there for you all to read.

A note of my own experience with why I believe it is important for Queer books to exist and to be read: Growing up, I tried to find myself in books like Perks of Being a Wallflower or Catcher in the Rye – ultimately forcing myself to believe the main characters were actually Queer and not cis hetero men.

Thankfully we live in a time where LGBTQIA+ books are being published more often now so that there are options to read characters that are reflective for some or can be a window for others.

Here are some of my favorite Queer books both classic and new that I suggest you add to your to-read list (or some to add to your little humans lives, if you have any little humans in your life):
*I will break this up into separate posts over the month of October because my list is incredibly long*

Source:Google Images

Letters Never Sent by Sandra Moran
Who is it for? Adults
Why I recommend it: The feelings, the love, the twists, and the letters. I’ve read this book many times over and my hopeless romantic queer-self feels extremely connected to this book every single time. Read it if you’re a sucker for love or books told throughout different periods of time. (CW: mentions of rape)

Source: Google Images

Pumpkin Heads by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks
Who is it for? Everyone! (minus maybe the littles, but even they would enjoy the graphics)
Why I recommend it: It’s October and this graphic novel is ’tis the season! If you are in need of a lighthearted, quick, and beautifully illustrated read – Pick. Up. This. Book.

Source: Google Images

I Can’t Date Jesus by Michael Arceneaux
Who is it for? Adults and Young Adults
Why I recommend it: This book is a collection of essays and it is brilliantly entertaining. If you need a laugh and a book that’ll be nearly impossible to put down – this is the book for you.

Source: Google Images

Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown
Who is it for? Adults
Why I recommend it: A true classic of Queer womxn literature – which i didn’t discover until my twenties. This is the book I wish I had instead of Catcher in the Rye because Rita Mae writes in such an elegant way the obstacles and events of growing up and discovering the journey of your sexuality.

Source: Google Images

Lumberjanes series
Who is it for? Everyone!
Why I recommend it: The best of the best – a fun, lovely graphic novel series that made my Queer heart flutter when I first discovered it. Without a doubt you will fall in love with the characters and the adventures the campers go on. This is one truthfully for all ages, so go ahead and buy it for the family or nephews/nieces/niblings.

Source: Google Images

Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera
Who is it for? Adults and Older Teens
Why I recommend it: One of the best books I’ve read in a long time – this is a book that the main character is one you’ll fall in love with, root for, and want to be best friends with at the end. A book of discovering identity and a demonstration that that discovery is never a linear one.

Source: Google Images

History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera
Who is it for? Teens, Young Adult, and Adult
Why I recommend it: Honestly, I recommend anything and everything Adam Silvera has written – this is just a personal favorite. The story is beautifully written and heartbreaking at times – for my fellow Queers it is at times eerily relatable. Read this title or any other by Adam Silvera and I gurantee he will become on of your favorite new authors.

Source: Google Images

Annie’s Plaid Shirt by Stacy B. Davids
Who is it for? Littles (and really, everyone!)
Why I recommend it: This cover is everything and the minute I saw this picture book I wished it existed when I was younger. This is a great read for littles and adults alike to get a glimpse into gender identity (which is a spectrum) as well as individuality.

Source: Google Images

Julián Is a Mermaid Jessica Love
Who is it for? Littles (and really, everyone!)
Why I recommend it: A fabulous picture book that reminds us as readers the importance of allowing everyone (especially littles) that they should be free to be who they are. This is worth reading for a glimpse into letting littles be the little humans they are outside of (stereotypical, and harmful) gender norms and binaries.