5 Books Gay Men Can Read to Improve Their Lives

by | Gay Mental Health

I remember going into a Chapters bookstore in my late teens and looking at the “gay and lesbian books” section. It was a tiny cluster of books, but I stood wide-eyed and scanned the different titles. I finally found the self-help book I’d been looking for. I don’t include that book on this list because I realize now that the guidance wasn’t the most helpful. However, perhaps more importantly, the book did help me to feel seen and less alone in the challenges I faced at the time.

A relatable and helpful book can do wonders in helping you understand yourself better, heal from your past, and grow the life you desire. In fact, it’s common for me to hear a client say that they sought out counselling after reading a book that made them reflect on their life more deeply.

Below I cover five books which can help gay men understand their current struggles better, and see the possibility for change in their lives.

1. The Velvet Rage – Dr. Alan Downs

Have you ever exploded in anger over something, then later felt ashamed and confused? This is a phenomenon called the shame-rage cycle, and it shows up in a specific way for gay men.

In The Velvet Rage, Dr. Alan Downs draws on his own struggle with shame and anger, current research, and stories from his clients to passionately describe the stages of a gay man’s journey out of shame. The book offers practical strategies to identify how shame is showing up in your life, stop the cycle of avoidance, and reduce self-defeating behaviours. 

Link to book

2. Straight Jacket – Matthew Todd

In Straight Jacket, author Matthew Todd shares his own journey as a gay men while looking beneath the shiny facade of modern gay culture and asks if gay people are as happy as they could be–and if not, why not?

The book covers contemporary research on gay men’s issues, as well as practical advice on how to overcome a range of difficult problems. In particular, the book provides an excellent analysis of the intersection between shame and substance use issues amongst gay men.

Link to book

3. The Best Little Boy in the World – Andrew Tobias

Although not a self-help book in the same way as other books on this list, this classic book has had a profound impact on gay men’s discourse. The premise of the book has even been supported as a phenomenon in research.

The book is an example of how perfectionism can show up in some gay men’s lives by following one man’s account of growing up gay in America. While the book has been rightly criticized for representing only some gay men’s experiences, it provides an opportunity to reflect on how perfectionism may show up in your life by examining it in the life of another. 

Link to book

4. 10 Smart Things Gay Men Can Do to Improve Their Lives – Dr. Joe Kort

Would the small gay boy you once were look up to the gay man you’ve become?

This is the question Dr. Joe Kort explores in 10 Smart Things Gay Men Can Do to Improve Their Lives as he guides readers through the complex journey of becoming a fully self-actualized gay man. 

In his book, Kort covers:

➡️ Mistakes gay men make when seeking a relationship

➡️ Understanding how to deal with loved ones who disapprove of your being gay.

➡️ How to overcome damaging patterns that are holding you back from enjoying a healthy sex life.

➡️ How to identify your own internalized homophobia.

After coming out, gay men will typically feel better at first, but often the good feelings fade. This is because “coming out” is only a part of the beginning of the journey. This book provides a map for navigating the whole long passage of becoming the gay man you want to be.

Link to book

5. The Gay Man’s Guide to Open and Monogamous Marriage – Michael Dale Kimmel

There are currently no “rule books” for how a relationship between two men could or should work. Certainly, having less predefined societal “relationship rules” is one of the joys of being gay. Yet, it can also leave gay men wondering about how to approach some of the challenges that arise in relationships with two men.

In this book, gay psychotherapist Michael Dale Kimmel provides an overview of how to determine whether an open or monogamous relationship is the right choice for you.

In either case, he provides an easy-to-follow, practical framework that gay men can use to help create, adjust, and structure their relationships.

Link to book

What do you think?

Hopefully you can find a book on this list which will be helpful. Let me know if you’ve read any of these, and if there’s a must-read book that I missed! 🙂

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Jordan Gruenhage Canada Gay Counsellor Therapist


As a counsellor at The Centre for Gay Counselling, Jordan excels at helping fellow gay men understand their emotions better, heal from past trauma, and grow their sense of self-worth so that they can enjoy living fully as themselves. He believes that gay men have inherent worth, and that they deserve to live fulfilling lives. Interested in working with Jordan? Click the button below to get started.