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Celebrated LGBTQ+ Books

By Brandon Miller and Jessica Dukes
A book with pages dyed in a gradient of rainbow colors protruding slightly from the bottom edge, providing a vibrant burst of color.

LGBTQ+ visibility has made significant progress in recent years. Yet if the current slate of proposed anti-queer laws tells us anything, it’s that we still have a long way to go before we reach true LGBTQ+ equality. And given the rash of politicians now seeking to ban queer-friendly books from libraries across the country, we could not think of a better booklist to share with you than one that celebrates the LGBTQ+ community and the array of experiences and identities therein. 

Whether you’re a member of the community or an ally, here are some of the best LGBTQ+ books from canonical to contemporary to help nourish your mind, heart, and soul.

Fiction

Cover art for "detransition, baby: a novel" by torrey peters featuring an abstract design with vivid colors and face-like shapes.

Detransition, Baby

By Torrey Peters

Torrey Peters’ Detransition, Baby is an award-winning novel that made a slew of best-of lists in 2021, and it’s easy to see why. In the book, Reese shares a loving relationship with Amy, with the only thing missing being a baby. But the partnership falls apart when Amy detransitions and becomes Ames, sending Reese down a path of self-destruction. Ames is also unhappy, as he longs to return to Reese. So when his new lover Katrina gets pregnant with his child, Ames has the idea that perhaps the three of them could raise the child together. Don’t be surprised if Detransition, Baby impacts the way you think about sex, gender, and the very definition of family.

A book cover with accolades for "the prophets" by robert jones jr., depicting stylized mountains and clouds in a minimalistic design.

The Prophets

By Robert Jones Jr.

The Prophets is another outstanding LGBTQ+ book from 2021 that earned a number of best-of accolades, including being named “Best of the Year” by NPR, Time, The Washington Post, and more. In it, Robert Jones Jr. crafts a deeply moving story about two enslaved men, Isaiah and Samuel, who find solace together on a Mississippi plantation ruled by cruel masters. But when suspicion among the slaves turns inward, Isaiah and Samuel’s relationship comes under fire, revealing the dangerous repercussions of queer love in that time and space. Lyrical and engaging, this is historical fiction at its finest.

An evocative book cover for 'last night at the telegraph club' featuring an illuminated, vintage cityscape at night and two figures standing before a club entrance, hinting at a story of intrigue and human connection within its pages.

Last Night at the Telegraph Club

By Malinda Lo

With Last Night at the Telegraph Club, Malinda Lo offers up a queer love story that’s romantic and exhilarating. The New York Times bestseller is set in 1954 San Francisco, at a time when same-sex love was not just frowned upon but forbidden by law. Seventeen-year-old Lily Hu must balance her blossoming romance with Kathleen Miller alongside the threat of her father’s deportation and the intensifying Red Scare paranoia. Lily’s relationship with Kathleen jeopardizes everything, including her father’s U.S. citizenship, forcing her to decide how important it is to live her truth.

Cover of 'the paying guests' by sarah waters, featuring vintage typography and a black-and-white image of a woman's side profile set against a plain background, evoking the novel's historical setting and dramatic tone.

The Paying Guests

By Sarah Waters

Another stunning work of historical fiction, Sarah Waters’ The Paying Guests has it all — a big love story, family drama, and even a bloody crime. The New York Times bestseller is set in London circa 1922, where a poor widow named Mrs. Wray lives in a big house with her spinster daughter, Frances. Impoverished and without option, the Wrays take in a young couple, Lilian and Leonard Barber, as lodgers. Their arrival changes everything in the household, including Frances herself, and what ensues is some kinky lesbian sex, a murder, and a bunch of twists and turns.

A colorful book cover featuring an illustration of the golden gate bridge with a stylized depiction of a person standing in the foreground, holding binoculars, alongside the title "tales of the city" by armistead maupin, celebrating the 20th anniversary edition with a new afterword by the author.

Tales of the City

By Armistead Maupin

The first of nine books in a bestselling series, Tales introduces readers to a boisterous, funny, loving LGBTQ+ romantic comedy. This is the story of the friends and residents of 28 Barbary Lane in San Francisco — the bisexuals, the gay men, the socialites, and the lovers that come and go. Set in the late 1970s through the ’80s and ’90s, Maupin’s book series broke new ground with its frank depiction of San Francisco’s gay community and is one of the first to address the emotional toll of the AIDS epidemic.

Orlando by Virginia Woolf

Orlando

By Virginia Woolfe

This is the fictional biography of Orlando, a teenage aristocrat in Queen Elizabeth I’s court, who grows bored with his life of partying and excess. A magical wish, and he wakes up one day as a fully grown woman, which is how she lives for the next 300 years, into 1928. Orlando explores the boundaries — or lack — between life as a man and life as a woman and what that means for a person’s sexual identity.

Cover of the novel 'the city and the pillar' by gore vidal, featuring a contemplative monochrome portrait overlaid with bold typography.

The City and the Pillar

By Gore Vidal

When they were young, Jim and Bob fell into a sexual experience fraught with all the confusion that comes with youthful passion. For Jim, it is a defining moment, and he’s devastated when they must go their separate ways after graduation. As an adult, Jim has unfulfilling relationships with other men, and is always searching for Bob. When they’re finally reunited, years of anger, shame, and frustration explode with horrible consequences.

A cover of patricia highsmith's book "the price of salt, or carol," featuring the image of a contemplative woman resting her chin on her hand, with a backdrop of books. the cover also notes that this edition is an authorized one and that there is a major motion picture based on the novel. an author's afterword is included in this edition.

The Price of Salt

By Patricia Highsmith

Therese plods through the days at her retail job. Carol is a suburban housewife who plods through a tiresome marriage. They don’t expect to fall in love, but their attraction for each other is undeniable. More of an escape than a journey, they decide to see what a different life could bring and embark on a trip across the country. Highsmith’s classic is the basis for the movie, Carol.

A sparrow perches against a vibrant orange backdrop with a geometric pattern, gracing the cover of 'real life,' a novel by brandon taylor.

Real Life

By Brandon Taylor

Black, queer, and far from home, Wallace feels isolated at college as he struggles to finish his biochemistry degree. He’s often on the receiving end of tokenism and microaggressions on a regular basis, and when his work is sabotaged by another student, his list of acquaintances grows even smaller. An unlikely ally appears, a straight white man, who might just be the person who keeps Wallace from going over the edge.

The image is a book cover with a minimalistic design featuring the title "her body & other parties" by carmen maria machado. the background is a solid green with the image of a woman's back, cropped at her head and mid-torso, evoking a sense of mystery about the person and the stories within.

Her Body & Other Parties

By Carmen Maria Machado

In these short stories, readers are treated to a mix of magical realism and deeply human characters. If one story title could sum up the spirit of them all, it would be “Real Women Have Bodies,” a fact so obvious that it’s often forgotten. Bodies are at the center of every tale — women fighting for control, their sexuality buried in secrets and nostalgia, and the sense that no matter how much their body is shared, it’s never enough.

A book cover illustration showing a man in a blue suit tumbling through the air surrounded by scattered papers, with various praises and accolades mentioned, including being a national bestseller and a pulitzer prize winner.

Less

By Andrew Sean Greer

Arthur Less is having a crisis. Should he attend his ex-boyfriend’s wedding? Should he overschedule his life with international business trips to avoid this wedding? Arthur chooses option B, a trip around the world that offers one adventure after another. As he learns though, you can’t run from your fears forever, and facing them at home can be the adventure of a lifetime.

Nonfiction

An endearing black labrador gazes upward with a touching expression, capturing the essence of canine loyalty, and setting the tone for a memoir that promises to delve into the deep bond between humans and their four-legged companions.

Good Boy: My Life in Seven Dogs

By Jennifer Finney Boylan

Jennifer Finney Boylan is a celebrated novelist, memoirist, and human rights activist who was the first openly transgender co-chair of GLAAD’s National Board of Directors. In 2003 she published She’s Not There, her bestselling LGBTQ+ memoir of transitioning from a man to a woman that holds universal truths for us all. It’s an inspiring and influential read that belongs on everyone’s LGBTQ+ book list. In her 2020 memoir, Good Boy, Boylan revisits her youth and adulthood through the lens of the seven unique dogs she cared for throughout her life, delivering a candid account of devotion and the transgender experience that’s written with humor and generosity. As author Susan Orlean puts it: “Beautiful, tender, and utterly engaging, Good Boy measures out Boylan’s life in dog years. The result is a gorgeous memoir, full of heart and insight.”

A book cover with a bold, red design featuring a stylized virus particle and a human silhouette, titled "the viral underclass: the human toll when inequality and disease collide" by steven w. thrasher, with a foreword by jonathan m. metzl, author of "dying of whiteness".

The Viral Underclass: The Human Toll When Inequality and Disease Collide

By Steven Thrasher

In The Viral Underclass, preeminent LGBTQ+ scholar and social critic Steven Thrasher delivers a searing examination of inequality and disease. The award-winning narrative interweaves hard-hitting research with first-person accounts from activists and friends to reveal how social strictures and cultural hierarchies influence viral spread, with marginalized communities often suffering the brunt of the disease. Thrasher has dedicated his career to studying the racialization and criminalization of HIV. Here, the author powerfully documents the human toll of diseases like HIV/AIDS and COVID-19. In so doing, he “illuminates truths, all of which implore us to live by the grandest, most liberating of all principles: love” (Robert Jones, Jr., author of The Prophets).

The image shows a book cover with a vibrant pattern of colorful, interlocking shapes. the title of the book reads "we have always been here" by samra habib. there is a label near the top signaling that the book is a cbc selection for canada reads and categorized as a memoir, and there's a subtitle at the bottom of the cover stating "a queer muslim memoir.

We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir

By Samra Habib

In the Lambda Award–winning We Have Always Been Here, Samra Habib crafts a striking coming-of-age memoir about family, faith, tradition, queer love, and radical truth. Growing up in Pakistan, Habib and their family, who are Ahmadi Muslim, faced persecution for their beliefs. So the family sought refuge in Canada, where they endured a fresh set of hardships, from prejudice and racism to the threat of poverty. Amid all of this, Habib is pressured into an arranged marriage, propelling the author on a transformative journey of self-discovery in a culture that expects obedience and conformity.

Book cover of 'all boys aren't blue' featuring a contemplative individual adorned with a vibrant floral crown against a pink and blue sky background, highlighting the memoir's exploration of identity and social themes.

All Boys Aren't Blue

By George M. Johnson

In the acclaimed essay collection All Boys Aren’t Blue, George M. Johnson delivers a powerful YA memoir-manifesto about life as a Black queer boy who did not, and does not, conform to hegemonic masculinity. Across its pages, Johnson revisits the hardships and joys of their formative years in New Jersey and Virginia, from enduring bullying and bigoted violence to visiting flea markets with their grandmother and experiencing their first sexual relationship. The result is a “critical, captivating, merciful mirror for growing up Black and queer today” (Kirkus, starred review) that’s perfect for readers of all backgrounds and identities. It’s not just toxic masculinity that Johnson tackles here, but also family dynamics, love, lust, consent, brotherhood, marginalization, and joy.

The cover of "the stonewall reader" published by penguin classics, featuring a bold, typographic design on a pink background.

The Stonewall Reader

By The New York Public Library

In 2019 the New York Public Library released The Stonewall Reader to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising. The 1969 event in New York City was a flash point for the gay liberation movement, and this anthology is a fantastic primer for anyone interested in learning how the uprising unfolded and influenced the fight for LGBTQ+ equality in America. In particular, we love that this book zeroes in on some of the individual gay rights activists of the era, including Sylvia Rivera and Ernestine Eckstein. The foreword is written by Edmund White, and the book pulls together everything from personal diaries and newspaper articles to firsthand accounts to present its vital narrative. 

A vibrant book cover for "untamed" by glennon doyle, highlighting its status as a "#1 new york times bestseller" and noting that it has sold over 2 million copies, with oprah's book club endorsement.

Untamed

By Glennon Doyle

If you’re an avid reader and you haven’t at least heard of Glennon Doyle’s Untamed, then we’re not really sure where you’ve been hiding for the last few years — because this book has been everywhere. The New York Times bestselling memoir traces Doyle’s path to finding her truest form of happiness, which required putting aside expectations society had for her as a woman and mother and embracing her desires. The author unflinchingly discusses coming out, her divorce from her husband, her marriage to soccer star Abby Wambach, and the blending of her family — but most of all, Doyle offers a powerful guide to stop pleasing others and start living for yourself.

An illustrated book cover with vibrant colors featuring a man wearing a sombrero and a wide smile, lounging with a laptop, surrounded by a border of various decorated tiles, titled "¡hola papi! how to come out in a walmart parking lot and other life lessons" by john paul brammer.

Hola Papi: How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons

By John Paul Brammer

The title alone will inspire you to crack open this heartfelt and hilarious memoir-in-essays — and we promise you won’t be disappointed when you do. John Paul Brammer is an LGBTQ+ columnist whose “Hola Papi” moniker is inspired by the racialized way men address him on gay dating apps. His book is all about life growing up biracial and closeted. Brammer answers tough questions like “How do I let go of the past?” and “Is there such a thing as being too gay?” with tenderness, thoughtfulness, and humor. Famed essayist David Sedaris hails Hola Papi as “wise and charming.” We’d add “funny” and “instructional” to that tribute.

A striking book cover illustration featuring two stylized profiles of a woman, with warm tones and the title "zami: a new spelling of my name – a biomythography by audre lorde." the background suggests an urban skyline at sunset.

Zami

By Audre Lorde

After a difficult childhood in 1930s and ’40s Harlem, Lorde escapes into academia, which proves equally frustrating. She lands in Mexico where she re-enrolls in school, and falls in love with a woman for the first time. Back in New York, Lorde has a series of relationships with women, all examined here. Lorde calls Zami a “biomythography,” a nod to the need for myth-making when creating the history of one’s own political and sexual autobiography.

A colorful book cover featuring the silhouette of a boy's head with a vibrant gradient background, showcasing the novel 'a boy's own story' by edmund white.

A Boy’s Own Story

By Edmund White

In the 1950s, an unnamed 15-year-old has his first sexual experience with his friend, Kevin. Kevin seems standoffish about their encounters, a reaction that sends the narrator into a tailspin of self-doubt. As Kevin’s interest fades, the narrator’s expands. His question becomes: Does he need Kevin, someone more sexually experienced, or does he just need to understand what it means to be a gay man?

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