Ever wondered exactly what LGBT means? It is possible to be an ally by knowing key terms and concepts such as the difference between sex, gender, and sexual orientation. LGBT literature is readily available and easily accessible to all ages and sexual orientations. It can be found in libraries, bookshops, and the most dangerous parts of the Internet. The options are endless and varied. You’ve found the best LGBT books here. Continue reading to discover more about LGBT books.
Table of Contents
- 1 Best LGBT Novels and Books To Read
- 1.1 Real Life: A Novel by Brandon Taylor
- 1.2 A Boy’s Own Story, by Edmund White
- 1.3 In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
- 1.4 Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian
- 1.5 Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake
- 1.6 Under the Udala Trees, by Chinelo Okparanta
- 1.7 Rubyfruit Jungle, by Rita Mae Brown
- 1.8 Tipping the Velvet, by Sarah Waters
- 1.9 Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
- 1.10 Fairest by Meredith Talusan
- 1.11 The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
- 1.12 The Other Boy by M. G. Hennessey
- 1.13 The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez
- 1.14 Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
- 1.15 Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl
- 1.16 A Year Without a Name
- 1.17 A Two-Spirit Journey: The Autobiography of a Lesbian Ojibwa-Cree Elder by Ma-Nee Chacaby
- 1.18 Lot: Stories by Bryan Washington
- 1.19 The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde
- 1.20 Rainbow Milk by Paul Mendez
- 1.21 Queer Love in Color by Jamal Jordan
- 1.22 All My Mother’s Lovers by Ilana Masad
- 1.23 How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays by Alexander Chee
- 1.24 Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
- 1.25 Orlando, by Virginia Woolf
- 1.26 Boy Erased by Garrard Conley
- 1.27 Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann
- 1.28 What Belongs to You: A Novel by Garth Greenwell
- 1.29 The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante
- 1.30 City of Night by John Rechy
- 1.31 The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
- 1.32 Maurice by E.M. Forster
- 1.33 Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters
- 1.34 Gender Outlaw by Kate Bornstein
- 1.35 Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides
- 1.36 Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café by Fanny Flagg
- 1.37 The City and the Pillar by Gore Vidal
- 1.38 In at the Deep End by Kate Davies
- 1.39 The Witch Boy by Molly Knox Ostertag
- 1.40 Cantoras by Carolina De Robertis
- 1.41 Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman
- 1.42 All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens throughout the Ages by Saundra Mitchell
- 1.43 Hurricane Child by Kacen Callender
- 1.44 Zami: A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde
- 1.45 Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America by Lillian Faderman
- 1.46 We Are Watching Eliza Bright by A.E. Osworth
- 2 Conclusion
Best LGBT Novels and Books To Read
Real Life: A Novel by Brandon Taylor
Best LGBTQ+ novels of all time
Real life tells the story of Wallace, a student in biochemistry at a Midwestern college. It was recently longlisted for the Booker Prize. The novel opens shortly after Wallace’s death and powerfully tells Wallace’s careful handling of the social tensions as a graduate student and black, queer man.
This campus novel is sensitive and intelligent and does a great job of showing the interconnectedness between social relationships and the intimate separation between the private and public.
A Boy’s Own Story, by Edmund White
The A Boy’s Own Story can be compared to J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. Edmund White’s 1982 novel, The Catcher in the Rye, begins with a sexual encounter with a 15-year old boy. It is based upon his own experiences as a teenager coming to terms with his homosexuality in the Midwestern United States.
White would write two more novels, The Beautiful Room Is Empty (1988) and The Farewell Symphony (1997), which followed his gay protagonist into adulthood. They form a powerful trilogy that chronicles the life of a gay man in the second half of the 20th century.
In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
Carmen Maria Machado, the author of Her Body and Other Parties, reflects on her abusive relationship with another woman. This memoir won the Lambda Literary Award in LGBTQ Nonfiction. Machado explores the turns and turns of their relationship, as well as what made her decide to stay and what ultimately led her to flee.
Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian
Best Young Adult LGBT book
Like a Love Story is set in New York City in 1989. It follows three teenage girls as they navigate love and life in the midst of the AIDS crisis. Reza, a closeted boy, only sees homosexuality through the eyes of so many gay men who are dying.
Judy, a fashion designer aspirant, idolizes her gay uncle while he fights for justice. Art, who is the only openly homosexual boy in school, photographs the AIDS crisis. The teens embark on a journey of self-acceptance and discovery when Reza and Judy begin dating. It will keep readers riveted and breathless until the end.
Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake
Ivy Aberdeen’s letter to the world follows a young girl who has her whole life rewritten. A tornado damages her family home, and her sketchbook is also lost. Although this may seem like a minor loss, the pages are filled with photos of girls holding hands. Ivy keeps finding pages from her notebook in her locker, along with encouraging notes.
Ivy cannot help but believe it is from the new girl in her class. Ivy will need to figure out how to solve the mystery and her new life on her own, given that she is living in borrowed clothes and that her older sister has gotten into a tangled knot with her.
Under the Udala Trees, by Chinelo Okparanta
“This beautiful, lyrical story is filled with the background of civil war and the love story between two young girls on the frontlines: a fantastic book,” Danny Ramadan, gay refugee activist and columnist, raves about this global-minded tale.
The book reveals the emotions of a young girl who is forced to flee Nigeria’s civil war and has an affair with a fellow refugee. These girls come from different ethnic backgrounds, which forces them to confront the taboos and prejudices of being queer and the realities of living in a country that is destroying itself.
Rubyfruit Jungle, by Rita Mae Brown
Many queer women writers consider Rita Mae Brown’s 1973 coming of age story an iconic piece of LGBT literature. “[I love Rubyfruit Jungle] Because, well, because. This was my first ever ‘lesbian’ book! And devoured. And loved,” says The Year of Needy Girls’ Patricia Smith. Yolanda Wallace is the author of Tailormade; She tells us that when she was a teenager, she was questioning her sexuality, and this book gave her the answers.
Semi autobiographical, Rubyfruit Jungle follows Molly Bolt’s amorous adventures from childhood to adulthood, including a stint in swinging New York City. Although Molly is open to having sexual adventures with men in her life, she has a deep love for women, and Brown doesn’t hesitate to describe Molly’s passion for women (the title captures Molly’s obsession with female anatomy).
Rubyfruit Jungle, which is now a course in queer literature, is bold and brave. Its honest discussion about lesbian sexuality can be shocking for modern readers who think life was more straightforward in the 1970s. Rubyfruit Jungle is a page turner that reminds us of queer lust and queer sex.
Tipping the Velvet, by Sarah Waters
Sarah Waters’ 1998 page turner tells the story of Nan, a Whitstable girl who is an oyster in 1890. She falls in love with Kitty, the charismatic male impersonator, after seeing a play at her local theater. Waters’ heroine follows Kitty from Whitstable to London, where Kitty is taught by the more experienced woman how to impersonate a dapper dandy.
The book was a massive success with queer women because of its honest depiction of lesbian love and flirting with gender roles. It was also made into a BBC miniseries in 2002.
Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
The Best Classic LGBTQ+ Novels
The novel of James Baldwin about love and fear, set in the Paris bohemian bars of 1950s Paris. Giovanni’s Room, another gay lit classic, is the complex story of David, a young American living in Paris in the 1950s, who desperately tries to accept what society has told him is proper: a heterosexual marriage.
While Hella, his fiancee, is always on his mind, David soon discovers that he cannot deny his desire to be with Giovanni, a bartender who teaches him a new way of living. David must face his truth in the darkened room, hidden from the rest.
Fairest by Meredith Talusan
Fairest is the story of a boy born with albinism and raised in a rural village in the Philippines. He would go on to become a successful American woman. This moving memoir is both eloquent and poignant. It explores the intersection of race and gender identity as well as disability. It also thematizes the author’s experiences of reading white as an Asian albino.
Talusan’s journey is filled with powerful and poignant moments of love and desirability that will remind readers of the memories of novels like Call Me by Your Name or Giovanni’s Room. These evocative reflections are sure to change our perceptions about love, identity, gender, and fairness.
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Best Adult Fiction Books
The Picture of Dorian Gray, a novel used in Oscar Wilde’s trial for gross indecency (1895), is unlikely to be viewed as homoerotic. Dorian Gray is a Gothic novel that traces his moral decline as a young man obsessed with beauty. Oscar Wilde’s extraordinary novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, is a fascinating tale about fear of aging and a piece in gay literary history.
The Other Boy by M. G. Hennessey
This touching novel is about an ordinary boy. It’s the boy you have met 100 times. Shane enjoys basketball, graphic novels, and spending time with his best friend, Josh.
Shane is hiding a secret from his best friend. He’s transgender and was formerly a girl when his family moved to San Francisco in 2003. Shane suddenly finds himself in a situation where his classmates threaten to tell the truth. The other boy is a touching story about being true to yourself and the importance of having people in your life who are there for you no matter what.
The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez
Best science fiction books
Highly imaginative and utterly thrilling (Thrillist), this debut is the best science fiction can be: A thought provoking, heartrending tale about the choices we make that determine our lives. (Kirkus Reviews starred review).
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, a graphic memoir about Alison’s childhood and relationship with her father, is written in comics. The Tony Award winning musical adaptation of this book is notable for one line: “I know …” whispers Alison Bechdel, the young protagonist, as she sees herself in the superficial appearance of a delivery girl.
This story will touch on gender norms, gender roles, and sexual orientation. The comic strips with a blue tinged theme will also move you.
Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl
Andrea Lawlor’s Paul Takes The Form of a Mortal Girl, a modern version of Orlando, is a novel about a young man who transforms into a bartender and lives a high life on a cross-country trip through the United States in the early 1990s.
A Year Without a Name
Cyrus Grace Dunham (Lena Dunham) wrote this 2019 memoir about self-discovery. Readers will be moved by Dunham’s struggle for sexual identity, especially for those who were not able to or would not accept their sexual orientation and identity as a given.
A Two-Spirit Journey: The Autobiography of a Lesbian Ojibwa-Cree Elder by Ma-Nee Chacaby
Ma-Nee Chacaby has had a difficult life. She’s been subject to abuse as a child and an adult, as well as alcoholism and racism. Although the book’s unflinching subject matter is difficult to read, it’s a story of perseverance, self-discovery, and eventually peace.
This intensely personal account of the impact of multiple marginalized identities on one another will appeal to readers of all backgrounds. The memoir A Two Spirit Journey will stay with you for many years.
Lot: Stories by Bryan Washington
Lot is a collection of powerful short stories about Houston during the time before and after Hurricane Harvey. Many stories focus on a young man from a Black and Latinx family who struggles to accept his sexuality.
The stories together paint a touching portrait of America’s urban environment today, which is diverse, gentrified, and works hard for its citizens and workers. Lot is raw and tender. It’s a beautiful, sad, and awe-inspiring debut collection.
The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde
Although the Oscar Wilde novel is not explicitly gay, there is plenty of gay subtext that the attentive reader can read. This is about as much gay subtext as an author with a lot of popularity could manage in 1891.
Basil Hallward and Lord Henry Wotton, Dorian’s friends, express deep admiration for him. Nicholas Frankel, an editor who edited an edition that presented Wilde’s original text, removed passages that showed Basil’s feelings towards Dorian as more homoerotic.
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Rainbow Milk by Paul Mendez
Rainbow Milk is an important and revelatory coming of age story from a new voice. It follows Jesse McCarthy, nineteen years old, as he struggles with his racial and sexual identities the backdrop of his Jehovah’s Witness upbringing.
Queer Love in Color by Jamal Jordan
This is a photographic celebration of the love, relationships, and passions of queer people of color. This moving, intimate collection gives an intimate look into what it is like to live at the intersections between queer and POC identities. It honors a broad vision of love and affection across all sexes.
All My Mother’s Lovers by Ilana Masad
All My Mother’s Lovers, a novel by fiction writer and critic Ilana Massad, is a story told throughout a funeral or shiva. It’s written with great wit and warmth. All My Mother’s Lovers is a unique meditation on the universality, particularity, and grief of family ties, as well as a tender, biting portrait about sex, gender, and identity. It challenges us to question the nature and purpose of fulfilling relationships.
How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays by Alexander Chee
Alexander Chee’s essay collection How to Write an Autobiographical Novel will appeal to writers, but it will also interest readers who have enjoyed Chee’s many published essays. These essays are about Chee’s experiences as a gay Korean American writer. They cover everything from writing to the eulogy for a friend who died from AIDS. This collection is well written, and Chee’s delicate voice can keep a reader interested. We recommend you read it all.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Aristotle, a teenager from El Paso, Texas, is spending the 1980s in El Paso. Dante is a quieter boy who has a lot to offer. They are very different boys. Ari is reserved and guarded and struggles to feel at home. On the other hand, Dante is warm and emotional and can see through Ari’s darkest moments with his bright light.
They spend the summer together learning more about each other, and their love and friendship grow stronger with each passing day. Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Aristotle & Dante is a touching and lyrical book that will help you restore your faith.
Orlando, by Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolf’s tribute to Vita Sackville West, Orlando is a fascinating study in gender fluidity in time and space.
The protagonist is a young, dashing nobleman from Elizabethan England. He falls in love with the queen and then has a falling out with her. Later, he indulges in sex with many women but develops an intense friendship with a male poet. Later, Orlando is sent to Constantinople on a diplomatic mission. He discovers he has become a woman and this gender switch allows him to comment on the limitations society places upon women.
Boy Erased by Garrard Conley
Garrad Conley was to become heterosexual through an institutionalized Twelve Step Program. Despite the complex and sometimes brutal journey, Garrard found the strength and understanding to overcome and find his true self.
Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann
Alice and her girlfriend broke up when Alice became openly gay. She has no desire ever to date anyone again, at least until she meets Takumi. She can only think of her cute coworker at the local library, but it’s impossible to imagine him wanting to date an ace girl…
What Belongs to You: A Novel by Garth Greenwell
The novel’s unnamed American protagonist walks into a Bulgarian public bathroom and asks Mitko for sex. They develop a complicated relationship in which power, dependence, passion, and love all play into each other’s delicate balance.
As the novel progresses, it reveals the backstories of both characters. The reader is then able to understand the core question about identity and all its many layers. As it explores lust, remorse, and memory, What Belongs To You has a breathtaking pace.
The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante
The Grief Keeper is an uplifting tale about the heartbreak and consequences of love and human beings being made illegal.
City of Night by John Rechy
John Rechy’s 1963 novel the City of Night is a classic piece of fiction. It follows the lives of gay hustlers in New York City and Los Angeles, New Orleans, San Francisco, and New Orleans. 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, including drag performers, S&M practitioners, and sex workers.
The book inspired music by the Doors and a Gus Van Sant film, My Own Private Idaho. SJ Sindu, the author of Marriage of a Thousand Lies, stated that this epic chronicle of gay culture during the American sixties was as far-reaching and important as it is essential, giving us a glimpse at identity and motive.
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
The Song of Achilles, an intensely poetic and thrilling novel, tells the story of the Trojan War’s Greek myth. It focuses on the romance and friendship between Achilles, Patroclus and is a highly poetic and exciting read.
Madeline Miller expertly sketches their personalities, tracing their journey from young boys to warrior men. Achilles, the son of sea goddess Thetis and proud of his admiration for people’s attention, while Patroclus is humble and contemplative and prefers to watch Achilles from the quiet corners. Their story is halted when they find themselves in the Trojan War. But we won’t spoil the ending.
Maurice by E.M. Forster
E.M. Forster’s classic novel remained unpublished for almost 60 years before finally being published in 1971. Maurice, the stockbroker, had an intimate relationship with Clive while he was studying at Cambridge. Maurice is forced to reevaluate his life after Maurice falls for a man with a different social status.
Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters
This provocative debut explores the emotions, vulnerability, and messy parts of womanhood that no amount of platitudes or good intentions can reach. Torrey Peters masterfully and fearlessly navigates some of the most challenging taboos about gender, sex, and relationships. This novel is witty and original, and profoundly moving.
Gender Outlaw by Kate Bornstein
Gender Outlaw was a landmark publication that was published in 1994. A twenty odd year later, this book stands as both a classic book and a revolutionary work that pushes us gently, but deeply, to the very limits of the gender frontier.
Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides
Jeffrey Eugenides won the Pulitzer Prize for his 2002 story about Cal Stephanides, an intersex protagonist. Middlesex is a story that reflects the 19th century memoirs of Herculine Barin. It incorporates elements from Greek mythology and Eugenides’s Greek American upbringing.
This is a pioneering story about gender identity in 21st century America. The intersex community has criticized Middlesex because the author doesn’t identify as intersex and consults with intersex people. However, the novel is a landmark in queer visibility. It is considered a candidate for the title Great American Novel by some literary circles.
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café by Fanny Flagg
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is loosely based on the Book of Ruth. It’s a story of love, loss, and triumph. Idgie and Ruth are two women who run a cafe in their Alabama town during the Great Depression. Author Fannie Flagg frames the novel’s events as a story within a story, told by Idgie’s sister in law to her much younger friend, Evelyn, in the 1980s.
The City and the Pillar by Gore Vidal
Jim and Bob had sex seven years ago on a camping trip. This was just before Bob left high school to leave their hometown. Jim is one year older than Bob and has struggled with his sexuality for all of the years. He still longs for the friend he lost. He hoped that he would one day rekindle their love affair, but it may not be joyful.
In at the Deep End by Kate Davies
This hilarious read is about the discovery and sexual awakening. It also discusses how bad relationships can make you learn more about yourself. You might not want to share this with your kids. It is honest, revealing, and NSFW.
The Witch Boy by Molly Knox Ostertag
Aster is a charming graphic novel that follows a young boy raised in a family full of shapeshifters and witches. The only problem is that all boys become shapeshifters, and all girls become witches. But Aster wants to be one.
The story that follows is both heartbreaking and thrilling. Aster begins his apprenticeship in secret and is thrust into the limelight when a mysterious beast attempts to steal his family members. The Witch Boy tells a story about being genuine and authentic to yourself, regardless of how different you may be and maybe even how you might not be as different as you think.
Cantoras by Carolina De Robertis
In the 1970s, Uruguay was ruled by a military dictatorship. This was not a place for queer people. Cantor, a novel about five women who discover dangerous freedom in one another during a week long vacation, is both heartbreaking and celebratory. This extensive work spans thirty-five years and shows the changes and perils they have to face while highlighting the unique bond they share. Reading Cantoras is a reminder of their freedoms in their lives and how much they should treasure them.
Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman
Andre Aciman’s bestseller won a Lambda Literary Award in Gay Fiction. The Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay went to the movie adaptation of the same name. Call me by your Name is set on the Italian Riviera in the 1980s. It centers around Elio, a 17-year old bisexual Jewish boy with a passionate affair, with Oliver, an older Jewish medical student, over one fateful summer.
All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens throughout the Ages by Saundra Mitchell
This short story collection features 17 of the most talented young adult writers today. These historical fiction stories centered on a character from the LGBT+ spectrum when identities were often obscured, ignored, or erased. All Out shows that queer teens have always contributed to the world, living, loving, and making a difference. This diverse collection, which spans 1870s Mexico through the early ’90s grunge scene, will inspire and entertain you from the very first page.
Hurricane Child by Kacen Callender
Hurricane Child is set on the beautiful shores of St Thomas of Virgin Islands. It follows Caroline, a little girl who was born during a hurricane. It is said that it brings bad luck, and Caroline certainly has had to deal with a lot of that. Although this book is heavier than other titles on the list, young readers will still benefit from Caroline’s story about evil spirits, first crushes, and parental abandonment. As you soak in its prose, it’s a rich tale that will reach deep into your soul.
Zami: A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde
Audre Lorde’s 1982 bio mythography traces the poet’s life, starting with her childhood in Harlem as the daughter of West Indian immigrants, and ending in Mexico after college.
Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America by Lillian Faderman
This historical account of lesbianism through the 20th century was first published in 1991. It is, however, somewhat out of date. The book is worth reading for anyone interested in changing cultural attitudes regarding female centric romance over several turbulent, vastly different decades. Faderman charts America’s attitudes toward women loving women, from the early days of romantic friendship, which was an admirable, even typical trait, to the McCarthy terror years and beyond.
Odd Girls & Twilight Lovers offers a fascinating look into the history of gay rights and the interplay of being a woman in that journey. It is also a sad reminder that it is far from over.
We Are Watching Eliza Bright by A.E. Osworth
This story is a shocking indictment of sexual harassment in tech culture and gamer culture. It follows Eliza Bright, a star coder who stands up against misogyny within her industry. She is fired and doxxed, fearing for her safety, and she is taken in by the Sisterhood underground collective, who attempts to protect her from cyberthreats that threaten her real life.
These books, which include LGBTQ authors and gay authors and books featuring queer characters, prove that literary worlds are possible (and should) be diverse. The world we live in can be just as diverse as our literary world. We all deserve to see the beauty and diversity of our lives in a book. LGBTQ books are available in every genre, just as the rest of the literary canon. We hope that you enjoy these fantastic books as much as ours!
Last update on 2022-04-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API