The only thing better than reading a book is reading a gay book. Never had the pleasure? Well, you’re in luck because we’ve compiled a list of 10 essential new LGBTQ+ books to change that for you. This list has been carefully curated to ensure that there’s something for everybody—because reading is what? Fundamental.
1. This Poison Heart Series
Starting off strong by giving you two incredible books in one series. The This Poison Heart series by Kalynn Bayron follows Briseis, a girl with a unique and deadly gift. She can grow plants from tiny seeds to rich blooms with a single touch. When her aunt dies, she leaves Briseis, a crumbling estate in rural New York. There Briseis hopes to hone her abilities and harness her powers. She gets more than she bargained for with dark secrets, a centuries-old curse, and the deadliest plant on earth. The sequel, This Wicked Fate, was published in 2022, so there is plenty more to explore once you devour the first book. The series, which centers on a young Black protagonist, elegantly incorporates LGBTQ+ themes, including non-binary characters. This series is a great place to start if you love contemporary YA fantasy as much as we do.
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2. Obie Is Man Enough
If you’re looking for something a little more grounded in reality, then look no further. Author Schuyler Bailar drew from his own experiences to write his first book but added elements to give his protagonist a version of childhood that Bailar never had. Obie is a Korean-American middle school student who has always felt at home in the water. He is an amazing swimmer trying to make the Junior Olympics. He is also transgender. As he contends with the pressures of school, bullying, competition, and his first crush, Obie is determined to prove himself. Be aware that Obie deals with quite a bit of transphobia in this book. If that might be difficult for you, be sure to take breaks when you need them. Although this book came out last year, we can’t help but shout out Bailar’s fantastic inaugural work. We can’t wait to see more.
3. You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty
On the heels of their last book, The Death of Vivek Oji, Nigerian writer Akwaeke Emezi is back with another book written from a deeply queer perspective. This deeply genuine novel follows Feyi as she heals from the trauma of widowhood and finds new love. Her best friend decides to help Feyi get back into the dating scene, but Feyi finds herself deep in a complicated love triangle. After a steamy night in Brooklyn, she develops feelings for Nasir. Soon after, on a visit to an idyllic island, she locks eyes with his father Alim. Emezi’s work artfully explores desire, devotion, love, loyalty, and morality themes. The book also features a supportive queer friendship and two bisexual main characters. This is an essential read, and Amazon Studios has already won the right to adapt the book into a feature film. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up.
Let’s cool things down just a tad with this irresistible YA book by A. L. Graziadei. Icebreaker follows seventeen-year-old Mickey James III, who comes from a prestigious family of NHL stars. The only person standing in his way as he vyes for the league’s top draft spot is Jaysen Caulfield. The two hockey players go head-to-head as they try to excel in their sport but find themselves locked in a “rivals to romance” storyline. This story is about falling in love, finding your team (on and off the ice), and choosing your own path.
5. Ophelia After All
Assuming you’re working through this list one by one, I’d say it’s time for something a bit more warm and comforting. Author Racquel Marie makes her contemporary YA debut with a warm hug. The book follows Ophelia Rojas, who begins the story knowing exactly what she likes. Her friends, Cuban food, rose-gardening, and boys. That is until she meets Talia Sanchez, who sets Ophelia down a path of self-discovery lined with fractured friendships and new love. As her vision of herself unravels, will she let go of the fantasy version of herself or rediscover who she really is, after all? This delicate coming-of-age story is a fantastic debut for Racquel Marie and a shining example of queer Latine representation.
What if Jane Austen wrote queer characters? The Venn diagram between Jane Austen readers and LGBTQ+ readers may not be a circle, but there is a distinct overlap. For those of us in the middle, there is Infamous. Non-binary author Lex Croucher made their literary debut last year with Reputation, a classic romcom with a Regency-era twist. Their newest book takes readers right back to the Regency era for a fun sapphic romp. The story follows Eddie, a clueless, stubborn aspiring author, and her cool, hot best friend Rose. As Eddie struggles to finish her novel, her situationship with Edie becomes a distraction. She escapes to indulge in pure hedonism with a charming poet and his entourage of eccentric artists in a crumbling Gothic estate. It isn’t long before Eddie realizes that not all is what it seems. Equal parts clever and hilarious, Infamous is a must for fans of historical fiction. If you’d like to see what happens when Booksmart meets Bridgerton, pick this one up today.
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7. Mademoiselle Revolution
While we’re back here in historical fiction, let’s add a dash of chaotic bisexual energy, shall we? Mademoiselle Revolution by Zoe Sivak tells the story of Sylvie de Rosiers, the daughter of a rich planter and an enslaved woman in 18th-century Saint-Domingue society. Despite being born to privilege, Sylvie was never fully accepted by island elites. She later flees the island to Paris to escape a violent rebellion that marked the beginning of the Haitian Revolution. Little did she know that she had gotten out of the frying pan and into the fire. Her life soon becomes entangled with famous revolutionaries, including Maximilien Robespierre and his mistress, Cornélie Duplay. As the Reign of Terror ensues, Sylvie must find herself increasingly torn between Robespierre’s ideology and Cornélie’s love. This one is as timely as it is poignant, and we highly recommend it.
8. She Who Became The Sun
Before we leave the realm of historical queer fiction (can you tell we have a bias?), we have one more stop in history. She Who Became the Sun by author Shelley Parker-Chan takes place in 1345, during the decline of the Yuan dynasty. The story follows an unnamed daughter of the Zhu family and their beloved son Zhu Chongba. After a bandit raid orphans them both, Zhu Chongba, who was expected to amount to greatness, succumbs to his grief and dies. Our protagonist, expected to amount to nothing, assumes her brother’s identity to enter a monastery as a young male novice. From here, she can step into the greatness that was expected of her brother and rebel against the harsh conditions of Mongol rule. If you’re like us, the idea of exploring an alternate version of China’s history through the eyes of a gender-non-conforming protagonist is very exciting. Good instincts. This book is a true epic of sweeping proportions. Drink in every page. You can also file this under “published last year, but we couldn’t resist.”
9. The Circus Infinite
If historical fiction isn’t your thing, let’s go back to the future with The Circus Infinite by Khan Wong. The book follows Jes, who lands a circus job on the pleasure moon. Jes, hunted by those who want to study his gravity powers, has a bounty on his head and suddenly finds himself between a rock and a hard place. He is faced with the decision to blow his cover or fulfill the horrific requests made of him by a crime boss who learns of his situation. The Circus Infinite is a fresh take on the typical science fiction narrative and does not shy away from dark topics like death, torture, and violence. We must also mention that this book contains an asexual protagonist—a truly rare find!
10. The Women’s House of Detention
Now that we’ve had our fill of fiction, it’s about time for an incredible piece of nonfiction, don’t you think? The Women’s House of Detention: A Queer History of a Forgotten Prison is an essential book for every queer person’s collection. Author Hugh Ryan explores a world that so often goes unacknowledged in LGBTQ+ history. Ryan explores the little-known lives of incarcerated New Yorkers in the afformention “Women’s House of Detention.” Between 1929 and 1974, tens of thousands of women, trans men, and gender-nonconforming people were crammed into crowded cells. Among them include notable names such as Angela Davis, Afeni Shakur, and Andrea Dworkin. At the time, the House of D was a cage for countless queer folks. The book addresses how the system punishes poor, queer, and Black women and folks for simply existing. When you put down this book, you will leave with a stronger understanding of queer history and a uniquely queer case for prison abolition. Do not skip this one.
LGBTQ+ Books Are Essential
Maybe you prefer fantasy books filled with magic or books grounded in the lived experiences of queer people today. Perhaps you’re looking for a steamy romance, an icy rivalry, or a warm hug. You might be in the market for historical fiction or a thrilling sci-fi adventure. Or maybe you just want to connect to actual queer history. Whatever you’re looking for, there is an LGBTQ+ book out there for you. Books with protagonists who look like something like you or talk something like you. People who share some of your lived experiences or live some of your most fantastic dreams. They may not be in these 10 LGBTQ+ books, but never stop looking. They can change lives.