Happy Pride Month, everyone! Every June, the American LGBTQ+ community comes together to memorialize the Stonewall Riots, which marked their 50th anniversary in 2019. Whether you’ve been going to Pride events for as long as you can remember, or are looking forward to taking part in your first Pride parade this year, the 50 books by LBGTQ+ authors on this list are just what you need on your nightstand — this June, and beyond.
Some of humanity’s earliest recorded literature depicts gender-nonconforming individuals and relationships between similar-gender characters.
The Tale of Genji, which dates to the 11th century and is widely regarded as the world’s first novel, shows an encounter between its eponymous hero — who is attracted to both men and women — and the younger brother of a woman who spurns his advances. In Archaic Greece, Sappho of Lesbos — from whose name the words sapphic and lesbian derive — penned odes to female lovers, and Ovid’s Metamorphoses included the tale of Iphis: an AFAB person who’s raised in secret as a son, then changed by a goddess into a man so that he may live happily ever after with his bride, Ianthe. Although none of these books appears on the list below, you’ll find that the titles we’ve included here represent the last 300 years of queer literature, with particular attention to 21st century releases.
Below, 50 LGBTQ+ books to add to your reading list.
We only include products that have been independently selected by Bustle's editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article. 1 Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex
Perhaps the most misunderstood sexual orientation, asexuality is the lack of sexual attraction to anyone, regardless of gender. Ace people — and aromantic people, who do not experience romantic attraction — are often treated as if they have some form of sexual dysfunction, and they may struggle to find their experiences represented in pop culture and literature. In
Ace, Angela Chen explores asexuality in the modern day, and analyzes what mainstream culture’s treatment of asexual people reveals about society’s relationship to sex, romance, queerness, and intimacy. 2 All Boys Aren’t Blue
George M. Johnson’s memoir-in-essays revisits key moments in their life, stretching from their childhood in New Jersey through their adolescence to their years at Virginia Union University.
All Boys Aren’t Blue is a treatise on coming of age as a queer and nonbinary Black person in America that doubles as an introduction to LGBTQIA+ activism for queer folks and allies alike. 3 And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic
Originally published in the early 1990s, Randy Shilts’
And the Band Played On revisits the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, examining how homophobia — personal, cultural, and institutional — lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans and millions more people around the world. 4 Another Appalachia: Coming Up Queer and Indian in a Mountain Place
Indolachian author Neema Avashia peels back the curtain on her West Virginia childhood — from growing up queer to living as a Gujurati American in the whitest state in the union — in this insightful memoir.
5 Bad Girls
Three years after Argentine actor Camila Sosa Villada released her debut novel,
Bad Girls, an English translation has hit bookstores. The story here centers on a young trans woman, also named Camila, who escapes her abusive childhood home for life in the big city of Córdoba. There, she falls in with an enclave of trans sex workers and other magical outcasts living under the protection of an ancient auntie. 6 Black Dove: Mamá, Mi’jo, and Me
From Chicana feminist novelist Ana Castillo comes
Black Dove, a heartbreaking memoir-in-essays tracing 20 years in the author’s life. Castillo centers on her relationship with her son, Marcelo — and how his two-year-long incarceration forced her to ruminate on the myriad trials of raising a young brown man in a white supremacist country. 7 Boys Come First
A series of back-to-back losses and betrayals brings Dom home to Detroit, where he reconnects with Troy, his best friend. Troy is mapping out the boundaries of his own relationships, including the one he shares with Remy — a man who’s got his real-estate career on lock, but founders in the romance department as he tries to choose between a long-distance boyfriend and a closer, but less compatible one. Together, these three Black, gay Millennials must navigate the choppy waters of “real adulthood.”
8 Burning Butch
R/B Mertz’s explosive debut traces the ways in which their conservative Catholic upbringing — complete with homeschooling, pro-life politics, and a college education at a Midwestern Catholic school — stood at odds with their
trans/non-binary identity. Raw and reflective, Burning Butch will speak to anyone who spent their religious adolescence in stealth mode. 9 Call Me by Your Name
André Aciman’s bestseller won the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Fiction, and the movie adaptation of the same name took home the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Set along the Italian Riviera in the 1980s,
Call Me by Your Name centers on 17-year-old Elio, a bisexual Jewish boy, who has a passionate affair with an older Jewish med student, 24-year-old Oliver, during one fateful summer. 10 D’Vaughn and Kris Plan a Wedding
Fans of fake-dating and reality TV romances will love
D’Vaughn and Kris Plan a Wedding, in which two lesbians work to convince their families that they’re getting married in six weeks, all for a shot at winning a $100,000 prize purse. Kris plans to use the exposure to boost her career as a budding influencer, and D’Vaughn just wants to come out to her mom. But as the competition heats up, things also get steamy between these fake fiancées. 11 Dead Collections
Sol spends his days working in an archive — a job that suddenly gets a lot more interesting when Elsie comes along, hoping to donate her late wife’s papers to Sol’s collection. The pair immediately hit it off, but if Sol wants to take their relationship to the next step, he’ll have to reveal his big secret: that he carries the “vampire disease.”
A mysterious and catastrophic event has separated the midwestern city of Bellona from the rest of the United States. There’s no way to get a message in or out, the sun’s all wrong, and time isn’t linear anymore. Into this fray comes the Kid: a mixed-race man of Native American ancestry, who cannot remember his own name. Through the Kid’s adventures in Bellona,
Dhalgren explores questions of race, sexuality, and gender with a Joycean, sci-fi bent. 13 Don’t Call Us Dead
Published in 2017, NEA Fellow Danez Smith’s second poetry collection takes up issues of Blackness, queerness, and institutional violence. Dubbed
“fierce fire” by Roxane Gay, Don’t Call Us Dead is a must-read book. 14 Eight Kinky Nights
If you’re searching for good representation in erotica, look no further than this short book about two autistic, middle-aged women. The story follows Leah, who knows that her new roommate, Jordan, wants to dip her toe in the kink scene — and who better to teach her than Leah, a kink educator with lots of experience as a submissive? When she presents Jordan with kink lessons as a Chanukah present, however, Leah also decides to take the eight-day celebration as a chance to explore her newly realized gray asexuality.
Ada, a young Nigerian woman and ọgbanje, has always had a fractured sense of self. But when she’s assaulted while attending college in the United States, separate selves crystallize within her, and soon take control of her life. Like the rest of their growing catalog of books, Akwaeke Emezi’s powerful debut is a must-read.
16 Fun Home
In her 2006 graphic memoir,
Dykes to Watch Out For author Alison Bechdel re-examines her relationship with her father, Bruce: a closeted gay man who was struck and killed in a motor vehicle accident in 1980. Tracing the delicate lines between her father’s experiences and her own, Bechdel reflects on her queer childhood in Fun Home. 17 Gender Queer
most challenged book of 2021, Maia Kobabe’s 2019 debut is a graphic memoir that traces eir journey along the often-rocky roads of gender and sexuality. A quietly powerful book, Gender Queer will resonate with anyone who’s been a queer or trans young person struggling to pin down an identity — particularly those who, like Kobabe, are nonbinary and asexual. 18 Gideon the Ninth
Tamsyn Muir spins a tale of lesbian necromancers, in space.
Gideon the Ninth follows lifelong enemies Harrow and Gideon, the youngest members of the empire’s Ninth House, as they partake in a mysterious competition to decide which of the competing necromancers — Harrow and representatives from the Second through Eighth Houses — will become an undying member of the emperor’s personal guard. Gideon’s only agreed to be Harrow’s cavalier so that she can leave the Ninth for good, but she soon finds herself in the middle of a toothsome murder mystery . 19 Girls Can Kiss Now
If you’re a fan of essay collections like Jia Tolentino’s
Trick Mirror and Sloane Crosley’s I Was Told There’d Be Cake, you’ll love Girls Can Kiss Now. Here, Jill Gutowitz explores how art informs life — particularly her own. 20 Go Tell It on the Mountain
James Baldwin’s semi-autobiographical novel follows John Grimes, the son of a Pentecostal Harlem preacher who left the South in the Great Migration, as he wrestles with crises of identity and faith.
21 God’s Children Are Little Broken Things
As U.S. readers discover the wealth of Nigerian literature, American publishers are picking up great books from new Nigerian voices — including this debut collection from Arinze Ifeakandu. In
God’s Children Are Little Broken Things, the Nigerian American author and Iowa Writer’s Workshop alum explores queer life in contemporary Nigeria through nine moving stories. 22 Gordo
This novel-in-stories weaves its way through the lives of a migrant-worker community living in California’s Pajaro Valley. Central among these is the eponymous grade-schooler, whose effeminacy and fatness single him out as a target for bullies.
23 How to Write an Autobiographical Novel
From the author of
The Queen of the Night comes this autobiographical essay collection about Alexander Chee’s life so far. Tackling issues of race and nationality, sexuality, work, and politics, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel is as masterful as it is wide-ranging. 24 How We Fight for Our Lives
Saeed Jones’ memoir of growing up Black and gay in the American South won the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Memoir/Biography and the Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction. Moving between rhyme and reason,
How We Fight for Our Lives investigates how individuals — particularly marginalized individuals — come into their own. 25 I’m So (Not) Over You
When Hudson asks Kian to meet with him, Kian can’t help hoping that his ex wants to get back together. And he does… sort of. Hudson’s parents are coming to town, and he needs Kian to pretend to be his boyfriend for the duration of their visit. But what begins as a finite fake-dating arrangement spirals out of control, and the two men are forced to keep up the act for Hudson’s whole family and the Georgia social elite.
26 In the Dream House Her Body and Other Parties author Carmen Maria Machado reanalyzes her abusive relationship with another woman in this memoir, which won the Lambda Literary Award for LGBTQ Nonfiction. Machado examines the twists and turns of their union, what compelled her to stay, and what finally prompted her to escape. 27 Little Fish
Winner of the 2019 Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Fiction, Casey Plett’s
Little Fish follows Wendy, a 30-year-old trans woman, as she searches for the truth about her grandfather’s identity. He was a Mennonite farmer, but might he also have been transgender? 28 Love and Other Disasters
Still reeling from her recent divorce and desperately in need of cash, Dahlia’s hoping to find a fresh start on a hit cooking competition show. But when she’s pitted against London — a nonbinary chef who drew attention by coming out on the show — Dahlia’s forced to choose: should she pursue the cash prize, or a relationship with her fellow contestant?
29 Mean Little deaf Queer
Terry Galloway started going deaf at age 9, the result of a teratogenic antibiotic her mother took while pregnant. A lifelong performer, she reacted the way any budding theater kid would: — by staging her death at a camp for disabled children. In
Mean Little deaf Queer — the little-d deaf is an important distinction here — Galloway recounts the major events of her early life with crisp wit. 30 The Natural Mother of the Child: A Memoir of Nonbinary Parenthood
Krys Malcolm Belc's identity as a nonbinary, transmasculine person crystallized when he gave birth to his son, Samson — but the paperwork still identified Belc as "the natural mother of the child" when his partner adopted the boy. In his memoir-in-essays, Belc traces the throughline of his queerness and gender identity.
31 Over the Top Queer Eye star Jonathan Van Ness’ debut memoir is just as hilarious as the self-care guru themself. Still, Over the Top isn’t afraid to tackle the dark realities of the modern-day queer experience, and doesn’t shy away from heartbreaking moments in Van Ness’ life. Powerful and raw, this memoir will have you laughing and crying until you close the cover. 32 Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl
A more modern take on
Orlando, Andrea Lawlor’s Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl is a coming-of-age novel centered on a shapeshifting bartender living the good life on a cross-country journey through the early-1990s United States. 33 The Picture of Dorian Gray
One of the most scandalous novels of its time,
The Picture of Dorian Gray follows one selfish young man whose pursuits of leisure and pleasure lead him to make a sordid deal with an unseen devil. Dorian has traded his soul for eternal youth and beauty, but what does that mean for those around him? 34 The Priory of the Orange Tree
A millennium ago, Queen Sabran’s ancestor defeated the Nameless One, a dragon who almost destroyed the world — ostensibly for good. Sabran’s entire kingdom believes that all dragons are just as evil as the Nameless One, even the water-loving ones ridden by people like Tané, who hails from the East. And even though some swear the Nameless One will return, that can’t happen as long as Queen Sabran is on the throne... can it?
35 Rainbow Rainbow
For lit-fic readers tired of stories about queer pain, there’s Lydia Conklin’s
Rainbow Rainbow, which focuses on queer joy instead. The stories in this debut collection — about everything from parenthood to school plays and sexual exploration — will have you both laughing out loud and cringing to the bone. 36 Real Life
Brandon Taylor’s Booker Prize-shortlisted debut novel,
Real Life, follows a queer, Black biochemistry major as he tries to escape the ghosts of his Alabama past in the hallowed halls of higher education. But something’s brewing beneath his cohort’s polite exterior, and one fateful weekend is about to bring it all to a head. 37 The Romantic Agenda
When Malcolm, the friend she’s always pined for, announces that he’s in a relationship with someone else — and invites her to come on vacation with them — Joy, an asexual woman, hatches a plan to win Malcolm’s affections once and for all.
38 Stud Like Her
When her girlfriend dumps her, Chance seeks out the one who got away — the fellow stud she fell in love with way back when, but was too nervous to make a move on. Instead of reuniting with her old flame, though, Chance finds herself drawn to a much-younger stud named Garett.
39 Surpassing Certainty: What My Twenties Taught Me
Janet Mock — the writer best known for her 2014 memoir,
Redefining Realness — scored a Lambda Literary Award nomination for her 2017 book, Surpassing Certainty. Here, Mock recounts the foils and foibles of her youth, from her early college career as a sex worker to her first love, each a stop on her journey to find herself. 40 Time Is a Mother
Composed in the aftermath of his mother’s death, Ocean Vuong’s second poetry collection,
Time Is a Mother, ruminates on family, loss, and identity. 41 Transgender History: The Roots of Today’s Revolution
Transgender History may not cover pre-modern gender-nonconformity, but it does provide a fascinating and much-needed look at the last 70 years or so of trans culture. With bathroom bills and anti-trans sports legislation still making headlines across the United States, it’s important that everyone in the LGBTQ+ community, and their allies, understand how far we’ve come... and how far we’ve yet to go. 42 A Two-Spirit Journey: The Autobiography of a Lesbian Ojibwa-Cree Elder
Ma-Nee Chacaby did not lead an easy life. Her childhood in Northern Ontario was rife with abuse, and she narrowly avoided being separated from her family by Canadian welfare authorities — a stroke of luck that allowed her to remain connected with her Ojibwa-Cree heritage. Chacaby has openly identified as a lesbian since 1988, when backlash against her unplanned coming-out inspired her to begin telling her own story, her way.
43 Uncomfortable Labels: My Life as a Gay Autistic Trans Woman
Gender Euphoria, there was Uncomfortable Labels: Laura Kate Dale’s memoir about being diagnosed as autistic, growing up trans, and figuring out you’re gay. Dale begins her story before her diagnosis and transition, touching on the web of connections between her autism and her identity and sexuality. The result is an intimate, eye-opening look at the experiences of a rarely discussed subgroup within the LGBTQIA+ community. 44 Under the Udala Trees
Nigerian American author Chinelo Okparanta’s
Under the Udala Trees attracted major attention upon its publication in 2015, eventually winning the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian General Fiction, among other honors. The story here centers on two young girls, Ijeoma and Amina, who fall in love in midcentury Nnewi, Nigeria, against the backdrop of the Nigerian-Biafran War. 45 We Have Always Been Here
In her native Pakistan, Samra Habib learned to keep her identity as a member of a minority Muslim sect a secret. After immigrating to Canada, Habib found herself questioning gender roles and her sexuality, while navigating her new life in a country where being a Muslim, of any denomination, made her a minority.
46 The Well of Loneliness
Banned as obscene upon its publication in 1928,
The Well of Loneliness follows Stephen, an “invert” — aka homosexual — woman from an upper-class English family, as she struggles to find a place to settle and live as she wishes, away from the judgments of others. 47 The Women’s House of Detention: A Queer History of a Forgotten Prison
Between 1929 and 1974, tens of thousands of inmates — including cis women, trans men, and nonbinary folks — were housed at Greenwich Village’s Women’s House of Detention, many of them for no crime other than being “improperly feminine.” In this microhistory,
When Brooklyn Was Queer author Hugh Ryan examines the prison’s legacy and impact on the wider queer community. 48 Wound from the Mouth of a Wound
In their first full-length poetry collection,
award-winning writer torrin a. greathouse draws from their own experiences as an autistic, disabled, queer, trans person to explore questions of the body, the mind, violence, and acceptance. 49 Young Mungo
Shuggie Bain author Douglas Stuart comes Young Mungo, a deeply affective coming-of-age story about two Glasgow boys — the Protestant Mungo and Catholic James — whose unlikely friendship evolves into something more. 50 Zami: A New Spelling of My Name
Audre Lorde’s 1982 “biomythography” traces the poet’s life, from her childhood as the daughter of West Indian immigrants living in Harlem, to her time spent living in Mexico after college, to her return to New York City’s lesbian enclaves.
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This article was originally published on
June 25, 2021