Larry Kramer: TOP TEN BOOKS


Photo courtesy of Benedict Evans

As a new generation of LBGTQ activists materialized in the wake of Donald Trump’s 2016 election, Larry Kramer, founding member of both the Gay Men’s Health Crisis and ACT UP, experienced a renaissance as an elder statesman of queer radicalism, passionate and unwavering to the end. With mainstream media finally acknowledging queer history, his groundbreaking play on AIDS, The Normal Heart, made it to the screen in Ryan Murphy’s 2014 Emmy-wining adaptation for HBO (it also won a Golden Globe for Matt Bomer). This was followed in 2015 by publication of his sprawling, 800-page novel The American People: A History, began in 1978, was published in 2015—in which he queered up much of American history, making presidents Washington, Lincoln, Jackson, and Nixon gay in the process. It was followed last year by volume two, subtitled The Brutality of Fact. “Successful activism is about being angry and loud enough to be heard,” Kramer told The Advocate magazine in 2015. “Choose your targets, and go after them in any way you think you can…. Anger, passion, and volume are your weapons. We all have these within us.” He died on May 27, 2020.

Below are Larry Kramer’s favorite books, available to purchase as a set or individually.


A Handful of Dust

Evelyn Waugh
Waugh, along with P. G. Wodehouse, was one the greatest users of the English language. Both men just loved words and how to use them to their unusually best advantage. Anyone trying to master the English language would do well to study either one. Any of Waugh’s novels is impressive, but this one may be the best.
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The Iceman Cometh

Eugene O’Neill
This, with Long Day’s Journey Into Night, are the great American plays.
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Sweet Bird of Youth

Tennessee Williams
A very underrated Williams play, written for his friend, Tallulah Bankhead.
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IBM and the Holocaust

Edwin Black
How one of America’s greatest technology companies came to Hitler’s aid. This will utterly and completely shock you, or it should.
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Eichmann in Jerusalem

Hannah Arendt
Arendt was one of the greatest political philosophers and thinkers of the 20th century, and this is her masterpiece.
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The Big Sleep

Raymond Chandler
Chandler is another great writer who loves words and language.
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The Adolescent

Fyodor Dostoevsky

The greatest Dostoyevsky novel for me. I first read it in the Andrew MacAndrew translation (now published by W.W. Norton) which bowled me over.

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The Progress of Love

Alice Munro
In fact, anything by Munro.
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Voices from Chernobyl

Svetlana Alexievich
From the 2015 winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, comes one of the most heartbreaking records of destructive humanity that I've ever read.
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Remembrance of Things Past

Marcel Proust
The greatest (gay) novel, translated by its great (gay) translator. I much prefer this original English translation to all the subsequent attempts by others to make it into In Search of Lost Time.
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