In honor of Pride Month and the desire to contextualize the current circumstances we are living in, here are some books to include in your reading list. They aim to shed light on and clarify significant historical moments which informed and shaped the modern LGBTQ rights movement.
All My Mother’s Lovers: A Novel by Ilana Masad
After Maggie’s mother dies unexpectedly, she returns home to California to deal with the aftermath. She goes on the road of discovery when she finds a collection of sealed letters her mother wrote to her lovers. When Maggie sets out to deliver them to their intended recipients, she learns a lot about her parents’ relationship, her late mom, and herself.
And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic by Randy Shilts
This book is an international bestseller and was made into a critically acclaimed movie. It is a blend of investigative reporting and vivid storytelling. Using the narratives of doctors who were on the front lines of the outbreak, politicians and scientists who ignored it, and the real people who were affected by the government’s negligence, it follows the rise of the AIDs epidemic.
Boy Erased: A Memoir of Identity, Faith, and Family by Garrard Conley
This book is a New York Times bestselling memoir about identity, love and understanding. It is now a major motion picture starring Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, and Lucas Hedges.
The son of a Baptist minister, Garrard grew up terrified of his sexuality. His religion strictly forbade homosexuality. When he’s forcibly outed, he had a choice to make. Either attend a twelve-step program meant to “cure” him or lose everyone he loves.
Call Me by Your Name: A Novel by André Aciman
An adolescent boy falls in love with a summer guest at his parents’ cliffside home in the Italian Riviera. They are both caught off guard by the passion which ensues. This obsessive, reckless love story became a major motion picture and an instant international sensation.
City of Night by John Rechy
You will be taking a trip into the underground world of gay hustlers, drag queens, and sex workers when reading this book. This tale scandalized the literary world when it first came out. It is now an international best seller and has become a classic.
Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability by Robert McRuer
In this book, the author draws on queer and disability studies. It presents a more subtle view of the LGBTQ community with disabilities, examining how certain bodies are deemed normal versus abject by society.
Exciting Times: A Novel by Naoise Dolan
A young Irish woman living in Hong Kong gets mixed up in a love triangle with a male banker and female lawyer.
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
Don’t sleep while reading this poignant tale of a dysfunctional family and a daughter who just wants her dad. Bechdel’s clan is led by a father whose part funeral director, part English teacher, part historian and as it turns out, was homosexual. In this groundbreaking, bestselling graphic memoir, Alison Bechdel detailed her relationship with her late father. Her story became a popular Broadway show.
Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
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.
Here for It: Or, How to Save Your Soul in America; Essays by R. Eric Thomas
This book will resonate deeply with everyone who has ever felt pushed to the wall, struggled with self-acceptance, or wished to shine more brightly in a dark world. Let the author open your eyes to what it’s like being a queer person in America right now.
How to Survive a Plague: The Story of How Activists and Scientists Tamed AIDS by David France
Inspired by the 2012 documentary by the same name, this book recreates how a handful of shunned activists and AIDs-infected individuals researched AIDs and possible cures in a desperate attempt to save their own and their loved ones’ lives.
In at the Deep End by Kate Davies
This book is about self-discovery, sexual awakening and how a bad relationship can make you learn about yourself.
In the Dream House: A Memoir by Carmen Maria Machado
This memoir takes us through an abusive relationship with a female and what it does to a person. In a world where people believe abuse only occurs when a man is involved, this author’s work is essential.
Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls: A Memoir by T. Kira Madden
This author’s debut memoir is about coming of age and reckoning with a desire as a queer, biracial teenager amidst the fierce contradictions of Boca Raton, Florida. She found cult-like privilege, shocking racial disparities, rampant white-collar crime and powerfully destructive standards of beauty hiding in plain sight.
Love Wins: The Lovers and Lawyers Who Fought the Landmark Case for Marriage Equality by Debbie Cenziper and Jim Obergefell
This book is a fascinating and very moving story of the lovers, lawyers, judges and activists behind the groundbreaking Supreme Court case that led to one of the most important, national civil rights victories in decades, the legalization of same-sex marriage.
Maurice: A Novel by E. M. Forster
This steamy novel was written in 1913, but not published until after Forster’s death in 1971. The main character meets and falls in love with Clive while at school. However, Clive eventually leaves his lover and marries a woman. But then, Maurice falls in love with another man.
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
The introduction to this 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. However, it is undoubtedly one of the landmarks of queer literature. It won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
On Being Different: What It Means to Be a Homosexual by Merle Miller
Considered one of the earliest gay memoirs, this book was originally published as an essay in response to a homophobic essay in Harper’s Magazine. It’s exactly what the title describes: a book which affirms the importance of coming out.
Radical Hope: Letters of Love and Dissent in Dangerous Times by Carolina De Robertis
This series of letters goes out to anyone who feels alone, afraid, weary, or discouraged by the challenging times we live in and needs a dose of hope and encouragement. Writers like Junot Diaz, Karen Jay Fowler, Celeste Ng, and many others lent their considerable talents to this anthology.
Real Queer America: LGBT Stories From Red States by Samantha Allen
The author, a transgender reporter, looks at the unique challenges, triumphs and narratives of LGBTQ people living in the U.S.’s most conservative counties.
Rubyfruit Jungle: A Novel by Rita Mae Brown
Molly Bolt is the adoptive daughter of a poor Southern couple who makes her own way across America, finding love of the lesbian kind. This novel is a celebration of being true to yourself.
Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story by Jacob Tobia
As a kid, Jacob was called “sissy” for being creative, sassy, and obsessed with girlish persuits. 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 running rampant through many of our childhoods.
Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde
In this book, black lesbian poet and feminist Audre Lorde analyzes the presence of ageism, sexism, racism, classism and homophobia in her own life through a collection of lyrical essays and speeches.
Tales of the City: A Novel by Armistead Maupin
For almost four decades Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City has blazed its own trail through popular culture, from a groundbreaking newspaper serial to a classic novel, to a television event that entranced millions around the world. This was the first of nine novels about the denizens of the mythic apartment house at 28 Barbary Lane. It is both a sparkling comedy of manners and an indelible portrait of an era that changed forever the way we live.
The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies by Vito Russo
Published in 1987, the author’s analysis of the portrayal of homosexuality in film has laid the foundation for the how we evaluate LGBTQ representation in film today. It has further supported the argument that representation matters.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Walker’s masterpiece about the love between women is an LGBT classic. It was 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.
The Deviant’s War: The Homosexual vs. the United States of America by Eric Cervini
While many believe the fight for LGBTQ rights began at New York City’s Stonewall Inn during the summer of 1969, it actually began with a grassroots “homophile” movement that has been largely overlooked. In “The Deviant’s War,” the first LGBTQ+ history book to make the New York Times Best Sellers list in more than 25 years, historian Eric Cervini debunks this misconception. Cervini documents the work of Frank Kameny and other gay activists during the late 1950s and ‘60s, illuminating their role in laying the groundwork that would lead to the Stonewall uprising.
The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle by Lillian Faderman
This book is a thorough introduction to the history of the gay and lesbian civil rights movements. It chronicles the early struggles of LGBTQ individuals from the 1950s to present day using a compilation of enlightening interviews with politicians, military officials and members of the community.
The Gods of Tango by Carolina de Robertis
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 while disguised as a young man.
The Hours: A Novel by Michael Cunningham
Drawing on the life of Virginia Woolf, Cunningham weaves several stories together. He paints a rich tapestry of characters struggling to meet the demands of friends, lovers, and family.
The Lavender Scare by David E. Johnson
With the help of declassified documents and interview with military officials, David Johnson argues that Senator Joseph McCarthy was just as guilty of promoting anti-Communism paranoia as he was inspiring policies that considered homosexuality a threat to national security.
The Men with the Pink Triangle by Heinz Heger
In lurid detail, Heinz Hager tells the tale of Josef Kohout. He was a man imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp for being gay. He reminds the world of the torture gay individuals suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Dorian Gray, a handsome young man, receives a beautiful painting of himself from his good friend Basil Hallward. Around the same time, a new acquaintance introduces Dorian to the ideals of youthfulness and hedonism of which Gray becomes immediately obsessed. Meanwhile, the painting in Dorian’s possession serves as a constant reminder of his passing beauty and youth which drives his obsession.
The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith
A chance meeting, an illicit romance, and the freedom of the open road can all be found within this book.
The Stonewall Reader by Edmund White (Foreword) and The New York Public Library (Editor)
This is a collection of essays and articles from The New York Public Library’s archives. It was released in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising. The book chronicles the fight that sparked the modern LGBTQ rights movement.
Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss, and the Fight for Trans Equality by Sarah McBride
The author of this book became the first transgender person to ever speak in front of a national political convention at the age of 26. However, this doesn’t mean her transition was 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.
Transgender History: The Roots of Today’s Revolution by Susan Stryker
This book covers American transgender history from the mid-twentieth century thru today. It takes a chronological approach to the subject of transgender history. Each chapter covers major movements, writings, and events.
Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to Dennis Rodman by Leslie Feinberg
Within this book, the author scours history to find gender-nonconforming and transgender individuals that traditional historical accounts have often ignored or misrepresented.
When Katie Met Cassidy by Camille Perri
This books is about gender, sexuality and the importance of figuring out who we are in order to go after what we truly want. It’s also a portrait of a high-drama subculture where barrooms may as well be bedrooms. Loyal friends wind up filling in the spaces absent families leave behind. Katie’s glimpse into this world alters how she sees the larger picture and where she fits into it.
When We Rise: My Life in the Movement by Cleve Jones
This semi-autobiographical book follows the author as he explores his identity as a gay man in the 1950s. He discovers a community and a cause through his mentor. How he copes with the effects of the AIDS epidemic is discussed within.
Wow, No Thank You.: Essays by Samantha Irby
In this book, the author writes openly about her life. she is a middle-aged married lesbian living in a Blue town in a Red state. Everything this entails is within.
You Exist Too Much: A Novel by Zaina Arafat
This books is a captivating story about love and a place to call home. It showcases the fantasies of one young woman caught between cultural, religious, and sexual identities.
You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein
Through a collection of real-life stories, the author offers a poignant take on a variety of topics. She shares her experiences during her strange journey to womanhood and beyond.
This list is by no means an exhaustive one. Do you know of another literary work on this topic which we should add to this list? If so, please let us know within the Comments section below.
2 Reply to “40+ LGBTQ Books to Include in Your Reading List”
This is a really extensive and wonderful list of books depicting LGBTQ lives. Thank you for this. As someone who identifies as gay, this list really gives me a great reading list!
It’s so important to keep growing and learning- a diverse book collection is a great way!
Comments are closed.