The world of gay romance novels is, if not quite as vast as the world of m/f romance, still quite expansive. Are you looking for a royal-commoner romance? A fake marriage? Something dark and gritty, or something that’s the literary equivalent of a basket of puppies? Whatever it is that floats your romance boat, I guarantee there’s an m/m romance out there that will satisfy.
In making this list, I’ve highlighted as many #ownvoices authors as possible. There’s a misconception that the only people who write m/m romance are straight women, and while it’s true that some of the biggest names in gay romance are straight women, there are also dozens of queer men writing fantastic gay romance. But because of the biases and shortcomings of publishing (and a slew of other complicated factors), it’s straight women who often get the most recognition in the genre.
This is not to say that straight women can’t, or shouldn’t, write gay romance novels. You’ll find several (including some of my absolute favorites!) on this list. You’ll also find many wonderful books by queer men that deserve the same praise and recognition. I’ve tried to make this list as wide-ranging as possible, and it includes books about diverse characters written by queer men and women, queer authors of color, and trans and genderqueer writers.
Over the years, these tales of queer happily ever afters have brought me much joy and comfort. Whether you’re entirely new to gay romance novels, or whether you’ve been reading them for years, I hope they’ll bring you the same delight.
Note: Books marked with an asterisk are #ownvoices, which, in this case, means that the author is a queer man. Many of the other novels on this list are #ownvoices for different reasons. I’ve chosen only to make note of books written by queer men, but it is by no means intended to erase or ignore the many other identities held by the fabulous writers who have produced these works.
7 Sweet LGBT Romance Books You Need to Read
Since this month is about celebrating the LGBT community and the freedom to be who you are and love who you love, I thought I’d recommend some sweet LGBT romance books. Each of these love stories features an LGBT protagonist — whether their identity is the crux of the story or not. This month may be coming to a close, but these are fantastic (and romantic) reads for any time of year.
A Gayish List of My Favorite Gay (Male) Romance Novels
In honor of Pride month, I thought I’d write a post on my favorite fiction focused on gay characters. I primarily listen to and read urban fantasy/paranormal romance, though I sometimes read regular gay romance. There is a large niche market of fiction for the boys. One of the reasons this is so heavily focused on the gay romance niche is because of the distinct lack of gay male characters in the mainstream fiction market — in urban fantasy market I’ve only seen a female protagonist or two who was bi or lesbian, while there are no gay male protagonists that I’m aware of. The first six are available on audiobook through Amazon or Audible, which is my preferred shopping site. I’ve put the writers I felt had the strongest stories and writing at the top, but the ones down the list are fine, especially if you can ignore some of the idiosyncrasies and enjoy the heat. I’ll warn you right now, there may be spoilers, so don’t read this if that bothers you. Here’s my list.
1) One of my go-to writers is Josh Lanyon. His Adrien English Mysteries series is sexy and interesting. It plays on some clichés, such as the masculine tough-guy love interest who is a cop, but this is about as good as the writing gets in the gay fiction market and I love it.
2) Another go-to for me is J. L. Langley’s With or Without series. With Caution and With Abandon are particular favorites. The writing isn’t quote where Lanyon’s is, but it is still at the top of my list. This is paranormal romance. The main characters are all werewolves. The first book, Without Reservation is cute and the character Keaton Reynolds is spunky. With Caution, however, deals with issues of domestic abuse and homophobia in a way that gets pretty serious.
3) Tanya Huff’s The Smoke Series is another very well written urban fantasy series. These books are great, though I don’t go back to them as often because the romance involves a lot of unrequited love that takes too long to get to the juicy stuff. I’ve had enough unrequited love in my life and it gives me anxiety. But the characters are interesting, the second book is particularly good. Again, it plays on the stereotype of the strong – and blond – love interest with the protagonist being more of a little-brother type. This is a spinoff of another series that was made into a TV series in Canada but works as a standalone series and has at least one subsequent short story set a few years after the series that gives you the romance I was waiting for.
4) Though the writing isn’t at the literary level of Lanyon, Huff, or even Langley, another one of my go-to’s is Mary Calmes. My two favorites of hers are Change of Heart and Timing. The first book is, again, paranormal romance about panther shapeshifters. The second is not paranormal but still romance, and gets plenty steamy. The love interest Rand Holloway is a sexy cowboy and makes me hot.
5) Worth noting is Patricia Briggs. Her Mercedes Thompson Series has a secondary character, another gay cowboy named Warren, who is gay together with a divorce lawyer Kyle. There’s no steamy stuff here, but she has a short story focused on Warren and Kyle in the anthology Down These Strange Streets. This short story isn’t romance, per se, but has some tender moments and deals with relationship issues. And zombies and witches. And, of course, Warren is a werewolf.
6) Mercedes Lackey’s The Last Herald-Mage Series is a must for anyone into historical fantasy. There isn’t much romance in this, but it is a treasure.
7) Cardeno C.’s books Wake Me Up Inside and Until Forever Comes are well worth the read or listen, too. These paranormal romances are what I’ve just finished listening to on audiobook and have surprisingly strong writing, interesting characters, and steamy love scenes, all while having good story arcs and a few plot twists that kept me interested. Or maybe I was too hot for Zev to pay attention to much else. Worth the price, especially on Kindle.
8) Ally Blue’s Bay city Paranormal Investigations series is another paranormal romance series I enjoyed very much. I haven’t gone back and reread these recently, so don’t remember how steamy they are, but I found these to be enjoyable and with solid enough writing and well plotted story arcs that I feel they are strong entries here.
9) K. A. Mitchell’s Chasing Smoke is another mid-level romance, not paranormal, that I enjoyed. As is standard fare, it has a blond conflicted cop. It is relatively well written, and enjoyable, especially if you like a brooding and conflicted rough-edged guy who discovers he truly can love.
10) The prolific Stormy Glenn has a number of steamy paranormal romances I go to when I want juice. Stomry Glenn knows how to bring the heat. It’s amusing stuff and fun. My favorites are her Wolf Creek Pack Series, and the tie-in Tri-Omega Series. Woo! Tri-omegas, by the way, need two mates to have relations with on a frequent basis in order to stay sane. This is all werewolf stuff, with a few exceptions that deal with vampires. It is beaucoup erotique! (I know that’s not necessary great French.)
11) V. B. Kildaire’s Desire for Dearborne is a great book for those of you who like historical romance. Definitely a worthwhile read on a cold winter’s night.
12) The Holland Brothers Series by Tony Griffin is another go-to for the steamy paranormal romance. If you like a good dominant/submissive relationship between protagonists, this is a great series for you. Again, werewolves. In case you haven’t picked it up, I’ve got a werewolf thing. Not so into vampires. I think it’s the blood thing.
13) Another really fun series is the Lost Shifters by Stephani Hecht. There are a number of books in this series, I think about 12 or 13. A lot of fun. This mostly centers of feline shifters, though avian shifters and werewolves do make appearances.
14) Kirby Crow’s Scarlet and the White Wolf Series is fun and is epic fantasy, so more historical/fantastical and not contemporary. Lots of romance. It’s been a while since I read them so I don’t remember how steamy they are, but they are worth the read.
I have others in my collection, though these are the ones I actually have read and found worth noting. I believe these are all available on , and most have Kindle versions, which don’t cost much. Hope you enjoy!!!
Best Romance Novels for Guys
People often ask, “What are some good romance novels for men?” Some guys actually do read romance—they make up about 15% of the readership, in fact. But if you’re a guy who’s never read the genre and you’re curious, or if you’re a female romance reader who would like to introduce romance to a man in your life, here are some romance recommendations for guys. Some of these are my own choices, and some of them are titles I’ve heard other people recommend for male readers.
I’m not going to put M/M on this list, even though I read and enjoy M/M and gay romance, because I feel like a gay guy would know better than me which gay and M/M romances are the best reads for guys, gay or straight. I am going to put an F/F (or lesbian) romance on the list, though!
This book actually inspired this post. It’s a little meta for a list like this, because it’s a romance that features tough guys who read romance novels. This book got a lot of buzz as a new release.
And speaking of buzz…this sports romance made everybody’s list. At the time that I’m posting this, it’s in development as a TV series! I’ve heard good things about the next book in the series, Fumbled, too.
Nora Roberts has written approximately 10,000 books, and I’d recommend any of them to a male reader. The romantic suspense category in general is a natural for guys who like thrillers. Roberts also writes as J.D. Robb.
Here’s another romantic thriller that’s gripping and well-written. It’s the first in a series, and I’m looking forward to reading the next one!
I’m recommending this one because I recommend it almost every chance I get, and because it’s basically a historical superhero story.
If you like Jason Bourne, you’ll like Joanna Bourne…or at least, you’ll like this series. This was the first one I read, and then I went back and read book one through book five.
This is the beginning of a fun, action-packed shifter series (werewolves, for those of you who don’t read a lot of paranormal romance.) I once met this author and her husband, who is (or was) in the military. I was having a very bad day, and their kindness to me made all the difference.
I have to admit that I actually bought this book because I thought it was funny that it was #1 in Amazon’s Auto Mechanics category. I imagine some other male readers came across it for that same reason. It’s really good!
A lot of guys love fantasy novels. So do I! I’d recommend this to any fantasy lover. (Here’s the complete trilogy.)
I also recommend this for fantasy or urban fantasy lovers. I’ve gotten great feedback from guys on the book because it’s action-packed and cinematic.
Is there a book you’d like to especially recommend for guys who read? Let me know in the comments—I might add it to the post! Thanks for reading, and happy writing!
10 Gay Novels You Should Read
It may not come as a surprise to you since I write for a living, but I love to read! If I’m being honest, there are days when I prefer books to people. For me, reading isn’t just a hobby or a way to kill a rainy Sunday afternoon, it’s something far more personal.
Growing up in a fairly small, conservative and economically depressed town, reading offered me an escape to places I otherwise could not go. With the flip of a page I could be whisked away to the Court of Versailles, attend classes at Hogwarts, visit Middle Earth, or travel to the far reaches of the galaxy to worlds I had never heard of.
As a teenager, books took on even greater meaning as I questioned my sexuality. I came of age in an era when there were no drag queen reality shows, before Will and Jack were making us laugh, and before playing LGBTQ roles became Oscar bait for [mostly] straight actors.
Books provided representation that was sorely lacking in the media. The less stringent censorship found in the publishing sphere allowed writers to explore a multitude of LGBTQ characters and themes through the lens of diversity.
For me, as for many LGBTQ folks, books were a source of validation and connection. They were founts of knowledge where I could learn more about LGBTQ experiences and the history of the rights movement. They provided characters I could relate to since their experiences were so much like my own.
Throughout the years, I have amassed a large collection of gay fiction from obscure to mainstream bestsellers. I have compiled a list of my 10 personal favorites which I return to time and time again. I do not argue that these novels represent the absolute best in the genre, but I believe they are novels that every gay man can connect with on a deeply emotional level.
First published in 2016, Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda centers on Simon Spier a 16-year-old closeted gay teen growing up in Atlanta, Georgia. Using the pseudonym of ‘Jacques,’ Simon begins an email romance with a fellow student he only knows as “Blue.” When Simon’s emails are discovered, he is blackmailed into helping a classmate or risk being exposed to the entire school, and lose Blue forever.
When I first read this novel, I’m not ashamed to say I was in tears by the end. While not being the most ground-breaking piece of fiction available, this novel represents a major step forward in teen genre fiction. Frankly, it is the novel I wish I had access to when I was a closeted teenager. Albertalli, a former child psychologist, has an uncanny ability to tap into the angst and fear of a closeted teenager. Simon’s parents are very liberal and progressive, yet he is terrified by the prospect of coming out to them. Simon’s struggles highlight the emotional impact and insecurities of many LGBTQ youth who fear rejection. Albertalli deserves a massive amount of credit for countering the notion that coming out is no longer a big issue.
Trivia: The novel was successfully adapted into the 2018 film Love, Simon. The film marked the first widely released teen film to feature a gay character in the starring role.
First published in 2015, A Place Called Winter follows the story of Henry Cane, a shy and stammering young man, at the dawn of the 20th century. Henry is forced by his wife’s family to flee England to avoid scandal after they discover him engaging in a sexual relationship with another man. He immigrates to Canada and is allocated a homestead in the rural village of Winter, Saskatchewan. It is in this harsh setting, a world away from his gilded life in Edwardian England, that he undertakes a stunning, violent, maddening, and moving journey of self-discovery and validation.
Gale’s meticulously researched novel is based on the mystery of his own grandfather also named Henry Cane. The real Cane, like his fictional counterpart, fled England and moved to Canada to set up a homestead. While researching his grandfather’s story, Gale discovered that the Canadian prairies were something of a gay underground railroad during the early twentieth century. Many upper-class English families cast their ‘gay’ sons out to the remote Prairies — I put gay in quotes because our connotation of gay as a sexual identity didn’t exist in this era. Ironically, many men found freedom in a homoerotic environment where there were very few women. Indeed, the all-male dances depicted in the novel were common in the prairies during this time. This novel not only contains forgotten gay history, it is also a beautifully crafted and highly emotional read — a definite page-turner.
First published in 1994, Funny Boy is the coming-of-age story of Arjun Chelvaratnam a Tamil boy struggling with his sexuality and gender identity in Sri Lanka. The story is set in the years leading up to the 1983 Sinhala-Tamil riots. The novel is divided into six interconnected stories that follow Arjun from childhood to his teenage years.
I first discovered this novel in a Canadian literature course I took in university. On the surface, it seems like a book that shouldn’t resonate with me as deeply as it does. Culturally, Arjun and I come from different worlds, yet there is a universality to Arjun’s experiences. His childhood and his sense of difference is something most gay men can connect to. He is different from the other boys and often blurs gender lines. He easily forms deep friendships with women but feels disconnected from the men around him. He also enjoys wearing his aunt’s jewellery, and wearing his mother’s makeup. These are experiences familiar to many gay men when they look back on their childhood. The central theme of the novel is the loss of innocence experienced by many LGBTQ children. Arjun’s view of the world is drastically altered as adult constructions of gender and sexuality are imposed on him. Selvadurai does a remarkable job of making Arjun such a fascinating and resilient character. He perfectly portrays the confusion, anguish, and even excitement indicative of the coming out process.
First published in 1978, Tales of the City has become a seminal piece of LGBTQ American fiction. It has inspired numerous sequels and three (soon to be four) TV mini-series. The novel, set in 1976, follows twenty-something Mary Ann Singleton who moves to San Francisco on a whim. She finds an apartment at 28 Barbary Lane owned by the eccentric, mysterious and pot growing Mrs. Anna Madrigal. Mary Ann leads a life she never expected, making friends with her fellow tenants: the bisexual Mona, the sexy and woman loving Brian, Michael “Mouse” a sweet and loving gay man, and Norman an odd and socially awkward man living in the rooftop shed. Along the way she conducts an affair with her boss, learns the shocking secret of Madrigal’s past, and finds her life changed forever.
I’ve discovered that Tales of the City is one of those novels that people either love or hate despite its frequent appearances on gay fiction lists like this one. Maupin creates a group of quirky characters that are instantaneously memorable — who wouldn’t want Anna Madrigal to be their landlord? This is a quick read with Maupin focusing on dialogue over exposition, setting a fast pace. After reading the novel for the first time, a friend of mine summed it up by calling it silly, shameless, and downright gaudy — naturally he loved it. Where Maupin really knocks it out of the park is his incorporation of San Francisco. The city is a key character and the novel beautifully captures the eccentricities of both the city and its inhabitants in the years just prior to the AIDS crisis.
First published in 1956, Giovanni’s Room was a game changer as one of the first mainstream novels in America to deal directly with queer themes. The story centers on the life of David, a young American man living in Paris who begins an affair with an Italian man, Giovanni. David, who has a girlfriend living in Spain, is struggling with his desire to lead a conventional American life — e.g. marry his girlfriend and start a family — and his sexual attraction to men. His struggle ultimately leads him down an unexpected path with tragic consequences.
Giovanni’s Room is regarded as a masterpiece within the gay genre and appears on virtually every list of must-read LGBTQ books. The novel is generally required reading in any university course dealing with queer literature. As you can imagine with its frank portrayal of same-sex love, the novel was highly controversial when it was first published. Late in his life, Baldwin describes that his publisher, Doubleday, refused to publish the novel arguing it would destroy his career. As a black writer in the pre-civil rights era, Baldwin’s management was fearful a novel about homosexual romance would ostracize both black and white communities. Baldwin, determined to get his work published, went to England and personally sold the book to Michael Joseph before Dial Press took a risk and published the book in America. Despite being over sixty years old, one thing that has always struck me about the novel is its timeless themes. Regardless of the social changes between the 50s and today, the novel is one of the most accurate portrayals of being gay in a hetero-normative world. David’s social isolation, self-loathing and ideas of masculinity are as much part of the gay experience in 2019 as they were in 1956.
Trivia: Since the 1970s, there have been frequent attempts to bring Giovanni’s Room to the big screen. Baldwin wrote a screenplay based on the novel in 1978 which has only recently been unearthed. With the recent critical success of the film If Beale Street Could Talk based on Baldwin’s novel of the same name, there is renewed talked of bringing Giovanni’s Room to the big screen.
First published in 1986, The Lost Language of Cranes centers on the lives of a father and son who are both coming to terms with their sexuality. Philip comes out to his parents after falling in love with a man for the first time. Unbeknownst to Philip, his father Owen is struggling with his own suppressed homosexuality. Philip’s coming out leads to a breaking point in his parents’ marriage and changes the direction of all of their lives forever.
I’ll admit that when I first read the novel in my early twenties, I wasn’t all that impressed by it. Yes, it was a good book but something about it failed to ‘wow’ me. It was only on a recent revisit that I really came to understand and appreciate the story Leavitt crafts. The novel is really an allegory for the history of the LGBTQ experience in the twentieth century. Philip, the young 25-year-old gay man, is more comfortable and open about his sexuality representing the newer more self-confident gay identity of the late 20th century. Owen, on the other hand, is a man who came of age in the 1950s, an age of conservative family values. He spent much of his life denying who he was and followed the hetero-normative conventions of the American dream by marrying, having a son, and leading a respectable career. The novel is an interesting spin on the classic American father-son tale in which the father traditionally acts as the guide for his wayward son.
First published in 1974, The Front Runner focuses on Harlan Brown an athletic director at Prescott College, a fictitious liberal arts college in New York City. Harlan comes to Prescott after being forced to resign from a coaching position at Pennsylvania State University, stemming from false accusations of sexual harassment made by a male student. While at Prescott, Brown is persuaded to coach three track stars who had been expelled from their home universities for being openly gay. It is during this training that Brown and one student, Billy, fall in love and start a relationship. Along the way, they must face the homophobia and hyper-masculinity found in the sports world.
The Front Runner became one of the first gay romance novels to achieve mainstream success and was a New York Times bestseller. Despite its success, the novel has become somewhat obscure, and I struggled to get a copy of it. I only became aware of this novel following the death of Patricia Nell Warren earlier this year. When I was reading the novel, I was struck by how ahead of its time it was. If it weren’t for some references to the politics of the late 60s and early 70s, its themes of same-sex parenting and gay marriage provides a very contemporary feel. Warren crafts a highly emotional story that keeps you gripped for much of the final chapters with a shocking turn of events. Like Tales of the City, Warren paints of vibrant picture of the gay community in New York City in the decade before the AIDS crisis of the 80s.
First published in 2017, The Heart’s Invisible Furies centers on the life of Cyril Avery — but not a real Avery — from conception to the end of his life. Cyril is born out of wedlock to a teenage mother in a rural Irish community. Exiled by her family and unable to raise the child on her own, Cyril’s biological mother gives him up for adoption to the eccentric Avery family. Cyril spends a lifetime coming to terms with who he is in a life that is filled with love, tragedy and humour.
At nearly 600 pages, this book is epic and stretches across much of 20th century Irish history. Yet despite this, it is a delightful, moving, and often hysterical read. It is one of those books that is very difficult to put down. With Cyril, Boyne creates an everyday man who is highly relatable and lovable. He leads a fairly underwhelming and average life despite all the extraordinary and shocking events that take place around him. His unrequited love for his best friend, Julian, is one of the underlying stories of his life, and very relatable for any gay man who has fallen for the unobtainable straight guy. Boyne is such a talented writer that aspects of the story that should be viewed as cliched are so well written, and often hilarious, you can’t help but love his choices.
First published in 2007, Call Me by Your Name centres on the romantic relationship between a seventeen-year-old Elio and his father’s twenty-four-year-old doctoral student Oliver. The novel chronicles their summer romance in Italy during the late 1980s, and briefly follows their relationship for twenty years through Elio’s first-person narration.
This novel is one of my favourites of all time. Aciman crafts such a wonderfully simple story and it is this simplicity that makes it so beautiful. At its core, it’s a story of first love with all the excitement, delight and fear that typically contains. Elio personifies many gay men’s experiences of falling in love with another man for the first time. There’s resistance, fear and exhilaration at being with someone who feels the same way you do for the first time. The novel dwells on the question of how first love defines our lives, and how we never really let that person go entirely.
Trivia: Earlier this year, Aciman confirmed a sequel to the novel will be released in October 2019 entitled Find Me.
Originally self-published in 1991 and later published in wide release in 1994, Invisible Life follows Raymond Tyler’s coming of age as he faces the realities of being black and gay. A successful law student, with a beautiful girlfriend, and a wide range of career options, his world changes when he engages in a sexual relationship with his best friend Kelvin. After graduation Raymond begins the challenge of living his life as a closeted black man. He engages in relationships with men and women before falling in love with Basil, a closeted football player for the Warriors.
This book holds a special place in my heart as it was the first gay themed book I read as a closeted teenager. I came upon this book purely by accident in my local library and read it in one evening alone in my bedroom. E. Lynn Harris, who sadly passed away unexpectedly in 2009, creates a gripping, emotional and sexy story that is a real page turner. Even today, LGBTQ fiction is dominated by white characters, so, this novel, and its subsequent sequels, gives a much-needed voice to the gay African American experience. Harris highlights the intersectional prejudice faced by many black gay men within both the white and black communities.
As I stated at the beginning, this is not a definitive list of the best gay genre novels in existence, but ones that have deep meaning for me. Did you agree with these choices? Are there books you think I should add? Please comment below!
18 very gay and very good books you should read this Pride Month
Pride Month is officially here and that can only mean one thing: time to load up your reading list with stellar queer stories.
Of course, you should be mixing gay books into your to-be-read pile no matter what time of year, but this month, as you celebrate Pride, queer books can be the perfect way to explore the breadth and diversity of the LGBTQ community.
Fortunately for anybody looking for a great gay read, the book world is filled with a bevy of queer stories of all genres.
Whether you’re looking for a meditative poetry collection about queer identity and mental health, a deep dive into the New York City’s ballroom culture in the ’80s and ’90s, a comic about a group scouts who find themselves plagued by supernatural creatures at camp, or a coming-of-age story about a shapeshifter who is navigating life and dating, there is a queer book out there for you.
Here are 18 very gay and very good books you should read this Pride Month.
You’ve never read a coming-of-age story like this. Paul Takes The Form of a Mortal Girl details the adventures of Paul Polydoris, a student in Iowa City who studies queer theory. Oh, and did we mention that Paul is a shapeshifter who can change from Paul to Polly at will. On the surface, it’s an absurd sci-fi premise, but Lawlor uses it to deftly explore gender, identity, and the way we form relationships with other people as well as with ourselves.
Joseph Cassara’s The House of Impossible Beauties takes a deep dive into New York City’s ballroom culture in the ’80s and ’90s by following a group of characters, each who enter the scene for a different reason. But what stands out about the book isn’t just the novel’s vivid portrait of the past, but also Cassara’s breathtaking and unforgettable characters who are all trying to find their way.
Andrew Greer’s 2018 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Less starts off with a character in crisis: our protagonist Arthur is a struggling novelist, feeling existential as he approaches his 50th birthday, and, to make matters worse, he’s just received an invitation to his ex-boyfriend’s wedding. Instead of despairing, Arthur says „NOPE“ and instead embarks on a haphazard literary world tour. But what sells the book is Greer’s resounding heart and humor, making this tale of romantic misadventures as funny as it is earnest.
Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit follows Joanna „Jo“ Gordon, an out teen who is suddenly pushed back into the closet when her evangelical father remarries, moves their family from Atlanta to Rome, Georgia, and asks Jo to hide her queer identity for her senior year. The only problem is Mary Carlson, the sister of Jo’s new friend in Rome, who Jo is falling for. The result is a heartfelt novel about coming out and discovering young love. Also, shout out to the infinitely charming title of this book!
You’ve probably seen explores feels universal and extremely relatable.
Under the Udala Trees is a book about star-crossed love. The novel follows the life of Ijeoma, a young girl who, at the start of the book, is sent away from her family in order to stay safe during the Nigerian civil war. While away, Ijeoma meets Amina, another girl also separated from her family. The two begin a brief relationship… only to find out that their love is forbidden. What follows is a beautiful novel about love and hardship as Ijeoma is sent home, forced into an unhappy marriage with a man, all the while grappling with her attraction to women.
Don’t forget to add a bit of poetry to your reading list this Pride Month! If you’re looking for a collection to start with, check out sam sax’s collection madness. The poems in this collection cover everything from sexuality to mental health to culture and heritage, but what shines through and connects each of these threads is sax’s incredibly thoughtful and evocative prose.
If there is a hidden gem of queer lit, it’s ReleaseMrs. Dalloway somehow feels nostalgic and charming as Patrick Ness outlines one teen’s struggle to define himself.
If the Babadook has taught us anything, it’s that Pride is not complete without a little noir. To that end, if you are looking for a darker read this month, make sure you check out Caleb Roehrig’s Last Seen Leaving. The book is a coming out story masked as a mystery thriller about Flynn, the primary suspect in an investigation when his girlfriend January disappears. Flynn’s answers about his life with January don’t quite add up… but maybe that has less to do about January and more about the secret that Flynn is keeping.
Nevada offers a thoughtful look at identity and the trans experience.
Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, and Brooke A. Allen
If you’re looking for some comics to check out this Pride month, be sure to check out Lumberjanes the perfect Pride Month read.
Fun Home is a graphic memoir about coming out and finding love, centered around two people. The book documents Alison Bechdel (who also came up with the Bechdel test), her experience exploring her attraction to women, and the way that her father resisted her identity. But, after Alison’s father is hit by a car and killed, she reflects on his past and realizes that he may have had his own struggles with his sexual identity.
To read Alexander Chee’s essay collection How To Write An Autobiographical Novel is to stand in a hall of mirrors, watching as a single person, and all of the identites that compose them, is reflected from all angles. The essay collection is a deep dive into Chee’s past as he documents his expereinces as a gay rights and HIV/AIDS activist, a rose gardener, a writer, and more. But at the core, the book explores how we use writing to shape who we are and how who we are shapes our writing.
As the title probably suggests, They Both Die At The End is not what we could a „happy“ book. The novel follows a day in the life of two boys, Mateo and Rufus, who get early morning calls from Death-Cast telling them that today is the day that they’re going to die. Though initially strangers, Mateo and Rufus are soon brought together through the Last Friend app, a social network that connects people on their last day alive. But as Mateo and Rufus embark on a quest to check items off their bucket list while they still have time, their friendship grows into something more, ultimately exploring what happens when we fall in love with someone we know we only will have a very limited time with.
Sometimes all you need is a good friend. And that’s where You Know Me Well reveals how our friends can become our greatest lifeline.
The Argonauts radiates with stunning observations about being queer and in love, making the memoir feel less like a book and more like the perfect rendering of a person’s heart on a page.
Fair warning up front: Don’t Call Us Dead is a devastating poetry collection. But this book is as beautiful as it is painfully raw. Throughout the collection, Smith writes about race, queer identity, and AIDS, with an electrifying amount of passion and care, making this book a must-read for Pride Month.
You may know Becky Albertalli for her novel Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda reveals that Leah is struggling with her identity too: she’s bisexual and working to muster the courage to come out to her friends. But as Leah navigates her senior year of high school, she realizes that she may love one her friends more than anyone else might expect.
Must-Read YA Books Featuring Gay Protagonists
To celebrate pride month we have LOTS of LGBTQ+ reading recommendations for you! A few weeks ago, we asked the community what books they’d recommend using the hashtag #YAPride. We had an amazing conversation about why LGBTQ+ rep is important, books that prominently feature LGBTQ+ characters, and which YA books have positively affected the LGBTQ+ community. We were so inspired by all your responses and decided to compile this list of must-read YA books featuring LGBTQ+ characters. We hope this list continues to grow each year so let us know which other books you’d like to see featured on this list!Keep scrolling for a written out list with descriptions for each book!
35 Fantastic LGBT Books to Read This Pride Month
Celebrate Pride with inspiring picks from a variety of genres.
During Pride month every June, a lot of attention turns to LGBTQ culture, including its artists, creators, authors. For 30 days, virtually every product you can buy comes in a rainbow motif, TV commercials for everything from beverages to cars trumpet their company’s support of the LGBTQ community, and we see stories about LGBTQ people splashed across the media. But the community doesn’t just emerge once a year. Increased visibility during Pride month shouldn’t serve as an annual check-in, but a starting point to expand what your media consumption looks like all year long.
These books by gay authors and LGBTQ writers and books with gay characters show us that our literary journeys can be as beautifully diverse as the world we live in. And just like the rest of the literary canon, LGBTQ books come in all shapes, sizes, and genres. romance novels, humor, young adult and middle grade fiction, old stand-by classics, new releases, and of course, literary fiction and memoir are all represented in this list of must-reads. Add them all to your own pile of all the best books or pick up a few as a great gift for the book-lover in your life.
In a novel that has resonated with the queer community since it was first published decades ago, a young man finds himself caught between desire and morality in 1950s expat Paris. While much has changed since Baldwin wrote it, many aspects of life, love, and heartbreak remain the same.
Molly Bolt is the adoptive daughter of a poor Southern couple who makes her own way across America, finding love of all stripes in between. This steamy novel proudly describes the author’s love for the female anatomy as well as love, full-stop. It’s a true celebration of being true to yourself, whoever that may be.
This steamy novel was written in 1913, but not published until after Forster’s death in 1971. The title character meets and falls in love with Clive while at school — though Clive eventually leaves his lover and gets married to a woman. But then, Maurice falls in love with another man. You’ll have to read it to find out if everyone lives happily ever after.
This hysterical read is all about self-discovery, sexual awakening, and how a bad relationship can push you to learn about yourself. It’s honest, revelatory, and definitely NSFW so maybe don’t share it with the kids.
Walker’s masterpiece about the love between women isn’t just an LGBT classic, it’s a must-read book in just about every way. Made into a major motion picture, this National Book and Pulitzer Prize-winner follows the story of two sisters living very different lives and the unbreakable bond between them, even through impossible circumstances.
Take a trip into the underground world of gay hustlers, drag queens, and sex workers in this book that scandalized the literary world when it first came out but went on to become a classic. It’s inspired musicians like the Doors and earned the author comparisons to authors like Kerouac, so if you like either of those, pick this one up.
This stunning memoir plays with structure and form as it takes us through an abusive relationship and what that does to a person. In a world where many people still believe abuse only occurs when a man is involved, Machado’s work is essential.
The introduction to this amazing novel reads, „I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day of January 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.“ This intersex coming-of-age story has received some criticism, but it’s undoubtedly one of the landmarks of queer literature.
Many times, our world focuses on stringent labels: What we call ourselves, how we identify, and what those labels mean. In this maze-like book that has more layers than grandma’s yellow cake, Oyeyemi explores the idea of keys and locks and how we interpret them. Like all of her work, it’s delightfully strange and totally absorbing.
A chance meeting, an illicit romance, and the freedom of the open road — this classic has it all. That is, until one of the women is forced to choose between her lover and her child. Grab the tissues before picking up this suspenseful LGBT book. If you didn’t think a thrilling story could also tug at your heartstrings, this will change your mind.
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, this poetic exploration of fatherhood, blackness, identity, and what freedom really costs cuts right to the core of a national reckoning that’s long past due. Even if you don’t generally read poetry, Brown’s is an excellent place to start.
Seventeen-year-old Leda arrives in Bueno Aires in 1913 with just a suitcase and her father’s cherished violin. But when she arrives, she discovers the husband she traveled there to reach is dead. What follows is a love story with tango and with an authenticity she discovers through it all.
This young adult book has won several awards for good reason: It’s a breathtaking account of two young boys of color who fall in love, despite it all. This star-crossed lover story is great for older kids and young adults, but adults will find lots to enjoy here, too.
Madden grew up the only child of parents who were too involved in their own struggles to give her the support she needed, so she found her tribe with a group of girls in her hometown of Boca Raton, Florida. This story grapples with the dichotomies of privilege and isolation, coming to her own queerness and biracial identity, and how friendship can mean salvation.
The first in a series that sparked a popular TV show (and a remake!) this is the story of the goings-on in an apartment at San Francisco’s 28 Barbary Lane. If you missed the TV series the first time around, check out the book to acquaint yourself or fall back in love by giving it a read.
For anyone who has ever grappled with the complexities of sexual orientation within a religious context, this coming-out novel will feel familiar. The evangelical Jeanette considers herself one of God’s children, but when she discovers her sexuality, it throws a wrench into her family’s plans for her.
After Maggie’s mother dies unexpectedly, she returns home to California to deal with the aftermath. But what she finds is a collection of sealed letters her homophobic mom wrote to her apparent lovers. When Maggie sets out to deliver them, she learns a lot about her parents‘ relationship, her late mom, and her own misconceptions.
Comedian Klein grew up as both a late-bloomer and a tomboy, a situation that led to some awkward encounters. In this hilarious yet touching memoir, she recounts her experience coming of age in a world that didn’t seem made for her, in a series of stories that many of us can definitely understand.
If you read this classic about a man who doesn’t age while his hidden portrait gets older and older and missed the gay subtext, it’s time to give Wilde’s story another read. Maybe one of the most subtly LGBT books on this list, you’ll catch the references the second time around.
This memoir by a trans artist and activist from the Philippines charts a journey that travels many different areas of her life, through her childhood and into her life as a Harvard student. It reminds us that transition isn’t a monolith in essays that will transport you.
Don’t sleep on this fiercely funny, sharply poignant graphic novel of a dysfunctional family and a daughter who just wants her dad. Bechdel’s clan is led by a father who’s part funeral director, part English teacher, part historian and as it turns out, has some illicit partners. Once you read this powerful story, you’ll understand how it became a popular Broadway show.
As a kid, Jacob was called „sissy“ for being creative, sassy, and obsessed with glitter. But as they got older, they began to identify with different, more neutral words like „gay,“ „transgender,“ and „nonbinary.“ This story of gender revolution calls out the stereotypes that were probably rampant in many of our childhoods in a book that will make you laugh and cry, maybe even at the same time.
A young Irish woman living in Hong Kong gets mixed up in love a triangle with a wealthy man and woman who seem to have it all. But you know what they say about buying love. Romance fans will eat this one up.
After getting displaced by civil war in Nigeria, a young girl begins a love affair with a fellow refugee. The cards are stacked against them in a variety of ways: They’re from different cultures, different places, and they’re the same gender. The way this book reckons with both culture and sexuality is beautiful, and worth a read.
Drawing on the life of Virginia Woolf, Cunningham weaves several stories together to paint a rich tapestry of characters struggling to meet the demands of friends, lovers, and family. This extraordinary book will resonate with anyone who’s ever had to juggle multiple roles at once, especially when they conflict with one another.
After a young girl admits her queerness to her mother, she’s told „You exist too much,“ a sentiment that cuts right to the heart of so many of us. Told in stories that shuttle back and forth between the Middle East and the U.S., this book follows its protagonist as she pushes the limits of desire. It’s the kind of book that needs to exist more.
This modern retelling of the Cinderella story explores what happens when a young girl must choose between dreams and reality, true love and the safety of solitude. While it was originally written for younger readers, it rings true to adults as well, in the same way we all return to our favorite bedtime stories.
Part laugh-out-loud memoir, part cultural criticism, this new release from an Elle columnist is as delicious as its eye-catching cover. Let Thomas open your eyes to what it’s like being a queer person in America right now. You’ll never close them again.
The title of this one says it all. McBride became the first transgender person to ever speak in front of a national political convention at the age of 26, but that doesn’t mean her transition has been easy. This book weaves her personal journey with the steps the country has taken toward trans acceptance in a memoir that’s both deeply individual and a primer on national civil rights.
Kentucky native Katie has a deep-seated set of traditional values, but she’s just been dumped by her fiance and is still smarting. Cassidy is a powerful, self-assured New York native and Katie finds her irresistibly sexy. This rom-com flips the script on your favorite tropes, while still following them in ways that are as comfortable as an old pair of pjs.
Our Favourite Gay Romance Novels To Remind Us: Love is Love! ?
It can be tricky, sometimes, though, to find a gay romance novel to read that portrays gay love in all its many aspects. That’s why we’ve brought together a list of some of the best books about gay romance that reminds us of the universal nature of love.
Many of our favorite novels have been turned into films, which then because our favorite gay coming out movies and gay comedy movies – in case even the idea of reading a whole book makes you yawn.
But, in our humble opinion, there is nothing quite like a good book and your imagination – So let’s get reading!
Our Favourite Gay Romance Novels To Remind Us: Love is Love! ?
Our Favourite Gay Romance Novels To Remind Us: Love is Love! ?Call Me By Your Name (André Aciman)On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous (Ocean Vuong) A Single Man (Christopher Isherwood) A Gentleman’s Position (K.J. Charles) For Real (Alexis Hall) Captive Prince (C.S. Pacat) Brokeback Mountain (Annie Proulx) The Men From The Boys (William J. Mann) Maurice (E.M. Forster) Beijing Comrades (Bei Tong) Inertia (Amelia C. Gormley) Find Me (Andre Aciman)Days Without End (Sebastian Barry)
7 Must-Read Gay Werewolf Books
Anyone who regularly reads paranormal and werewolf romances knows there are a lot of common tropes. The Fated Mate trope (one of my favorites), Forbidden Romance trope, the Alpha Male trope—too many to list. And tropes can get old after awhile, right? Especially if there isn’t a twist to them. Well, sometimes. A trope isn’t old when used by a community that doesn’t generally get to participate in the story type. To them, it’s still new. So here, I looked at gay werewolf books in romance, especially those stories written by members of the LGBTQ+ community.
I’ll be honest, it was a bit of a struggle. A lot of these story types are written by straight women (that I haven’t been able to confirm as queer). Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but, well, it’s nice to hear a story about people like you coming from someone who has lived experiences like yours. Why most of the gay werewolf romances I came across were written by straight-presenting women I don’t know. It could be a variety of reasons, like this just being a niche taste and hasn’t had the chance to be inundated with queer writers yet.
Maybe, as #PublishingPaidMe showed, queer writers just aren’t getting the publishing resources needed and so these stories are currently shelved, waiting to find a home. Maybe other reasons that I’m not gonna list here because there’s a lot of them, but I digress. Here’s some of the best gay werewolf books for romance readers that I’ve come across.
The 20 Best Romance Novels to Get You in the Mood
Light some candles and settle in for a steamy read.
Light some candles, unwrap a couple chocolates, slip into something silky, and get ready to turn up the heat with some of the best romance novels on shelves. With both old-standby classics (If you haven’t read Pride and Prejudice , what are you waiting for?) and brand-new reads (don’t sleep on Isabel Allende’s latest), there’s a little something for everyone on our list (and don’t forget to browse our guide to the best books of 2020 too).
Whether you get all hot and bothered over historical romance that takes you back to fluttering hearts of yore, paranormal romance that proves you don’t need to have flesh and blood to heat things up, heartwarming tales that explore the tender side of love, and of course sexy stories you might not want to read on public transit, we’ve got books to make you blush. And if you don’t think you’re interested in romance, give this list a look anyway. The romance genre has a lot to offer beyond the bodice-rippers you may have seen hiding in your mom’s bedside table growing up. Alongside the love stories you’ve come to expect, many of our favorite romances also feature strong plotlines, diverse characters, LGBTQ+ love stories, and beautiful language that keeps us hooked in right through the final page.
New to Boston, small-town girl Lily manages to get gorgeous neurosurgeon Ryle Kincaid to break his „no dating“ rule. But his stubborn ways make her wonder where that aversion came from. And when an old flame resurfaces, everything she has with Ryle is suddenly thrown into question.
You really can’t go wrong with any of Jasmine Guillory’s fun, romantic romps, but this Reese’s Book Club pick is especially great. Freelance writer Nik’s boyfriend proposes at a Dodger’s game, and the dude can’t even spell her name right. She says no (duh), and the video goes viral. Handsome doctor Carlos sweeps her away from the frenzy, but he can’t possibly be the real deal. Or can he?
RELATED: The 50 Best Romantic Comedies of All Time to Watch With Your Friends
If you’ve ever carried a torch for a coworker (the scandal!) this 2016 novel will speak to you. Ccoworkers Lucy Hutton and her sworn nemesis Joshua Templeman have a rivalry as bitter as they come, especially as they compete for the same promotion. At least, it starts out that way.
The prolific Nora Roberts has penned more than 200 romance novels, but this one earned top marks from her fans as the first installment in The Bride Quartet. Wedding photographer Mackensie „Mac“ Elliot operates a wedding planning company with three friends. When a day on the job introduces her to sweet and stable English teacher Carter Maguire, their casual fling might lead to her own happy ending.
RELATED: The 25 Best Romantic Movies on Netflix to Put You in the Mood for Love
Abby Abernathy swears she’s going to leave her dark past behind her when she goes to college, becoming the consummate good girl. But all of her best intentions are challenged by tattooed campus bad boy Travis Maddox, who tricks Abby into a month-long bet. The stakes turn out to be higher than either of them realize.
If you’ve never read this 900-plus-page Civil War saga (or watched the four-hour movie), it’s never too late. Scarlett O’Hara, her „perfect knight“ Ashley Wilkes, and the scandalous yet dashing Rhett Butler stand the test of time. Readers have devoured more than 30 million copies of this Pulitzer Prize winner since 1936 and once you dive in, you’ll understand why.
This brand new read from romance titan Isabel Allende follows pregnant widow Roser and her deceased lover’s brother, Victor as they flee fascist Spain aboard a ship chartered by the poet Pablo Neruda. As they start over in Chile, the two face trials and tribulations, but hope (and each other) keeps them strong.
This 1813 book is so old, it’s free if you have a Kindle! And you should definitely take advantage of that – it’s basically the O.G. romance novel. If you’re already a Jane Austen stan, check out Curtis Sittenfeld’s reinterpretation , which sets Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy in modern-day Cincinnati.
This sweeping multigenerational tale of life on a sheep station in the Outback often gets described as „an Australian Gone With the Wind,“ so if you love that classic, try this one on for size. The romance primarily focuses on an illicit affair between Maggie, a resident on the remote ranch, and a handsome priest.
Before it became an epic costume drama on Starz, this time-traveling romance novel introduced the world to Claire Randall, a former British combat nurse, and her Scottish warrior love interest … who’s living in 1743. This one’s got it all: time travel, danger, intrigue, and of course, plenty of passionate love.
If you’ve never read Anaïs Nin and call yourself a romance fan, fix that right now. This short story collection was written in the 1940s, and its romantic erotic themes still hold up. But don’t take our word for it.
You may have already seen the film starring Timothee Chalamet, but this steamy love story between two young men in the Italian Riviera is worth a read either way. Pro tip: Grab a juicy peach before you crack the spine. Just trust us.
If you like your romance in multiple installments, try the Crossfire series. Big city newbie Eva Tramell literally falls at the feet of billionaire tycoon Gideon Cross, kickstarting a steamy romance that reveals secrets from both their dark pasts. Sound familiar? There’s a reason one Amazon reviewer called it the „soap opera version of .“
What happens when you fall in love with someone who lives on a totally different timeline? That’s the story for Henry DeTamble, a librarian who gets unstuck in time, and Clare Abshire, an artist whose life progresses the conventional way. This romantic tale is as unique as it is beautiful.
They say you never forget your first love. Test that theory by taking a trip down memory lane with Eleanor and Park, two lovestruck misfit teens in 1986. They’re smart enough to know young love never lasts, but brave enough to try.
This 1847 classic tells the tale of courageous governess and heroine Jane Eyre and her brooding employer with a terrible secret, Mr. Rochester. Groundbreaking for its time, the first-person narrative set a new standard for what romance could be — no wonder readers still love it more than 170 years later.
Eliza co-owns a jewelry shop with her sister, and accidentally Instagrams herself wearing a diamond ring on you-know-which finger. The photo blows up, and she realizes even a fake engagement is good for the ol‘ bottom line. But then she meets Blake. He’s great, except for one thing: Blake doesn’t know about her ruse, and Eliza doesn’t know how much longer she can keep it all up.
Say it ain’t so, but we first watched *that* rain scene 15 years ago. Revisit Noah and Allie in the 1996 book about a South Carolina socialite separated from her summer love before their letters (and later notebooks) bring them back together.
Native Kentuckian Katie has just been dumped by her fiance when she finds herself across the bargaining table from Cassidy, a New Yorker in a power suit. At first, Katie’s not sure how to read Cassidy, until a chance meeting finds them both at a local lesbian bar. It opens Katie’s heart and mind to new possibilities, ones in which Cassidy might just play a starring role.
More nerdy storylines for the win! In this novel from Helen Hoang, Stella Lane is the genius mathematician who puts herself in remedial romance — by hiring escort Michael Phan to teach her the ins and outs of sex. We consider it the perfect equation for a great read.
Best 24 LGBTQ books of 2019, according to Lambda Literary
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From memoirsyoung adult novels, 2019 brought with it a bounty of books published by LGBTQ authors. If you want to get into reading one of them but feel intimidated by the onslaught of options, don’t fret. Lambda Literary, the premier organization promoting the development of emerging queer writers, recently relased its annual list of Lammy Award Recipients.
The foundation has been issuing the awards since 1987. This year, 24 books earned Lammy awards, spanning distinct categories ranging from transgender poetry to lesbian romance. William Johnson, deputy director of Lambda Literary, explains Lammy Award categories could change depending on which books readers nominate.
“A lot of the categories are submitted by the community, which is how we can track trends throughout the years,” Johnson told NBC News. “Humor used to be a category, but now it’s no longer, and we’re finding that the number of young adult books has been exploding each year, so there’s a lot more to select from.”
Johnson added that each category is judged by a panel of three or so authors who write in the same genre they judge.
“Queer writers are changing the master narrative,” Johnson said, adding that as a result, more mainstream media organizations have been taking note of LGBTQ authors’ contributions. “But at Lambda Literary we continue to provide a platform for the truly transgressive and outsider voices because highlighting these voices can help readers feel less alone.”
As 2019 closes, here are Lambda Literary’s awardees — a list that denotes some of the most impactful, provocative LGBTQ literature of the past year, according to the foundation.
You don’t have to be a young adult to love young adult fiction.
Whether you’re the age of a young adult fiction protagonist, or well past your high school years, these novels about gay characters will draw you in and keep you turning the pages.
So here are 10 of the best gay YA novels you’ll love no matter what!
1) True Letters from a Fictional Life by Kenneth Logan
James fits into his small Vermont town. He’s a star athlete, a decent student, and boyfriend to Theresa. But James has been filling his desk drawers with letters to everyone in his life—letters he doesn’t want to send. In the letters he tells the truth: it isn’t Theresa who lingers in his thoughts. It’s a boy.
4) Draw the Line by Laurent Linn
Draw the Line is a graphic novel that follows Adrian. Adrian is good at blending into the background. He’s a sci-fi geek, a talented artist, and gay—which aren’t traits he wants to highlight in his Texas high school. Instead, he expresses himself through his own secret superhero world and his character Graphite. When a hate crime flips Adrian’s world upside down, Adrian has to decide what kind of person he wants to be, and what he’s willing to stand up for.
5) You Know Me Well by David Levithan and Nina LaCour
Two of LGBT YA fiction’s biggest authors teamed up for this story where a gay guy and lesbian girl are given equal weight. Mark’s in love with his best friend, and Katie has just bailed on the chance to meet the girl she’s fallen for from a distance. The two classmates who were once strangers come together to work through their love lives.
6) We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson
We Are the Ants tells the story of Henry, a boy with the power to save the world—but who isn’t quite sure if he wants to. Henry’s family is falling apart, his boyfriend is dead, and aliens have placed the weight of the world on his shoulders. When he meets Diego Vega, an artist with a secret past, he decides the world might just be worth saving after all. But first, he has to save himself.
9) A Safe Place With You by César L. Baquerizo
In Ecuador, the Grow And Live Normally clinic treats homosexuality as an addiction. The book, inspired by true events, follows Tomás Díaz as he tries to survive the clinic and an era of ignorance and hatred with his newfound friends.
10) Tagged Out by Joyce Grant
When all-star player Jock joins the inner-city Toronto Blues baseball team, it looks like they may be able to turn the lousy season around. But when a rival rich kid team, the Pirates, finds out Jock is gay, they ambush Jock and Nash, and Nash has to decide if he’s willing to stand by his teammate.
The Best Classic LGBTQ+ Novels
Recently, Alan Hollinghurst said the gay novel is dead. “There was an urgency, a novelty to the whole thing,” said the gay authorThe Line of Beauty. “And in our culture at least those things are no longer the case.” With all due respect to Hollinghurst, it is still an urgent time to write (and read) about LGBTQ+ lives. Queer people face dangerous and deadly challenges — both in the United States and abroad — and it falls on writers to continue to bring these stories to light.
To this end, The Advocate asked the fiction nominees of the 2019 Lambda Literary Awards to nominate the best LGBTQ+ novels of all time. Oureditors then added our own selections. Spanning from the 19th century to the present day, these books demonstrate that, while much has changed for LGBTQ+ people, many struggles persist. Their words have much to offer in lessons about our history, our shared experience of being otherized, and how to address the challenges of today.
Below, see The Advocate’s ranking of the best LGBTQ+ novels ever written. Nominate your own favorites in the comments.
1. Giovanni’s Room, by James Baldwin
Author Chavisa Woods is far from alone when calling Giovanni’s Room “masterfully written, heartbreaking.” It’s a book that has resonated with so many queer people since first being published in 1956, speaking to issues of identity even now. Woods, a Lambda :Literary Award nominee for her novel Things to Do When You’re Goth in the Country, says Baldwin succeeded at “blurring the lines of hero and villain and bringing the complexity of human nature into horrifying focus.” Maybe that’s because Baldwin said the book isn’t actually about being gay. “Giovanni’s Room is not really about homosexuality,” said Baldwin in a 1980 interview about queer life. “It’s the vehicle through which the book moves. Go Tell It on the Mountain, for example, is not about a church, and Giovanni is not really about homosexuality. It’s about what happens to you if you’re afraid to love anybody.”
3. The Price of Salt, by Patricia Highsmith
On the heels of her successful debut novel Strangers on a Train (with its own intimations of queerness), an encounter Patricia Highsmith had with a New Jersey socialite while working at a shopgirl at a department store became the seed for 1952’s The Price of Salt. The result, which Highsmith’s publisher forced her to publish under the pseudonym Claire Morgan at a time when a bold depiction of desire between women that eschewed the requisite tragic ending for those who transgressed could have tanked her career, would become that rare example of a lesbian-themed novel with what would prove to be a radically hopeful ending.
„A novel that is simultaneously of its time and timeless, and it holds the distinction of being the first of its kind to have a happy ending,“ Yolanda Wallace said of the novel. SJ Sindu, author of Marriage of a Thousand Lies, called it, „One of the first Anglophone works to challenge the trope of the sad/suicidal gays who die at the end, this book gave us a blueprint of what queer fiction could look like.“
The Price of Salt’s dizzyingly erotically charged prose also telegraphed her signature sense of an ominous „menace“ (in this case, the threat of being caught or found out just as the Red Scare hit the United States). Highsmith went on to write more queer-tinged fiction, including The Talented Mr. Ripley and all of the Ripley novels to follow.
The Price of Salt, of course, became the critically acclaimed Todd Haynes-helmed 2015 film Carol ,starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara.
5. Maurice, by E.M. Forster
Although the great E.M. Forster (A Passage to India, A Room With a View, Howards End) wrote the benchmark gay novel Maurice circa 1913, it was published posthumously in 1971.
In a lush tale of manners, position, and desire, the titular character meets and falls for his classmate Clive while at Oxford. The pair embark on a two-year affair until Clive leaves Maurice to marry a woman and live out his proscribed life as part of the landed gentry, leaving Maurice in shambles and seeking to cure his homosexuality.
But Forster’s novel does not end in gay tragedy. Maurice falls in love with another man, Alec Scudder, and finally abandons his station so that they can be together. The author of Night Drop, Marshall Thornton called the novel „the original gay romance.“ A note found on Forster’s manuscript for Maurice, which was discovered tucked in a drawer, read “Publishable, but worth it?” Ismail Merchant and James Ivory adapted the novel to the big screen in a gorgeous film starring James Wilby, Hugh Grant, and Rupert Graves.
7. The Line of Beauty, by Alan Hollinghurst
Alan Hollinghurst famously questioned the future of the gay novel this year, which is striking since he’s often viewed as helping make queer books accessible to a mainstream audience. His 2004 novel broke through in a major way — The Line of Beauty won that year’s prestigious Man Booker Prize for fiction.
Hollinghurt was praised for his expert command of the English language and his flawless re-creation of upper-class British society and conservative political circles of the 1980s. Hollinghurst set his pen on the sexual hypocrisies of homophobic politicians, many of whom had their own indiscretions behind closed doors. The book follows Nick Guest, a gay graduate student unofficially adopted by the family of a schoolmate. Nick gets a sneak peek at the aristocracy, while indulging in no shortage of sex and party favors; the fun comes to a crashing halt as AIDS enters the fray. Amid all the human drama, there’s an amusing and memorable cameo from the Iron Lady. „Captures a vitally important era in lovely prose“ is how Night Drop’s Marshall Thornton describes Hollinghurst’s most acclaimed book.
8. Rubyfruit Jungle, by Rita Mae Brown
Many queer female writers see Rita Mae Brown’s 1973 coming-of-age book as an iconic work of LGBT literature: „[I love Rubyfruit Jungle] because, well, because. I think this was the first ‚lesbian‘ book I ever read! And devoured. And loved,“ writes The Year of Needy Girls‘ Patricia Smith. Yolanda Wallace, author of Tailor-Made, tells us, „When I was a teenager questioning my sexuality, this book provided the answers I was looking for.“
Semi-autobiographical, Rubyfruit Jungle follows Molly Bolt’s amorous adventures from childhood to adulthood, including a stint in swinging New York City. While Molly has sexual adventures with men, her true love is women, and Brown never shies away from describing Molly’s insatiable passion for the ladies (the title perfectly captures Molly’s zeal for female anatomy). Now assigned in many queer literature courses, Rubyfruit Jungle is brazen and brave; its frank discussion of lesbian sexuality can seem shocking to modern readers who imagine life in the early 1970s was less raunchy. Rubyfruit Jungle is a page-turning reminder that queer lust and queer sex are timeless.
9. Zami, by Audre Lorde
„She calls it a biomythography and leads us through a heart-wrenching account of the black lesbian experience.“ – SJ Sindu, Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction Winner
This 1982 autobiography by the iconic queer black poet Audre Lorde is an experience of intersectionality, in a genre of intersections. Lorde classified it as biomythography, which combines history, biography, and myth.
A fierce love letter to the strength women have given her throughout her upbringing, the book explores her challenges growing up blind in 1930s Harlem, fighting for dignity in the heat of Jim Crow, and finding a voice in the New York City lesbian bar scene.
While books like The Price of Salt show lesbians walking away from motherhood, Zami celebrates the beauty of when mothers stay through the harshest of challenges.
11. The City and the Pillar, by Gore Vidal
The City and the Pillar shocked America when it was released in 1948. The queer coming-of-age novel about Jim Willard and his search for love was the first novel from a respected writer (Gore Vidal) to speak directly and sympathetically about the gay experience in an era when homosexuality was still very much taboo. The book is remembered today for this legacy as well as for various themes — Hollywood’s glass closet, being gay in the military, the poisonous effects of homophobia on society — that still reverberate today.
12. The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde
The only novel by the great Oscar Wilde may not be overtly gay, but there’s plenty of gay subtext there for the careful reader – about as much gay subtext as a popular author could get away with in 1891.
Dorian’s friends Basil Hallward and Lord Henry Wotton express intense admiration for his beauty, and passages that show Basil’s feelings for Dorian as more clearly homoerotic were excised by an editor, according to Nicholas Frankel, who edited an edition presenting Wilde’s original text in 2011.
Even the text as originally published has references to Dorian’s corruption of not only young women but young men: “There was that wretched boy in the Guards who committed suicide. You were his great friend,” Basil tells Dorian at one point. “There was Sir Henry Ashton, who had to leave England, with a tarnished name. You and he were inseparable.” “At the Wilde trials of 1895, the opposing attorneys read aloud from ‘Dorian Gray,’ calling it a ‘sodomitical’ book,” Alex Ross wrote in The New Yorker in 2011. “Wilde went to prison not because he loved young men but because he flaunted that love, and ‘Dorian Gray’ became the chief exhibit of his shamelessness.”
13. City of Night by John Rechy
City of Night, a 1963 novel by John Rechy, is a seminal piece of fiction that follows the life of a gay hustler in New York City, Los Angeles, New Orleans, and San Francisco. Through stream-of-consciousness narration, the reader gets a glimpse of queer life in mid-century America, with a long and fascinating cast of characters that includes drag performers, S&M practitioners, and sex workers. The book has inspired music from the Doors as well as a film by Gus Van Sant, My Own Private Idaho. „This epic chronicle of gay culture in the American sixties is as far-reaching as it is important, giving us a glimpse into identity and motive,” affirmed SJ Sindu, the author of Marriage of a Thousand Lies.
14. Stone Butch Blues, by Leslie Feinberg
Well ahead of its time, Leslie Feinberg’s 1993 Stone Butch Blues, about Jess Goldberg, a butch working-class lesbian, took massive strides in breaking down the gender binary. A story that is both hopeful in Jess’s determination to forge an identity and heartrending in its depiction of violence against her for her daring to be herself, Stone Butch Blues endures as essential to the queer canon. Feinberg, whose bio reads “writer and transgender activist,” would in later years become known more for activism, but the landmark novel about Jess’s refusal to fit into a prescribed box for gender is arguably Feinberg’s legacy.
15. Tales of the City, by Armistead Maupin
Gay literature was forever changed the day Mary Ann Singleton first met her transgender landlady, Anna Madrigal, when she moved to San Francisco’s 28 Barbary Lane. What began as serialized stories in the San Francisco Chronicle by writer Armistead Maupin became a 1978 novel. It was followed by a Tales of the City series of books, which chronicled decades of queer life in the Golden Gate City, including the AIDS crisis. Tales of the City was adapted in 1993 into a PBS television miniseries, which starred Laura Linney and Olympia Dukakis. The pair are set to reprise their roles in an upcoming Netflix adaptation, proving the enduring power of Maupin’s words.
16. A Boy’s Own Story, by Edmund White
A Boy’s Own Story is comparable to another literary classic, J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. The 1982 book by Edmund White, which begins with the first sexual encounter of a 15-year-old boy, is based on his own experiences coming to terms with his gay identity as a youth in the Midwestern United States. White would later write two additional novels, The Beautiful Room Is Empty (1988) and The Farewell Symphony (1997), which follow his gay protagonist into young adulthood. Together, they form a poignant trilogy that chronicles a gay life in the latter half of the 20th century.
17. Well of Loneliness, by Radclyffe Hall
Integral to the lesbian canon (despite its being considered somewhat problematic) British writer Radclyffe Hall’s 1928 novel focuses on Stephen Gordon, an upper-class lesbian who dons men’s clothing and becomes a novelist who eventually becomes a part of a literary salon in Paris at a time when there were no overt laws expressly barring homosexuality. Hall’s novel was groundbreaking in her introduction of the views of “sexologists” Richard von Krafft-Ebing and Havelock Ellis, who posited that homosexuality was an inborn, unalterable trait that was considered a congenital sexual inversion that simply meant a “difference” and not a defect. The novel also stood trial on obscenity charges both in the United Kingdom where the book was deemed obscene and ordered destroyed, and in the United States, where it was eventually banned.