This book is rather effective in that one can either peruse a few entries during lunch break, or read through the night. At times I couldn't put it down. The format is basically several hundred cases of successful, famous, or notorious gay individuals whereby anywhere from a few paragraphs to a few pages are devoted to summarizing their lives and the evidence that they were in fact gay. It spans from the earliest recorded gay couple in ancient Egypt, up to the present day. You can find any number of variety, from royalty and popes, to scientists, authors, and of course the movie business. There were nonetheless some concerns I had that made me wary of buying.
As with anything on this subject, I was concerned that the evidence towards their sexualities, particularly from medieval times up thru the homo hunting in the 50s, would be flimsy at best. Not only was sexuality a taboo subject and hidden at all costs in many cases, but the passing of time can make it difficult to assess just about anything. Nonetheless, there was a compelling amount of proof most of the time, and the author even conceded in the preface that there were "bound to be some" errors. This is unavoidable, at least absent a diary confession or something. I think the opportunity to become well known was also limited before video and such. Consequently, a sizeable number in this book are still living and hollywood comes across as the gayest place ever. Where i think improvement could have been made was there were times I really wanted to learn more, yet only a couple paragraphs were devoted to some instrumental figure like Alexander. It could have done without some cases altogether; I don't care that someone in a boy band is gay, seeing as their only contribution to society is to make teenage girls scream. I'd rather have read about some everyday foreman or police chief or whatever that had overcome prejudice (not to mention didn't wait until their career was over to come out).
Another difficulty that complicates the matter is the widely different cultures that these people lived in. For example, Lincoln is often assumed to have been gay because he wrote what appears to be passionate love letters to his roommate and lifelong friend. They also shared a bed, but it was quite common to do so in those days, when beds were prohibitively expensive and men who moved out west were separated from their families. So their correspondence reads like they can't stand to be apart, when it may simply be a matter of loneliness. In some parts of the world nowadays it's even common for hetero male friends to hold hands. So was Lincoln gay? He's in this book, but we'll probably never know. What is shocking to me was the number who frankly admitted to their sexuality when it was social suicide, or even death, to do so. In these instances, which is most of the entries, there is no room for doubt.
So in conclusion this collection isn't perfect, but it is a genuine effort and an entertaining reference. It's encouraging to see what an impact gays and lesbians have made across time and place.