The 44 Best LGBTQ+ Books to Read Right Now
From recent releases to classic works, these are the LGBTQ books you should add to your bookshelf ASAP.
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LGBTQ books you’ll fall in love with
LGBTQ books and authors haven’t always enjoyed best-seller status the way many do today. Once upon a time, queer authors who were brave enough to live their truth (or at least write about it) often did so by being creative with their words, giving readers a hint of queer content while carefully avoiding any obvious signs.
Today, we’re fortunate to live in a time when LGBTQ+ authors can write openly and honestly. Though some LGBTQ books make an appearance on banned books lists, the demand for queer books continues to grow each year. These days, you’ll find memoirs and coming-out stories, romance, science fiction, and teen books with gay and trans leads, books about racism in America from an LGBTQ standpoint, and more.
Whether you’re seeking queer novels written by female-identified authors, books by Black authors, or any other book under the literary rainbow, you’ll find titles to love on our list of the best LGBTQ books of all time, chosen carefully by looking over best-seller lists and general lists of the best books, checking ratings on sites like Goodreads and Amazon, and asking the queer community which books they couldn’t do without.
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1. Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
James Baldwin is, without a doubt, one of the most famous Black gay writers of all time. Many are familiar with his novel If Beale Street Could Talk (which was adapted for film in 2018), but Giovanni’s Room, published in 1956, was among his most controversial and most overtly queer works. The story revolves around an American man who meets an Italian bartender named Giovanni at a gay bar in Paris and highlights the struggles of his various relationships with men.
2. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
Contemporary writer Ocean Vuong’s debut novel became a best seller when it was released in 2019 and continues to make waves both inside and outside queer literary circles. The story centers around Little Dog, a queer Vietnamese man in his late 20s whose letter to his mother gives us a glimpse into issues of masculinity, class, racism, and the experience of being Vietnamese American. It’s definitely one of the best fiction books you’ll want to read this year.
3. Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett
Kristen Arnett’s debut novel centers on a woman named Jessa-Lynn, who’s had to learn to navigate her crumbling family after her father takes his life, her mother takes up lewd taxidermy, and her brother withdraws in the wake of his wife leaving him. (The wife, it should be noted, is also the only woman Jessa-Lynn has ever loved.) It’s…a lot, but it makes for a riveting story that was named Best Book of the Year in 2019 by NPR, Time, the New York Times, and more. What else might you love? Check out this list of books based on your zodiac sign.
4. Stung with Love: Poems and Fragments by Sappho
You can’t have an essential list of LGBTQ books without including Sappho, from whom we get the term sapphic. This ancient Greek female poet from the isle of Lesbos (see a trend here?) wrote in the 6th century B.C. about desire, love, remembrance, and more and has inspired many queer writers over the years. While little is truly known about Sappho, her work remains to remind us that queer women have always been around and always will be. Here are more of the best poetry books of all time.
5. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
You may know Alison Bechdel’s name from the infamous Bechdel test, which measures the representation of women in fiction. But the MacArthur Genius Award–winning lesbian cartoonist is also the author of the 2006 graphic novel memoir Fun Home, which later became a Tony Award–winning Broadway production. Centering around Bechdel’s relationship with her father, it follows her childhood and youth while exploring complex issues like emotional abuse, mental health, gender, sexuality, and more.
6. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde wrote only one novel in his 46 years, and this classic book is still widely read and well loved within the LGBTQ+ community and beyond. Published in 1890, Wilde’s work is about a handsome young man who, after having his portrait painted, sells his soul and enters a new world of debauchery. A critically acclaimed novel studied in literature classes around the world, it is littered with nods to queer existence at a time when protections for the community did not exist.
7. Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown
Before writing the ’80s slasher satire screenplay Slumber Party Massacre, Rita Mae Brown wrote this popular semi-autobiographical novel about her own youth, from her first same-sex relationship in the sixth grade through her experiences in NYC queer circles and beyond. The book’s title is a reference to female genitalia, and the 1973 book won Brown the Golden Crown Literary Society’s Lee Lynch Classic Book Award as well as a solid place within lesbian literature and among all LGBTQ books. If you love books with an honest, first-person perspective, this list of the best autobiographies of all time is for you.
8. Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera
Latinx author Gabby Rivera’s 2016 novel about a 19-year-old Puerto Rican lesbian named Juliet is beautiful and heartfelt the whole way through. In the wake of coming out to her family, Juliet leaves for an internship with her favorite author and discovers a new (and more accepting) queer world in Portland, where she finally has the chance and space to find herself. Filled with joy, hope, and some heartbreak, this novel is great for teens but is just as beloved by queer adults who wish they’d had an LGBTQ book like this when they were younger.
9. Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
Sister Outsider is an absolute must-read from Audre Lorde, a Black feminist lesbian poet and activist (among other things) who has always put identity at the forefront of her work. This collection of essays and speeches tackles some of America’s biggest social issues, from racism and police brutality to sexism and homophobia, class and privilege, and more. First published in 1984, this nonfiction book continues to be just as relevant today and just as worthwhile to read.
10. All This Could Be Different by Sarah Thankam Mathews
This debut by Sarah Thankam Mathews—who won the 2020 Best American Short Stories award—is already receiving high praise, with a 4.78 rating on Goodreads and glowing reviews from the likes of Robert Jones Jr. (author of The Prophets) and Susan Choi (author of Trust Exercise). The story centers around Sneha, a young immigrant woman who has simultaneously entered the workforce in the midst of a recession and started to date women when unexpected trouble comes her way. Set to release in August 2022, All This Could Be Different is a must-read Asian American book.
11. Edinburgh by Alexander Chee
Alexander Chee’s 2001 debut novel about a young Korean boy coming to terms with the damage done to him (and others) by a child molester is a difficult but vital read, and it has been so highly praised that readers everywhere have been following Chee’s career ever since. Named a Best Book of the Year by Publishers Weekly and winner of the James Michener/Copernicus Society Fellowship Prize, the Asian American Writers’ Workshop Literary Award, and the Lambda Editor’s Choice Prize, this LGBTQ book holds up 20 years later and will likely continue to do so another 20, 40, and 60 years down the line.
12. Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
This New York Times best-selling debut romance by Casey McQuiston follows the story of Alex Claremont-Diaz, the bisexual First Son of the United States, and his romantic relationship with England’s (very gay) Prince Henry. The feel-good 2019 novel was a Goodreads Choice Award Winner for best debut and best romance the year it was released, and it was named Best Book of the Year by Vanity Fair, Vogue, NPR, and others. A few years later, it’s still a queer must-read. This book will be getting the film treatment in the coming months, so stay tuned. And in the meantime, watch these LGBTQ movies.
13. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Alice Walker became the first African American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for writing this coming-of-age story about a young, queer Black woman’s struggles growing up in 1930s Georgia. Since being published in 1982, the book has gone on to be adapted into a Steven Spielberg–directed film (starring Whoopie Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey) and a successful Broadway musical.
14. Orlando: A Biography by Virginia Woolf
When discussing iconic female authors, literary experts will rarely forget Virginia Woolf. Inspired by her friend, lover, and fellow writer Vita Sackville-West, the ever-gifted Woolf tells a sprawling tale of a man across three centuries. He starts out as a young nobleman living in Elizabethan England and then winds up in Constantinople, where, upon waking from a long sleep, he is suddenly transformed into a woman who lives into the late 1920s to witness women’s suffrage. A success when it was published in 1928, despite its queer content at a time when acceptance of LGBTQ relationships was rare, Orlando remains one of Woolf’s most popular and influential books.
15. The Hours by Michael Cunningham
We can’t bring up Virginia Woolf without also mentioning Michael Cunningham’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel. Published in 1998, The Hours chronicles the lives of various queer characters across time and place: Virginia Woolf in 1920s England, a 1950s Los Angeles housewife named Laura Brown, and Clarissa Vaughn and Richard Brown in 1990s New York City. The book became an Oscar-nominated film (starring Nicole Kidman and Meryl Streep) in the early aughts and remains a favorite LGBTQ book for many. Both books, of course, are filled with LGBTQ quotes you won’t soon forget.
16. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
This 1987 novel about a friendship (and, really, a relationship) between two women living in 1920s Alabama was on the New York Times best-seller list for 36 weeks. Race, class, aging, and abuse are all present in this captivating story, which was turned into an Oscar-nominated film in 1991, starring Kathy Bates and Jessica Tandy, among others.
17. Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman
A popular queer film of 2017, the book of the same name takes place in 1980s Italy and chronicles the summer romance between Elio (a 17-year-old Jewish Italian American boy) and Oliver (an American Jewish scholar who is seven years older) and what happens in the decades to follow. The book received the award for Best Gay Fiction at the 20th Lambda Literary Awards as well as rave reviews from numerous publications. For some real-life romance, read the story of a man who came out after 20 years of marriage and met the love of his life.
18. A Proper Young Lady by Lianne Simon
Published in 2015, this romance novel by an intersex author follows the story of Danièle, a woman with Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome who seeks out another woman to carry a baby for her and her fiancé, Ethan. But the plot thickens after she chooses her friend Melanie to be the surrogate, rekindling old feelings she’s unsure she can hold back. It’s a captivating story about struggling with identity in a way you may not have considered before.
19. The Bone People by Keri Hulme
It’s tough to find asexuality covered in older books, which makes this novel from 1984 all the more important. Winner of a Booker Prize and Pegasus Prize for Literature, The Bone People tells the tale of Kerewin Holmes, a part-Maori, part-European artist living in exile who happens to be asexual and aromantic. It explores the complex relationships Holmes forms with two strangers along the way. Did you know that there’s an LGBTQ flag for asexuality? There is, along with many others for different facets of the community.
20. If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
This 2016 novel was named Best Book and Best YA Book of the Year by Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Barnes & Noble, Bustle, and more. Written by trans author Meredith Russo, it follows the story of high schooler Amanda Hardy, the new girl in school who begins to fall for a boy named Grant. But when she starts getting too close, she worries that acceptance won’t be easy once everyone finds out she used to be known as Andrew at her old school.
21. Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart
The second novel from the Booker Prize–winning author of Shuggie Bain, Young Mungo tells the star-crossed story of two Scottish boys: one Protestant, one Catholic, and both growing up in a working-class neighborhood in the 1990s. It’s a captivating and brutal tale of romance, sexuality, and violence amid toxic masculinity, religious division, and homophobia. Published in April 2022, this is a story readers call “breathtaking” and “an excellent companion piece to his Booker Prize–winning book.” For more great (and free!) reads, check out these Kindle Unlimited books.
22. I‘ll Be the One by Lyla Lee
For a feel-good read, that is also queer based, check out this lighthearted debut by author Lyla Lee, which was featured in the 2021 Rainbow Book List Top 10 Titles. It centers around Skye Shin, an overweight, bisexual, Korean teen who hopes to become a K-pop dancer and won’t let anyone dash her dreams. This sweet and uplifting book, published in 2020, was even named a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year and was a recommendation from the Today Show that will likely continue to win over readers for years to come.
23. After Elias by Eddy Boudel Tan
Grab the Kleenex! Reviewers on Goodreads call this novel “heart-wrenching and bittersweet,” “powerful and compelling,” and often “beautiful.” In Eddy Boudel Tan’s 2020 debut tearjerker of a novel about a gay man’s grief over the loss of his fiancé just a day before their wedding, we are treated to a story that is complex and tragic—and worth absorbing. A finalist for the 2021 Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction, Tan (who was also selected as a 2021 Rising Star by the Writers’ Trust of Canada) is sure to become one of the greatest LGBTQ authors of our time.
24. Stay Gold by Tobly McSmith
It’s an old story with a refreshing twist: The mysterious new guy and the cheerleader start to fall for each other. But with Pony being a trans guy hoping to avoid attention and cisgendered cheerleader Georgia hoping to commit to a year of no dating, the plot gets a much-desired revision as one of the best LGBTQ books for young adults. Tobly McSmith’s modern romance novel has been receiving great reviews, with a 4.6 rating on Audible and a 4.7 one on Amazon. While McSmith is still a bit of an up-and-comer, this 2020 release feels like the sort of book that will stand the test of time.
25. All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
Journalist and LGBTQ activist George M. Johnson treats readers to a vivid series of essays about his youth on the East Coast—the painful and the beautiful memories, plus all the in-between—as experienced by a Black queer boy. Nominated for a 2020 Goodreads Choice Award for Best Memoir & Autobiography, Johnson’s book – All Boys Aren’t Blue has also been optioned for television by actress and activist Gabrielle Union.
26. Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo
Written by critically acclaimed author Malinda Lo, this tale of two young women falling in love in San Francisco’s Chinatown in the 1950s become a national best seller shortly after its debut in January 2021. Reviewers have called this winner of the National Book Award an “instant classic” and a “joy to read,” and we agree.
27. Tomboyland by Melissa Faliveno
Melissa Faliveno’s 2020 essay collection takes us on a much different journey than our previous pick: that of a queer girl growing up in the American Midwest. In her debut book, Faliveno paints vivid pictures of tornadoes and softball, roller derby and gun culture, weaving memories and facts seamlessly. Tomboyland was chosen as an Editor’s Pick for Best Biographies and Memoirs by Amazon as well as a Best Book of 2020 by NPR, the New York Public Library, O, the Oprah Magazine, Electric Literature, and more. While you’re shopping, you may also want to peruse this list of the best biographies.
28. Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing by Lauren Hough
Lauren Hough’s highly anticipated 2021 memoir about life after leaving the cult she was raised in takes readers on one journey after another, each as intriguing as the next. From her experiences as a queer woman in the military to working as a bouncer, there’s never a dull moment in this riveting essay collection. Roxane Gay gave this book five stars and praised it as “one of those rare books that will instantly become part of the literary canon, and the world of letters will be better for it.”
29. Ace by Angela Chen
Asexuality often gets left out of the LGBTQ+ conversation, but in her nonfiction book author and journalist Angela Chen asks readers to explore just what it means to identify as ace. Through a series of interviews with other asexual individuals, Chen reveals some of the complexities of discovering and embracing one’s own asexuality. It may not be a self-help book per se, but it’s a necessary exploration of asexuality for all readers.
30. Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta
When a civil war erupts in Nigeria, 11-year-old Ijeoma is sent away for her safety, only to meet and fall in love with another young girl, plunging both into another form of danger. Winner of the 2016 Lambda Award, an NAACP Image Award nominee in 2015 (when the book was published), and a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice pick, Okparanta’s novel, inspired by folktales from her homeland, should definitely be on your reading list.
31. The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr.
This historical fiction book is centered around the forbidden love between two men forced into slavery on a Mississippi plantation in the antebellum South and how a betrayal unravels all their secrets. Receiving an average of 4.6 stars on Amazon, it is an editor’s pick for Best Literature & Fiction on the site and became an instant New York Times best seller.
32. The Other Mothers by Jennifer Berney
Author Jennifer Berney brings readers along on her and wife Kelly’s often frustrating journey into finally starting a family despite the patriarchal, anti-queer doctors and others who seem bent on preventing her and other LGBTQ folks from doing so. Berney offers her firsthand experience while also educating readers on the many hoops queer families are forced to jump through to simply become parents. This 2021 release has a 4.3-star rating on Goodreads and fills a gap in the LGBTQ nonfiction world by revealing what it takes to start a family as a same-sex couple.
33. Fragile Remedy by Maria Ingrande Mora
While many LGBTQ books focus strongly on romance or coming-out stories, it’s also important to have solid queer representation in other genres, such as science fiction. Cue the Junior Library Guild Gold Star Selection novel Fragile Remedy. In Maria Ingrande Mora’s dystopian tale, a group of diverse characters find themselves trying to survive a widespread pandemic that’s devastating the world while leaning on one another—a story that feels all too timely.
34. Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters
This best-selling debut novel by author Torrey Peters was chosen for Roxane Gay’s Audacious Book Club and named one of the best books of 2021 by a bevy of publications, including Vulture, Time, Bustle, and Marie Claire. Peters’s book about three (trans and cis) individuals tackling both what it means to be a woman and what it means to have a family is a definite must-read.
35. Queer Love in Color by Jamal Jordan
Written and photographed by New York Times multimedia journalist Jamal Jordan, Queer Love in Color celebrates love and diversity in an unforgettable way. Featuring queer couples and families from across the United States, Jordan’s 2021 release gifts us with the perfect coffee table book to keep on hand as a reminder that love truly is love. Emmy, Grammy, and Tony Award winner Billy Porter said of this book, “It arrested my heart and soothed my anxious soul. Thank you, Jamal Jordan, for showing the world what true love looks like.”
36. Fiebre Tropical by Julián Delgado Lopera
This multilingual coming-of-age story revolves around a queer Colombian teen who moves to Miami only to be thrust into the Evangelical church. A finalist for the 2020 Kirkus Prize for Fiction, the novel (whose author is now Julián Delgado Lopera) was called “ebullient and assertive” by the New York Times and also won a 2021 Lambda Literary Award.
37. My Life in Transition by Julia Kaye
The follow-up to Julia Kaye’s critically acclaimed autobiographical comics collection Super Late Bloomer, My Life in Transition documents the award-winning trans artist’s life six months after transitioning. In a series of comics, Kaye reveals the joys and struggles in relatable, sometimes painful, but overall hopeful images and stories. There is a need for more candid trans books like this, especially ones done in a style that offers rawness as well as entertainment and hope. Here are more short books you’ll love.
38. Be Dazzled by Ryan La Sala
This tale of a budding young fashion designer entering a cosplay competition only to find his ex is the main competition is as refreshing and enjoyable as it sounds. Ryan La Sala’s second novel is already pleasing fans, with reviewers calling it “heartfelt and hilarious” and “a crafty queer romance about self-acceptance.” La Sala’s 2021 book was chosen as a top pick not only by us but also by Amazon’s Best Book of the Month Club, Barnes & Noble’s YA Book Club, and independent booksellers’ Indie Next list.
39. Hunger by Roxane Gay
Roxane Gay is one of the most influential LGBTQ writers of our time, and choosing just one of her books for this list was a challenge. Ultimately, we went with Hunger, an immensely important book about the intersection of bodies, identity, violence, mental health, vulnerability, and joy. This New York Times best seller was a Lambda Literary Award winner and a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist, and it was considered the best book of 2017 by the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, Time, NPR, and many others. Next, consider joining one of these online book clubs to boost your reading life and stay up to date with the best new releases.
40. How to Be Ace by Rebecca Burgess
This 2021 Prism Award finalist follows Rebecca Burgess’s own life as she navigates her asexuality in a sex-obsessed world with plenty of heart, wit, and charm. Released in 2020, it was also selected as a 2020 LGBTQIA+ Graphic Novel for Young Readers by Publishers Weekly, though it’s also beloved by older readers who wish they’d seen this kind of representation in their teen and young adult years.
41. The Days of Afrekete by Asali Solomon
Published in 2021, this tale of two women whose joyful college days together begin to haunt them in middle age was deemed a New York Times Critics’ Top Book of the Year and a New York Magazine Best Book of the Year, and it was a finalist for the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. Written by Asali Solomon, it’s a story about realizing it’s never too late to find yourself again.
42. Black Girl, Call Home by Jasmine Mans
Deemed one of the most anticipated books of 2021 by Oprah, Shondaland, Refinery 29, Essence, Vogue, Time, and many more publications, this gorgeous collection of poems by spoken word poet Jasmine Mans celebrates queer Black womanhood in all its glory. Reviewers on Goodreads have called it “breathtaking,” “powerful,” and “incredibly moving.” Don’t miss the work of these other amazing Black poets you’ll want to know.
43. Fiona and Jane by Jean Chen Ho
Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2022 by an impressive slew of publications, from the Washington Post and Electric Literature to Time, Glamour, and more, Jean Chen Ho’s debut novel has no doubt lived up to expectations, especially when it comes to books about friendship. Released in January 2022, the short story collection focuses on two Asian women as they come of age and navigate the complexities of their lifelong friendship.
44. Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
Nominated for two Goodreads Choice Awards, 2020’s Cemetery Boys is a joyful tearjerker that manages to blend love, Latinx culture, and the paranormal all into one fantastic book. Aiden Thomas’s debut novel about a gay, trans brujo (one who practices witchcraft) looking to prove himself to his family is a thoroughly delightful one-of-a-kind read. In a world still lacking trans and Latinx representation, this book brings both perspectives to audiences while remaining incredibly fun and unforgettable.