28 Must-Read LGBTQ Books

Thought-provoking stories by renowned LGBTQ authors.

lgbtq books

These eye-opening LGBTQ books, both fiction and nonfiction, brush on topics relevant to all walks of life: identity, morality, social justice, and self-acceptance. But no matter the story they tell, each one reminds us that at the end of the day, we're all human—and we're more alike than we are different.

Is LGBTQ a genre in books?

While many books with queer characters or themes are labeled as LGBTQ, it is not a separate genre. This is because any genre or kind of book, be it science fiction, mystery, literary fiction, or nonfiction, can also be an LGBTQ book. 

From brutally honest and beautiful memoirs to classic works of queer literature to modern works that give queer characters some well-deserved happy endings, each book on this list is well worth reading.

Related: LGBT Authors to Read Year-Round

Modern LGBTQ+ Books

Young Mungo

Young Mungo

By Douglas Stuart

An incredibly atmospheric queer historical fiction, Young Mungo centers around, well, young Mungo. Both he and the man he eventually falls in love with, James, grew up in Glasgow–Mungo a Protestant and James a Catholic. Against all odds, the two become best friends as they bond over James’ pigeon dovecote that he built for his prize racing birds. 

As they fall in love, they dream about finding a place of their own. But Mungo must be careful who he reveals himself to, as his brother Hamish is a local gang leader with a harsh reputation. When Mungo’s mother eventually whisks him away on a fishing trip in Western Scotland with two strange drunks with murky pasts, Mungo will need to overcome it all in order to get back to a place of safety where he and James may still have a future. 



By Helen Macdonald, Sin Blaché

A thrilling page-turner steeped in science fiction, Prophet details the investigation led by Sunil Rao, an unpredictable former agent, and his partner Colonel Adam Rubenstein, your typical military man. But they’re not investigating a person–they’re investigating a weapon. 

Prophet deploys your happiest memories as their deadliest weapons. An All-American diner materializes in a remote British field overnight. It’s quite literally a memory come to life; there’s no water or connection to the real world, but it’s bright, warm, and inviting. But as more objects appear–toys, fairground rides, pets–the more quickly deaths follow. 

Something is bringing these memories to life and then killing people with their own joy. But no one knows who created it or why. But Sunil has the uncanny ability to distinguish truth from lies; and Adam is the only person who really knows him. And as they take on this strange new reality, they are drawn closer than ever in their attempts to defend what they care most about. 

And Then He Sang a Lullaby

And Then He Sang a Lullaby

By Ani Kayode

And Then He Sang a Lullaby is a powerful debut novel from a Nigerian queer liberation activist–and his story explores exactly that. In it, we meet August: a God-fearing track star who is just starting university. Running from his sister’s high expectations, the shame of facing himself, and the memories of a mother he never knew, his first semester is actually going surprisingly well. 

But he can’t stop thinking about Segun, an openly gay student who works at the cybercafe. Segun has his own burdens, but he can’t deny their connection either. Despite their qualms, the two try at a relationship; but Segun can only hide their love behind closed doors for so long. And everything gets worse when Nigeria passes a new anti-gay law. In a place and a situation that is determined to eradicate them, the two must find a way for their love to survive. 

City of Laughter

City of Laughter

By Temim Fruchter

Our story opens with an 18th century Jewish badchan, a holy jester whose job is to make wedding guests laugh. The badchan is visited by a mysterious stranger, who brings the people of Ropshitz, Poland–once known as the City of Laughter–the laughs that they desperately need. And by doing so, the stranger triggers a series of events that will unfold across the rest of the century. 

When we jump to modern day, we meet Shiva Margolin, who is simultaneously grieving the loss of her father and the loss of her first big queer love. She’s struggling to connect with her mother, who spends most of her time at the funeral home, and Shiva figures that by visiting Poland and walking in her great-grandmother’s footsteps, her family mysteries will make more sense. 

As we navigate both real and imagined Jewish folklore, we journey along with Shiva as she begins to question both her past and her present, and how she discovers just how much we can travel from the stories that raised us without leaving them behind. 

Lush Lives

Lush Lives

By J. Vanessa Lyon

Meet Glory Hopkins: A restless artist attempting to find gallery representation who has just inherited the aging brownstone of an aunt she hardly knew. Glory doesn’t have the time to look after this house, and she’s starting to wish she never inherited it, until she meets savvy, ambitious auction house appraiser Parkie de Groot. 

The two form an unlikely friendship as they work to uncover the origins of a rare manuscript hidden in the bowels of the brownstone. When they finally do, they discover long-buried secrets about both Glory’s aunt Lucille and the relationship between Harlem and the people who lived within it. 

The connection between them is undeniable, but between Glory’s all-consuming drive and Parkie’s chip on her shoulder, they begin to keep secrets from each other that could tear their relationship apart. The deeper they dig into the mysteries of the brownstone, the more danger their love is put in. 

Like Happiness

Like Happiness

By Ursula Villarreal-Moura

Like Happiness is more than just a queer story–it’s also an exploration of gender, power, fame, and Latinx identity. It’s 2015, and Tatum Vega has finally started her new (and happy) life in Chile with her partner, Vera. She spends her time at the art museum where she works, admiring the art and forgetting all about the decade she spent in NYC wrapped up in the brilliant and famous author M. Domínguez

But then a reporter from the U.S. calls for an interview, forcing Tatum to confront her past. Domínguez has been accused of assault, and the reporter is asking for corroboration. In a dual narrative alternating between her present day and a letter from Tatum to Domínguez, Tatum re-examines the all-consuming but undefinable relationship of her early adulthood. What did happen between them? And why is she still struggling with it? 

My Government Means to Kill Me

My Government Means to Kill Me

By Rasheed Newson

A fast-paced, coming-of-age story that discusses in detail what it meant to be a young, black, gay man in the 1980s, My Government Means to Kill Me is a powerful exploration of a man finding his place in the cross-section of a socially and politically volatile world. Earl “Trey” Singleton III left his wealthy Indianapolis family for NYC with only a few dollars in his pocket. 

He’s quickly plunged into the experience of a lifetime; he volunteers at a renegade home hospice for AIDS patients, and then becomes a member of AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) after being put on the spot by some gay rights activists. As he meets a whole slew of characters who will change his life forever, Trey attempts to navigate past traumas while maintaining familial relationships–and tries to find the meaning of life in the midst of so much death. 

Roses, in the Mouth of a Lion

Roses, in the Mouth of a Lion

By Bushra Rehman

Another coming-of-age queer story from 1980s New York but in a vastly different vein, Roses, in the Mouth of a Lion focuses on Razia Mirza, from the Pakistani community in New York. Early on in her story, her close friendship with Saima is destroyed by some family rift, and Razia is left heartbroken. 

She finds solace in a new friendship with a fellow Pakistani friend, Taslima, and the two rebel together by wearing mini skirts, listening to scandalous music, and cutting class to explore the city. All of that changes when Razia is accepted to Stuyvesant, a prestigious Manhattan high school, further driving a wedge between her and her parents. 

But while at Stuyvesant, Razia meets Angela, and the two are instantly attracted to each other. Everything goes well, until an Aunty in the community discovers their relationship, forcing Razia to choose between her family and being her true self. 

In Tongues: A Novel

In Tongues: A Novel

By Thomas Grattan

The title In Tongues has a beautiful double-meaning, which you’ll discover if you read it all the way through. It focuses on Gordon, a handsome, sensitive 24 year-old who is desperate for direction; which leads to him taking a bus from Minnesota to Manhattan. Once there, he starts walking dogs for rich Manhattanites and meets Philip and Nicola, powerful gallery owners in the West Village. 

As he gets lost in Philip and Nicola’s universe, the lines between employee, muse, lover, and mentor blur–and Gordon’s charm, manipulation, and growing ambition spiral out of his control, threatening the lives (and lies) of those around him as well as himself. 

dykette, a dark comedy book


By Jenny Fran Davis

A seductive and darkly hilarious read, Dykette is the story of three lesbian couples on a ten-day getaway. Young, passionate, and adventurous Sasha and Jesse are twentysomethings making a life together in Brooklyn. A pair of older, richer lesbians–news host Jules Todd and psychotherapist Miranda–invite the two to their country home for the holidays, and Sasha and Jesse are quick to accept. Another couple, Jesse’s best friend Lou and their partner, Darcy (whose it-queer clout Sasha is unyieldingly jealous of) are invited along as well. 

The trip is steeped in home cooked meals and sauna confessions, and the guests’ secret motivations are quick to unearth themselves. But everything becomes complicated when Jesse and Darcy team up for an ill-fated livestream performance, and Sasha’s jealous rage threatens the future of all three couples. 

Green Dot

Green Dot

By Madeleine Gray

Imagine all the potential you have to offer, and doing absolutely nothing with any of it. That’s Hera: 24 years old and sharp, but with no plans of turning her chronic uneasiness into any sort of future. But then her (previously mind-numbing) new role as a comment moderator for a local news outlet introduces her to Aurthur, a middle-aged journalist. 

Though Hera has preferred women to men for a long time, there’s something special about Arthur; and the two embark on an all-consuming affair. The only problem? Arthur’s wife–and the fact that she knows nothing about Hera’s existence. 

You Only Call When You're in Trouble

You Only Call When You're in Trouble

By Stephen McCauley

Tom has spent nearly a lifetime looking after his sister and his beloved niece, Cecily. Finally ready to put himself first, he finds an opportunity to build his masterpiece–as an architect specializing in tiny houses, this may be his last opportunity to “leave a footprint on the dying planet.” 

Of course, that’s when the phone rings. His niece, the “real” love of his life, as Tom’s boyfriend remarked when moving out, is engulfed in a Title IX investigation at the college she works at, threatening both her career and her relationship. And after a long history of burying secrets, Tom’s sister wants his help in telling Cecily the real identity of her father. 

So Tom does what he’s always done: he answers the call. And thus begins a story that changes everyone’s lives and illustrates the ties that both bind families together and keeps them in a chokehold. 

Open Throat

Open Throat

By Henry Hoke

Extremely metaphorical in more ways than one, Open Throat is an exploration of multiple social issues, from the unlikely, observing perspective of a mountain lion. The lion is not only queer, but also dangerously hungry, and they live under the Hollywood sign. 

They spend their days protecting the welfare of a nearby homeless encampment, observing the hikers in their loud moments and their quiet; including grappling with the issues of gender identity, traumatic childhood memories, and the realities of the human experience. 

But eventually a man-made fire swallows the encampment, and the lion is forced into the city of Los Angeles from the hills. It’s from here that we follow the lion on their tour of LA’s cruel inequalities, and watch as they avoid natural disasters and escape the noise of their own conflicted psyche. Once salvation looks to finally be within reach, the question imposes: Do they want to eat a person, or become one? 

Cover of Less, a travel book by Andrew Sean Greer


By Andrew Sean Greer

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Less is the story of Arthur Less, a middle-aged, failed novelist who will do anything to avoid going to his ex-boyfriend's wedding. To that end, he decides to attend every other literary event he's been invited to around the world, setting off an adventure that's "bedazzling, bewitching and be-wonderful" (New York Times Book Review).

detransition baby, an lgbtq novel

Detransition, Baby

By Torrey Peters

This 2021 novel follows Reese, a trans woman whose self-destructive patterns are ruining her life. In one fell swoop she's lost her relationship with Amy, who has since transitioned back to Ames; and her chance at becoming a mother, one of the female experiences most cis women take for granted. But when Ames calls her with an unconventional offer that will make them a family once more, Reese isn't sure she can do it.

A fascinating exploration of the trans experience, what it means to be a woman and what makes a family, this novel is "so good I want to scream" (Carmen Maria Machado).

follow your arrow, an lgbtq book for teens

Follow Your Arrow

By Jessica Verdi

After social media influencer CeCe is dumped by her girlfriend, Sylvie, her new beau turns out to be a guy. But even though she's always been open about the fact that she's bi, many people think her prior relationship was all an act—and that she's undeserving to participate in Pride. To thwart the biphobia, CeCe will have to stand up for who she is.

LGBTQ Memoirs and Personal Discovery

A Boy's Own Story

A Boy's Own Story

By Edmund White

Edmund White is often considered one of the most influential gay writers of our time, and has recently been awarded the 2019 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from the National Book Foundation. Works like A Boy's Own Story, first published in 1982, and The Beautiful Room Is Empty (1988) helped pave the way for more openly gay nonfiction books to be published. 

A Boy’s Own Story is a moving tale about coming-of-age in midcentury America. With searing clarity and unabashed wit, Edmund White’s unnamed protagonist yearns for what he knows to be shameful. Looking back on his experiences, the narrator notes, “I see now that what I wanted was to be loved by men and to love them back but not to be a homosexual.” This trailblazing autobiographical story of one boy’s youth is a moving, tender, and heartbreaking portrait of what it means to grow up.

Becoming a Man

Becoming a Man

By Paul Monette

At the core of this memoir is a classic coming-of-age story. Monette grew up all-American, Catholic, smart, successful—and afraid to be who he truly was. It was the 1950s and being a homosexual was not in the least bit acceptable. 

Monette kept his secret throughout his adolescence for fear of ridicule and rejection. His journey to adulthood and to self-acceptance is filled with grace and honesty. It’s an intimate portrait of a young man’s struggle with his own desires that is witty, humorous, and deeply moving.

LGBTQ Family Life and Relationships

Consenting Adult

Consenting Adult

By Laura Z. Hobson

Same-sex marriage is legal in 37 states in 2015, but in the closeted climate of the 1960s, Hobson’s tale of a mother struggling to understand and accept her son’s homosexuality pushed the conversation forward.

The Lord Won't Mind

The Lord Won't Mind

By Gordon Merrick

Entering college in the late 1930s, Charlie just has to find a nice girl, get married, and have a few kids. Instead, he meets Peter Martin, who is everything that Charlie has ever wanted, and Charlie is forced to choose between two options: complying with the expectations of society and family, or following the call of true love. 

A timeless read, this classic gay story spent 16 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list after it was first published.

The Charioteer

The Charioteer

By Mary Renault

Set in World War II England, the love triangle connects a wounded soldier torn between his love for a younger conscientious objector and an older, experienced schoolmate. This novel has been called one of the foundation stones of gay literary fiction, ranking alongside James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room and Gore Vidal’s The City and the Pillar. 

Trans, a memoir by Juliet Jacques


By Juliet Jacques

Jacques is a groundbreaking writer, covering her experiences leading up to her transition surgery in The Guardian. Her memoir, Trans, is an excellent companion piece to those articles, following her life post-transition. 

“Powerful and engaging … it’s hard not to see [Jacques] as anything other than brave, even as she pushes readers to recognize that what is revolutionary is the very ordinariness of her day-to-day life.” —New York Times

Classic LGBTQ Literature


The Drowning of Stephan Jones

By Bette Greene

We wish stories of homophobia had no basis in truth, but this senseless act of violence was based on real events. Though it’s been decades since the book was written, this profoundly moving story continues to force readers to confront the ill effects of bullying, hate crimes, and groupthink.



By Lauren Myracle

Sixteen-year-old Cat’s best friend is victimized by a hate crime, and she wants to find out who committed it. This is a haunting mystery that turns a small Southern town on its head and illustrates the difficulty of defying your community to pursue what’s right.

Women's Perspectives

Desert of the Heart

Desert of the Heart

By Jane Rule

Rule’s first novel — now a classic of gay and lesbian literature — established her as a foremost writer of the vagaries and yearnings of the female heart. This is a novel that dares to ask whether love between two women can last. (It also has one of our favorite opening lines: “Conventions, like clichés, have a way of surviving their own usefulness. They are then excused or defended as the idioms of living.”)

Loving Her

Loving Her

By Ann Allen Shockley

This is a groundbreaking novel of two very different women, one black and one white, and a love threatened by prejudice, rage, and violence. A struggling African American musician, Renay is married to a violent, abusive alcoholic. While performing at an upscale supper club, she meets Terry Bluvard. Beautiful, wealthy, and white, Terry awakens feelings that the talented black pianist never realized she possessed—and before long, Renay moves into Terry’s world of luxury and privilege. Yet the storm clouds of her previous life still threaten, and Terry’s love alone may not be enough to protect Renay.

Annie on My Mind

Annie on My Mind

By Nancy Garden

Even if you're no longer a teenager, this tender romance between Liza and Annie is worth reading. Famous for being one of the first books to show a lesbian relationship in a positive light, Annie On My Mind was first published in 1982 but remains timeless in its portrayal of adolescence, first loves, and staying true to yourself under pressure.