THANK EWE FOR BEING CATHERINE FRIEND | In ‘Sheepish,’ an urbanite lesbian becomes an unwilling shepherdess at the behest of her partner, making for a charming memoir of rural life.

So the year has wound down and you’re ready to grab a hot cuppa and curl up somewhere with your Snuggie and a book. Or you’re heading to the beach and can’t stand to go empty-handed. Whatever your destination, you can’t go wrong if you take these books with you — for our money, the best gay-interest reads of 2011.

it's-all-relativeNow that the holidays are over and you can look back with a grin (or a growl), you can also safely read It’s All Relative by Wade Rouse. This funny, sad, makes-you-cry book is about holidays: Those you spend alone, those you wish you’d spent alone, and those you’d never in a million years be caught dead spending alone. I loved this book for its humor but the best part is that love — between parent and child, friends or partners — shines through every laugh.

Even though “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is history, this book can’t be dismissed like gay soldiers once were: The Last Deployment by Bronson Lemer, a funny, wry, all-around great story of one gay man’s reluctant service in the North Dakota National Guard.

Lemer signed up for the education benefits and never thought he’d serve overseas — but overseas he went, and not just once. While he was a soldier, he listened to buddies tease and talk trash about gay men but Lemer never came out to fellow soldiers, friends, or family… until this book hit stands. Even though you can now be loud and proud in uniform, it’s definitely worth reading.

If a weekend in the country sounds good to you about now, first read the memoir Sheepish by Catherine Friend. Friend’s partner, Melissa, always wanted to be a farmer. Friend grew up in the city, but she compromised … and hated it. But who can resist a sweet lamb?  Who doesn’t love baby animals?

Then again, who could foresee the backbreaking work and heartbreaking loss that comes from falling in love with a farmer and her flock?  Not you, so if you love a good yarn, you’ll want this book ba-a-a-a-d.

And if you’re looking forward to some sun, sand, and pampering this year, then you’ll want to take Concierge Confidential by Michael Fazio (with Michael Malice) along. This memoir is an intimate look at what goes on at those high-priced hotels and how the concierges will do anything to make their clients happy. I loved the gossipiness of this book, mostly because it packs sneaky-peeks but lacks snark.

Emily-&-EinsteinDo. Not. Miss. Emily and Einstein by Linda Francis Lee. It’s the story of a spoiled man who is killed on his way to tell his wife that he wants a divorce. When a scruffy angel greets him, he begs for another chance and is given it, though he’s warned that he won’t like what’s about to happen. This is a charmer, a book for dog lovers and anybody who wants a book that will make them say “Awwwww” when the last page is turned.

That’s our top 5, but these bonus books deserve a mention, too:

Beautiful Unbroke by Mary Jane Nealon is the true story of a nurse who spends her life running away from the one thing she always wanted to do, until she finds the very patients who heal the healer. Also, don’t miss The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstein, a fantasy set in a magical circus where love, distaste and danger are on the same merry-go-round.

There you are, a passel of pages you simply can’t miss, for your vacation, your evening alone, your weekend away — or just because you love a good book.

— Terri Schlichenmeyer

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 30, 2011.