23 must-read books by LGBTQIA+ authors, from stunning memoirs to heartwarming romance novels
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- LGBTQIA+ authors bring a necessary perspective to queer literature.
- We rounded up the best books by queer authors, including YA, memoirs, romance novels, and more.
- Want more books? Check out our list of the best LGBTQ-friendly books for kids.
LGBTQIA+ authors bring an authentic and unparalleled perspective to queer literature with the ability to inspire, influence, and encourage readers to celebrate sexuality, no matter their identity. These books often bring to light the serious emotional, mental, and physical trials that queer people endure, while also depicting beautiful love stories or inspirational triumphs.
We chose the books on this list based on queer authors we love. We also included a wide range of genres, from romance to memoir, so whether you’re part of the LGBTQIA+ community or an ally, the books on this list are sure to blow you away.
23 great books by LGBTQIA+ authors:
- Fiction and Poetry
- Young Adult
Fiction and Poetry
'Giovanni's Room' by James Baldwin
James Baldwin was an American novelist and activist whose writing proved vital during the Black and gay liberation movements of the 1950s and ’60s. “Giovanni’s Room” follows an American man named David who is alone in Paris while his fiancé is away on a trip. While David is determined to live a conventional life, he’s drawn to an Italian bartender named Giovanni and finds himself spending the night in Giovanni’s dark bedroom. Baldwin’s novel is a passionate tangle of love, mortality, and sexuality, controversial when it was published but now a queer literature classic.
'Memorial' by Bryan Washington
Benson and Mike are two young men who love each other, but aren’t exactly sure why they’re still together. When tragedy pulls them to opposite ends of the world, each sets out on their own journey of self-exploration and transforms outside of the confines of their relationship. This book is about family, vulnerability, and embracing our truest identities, beloved for its sensitive touch and multicultural lens.
'Birthday' by Meredith Russo
Meredith Russo is a trans author who shines in exploring gender identity, sexuality, poverty, and trauma in her writing. This novel follows Morgan and Eric once a year on their shared birthday, as the two are forever bonded by coming into the world on the same day, at the same time, in the same hospital. As the years pass, they’re sometimes close and sometimes drift apart, the story soaring as we watch Morgan and Eric embrace and slowly become their true selves. Russo’s writing captures a brutally honest and ultimately heartwarming story about exploring our identities.
'On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous' by Ocean Vuong
Little Dog writes a letter to his mother who cannot read. As he tells the story of his family’s history in Vietnam to the present, unearthing factions of his identity previously kept secret, the novel demonstrates the importance of being heard. “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” is tender and graceful, — when I read it, I felt like I was holding my breath so even an exhale would not interrupt his story. Even the prose when Little Dog expresses anger, rage, and violence is darkly eloquent and desperate to be understood. It’s a beautiful novel of healing, surviving, and embracing ourselves.
'History is All You Left Me' by Adam Silvera
Adam Silvera is a bestselling author who continues to stun readers with his work. This novel follows Griffin, who moved to California for college after his first love, Theo, died in a drowning accident. Though he’s started seeing Jackson, Griffin never truly dealt with the traumatic events that are now haunting him. As he continues to spiral downward, Griffin struggles to cope with his secrets, his destructive choices, and his future. Griffin is a profoundly interesting character, a puzzle of a person who is trying to put himself back together.
'The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi'
This book moved me and made me cry more than once — it’s one of those stories where you slowly put together the pieces as you read until suddenly, you realize how intense and emotive the plot truly is. In eastern Nigeria, a mother opens her front door to find her grown child lying on her front step, wrapped in colorful cloth, dead. The story follows the family as they try to understand someone they never fully knew. While Vivek felt disconnected from his parents, he found friendship with a close few and formed a deep relationship with his cousin, Ostia. With a rising crisis that climaxes with an act of violence, this novel is one I personally recommend often because the beauty captured in the writing is nothing short of stunning.
'How We Fight for our Lives' by Saeed Jones
Saeed Jones is most well-known for his poetry collection “Prelude to Bruise” and now his memoir, which won the 2020 Stonewall Book Award/Israel Fishman Nonfiction Award. “How We Fight For Our Lives” is told in a series of vignettes depicting Saeed’s personal coming-of-age story as a young, Black, gay man in the South. The stories are a powerful mix of poetry and prose that cumulate to a stunning portrait of how race, sex, queerness, power, and love clash and harmonize as we fight to become ourselves. Saeed’s memoir explores the vulnerable avenues of his life and demonstrates the inspiring strength of an individual.
'Fairest' by Meredith Talusan
Meredith was once a young boy with albinism from a rural village in the Philippines. As a US immigrant passing as white, she went to Harvard on an academic scholarship and discovered communities where she could explore the complexities of sexuality, gender, race, class, and her place within all of it. Talusan’s memoir is a reflection of an eventful and thoughtful adolescence and young adulthood, one where she bares her struggles of navigating life in a deeply human way — a fluid construction, changing and evolving as she discovers more about herself and the world.
'All Boys Aren't Blue' by George M. Johnson
From navigating bullies to love, George M. Johnson, a prominent journalist and activist, writes about his childhood through young adulthood to paint a searingly honest portrait of the successes and setbacks experienced by Black queer boys. Johnson’s memoir is both an exploration and a guide for readers who might be looking for affirmation that their identity is not only valid, but deserves to be celebrated and cherished.
'Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love' by Jonathan Van Ness
Jonathan Van Ness is most well-known for their bubbly, positive personality on “Queer Eye,” constantly encouraging self-love. Their memoir tells the story of the dark days that preceded the shining person we see today. Jonathan reveals their more personal side in this book, including years of trauma and countless secrets they’ve hidden from the public. Despite the hard times they’ve faced, the passion and positivity still radiates through their writing. If you’re able to listen to the audiobook, JVN’s narration adds every bit of the fun and flair for which they’re known and loved.
'In the Dream House' by Carmen Maria Machado
Carmen Maria Machado spent years trying to tell the story of her abusive same-sex realationship, finally finding the voice through chapters told through different narrative horror tropes. Addressing her religious upbringing, she notes the stereotype of physical safety within lesbian relationships while demonstrating the effects of abuse on victim’s memory, reality, and voice. Where society has previously failed to acknowledge same-sex domestic and emotional abuse, Machado offers a structure with which readers are familiar and uses it to tell a challenging truth.
'Gender Queer' by Maia Kobabe
Maia Kobabe, who uses e/em/eir pronouns, is both the author and the illustrator of eir optimistic and bright graphic memoir. This is the journey of Maia’s identity through eir young crushes, coming out, and navigating gender in a world built for the binary. This graphic novel began as Maia’s way to explain what it meant to em to be non-binary and asexual, and evolved into a liberating story of freedom and bravery.
'Something to Talk About' by Meryl Wilsner
When actress Jo is photographed making Emma, her assistant, laugh on the red carpet, rumors of their romance swirl and threaten both of their careers. Despite offering “no comment,” the gossip grows from anonymous sources to the relentless paparazzi. Brought together over their situation, Emma and Jo find they find more happiness in each other than they thought — and the rumors might contain a hint of truth. Brought to you by Meryl Wilsner, a non-binary author, this queer romance is a slow burn as the friendship between Emma and Jo gets deeper before it develops into more.
'Boy Meets Boy' by David Levithan
David Levithan’s books are gay teen fiction staples, and this romantic novel continues to prove why. It takes place in a world uniquely from Paul’s perspective, one spinning with fascinating classmates and entertaining tales. When Paul meets Noah, he feels it’s the magical “boy meets boy” scenario of which he’s been dreaming, until he blows it. Juggling friendships, family, and past relationships, Paul knows everything might have to fall apart before it can be put back together, and he’s ready for the journey if it means winning Noah back. “Boy Meets Boy” a heartwarming rom-com with characters we can’t help but want to follow ton their journeys.
'Red, White, & Royal Blue' by Casey McQuiston
Non-binary author Casey McQuinston’s debut novel, “Red, White, & Royal Blue,” garnered adoration from readers who were drawn to it for the queer and interesting characters and a swoon-worthy enemies-to-lovers romance. Alex and Henry are bitter rivals, one the First Son of the United States and the other a British prince. When photos of their rivalry reach the tabloids, their PR teams’ plan to save their image of diplomacy is to stage a fake friendship between the two. But as they begin to spend more time together, their fake friendship begins to blossom into a real one — and perhaps even more.
'Juliet Takes a Breath' by Gabby Rivera
In an empowering novel that tackles some hard perspectives on racial bias, we follow Juliet — a proud, self-proclaimed “Puerto Rican Baby Dyke” as she leaves the Bronx for an internship in Portland. After coming out to her mother is met with poor reception, Juliet looks forward to interning for her idol, feminist author Harlowe Brisbane. Though Harlowe is a hippy white woman, Juliet is hoping to explore the feminist world and her new identity as a Puerto Rican lesbian. Written by Gabby Rivera, a queer Puerto Rican author, this YA is explorative, driven by a protagonist who is searching for answers.
'You Should See Me In A Crown' by Leah Johnson
This YA hit is Leah Johnson’s debut novel, earning incredible accolades including a Stonewall Book Award Honor. It follows Liz Lighty, a teenage girl who believes she is “too Black and too poor” to shine in her small town, dreaming instead of attending Pennington College, playing in their renowned orchestra, and becoming a doctor. When Liz struggles to secure financial aid, she finds a solution: the scholarship granted to her school’s prom king and queen. Her fear of the spotlight is overshadowed by her drive to leave her high school, which is only bearable because of the cute new girl, Mack, who is also gunning for the prom queen spot. “You Should See Me In A Crown” is a wonderful Black, queer love story, and too irresistibly cute to put down.
'Kate in Waiting' by Becky Albertalli
Becky Albertalli is a bisexual author best known for “Simon vs. the Homosapiens Agenda” — a popular novel about a teen coming out in high school. “Kate in Waiting” is Albertalli’s latest, a totally unique story of Kate and Anderson, inseparable best friends who love theater and pining over the same unattainable boys. When one of their long-distance crushes comes to their school, very real feelings complicate their friendship. While this book is absolutely cute and full of funny banter, it’s perfectly balanced with a juicy plot and highly emotional moments.
'The Henna Wars' by Adiba Jaigirdar
When Nishat comes out to her parents, they tell her that Muslim women simply cannot be lesbians. To further complicate her life, Nishat’s (very cute) childhood friend, Flávia, is suddenly back in her life, and her main competition in a school project to create a small business. Though Flávia isn’t Muslim, she and Nishat create rival henna businesses, Flávia’s quickly flourishing despite appropriating Nishat’s culture. As Nishat struggles with her sexuality, running her business, and attempting to shake her crush on Flávia, readers also navigate the complex subjects of race and identity. Adiba Jaigirdar is a queer Bangladeshi and Irish author, whose debut novel is a lovely tale of friendship.
'Like a Love Story' by Abdi Nasemian
Abdi Nasemian is a gay Iranian-American screenwriter, producer, and author of “Like A Love Story,” a love letter to queer history that received a Stonewall Honor in 2020. It follows three teens in New York City in 1989 during the height of the AIDS crisis. Reha is an Iranian boy who knows he’s gay, but is afraid to acknowledge his sexuality. Judy is an aspiring fashion designer who adores her uncle, Stephen — a gay man with AIDS who dedicates his time to AIDS activism. The third teen, Art, is out and proud but struggling to find his place — and sets out to document the AIDS crisis through photography. This is a deeply emotional and honest navigation of sexuality and coming-of-age in the ’80s, beloved for each character’s unique voice.
'We Set the Dark on Fire' by Tehlor Kay Mejia
Tehlor Key Mejia is a queer Latinx writer who is passionate about representation of marginalized communities in literature. In her debut YA fantasy novel, “We Set the Dark on Fire,” readers enter the Medio School for Girls, where young women train for one of two jobs in society: Running a man’s house or raising his children — either way, protected in a life of comfort away from the uprisings of the lower class. Daniela is the school’s top student, quickly approached by rebel spies after graduation, caught in a tapestry of choices with intense consequences. It’s the story of former rivals-turned-girlfriends leading a revolution against a corrupt government.
'All the Birds in the Sky' by Charlie Jane Anders
In this epic mash-up of fantasy and science fiction, there resides an ancient society of witches and a hipster, tech start-up. With a backdrop of international chaos, a war wages in San Francisco. Patricia and Laurence were once childhood friends who parted ways, only to reunite as the battle between science and magic threatens to either save the world — or end it. This book is a unique amalgamation of genres — a mix of fantasy, dystopian science fiction, and magical realism all woven together by Charlie Jane Anders, a talented trans writer.
'The House in the Cerulean Sea' by T.J. Klune
“The House in the Cerulean Sea” follows 40-year-old Linus Baker, a Case Worker for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, as he’s given a top secret assignment to travel to a remote island where six dangerous children reside with their caretaker, Arthur. As he meets the children — including a green blob, a gnome, a transformable Pomeranian, and the literal Antichrist — he finds that the mystery and fear surrounding both them and their caretaker may be unwarranted, especially as he finds his relationship with Arthur getting closer. T.J. Klune is an asexual author who demonstrates the importance of queer representation in all kinds of stories.
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