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20 Great Gifts for the Aurally Fixated

20 Great Gifts for the Aurally Fixated


From British cozies to gay macho erotica, there's something for everyone in this list of terrific audio books.



Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris
With this book you get all the -- wait for it -- fun, wit, and history that was in the print version, but with the lazy factor of not having to follow Harris's "choose your adventure" style of the printed book. Here it's all laid out for you and if you don't already love this Barney-meets-Hedwig triple threat, you will after you finish. Plus you can see how the dorky kid went from acting camp to Doogie to eating caviar on Elton John's yacht. Bonus: There's a PDF included that has recipes and a crossword puzzle.



The Redeemer by Jo Nesbo
Another fantastic thriller from the best-selling author of The Snowman and one of Norway's best-selling writers, The Redeemer has surprisingly kinky gay sex, lots of twists, and a gay central character (can't tell you who). It follows the murder of a Salvation Army worker, and the investigation by Harry Hole, the best detective in the Oslo Police department, which takes him to the dark corners of the former Yugoslavia and inside the operations of Norway's Salvationists (which seem to be a much different organization than the U.S.). Brilliant book from one of the best international crime writers of our time, with amazing narration, smart, shrewd, and unexpectedly gay.Line_0

Inferno-dan-brown_0Inferno by Dan Brown
You wouldn't expect the author of the religiously-themed history blockbusters The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons, and The Lost Symbol, to include LGBT issues at all but I can promise, there is an unexpected gay twist in this riveting new thriller that had me guessing from beginning to end. Expect Brown's usual fusion of art, history, symbology, science, and code-breaking, this time as Harvard professor Robert Langdon is in Italy, drawn into a mystery and murder around Dante's Inferno.Line_0

Robert B. Parker's Wonderland by Ace Atkins
The latest of the Spenser mysteries, read by Joe Mantegna -- the voice of Spenser for decades -- is Atkins's second novel based on the late Robert B. Parker's famous series, and instead of ruining the series (as many secondary writers could), Atkins brings my favorite private detective Spenser into the 21st century. Parker (dubbed the "dean of American crime fiction") was one of the first to include stereotype-defying gay characters in mainstream detective fiction (like gay cops), clearly influenced by his two gay sons and his wife, who was active in PFLAG, as well as other LGBT and HIV organizations. That spirit lives on in Wonderland, as Spenser investigates a murder, a greedy development plan, and the usual intrigue, but Atkins brings in newer cultural outposts that add something special. He's not Parker, but he's close.Line_0

Guilt-by-johnathan-kellerman_0Guilt by Johnathan Kellerman
In Kellerman's recent Alex Delaware novel, readers find the forensic psychologist teaming up again with his old pal, LAPD homicide detective, Milo Sturgis, the gruffest of gay cops that ever existed in print. (Forbes calls the pair, Alex and Milo, the most original whodunit duo since Watson and Holmes.") Kellerman's got a wonderfully depraved imagination, and this thriller shows it as it kicks off with a dead woman and a baby skeleton found in an affluent Los Angeles neighborhood and then goes back 60 years to investigate wealthy lovers, missing nurses, fame-seekers, and the macabre world of the truly privileged.Line_0

The-purity-of-vengeance-by-jussi-adler-olsen_0The Purity of Vengeance by Jussi Adler-Olsen
One of the best crime writers in the world returns with his fourth book in his New York Times bestselling Norwegian Department Q series -- and this time a bewildering cold case leads to queer character in the most unexpected places. The story weaves together a narrative from 1987, when a woman named Nete plots revenge on her former abusers (including Curt Wad, a popular surgeon who wanted to sterilize "wayward" girls in 1950s Denmark). And in modern day as Detective Carl Morck gets a cold case -- Rita, a missing brothel owner who disappeared in the 1980s along with a number of other people who disappeared around the same time. The book is absolutely thrilling and wickedly shocking at points, with eugenics, right wing politics, and female sexuality all twisted together. Even better when you realize it was inspired "by actual events during a dark period of Danish.Line_0

Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss
Sure we sneer at fast food, and perhaps the plethora of cheap, calorie-rich, processed food that's increasing America's unhealthy bottom line. But this book, from Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times investigative reporter, goes way beyond that. This historically fascinating investigative look shows how food manufacturers "manipulate our biological desires to scientifically engineer foods that induce cravings to overeat, using terms like mouth feel for fats and bliss point for sugars to tinker with formulations that will trigger the optimum food high." His look at how sugar was first added in the early 1900s, how it impacts your brain like cocaine, and has been ratcheted it up in our food and drinks so much today that even some food makers (Coke, for one) refer to their best customers as "heavy users." Line_0

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright
Hands down the best book I read, er listened to, all year is this revealing investigation into the world of Scientology by this Pulitzer Prize-winning author. Wright did years of research as well as over 200 personal interviews with current and former Scientologists -- some famous, most not -- to unravel, for the first time, the inner workings of the Church of Scientology in this dazzlingly devastating tome. While it explores the life of church founder, sci-fi writer L. Ron Hubbard, and his successor, David Miscavige, it weaves in everything a non-believer would want to know from Tom Cruise's role to Sea Org's billion-year contract. Among the most interesting characters is Paul Haggis, the Academy Award-winning screenwriter of Million Dollar Baby and Crash, who was a member of the church for over 30 years and is now an apostate. "I was in a cult for 34 years," he says. "Everyone else could see it. I don't know why I couldn't." Haggis has two lesbian daughters and was aghast when the church supported Proposition 8; he left the church over it's public stance that allowed, nay perpetuated, homophobia. (For the record, Hubbard called gays "sexual perverts" who "should be taken from the society as rapidly as possible and uniformly institutionalized.") The best quote about the book came from Haggis, in the New Yorker: "If only a fraction of these accusations are true, we are talking about serious, indefensible human and civil rights violations." Amazing read, frightening story.Line_0

The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change by Al Gore
The eco-forward, tech-centric former vice president follows up An Inconvenient Truth with his assessment of six critical forces of global change that will change our world, from economic globalization to unsustainable consumption, science transformations (which put evolution in human hands), and "the Global Mind," which links the thoughts and feelings of billions of people and connects intelligent machines, robots, ubiquitous sensors, and databases. From a policy wonk once called wooden and stiff, the book is a passionate and provocative illumination of our future at the macro level.Line_0

Janet-evanovich-takedown-twenty-cover_0Takedown Twenty: A Stephanie Plum Novel by Janet Evanovich
This book has no out LGBT characters (her sexually fluid sister doesn't appear in this one) but our tough but plucky bounty hunter Stephanie Plum is worth the listen for the book's fearless feminist fun. Add to that Lula, her spunky sidekick (a former sex worker turned file clerk who always manages to "shove a size 16 body into size 10 spandex") and a sexually active grandmother (who gets involved in catching a killer at the senior center) and it's a veritable Golden Girls (with crime).Line_0

The-long-way-home-by-louise-penny_0The Long Way Home by Louise Penny
In the latest of Penny's books set in the Canadian village of Three Pines, Armand Gamache, former chief inspector of homicide with the Surete du Quebec, is now happily retired when his friend Clara tells him her husband Peter is missing. She enlists Gamache's help in finding him, so they leave the little town and dig deeper into Quebec and to Peter's life, the psyche of a formerly famous artist desperate to recapture his infamy. Three Pines regulars Gabri and Oliver, the gay owners of the local bed-and-breakfast, appear in the novel, but only marginally since the search takes the action far from the village. Still a wallop of a read.Line_0

Lila-by-marilynne-robinson_0Lila by Marilynne Robinson
In the latest of the trio set in a fictional Plains town of Gilead, Iowa, Lila follows a young and famished homeless girl who steps inside a small-town church changing her life forever. After she marries the minister, John Ames, she tries to balance the secure life she's living with the one she had on the streets, and hubby's gentle but judgemental Christian worldview with her past on the streets and her makeshift family (a sisterly drifter who rescued her as very young girl). Lest you hear Christian and worry there's an antigay element, don't. Robinson, she's been a big supporter of LGBT people and marriage equality, telling Religion News Service earlier this year, "My own denomination (the United Church of Christ), has blessed same-sex relationships and married them as quickly as it became legal in my state. It has been a process that's gone on for a long time. Nobody gives it a thought, so when you read in the newspaper that there are people calling down brimstone, it's startling. In time it will become an old issue for the culture that simply will not bring out this kind of thing anymore." Plus, she said Jesus was surrounded by same-sex couples. Reason alone to buy the book.Line_0

The-silent-sister-by-diane-chamberlain_0The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain
When Riley MacPherson, a school counselor in the city, must go home to New Bern, North Carolina, to settle her father's estate after his death, she is alone and overwhelmed in sorting through his life. Then she begins to discover more about the family's hidden secrets and the lies she was told about her older sister Lisa's supposed suicide. She's soon wondering if Lisa is alive, living under a different name, and, if so, why did she leave? The book weaves Riley's story from 2013 with the sister's narrative in 1990, with a lesbian twist you may not expect.

Line_0Ruin-falls-by-jenny-milchman_0Ruin Falls by Jenny Milchman
Another tense suspense novel, and in it Milchman keeps you guessing throughout. It follows Liz and her family head out on a rare family vacation to her in-laws farm in western New York where her husband Paul grew up. En route, she awakens from an overnight hotel stop to find her kids -- 8-year-old Reid and 6-year-old Ally -- are nowhere to be found. After police detectives are called and Amber alerts are issued, Liz realizes it was a family member who took the kids. But why? In the midst, her policeman friend asks, "Could Paul be gay?" and her delightful answer is something you'd never have read a decade ago. She tells him she doubts it, though the idea crossed her mind, adding, "If he were I doubt he would have felt the need to hide it or do something this extreme. He probably would be expecting me to adjust and we'd be acting like one big blended family by now."Line_0

The-weight-of-blood-by-laura-mchugh_0The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh
This fascinating novel follows Lucy Dane, a teenager in Henbane, a small town in Ozark Mountains, whose mother disappeared over a decade ago. As her friend Cheri disappears, and is later found murdered, Lucy (herself an odd woman out in that town) sets out to uncover the who killed and perhaps what happened to her mother all those years ago in these Missouri hills. McHugh nails the voice of the narrator, making Lucy a masterful storyteller, and breathing life into the land, the town, the people of Henbane and the dark secrets they keep. Fans of Gone Girl will enjoy it greatly.Line_0

Ruby-by-cythia-bond_0Ruby by Cythia Bond
This breathtaking debut novel is the result of 10 years by this bisexual, A PEN/Rosenthal Fellow. Edwidge Danticat said "reading Cynthia Bond's Ruby, you can't help but feel that one day this book will be considered a staple of our literature, a classic. Lush, deep, momentous, much like the people and landscape it describes, Ruby enchants not just with its powerful tale of lifelong quests and unrelenting love, but also with its exquisite language. It is a treasure of a book, one you won't soon forget." I couldn't have said it better, except to add that the novel is inspired Bond's life. A survivor of childhood abuse, Bond spent over a decade working with at risk youth in Los Angeles. She left a successful career as an actress to develop writing workshops for at risk youth, particularly in the LGBTQ community, which was especially important to her as a bisexual woman. She actually received a grant from the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department to continue her work at various high schools and youth organizations throughout Los Angeles and also worked with Ellen DeGeneres to create a writing-acting workshop. The heartbreaking stories of homelessness, abuse, drugs, and prostitution she heard as part of her work, coupled with her own, were Bond's motivation for writing Ruby -- to remember the victims of abuse and to hold firm to the belief that healing is possible. Also, some family history holds here too: Liberty, the town in the novel, was inspired by her mother's hometown of Liberty Community, a small, all-black East Texas town. There, Bond's aunt (her mother's sister) was murdered for her relationship with a white man (the circumstances much like those described in the novel in the murder of Ruby's aunt). Mr. Bell in Ruby is the mirror image of Mr. Marshall, Bond's grandfather, the son of a slave master and a slave born in 1866 (Bond's mother was his seventeenth child, born when he was 73). With blond hair, blue eyes, and a light complexion, he was mistaken for white while many of his children fled north to escape the terrible racism they faced--stories that Bond has infused into Ruby. The book, like the author's family history is enthralling, heart wrenching, and unflinching in its look at the dark side of 1950s America.Line_0

Hangman-by-stephen-talty_0Hangman by Stephen Talty
This New York Times best-selling author could soon steal the crown from Jo Nesbo, with this electrifying novel about Abbie Kearney, a determined cop who wears her dad's old badge, trying to make a difference in downtrodden Buffalo. Her latest case is a conundrum: serial killer Marcus Flynn, aka Hangman, who murdered teenage girls until he was sent to prison, leaving the whereabouts of his final victim unknown. But now Hangman is loose, victims are piling up, and Kearney must juggle paroxysms of paranoia and emotion -- not to mention a cabal of tough Irish cops -- to find out where he is and what the truth is behind all those slayings.Line_0

Ten Lords A-Leaping: A Father Christmas Mystery by C.C. Benison
Father Tom Christmas, the handsome and thoroughly modern single vicar at a parish in the English hamlet of Thornfield Regis, joins the Leaping Lords, several aristocrats skydiving to raise money for the church. He sees drama in the sky (two men tussle mid-air) and on the ground (this family makes the one in Dowton Abby look sweet). A bungled landing gives Tom a broken ankle and a reason for he and his pre-teen daughter to be trapped at the family estate for days. Soon someone is murdered and Tom must help determine who among the lords and ladies at the mansion (and the help) could be the culprit. A hybrid of British cozy mysteries, Ten Lords A-Leaping, the third installment of the Father Christmas mystery series, is not a Christmas themed book but it's got two gay main characters and Tom has two mothers (his aunt and her partner who raised him after his mother died), making for a delightfully queer book. Line_0

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit by Greg McKeown
The one book I want to give everyone I love this year is Essentialism, which is the most practical guide for getting things done right, or rather, getting the right things done and discarding the others. It's not specifically gay but it's a great tool for LGBT advocates, parents, and professionals who feel like their time is constantly being hijacked by other people's agendas, getting less done with more time committment, or never having time to do the most important things because there's so much minutae. This isn't a productivity book. It's about scrubbing anything from your life that isn't essential to you so you, and only you, determine where to spend your valuable time and energy. McKeown, the co-author of Multipliers, hasn't just written a book here, he's started a movement. Consider me an acolyte.Line_0

Hot Rods: Gay Erotic Stories by Sean Laurence
No other genre of book lends itself more readily to audio than erotica, and Hot Rods brings out the big guns (pun intended) with stories of macho muscled men on the hunt for mind-blowing sex with other men. Of course, there are delightful little cop vignettes and military stories (re-imagining the phrase "to protect and serve"), and my favorite, Kiernan Kelly's "Sandhogs," in which construction workers prove just how hot it can get in the, um, strict confines of an underground shaft.Line_0

Justice-for-all-by-radclyffe_0Justice for All by Radclyffe
Just out in Audio, this 2009 book is a lesbian neo-classic from a very popular lesbian detective series. In it, Detective Lt. Rebecca Frye's elite unit attempts to uncover the connection between the local organized crime syndicate and a human trafficking ring, but she and her team -- and those they love like her doctor partner, Catherine -- unwittingly become targets. There are undercover operatives, lesbian lovers, and secret agendas that blur the llines of justice and desire, but it'll make you want to read the whole series again.Line_0

Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by: Susan Kuklin
One of the first books to tackle the lives of transgender teens and young adults by actually talking to trans teens, rather than caregivers, clinicians, and politicians. From defiant ("Learn your pronouns because I don't want to have to slap somebody tonight.") to demonstrative ("Transition? Everyone goes through one kind of transition or another. We go through transitions every day. Except mine is maybe a little more extreme."), the kids in Magenta offer a fascinating slice of life as a young trans person.

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Diane Anderson-Minshall

Diane Anderson-Minshall is the CEO of Pride Media, and editorial director of The Advocate, Out, and Plus magazine. She's the winner of numerous awards from GLAAD, the NLGJA, WPA, and was named to Folio's Top Women in Media list. She and her co-pilot of 30 years, transgender journalist Jacob Anderson-Minshall penned several books including Queerly Beloved: A Love Across Genders.
Diane Anderson-Minshall is the CEO of Pride Media, and editorial director of The Advocate, Out, and Plus magazine. She's the winner of numerous awards from GLAAD, the NLGJA, WPA, and was named to Folio's Top Women in Media list. She and her co-pilot of 30 years, transgender journalist Jacob Anderson-Minshall penned several books including Queerly Beloved: A Love Across Genders.