Some of the essentials you will find in the bag of any man going on a gay cruise are a skimpy swimsuit, sunscreen, flip flops, (hopefully) condoms, an industrial-sized bottle of lube, and last, but certainly not least, a book.

So what did the erudite young (and not so young) gay men pack to read on this year’s Atlantis cruise? Turns out the selection was as varied as the men on board.

And since gay men enjoy judging each other on everything else, perhaps it’s time we also judged people on their literary tastes. After all, what’s sexier than a half-naked man with a book?

W Is for Wasted
by Sue Grafton

First of all, notice how this fellow’s turquoise shorts match the “W” on the cover of the book. Dressing to match your dust jacket like others dress to match their clutch bag is truly a commitment to style!

At first glance, W Is for Wasted may seem like the perfect choice for an Atlantis cruise, which is notorious for hard partying and even harder drinking. And I must admit that I did see a few wasted men staggering to their cabins as I was on my way to the breakfast buffet.

W Is for Wasted is the latest in Sue Grafton’s “alphabet novels” featuring Private Investigator Kinsey Millhone. Grafton began with A Is for Alibi back in 1982 and is now down to her last three (she has already announced the final book in the series will be called Z Is for Zero).

The Wall Street Journal called W Is for Wasted “involving, amusing and fast-paced.” Hats off to Grafton for writing a detective story so compelling that she can keep a gay man’s eyes on the page and not on the boys around the pool. By the way, when it comes to this guy, W is for wow, nice chest!

The Son
by Philipp Meyer

You know what they say about a man who packs a big book! 

This fellow chose to bring the new novel by Philipp Meyer, The Son, which has been described by critics as big, long and epic.  

Ron Charles of The Washington Post wrote, “I could no more convey the scope of The Son than I could capture the boundless plains of Texas. With this family that stretches from our war with Mexico to our invasion of Iraq, Meyer has given us an extraordinary orchestration of American history, a testament to the fact that all victors erect their empires on bones bleached by the light of self-righteousness.”

Enormous epic novels are great on cruises; no one expects you to finish them, so you can take your time and enjoy the other things around you or (speaking of big, long and epic) nonchalantly make that 12th trip of the day to the men’s sauna. I should know; I’ve been taking The Thorn Birds on seven cruises and haven’t broken page 50.

The Days of Anna Madrigal
by Armistead Maupin

This may have been the most popular book I saw on board. The Days of Anna Madrigal is the ninth and final book in Maupin’s Tales of the City series. 

The Days of Anna Madrigal, says Amazon, is “the suspenseful, comic, and touching ninth novel in Armistead Maupin’s bestselling Tales of the City series, follows one of modern literature’s most unforgettable and enduring characters — Anna Madrigal, the legendary transgender landlady of 28 Barbary Lane — as she embarks on a road trip that will take her deep into her past.”

Charles Isherwood of The New York Times said Maupin’s books have a “candy-box addictiveness” to them. We are guessing that with the bulge in his swimsuit, he was at a sexy bit in the story.

Shirts and Skins
by Jeffrey Luscombe

Yes, I am aware that this looks like a plant (since I am the author of Shirts and Skins), but honestly, it isn’t. 

Described as “Alice Munro meets Chuck Palahniuk,” Shirts and Skins is the story of Josh Moore, a young gay boy struggling to grow up in the shadow of steel mills on the rough side of Hamilton, Ontario, in the 1970s and ’80s.

And even though Shirts and Skins was described by Governor General Award–winner Nino Ricci as “tightly written and keenly observed . . . an impressive debut from a writer we’re sure to hear more from,” I wondered how, even with a book as fine as mine, people were able to keep their eyes on it.

Yes, I traipsed over and signed the book.

Yes, I always carry a signing pen.

Proof of Heaven
by Eben Alexander

Subtitled A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife, Alexander seems to have proven what philosophers and religious experts could not. That is, the good doctor has proven the existence of heaven. And Proof of Heaven has some big-name fans. The book, describing Alexander’s alleged experience in the afterlife after falling into a coma, was even pushed by Oprah Winfrey.

However, a recent Esquire article has cast some shade on Alexander’s bright light. In an article, entitled ‘The Prophet,” from their August issue, contributing editor Luke Dittrich lists what he says are a number of inaccuracies in Alexander’s story. We will leave it up to you to make your own decision on Proof of Heaven.

We like the black swim trunks, though.

And I suppose the guy in the photo was more interested in the heaven cavorting around the pool, since he has tossed the book aside.

Bad Monkey
by Carl Hiaasen

Carl Hiaasen, an award-winning reporter for the Miami Herald, began writing crime fiction in the mid-1980s. His novels are set in his native Florida and include some great titles, such as Sick Puppy, Skinny Dip and Basket Case.  

Bad Monkey begins when a vacationer near Key West discovers a severed arm on the end of his fishing line. Is it murder or some combination of boat accident and shark attack?

Marilyn Stasio wrote in The New York Times that Bad Monkey is “another rollicking misadventure in the colorful annals of greed and corruption in South Florida.”

Sounds like a story with . . . um . . . muscle.

The Yacoubian Building
by Alaa Al Aswany

The Yacoubian Building was first published in Arabic in 2002 and has since been translated into 23 languages worldwide. The book, set in a dilapidated apartment building in downtown Cairo around the time of the first Gulf War, was adapted into a film in 2006 and a TV series in 2007. It is noted for its frank depiction of homosexuality, a rarity in contemporary Arab literature.

Lorraine Adams, writing for The New York Times, said, “Although the book has been hailed for its taboo-breaking treatment of homosexuality, plots involving gay characters have also appeared in Mahfouz’s fiction and in Egyptian films. Perhaps what makes the eroticism of Aswany’s novel so provocative is the way that, like Milan Kundera’s Book of Laughter and Forgetting, The Yacoubian Building illuminates tyranny through sexual predation, longing and despair.”

Killing Jesus
by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard

Surprised to see Fox News’s Conservative poster-boy Bill O’Reilly pop up on a gay cruise? You shouldn’t be. It was the bestselling book in the world at the time. And as you know, LGBT folks can turn out to be conservative as well as liberal. Just ask any Log Cabin Republican.

Killing Jesus is O’Reilly and Martin Dugard’s take on the events that led to the death of Jesus (this is their third together, the others being Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy). But reviews are mixed. Salina O’Grady of The Guardian writes, “Everyone creates God in their own image, so it’s not surprising that Fox television’s aggressively conservative down-home-let’s-hear-it-for-the-ordinary-guy talk show host should have created a Tea Party son of God.”

However, just because someone is reading a book of a particular political stripe doesn’t mean he adheres to that political stripe. And even if he does, that is his right (and we still think these guys are sexy as hell).

We would love to slip through the backdoor of their log cabin any day!

Not Dead Yet
by Peter James

Finally, this sexy cruiser in the Atlantis cap was reading Peter James’s Not Dead Yet in what I believe is Russian. Not Dead Yet is the eighth book in James’s award-winning Detective Superintendent Roy Grace series.

In Not Dead Yet, a huge Madonna-like Hollywood star, Gaia Lafayette, comes to Brighton, England, to film a new movie, but, according to the description from Barnes and Noble, trouble follows: “When a mutilated torso is found on a chicken farm miles away in the countryside, Roy Grace has no reason at all to connect this to the star’s visit to the county. But as events rapidly begin to unfold, Roy Grace and his police team find themselves in a desperate race against time to save Gaia’s life from a clever maniac who will stop at nothing to kill her.”

This Russian fellow certainly looks enthralled with Not Dead Yet. And many of his fellow cruisers, including yours truly, were enthralled with him!

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