From a variety of authors, documenting both true and fictional stories, as found online and through recommendations, here’s 20 LGBTQ books I’ve added to my TBR list in honour of pride and diversifying my bookshelf!
Reading Girl, Woman, Other not only made me think more deeply about the experiences, stories and histories of black womxn, but also different sexualities. This isn’t something I’ve ignored or avoided in my life by all means. I’ve explored myself, met and learned from many people who identify differently to me, in their gender and sexuality, and celebrated pride as a straight ally.
When it comes to reading however as a straight cis woman, I’ve not really explored LGBTQ books or literature at all. Although ‘romance novels’ are a rare genre for me to read, those I’ve been recommended or come across have been boy meets girl. Given this is how I identify, I’ll admit, I’ve not really looked at other stories. The breadth of stories out there is so much bigger than just romance though so I’m looking to find more books by LGBTQ authors and that explore these experiences that I’ve not had, so that I can learn from them.
In celebration of all the journeys, experiences, beautiful love stories out there and of course Pride month, here’s a selection of LGBTQ books, as recommended by friends, the online community out there and from my own research – another 20 to go on my TBR list, which literally gets longer by the day! All descriptions are from GoodReads and are linked directly in the book header indicated in orange, the full list can be found at the end of the article here.
LGBTQ Books, as recommended by friends online:
First up, my absolute favourite bookstagrammer out there, Nokukhanya known as @pretty_x_bookish, who has made two incredible IGTV videos with a whole bunch of books that I just want to devour because she is so passionate about them. My top picks from Nokukhanya’s Queer African literature video are:
1. Queer Africa, Edited by Karen Martin
A collection of charged, tangled, tender, unapologetic, funny, bruising and brilliant stories about the many ways in which we love one another on the continent.
2. The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany
Welcome to the Yacoubian Building, Cairo: once grand, now dilapidated, and full of stories and passion. Some live in squalor on its rooftop while others inhabit the faded glory of its apartments and offices. Within these walls religious fervour jostles with promiscuity; bribery with bliss; modern life with ancient culture. At ground level, Taha, the doorman’s son, harbours career aspirations and romantic dreams – but when these are dashed by unyielding corruption, hope turns to bitterness, with devastating consequences.
3. Becoming Him: A Trans Memoir of Triumph by Landa Mabenge
In this groundbreaking and brutally honest memoir, Landa Mabenge establishes himself as a resounding and inspirational voice for anyone fighting to define themselves on their own terms. In mesmerising detail, Becoming Him lays bare Landa’s tortured world, growing up trapped in the wrong body, while unflinchingly tracing his transition from female to male.
Secondly, I’ve taken two recommendations from the lovely Jemma who runs @wordswineandwitbookclub, and who has been supporting my bookstagram / blog since I relaunched last month!
4. Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi
Freshwater explores the surreal experience of having a fractured self. It centers around a young Nigerian woman, Ada, who develops separate selves within her as a result of being born “with one foot on the other side.” Unsettling, heartwrenching, dark, and powerful, Freshwater is a sharp evocation of a rare way of experiencing the world, one that illuminates how we all construct our identities.
5. Confessions of a fox by Jordy Rosenberg
Set in the eighteenth century London underworld, this bawdy, genre-bending novel reimagines the life of thief and jailbreaker Jack Sheppard to tell a profound story about gender, love, and liberation
A celebratory recommendation and what looks like a great book, as chosen by the forever creative @Staceyblynch:
6. 50 Queers Who Changed the World: A Celebration of LGBTQ+ Icons by Dan Jones, Michele Rosenthal
LGBT people are some of the coolest in history – Freddie Mercury, Divine, Virginia Woolf, Marlene Dietrich, Andy Warhol… the list goes on. Queer subculture has had an enormous impact on style, music, science, art and literature. From Oscar Wilde, who defended his homosexual relationships in court, to Rupaul acting as an ambassador for drag on network television, queer people have fought to express their identities and make a difference. This book will celebrate the lives, work, and unique perspectives of the icons who changed the world. Featuring beautifully illustrated portraits and profiles, 50 Queers Who Changed the World is a tribute to some of the most inspirational people of all time
Next up are two recommendations from the fabulous, sustainable travel couple Steff & Ells over at @wearewanderingtravel, who I’ve been following for ages now and they share my love of travel, sustainability and tasty vegan options:
7. Tipping the Velvet – Sarah Waters
Nan King, an oyster girl, is captivated by the music hall phenomenon Kitty Butler, a male impersonator extraordinaire treading the boards in Canterbury. Through a friend at the box office, Nan manages to visit all her shows and finally meet her heroine. Soon after, she becomes Kitty’s dresser and the two head for the bright lights of Leicester Square where they begin a glittering career as music-hall stars in an all-singing and dancing double act. At the same time, behind closed doors, they admit their attraction to each other and their affair begins.
8. Blue is the Warmest Colour – Julie Maroh
Blue is the Warmest Color is a graphic novel about growing up, falling in love, and coming out. Clementine is a junior in high school who seems average enough: she has friends, family, and the romantic attention of the boys in her school. When her openly gay best friend takes her out on the town, she wanders into a lesbian bar where she encounters Emma: a punkish, confident girl with blue hair. Their attraction is instant and electric, and Clementine find herself in a relationship that will test her friends, parents, and her own ideas about herself and her identity.
Ross (@roscoforsythe) was the most fabulous person to meet on a boat trip in Indonesia last year, passionate, caring and uplifting – a great person to spend a time with in a confined space haha! Here’s four of his top LGBTQ picks I liked the sound of:
9. Boy meets Boy by David Leviathan
This is the story of Paul, a sophomore at a high school like no other: The cheerleaders ride Harleys, the homecoming queen used to be a guy named Daryl (she now prefers Infinite Darlene and is also the star quarterback), and the gay-straight alliance was formed to help the straight kids learn how to dance.
When Paul meets Noah, he thinks he’s found the one his heart is made for. Until he blows it. The school bookie says the odds are 12-to-1 against him getting Noah back, but Paul’s not giving up without playing his love really loud. His best friend Joni might be drifting away, his other best friend Tony might be dealing with ultra-religious parents, and his ex-boyfriend Kyle might not be going away anytime soon, but sometimes everything needs to fall apart before it can really fit together right.
This is a happy-meaningful romantic comedy about finding love, losing love, and doing what it takes to get love back in a crazy-wonderful world.
10. Orlando by Virginia woolf
Virginia Woolf’s Orlando ‘The longest and most charming love letter in literature’, playfully constructs the figure of Orlando as the fictional embodiment of Woolf’s close friend and lover, Vita Sackville-West. Spanning three centuries, the novel opens as Orlando, a young nobleman in Elizabeth’s England, awaits a visit from the Queen and traces his experience with first love as England under James I lies locked in the embrace of the Great Frost. At the midpoint of the novel, Orlando, now an ambassador in Constantinople, awakes to find that he is now a woman, and the novel indulges in farce and irony to consider the roles of women in the 18th and 19th centuries. As the novel ends in 1928, a year consonant with full suffrage for women. Orlando, now a wife and mother, stands poised at the brink of a future that holds new hope and promise for women.
11. Running with scissors by Augusten Burroughs [also a film]
Running with Scissors is the true story of a boy whose mother (a poet with delusions of Anne Sexton) gave him away to be raised by her unorthodox psychiatrist who bore a striking resemblance to Santa Claus. So at the age of twelve, Burroughs found himself amidst Victorian squalor living with the doctor’s bizarre family, and befriending a pedophile who resided in the backyard shed. The story of an outlaw childhood where rules were unheard of, and the Christmas tree stayed up all year round, where Valium was consumed like candy, and if things got dull an electroshock- therapy machine could provide entertainment. The funny, harrowing and bestselling account of an ordinary boy’s survival under the most extraordinary circumstances.
12. The Third Sex by Willy, Lawrence R. Schehr
A gold mine of information about a hidden queer culture. Thirty-two years before Simone de Beauvoir’s classic The Second Sex, popular French novelist Willy published The Third Sex, a vivid description of the world of European homosexuals in France, Italy, and Germany during the late 1920s. Stepping directly into the heart of gay men’s culture, Willy follows homosexual nightlife into music halls, nightclubs, casinos, bars, and saunas. While he finds plenty of drug and alcohol abuse, he also discovers homosexual publishers, scientific societies, group rivalries, and opinions–both medical and political–about the nature of homosexuality itself. Lawrence R. Schehr’s introduction provides context and translator’s notes for this first-ever English edition
I’ve loved following Gabi & Shanna’s (@27travels) travels around the world and their colourful and creative content over the past year or so – these two recommended:
13. Her Royal Highness by Rachel Hawkins
Millie Quint is devastated when she discovers that her sort-of-best friend/sort-of-girlfriend has been kissing someone else. And because Millie cannot stand the thought of confronting her ex every day, she decides to apply for scholarships to boarding schools . . . the farther from Houston the better.
Millie can’t believe her luck when she’s accepted into one of the world’s most exclusive schools, located in the rolling highlands of Scotland. Everything about Scotland is different: the country is misty and green; the school is gorgeous, and the students think Americans are cute.
The only problem: Mille’s roommate Flora is a total princess. She’s also an actual princess. Of Scotland.
At first, the girls can barely stand each other–Flora is both high-class and high-key–but before Millie knows it, she has another sort-of-best-friend/sort-of-girlfriend. Even though Princess Flora could be a new chapter in her love life, Millie knows the chances of happily ever afters are slim . . . after all, real life isn’t a fairy tale . . . or is it?
14. Eat, Gay, Love: A Memoir by Calum McSwiggan
In the spring of 2012, Calum finds himself single again after his relationship of six years comes to an end.
Heartbroken, unhappy and unsure of what to do next, he leaves the hometown he has been in all his life to embark on a journey that takes him all around the world, from teaching in a school on the outskirts of Rome to exploring the sex clubs of Berlin, to raising tigers in an animal sanctuary deep in the jungles of Thailand. Along the way, he meets LGBT+ people from all walks of life and every part of the rainbow – from an Italian teenager struggling with a homophobic father to a kathoey navigating life as a trans person in Thailand, to a young HIV-positive man living on the streets of London.
Their individual stories, not only of hardship and sorrow but also of profound strength and hope, show the breadth and depth of queer life and experience, shedding light on themes such as homophobia, sexual violence, marriage equality and gender identity. Through these meetings and friendships, Calum not only finds the encouragement to embrace life after heartbreak, but also discovers a beautiful, loving global community who support and uplift him through the best and worst moments of his time on the road.
A travel memoir with a difference, Eat, Gay, Love is a celebration of the power of community and a personal tribute to the extraordinary lives of LGBT+ people everywhere in the world.
15. Proud Women: A Collection of Women Who are Proud to Represent the LGBTQ+ Community by Brittany Wheaton Jeltema, Melissa Jeltema
Proud Women is a coffee table style book that features more than 100 fierce, brave women in the LGBTQ+ community and their stories. Our goal was to give a group of diverse women a platform to share their story and inspire others to have the courage to be uniquely themselves.
Each woman featured in the book was asked a series of questions about their life as a woman in the LGBTQ+ community. They vulnerably shared their perspective in a way that sheds light on the challenges and courage it takes to overcome the obstacles they’ve faced.
Our hope is that readers will connect with at least one of the women in this book. Whether it’s allowing their story to resonate with them on a personal level or finding inspiration through their Instagram account (found on each page), the goal is for our audience to have a positive, empowering experience.
LGBTQ Books I’ve found on book lists or via instagram:
After checking this recommendations I did a little research myself and found the following LGBTQ books that piqued my interest as well.
16. Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
What happens when America’s First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales?
When his mother became President of the United States, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius—his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There’s only one problem: Alex has a beef with an actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex/Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.
Heads of the family and state and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: Stage a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instagrammable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the presidential campaign and upend two nations. It raises the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to ben? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through? How will history remember you?
17. In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
For years Carmen Maria Machado has struggled to articulate her experiences in an abusive same-sex relationship. In this extraordinarily candid and radically inventive memoir, Machado tackles a dark and difficult subject with wit, inventiveness and an inquiring spirit, as she uses a series of narrative tropes—including classic horror themes—to create an entirely unique piece of work which is destined to become an instant classic.
18. Zami: A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde
ZAMI is a fast-moving chronicle. From the author’s vivid childhood memories in Harlem to her coming of age in the late 1950s, the nature of Audre Lorde’s work is cyclical. It especially relates the linkage of women who have shaped her . . . Lorde brings into play her craft of lush description and characterization. It keeps unfolding page after page.
19. Framily by Alesha Nichole
Neveah, a popular event planner in her area, was called upon by Jasmine and Anita to plan their 3rd anniversary party to celebrate their love. As the planning took place, they hit it off. Fun loving Neveah invited Anita and Jasmine out along with a few other friends for drinks. The women soon discovered they were the pieces in one another’s lives they didn’t realize were missing. Through the one-night stands, truth bombs, shenanigans, and laughter these girls keep each other grounded. Framily is an uplifting story about a group of seven women (all in their late 20s-early 30s) who have one another’s backs through life’s hurdles. A group of strangers who came together to form an unbreakable bond. It shows that you don’t have to be blood to be family.
20. All boys aren’t blue by George M Johnson
In a series of personal essays, prominent journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist George M. Johnson explores his childhood, adolescence, and college years in New Jersey and Virginia. From the memories of getting his teeth kicked out by bullies at age five, to flea marketing with his loving grandmother, to his first sexual relationships, this young-adult memoir weaves together the trials and triumphs faced by Black queer boys.
Both a primer for teens eager to be allies as well as a reassuring testimony for young queer men of color, All Boys Aren’t Blue covers topics such as gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, family, structural marginalization, consent, and Black joy. Johnson’s emotionally frank style of writing will appeal directly to young adults.
21. Becoming a Man: The Story of a Transition by P. Carl
Becoming a Man is the striking memoir of P. Carl’s journey to become the man he always knew himself to be. For fifty years, he lived as a girl and a queer woman, building a career, a life, and a loving marriage, yet still waiting to realize himself in full. As Carl embarks on his gender transition, he takes us inside the complex shifts and questions that arise throughout—the alternating moments of arrival and estrangement. He writes intimately about how transitioning reconfigures both his own inner experience and his closest bonds—his twenty-year relationship with his wife, Lynette; his already tumultuous relationships with his parents; and seemingly solid friendships that are subtly altered, often painfully and wordlessly.
22. We Had No Rules by Corinne Manning
A defiant, beautifully realized story collection about the messy complications of contemporary queer life.
A young teenager runs from her family’s conservative home to her sister’s NY apartment to learn a very different set of rules. A woman grieves the loss of a sister, a “gay divorce,” and the pain of unacknowledged abuse with the help of a lone wallaby on a farm in Washington State. A professor of women’s and gender studies revels in academic and sexual power but risks losing custody of the family dog.
Corinne Manning’s defiant, beautifully realized story collection about the messy complications of contemporary queer life follow a cast of queer characters as they explore the choice of assimilation over rebellion, feeling the promise of a radically reimagined world but facing complicity instead.
23. Mr Loverman by Bernadine Evaristo
Barrington Jedidiah Walker. Barry to his friends. Trouble to his wife.
Seventy-four years old, Antiguan born and bred, flamboyant Hackney personality Barry is known for his dapper taste and fondness for retro suits.
He is a husband, father and grandfather.
And for the past sixty years, he has been in a relationship with his childhood friend and soulmate, Morris.
Wife Carmel knows Barry has been cheating on her, but little does she know what is really going on. When their marriage goes into meltdown, Barrington has big choices to make.
Mr Loverman is a groundbreaking exploration of Britain’s older Caribbean community, which explodes cultural myths and fallacies, and shows how deep and far-reaching the consequences of prejudice and fear can be. It is also a warm-hearted, funny and life-affirming story about a character as mischievous, cheeky and downright lovable as any you’ll ever meet.
I encourage you too, to explore outside of your “norm” and use literature and books to connect with and learn about people who have completely different experiences and lives to your own. Whether that’s LGBTQ books, or by ensuring you read books by black and minority authors who aren’t as well represented in publishing – reading is the easiest way to explore topics you’re not as familiar with and support authors everywhere.
Since starting to blog about books I’ve really opened my eyes to so many more authors and genres, rather than just reading thriller after thriller after thriller haha!
Drop any other LGBT books you recommend in the comments or let me know about your experiences with books and literature!
The full list:
- Queer Africa, Edited by Karen Martin
- The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany
- Becoming Him: A Trans Memoir of Triumph by Landa Mabenge
- Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi
- Confessions of a fox by Jordy Rosenberg
- 50 Queers Who Changed the World: A Celebration of LGBTQ+ Icons by Dan Jones, Michele Rosenthal
- Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters
- Blue is the Warmest colour by Julie Maroh
- Boy meets boy by David Leviathan
- Orlando by Virginia Woolf
- Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs
- The Third Sex by Willy/Lawrence r Schehr
- Her Royal Highness by Rachel Hawkins
- Eat, Gay, Love: A Memoir by Calum McSwiggan
- Proud Women: A Collection of Women Who are Proud to Represent the LGBTQ+ Community by Brittany Wheaton Jeltema, Melissa Jeltema
- Red, White and Royal blue by Casey McQuiston
- In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
- Zami: A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde
- Framily by Alesha Nichole
- All boys aren’t blue by George M Johnson
- Becoming a Man: The Story of a Transition by P. Carl
- We Had No Rules by Corinne Manning
- Mr Loverman by Bernadine Evaristo