The Queer Bible edited by Jack Guinness

A beautiful, heartfelt book about inspiration, creation, fame, and feeling less alone, The Queer Bible is a love letter to the celebrities who have given hope to generations of confused kids, scared teens, and lonely adults. Divided roughly into sections, it’s a book of essays, each written by a current LGBTQ public figure about their respective LGBTQ celebrity hero and what the celebrity’s work meant to them. It began as a lovely website, QueerBible.com (which is still going strong, so if you like this book make sure to check it out) but has been well-translated into an illustrated print form.

I learned so much reading this book! There was a ton of history and cult classic media that I never knew about, or didn’t understand in its full context. The essayists in this book did a fantastic job of not only explaining a lot of that history, but also examining why it mattered to them and matters now. More than that, I loved the tone of this book; none of the writers shied away from talking about how hard their experiences were, and how difficult others had it, but at the same time they all circled back to a place of defiant hope in the face of adversity. The grief and horror of the AIDS epidemic figures largely throughout the book, but it doesn’t diminish the joy of community and self-expression that is the other major theme.

The other fantastic aspect of the book as a whole was the introduction of LGBTQ figures, past and present. I knew some of the famous faces that wrote or were written about, but others were completely new to me – making my reading experience a fascinating journey of discovery. Helpfully, every essay ends with a profile of its author, so you not only hear their voice describing their hero, but you also understand who they are and what they’ve done as an LGBTQ icon themselves.

All in all, this is a vital LGBTQ text, and a great read if you’re looking for a memoir omnibus, a cultural history, and/or a meditation on why media and representation matters.

The Gentle Art of Quiltmaking by Jane Brocket

Filled with beautiful photos, The Gentle Art of Quiltmaking by Jane Brocket is not just for quilters – anyone will be able to find ample inspiration in the designs, colors and presentation of these glorious quilts.

Ideal for beginners as well as more experience quilters, instructions are given for 15 quilts and emphasize simplicity. Descriptions are clear and written in a chatty and encouraging tone. These quilts are more European in style; many take full advantage of the lovely large floral fabrics that are becoming more popular, and have a softer, less defined overall look and feel than many traditional American patchwork quilts. They are undeniably lovely.

Perhaps the most valuable aspect of this book though, is the design and inspiration process that Brocket takes us through for each quilt. The author shows us what has inspired a particular quilt – a favorite summer dress, flowers from the garden, a backyard hammock, tiles from Lisbon or a shawl from Russia – and then demonstrates how she translates this starting point into a quilt. Besides the usual section on how to make a quilt, Brocket lists favorite inspirations – books, shops, blogs, museums – and gives valuable insight on how to translate your vision into a finished object to be loved and cherished.

Graduate Gifting

Let’s face it.  What most graduates want (and get) is money.  Hard, cold cash.  Not microwaves, techno gadgets or pillows for the dorm, but dollars with which they can select their own microwaves, techno gadgets and pillows for the dorm.

Still, if you’re looking for something a little more meaningful or sentimental, there’s plenty of inspirational, faith-based guides available.  Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life comes to mind.  It’s subtitle is, “What on Earth am I Here for?” so it’s appropriate for any age group, not just graduates.

If you’d rather pick a more secular title, something that has credible advice, but with a short enough format that most teens will still actually read it, try Maria Shriver’s And One More thing Before You Go.  It’s only 61 pages long and has 10 quick chapters, including these topics:

  • Learn from your mistakes
  • Have a little gratitude
  • Keep a childlike quality

Interestingly enough, it ends with advice from teenage girls to their moms.  Hmmm, perhaps that’s really the intended audience all along!

A final suggestion is What I Know: Uncommon Wisdom and Universal Truths from 10-year olds and 100-year olds. by Roger Emerson Fishman.  This small, square gift book has lots of photos and could be enjoyed by both young and old.

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

The audiobook, The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch,  read by the author,  is bittersweet because he and the audience know his time is short. A computer professor who is aware that he has less than a year to live wants to leave his children and students a legacy of the principles, ideas and beliefs he has gathered over the years.

In this lecture, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” Pausch is brutally honest about himself and his disease, yet he never loses his sense of humor.

Parenthood, marriage,education, science and Walt Disney are all examined. He is not falsely modest, and attributes his success to being able to learn from others and his mistakes.

It makes you wonder – what lessons you would impart to the next generation?