Every episode of Netflix’s Queer Eye reboot features exceptional fashion advice and enviable wardrobe makeovers, but one particular article of clothing caught my attention: chef Antoni Porowski’s t-shirt that says “Jude & JB & Willem & Malcolm.” For those of you who don’t know, these are the central characters of Hanya Yanagihara’s beloved novel A LITTLE LIFE. Could it be that the Fab Five’s food and wine expert has as great an eye for books as he does for Instagram-worthy dinners? We did a little research to find six books off Porowski’s shelf—check these out while you wait for Queer Eye’s second season!
After being seen in the Yanagihara t-shirt on the show, Porowski discussed A LITTLE LIFE in a few interviews, not only praising the quality of the writing but pointing out the significance of the narrative in his own life. “At the end of the day, it’s a story about showing up for somebody who doesn’t even believe in themselves, which is exactly what we do on the show,” he said in a Vulture interview. This evocative novel follows four college classmates after moving to New York City, one of which is haunted by extremely dark events of his past.
I’m not exaggerating at all when I say I cried for 700 pages of this 832-page masterpiece. I have never loved a character more deeply than I love Jude, the main character in this ode to male friendship, who is scarred and broken from an unspeakable trauma. Reading about Jude’s ever-changing relationships with his three best friends from college was one of the best experiences I’ve had as a reader—and certainly as a crier.
A friend of Porowski’s recommended A LITTLE LIFE because he said he’d been reading (and loving) Karl Knausgaard, who, like Yanagihara, is known for his unflinching treatment of dark subjects. Originally published in Norway to huge commercial and critical acclaim, MY STRUGGLE is a six-book series of “autobiographical novels”: these books are labeled as fiction, but the author is the protagonist and doesn’t change the names of many of his relatives. The New Republic notes that reading these books ire like “opening someone else's diary and finding your own secrets."
Comprised of six novels, My Struggle is a semi-autobiographical chronicle of the author’s experiences from childhood to the present day. Whether describing a fight with his father or a quotidian trip to the grocery story, Knausgaard finds a surprising rhythm and beauty in life’s struggles that makes this series a hypnotic read.
While psychologist Alan Downs argues that “gay men are the worldwide experts on style, fashion, etiquette, bodybuilding, art, and design,” Porowski points out that cooking doesn’t make the list (“Challenge accepted, Dr. Downs!”). In THE VELVET RAGE, the author draws from both research and personal experience to examine how internalized shame effects the emotional well-being of gay men. The title refers to a very specific anger he finds in his gay patients—a byproduct, he says, of “growing up gay in a straight man’s world.”
The film adaptation of Andre Aciman’s debut novel hit the big screen in the fall of 2017, going on to win the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. But on Twitter, Porowski calls it “one of my fav ‘17 summer books,” meaning, unsurprisingly, that he knew about it before it was cool. Set in Italy in the 1980s, the book follows a powerful summer romance between a teenage boy and a 24-year-old guest at his parents’ villa—an experience that affects them both deeply. Porowski's praise has reaffirmed that I need to read this one before seeing the movie.
Former Chopped host Ted Allen was the food expert on the original Queer Eye series, and when he published his cookbook, Porowski attended his Brooklyn book signing. “We found out that we lived literally across the street from one another, and then eventually I started working for him and cooking for him,” Porowski told Grub Street. IN MY KITCHEN features more than 100 recipes for all occasions, like bourbon squash soup and Thai-grilled beef skewers. These seem a little advanced for the guys Porowski’s mentoring on Queer Eye, but a perfect next step once they graduate from guacamole and grilled cheese.
Porowski posted this one to his Instagram story, thanking A LITTLE LIFE author Hanya Yanagihara herself for the recommendation. Alan Hollinghurst, award-winning author of THE LINE OF BEAUTY, returns with this sweeping family saga, following a group of men from 1940s Oxford to present day London. The book is not only a deeply emotional character study, but an exploration of changing views and experiences of homosexuality in the UK over the last century.