The 21 Best LGBTQ+ Books to Read Right Now
From recent releases to upcoming titles, here are the best LGBTQ books you should be adding to your bookshelf ASAP.
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Pride on the bookshelf
There’s no doubt that more queer representation is still needed in all media, but when it comes to the literary world, it’s wonderful to see the strides LGBTQ+ authors have made in writing and reading stories in their own voices. From coming out memoirs and queer romance to sci-fi and YA books that explore gender, and more, LGBTQ books are spanning across all genres in a big way. And despite the fact that LGBTQ books are still censored in great numbers, we know that the demand for queer books continues to grow each year. Whether you’re seeking queer novels written by female-identified authors, LGBTQ books by Black authors, or any other newer book under the literary rainbow, here are the best recent releases and upcoming titles you won’t want to miss.
Best for toddlers: Pride 123 by Michael Joosten
This adorable counting board book teaches the youngest readers the basics of what it is to celebrate Pride. Little ones will love seeing the diverse families, colorful rainbow flags, and fanciful floats featured in this brilliant children’s book.
Best for school-aged kids: My Rainbow by DeShanna and Trinity Neal
This sweet story about a young Black trans girl in search of the perfect wig warms the heart and teaches children to embrace their differences all at once. Called “a revolutionary representation of joy and self-expression” by Kirkus, starred review, readers are sure to love the positive messaging in this picture book written by a mother-daughter team.
Best for tweens and teens: You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson
Johnson’s debut book about a young, awkward Black girl who ends up running for prom queen and falling for her competitor garnered attention after being selected as the first-ever YA pick by Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club. It’s a fun and funny story that celebrates Black girlhood in all its glory. This book club pick that’s guaranteed to get everyone talking is also noted as a Teacher’s Pick on Amazon and received a Stonewall Book Honor.
Best trans YA romance: Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
Nominated for two Goodreads Choice, Cemetery Boys is a joyful tearjerker that manages to blend love, Latinx culture, and the paranormal all into one. Thomas’s debut novel is about a gay, trans brujo (one who practices witchcraft) looking to prove himself to his family is a thoroughly delightful and one-of-a-kind read.
Best body-positive YA romance: I’ll Be The One by Lyla Lee
For a feel-good, queer girl read, check out this light-hearted debut by author Lyla Lee. It centers around Skye Shin, an overweight, bisexual, Korean teen who dreams of being a K-Pop dancer and won’t let anyone dash her dreams. This sweet, uplifting tale is featured in the 2021 Rainbow Book List Top 10 Titles.
Best coming-of-age trans romance: Stay Gold by Tobly McSmith
It’s an old story: the mysterious new guy and the cheerleader start to fall for one another. But with Pony being a trans guy hoping to avoid attention, and the cisgendered cheerleader gal Georgia hoping to commit to a year of no dating, the plot gets a much-desired revision as an LGBTQ book for young adults. McSmith’s modern romance novel has been receiving great reviews, with a 4.6 rating on Audible and a 4.7 on Amazon.
Best emotionally-charged fiction novel: After Elias by Eddy Boudel Tan
Prepare your Kleenex: reviewers on GoodReads call this novel “heart-wrenching and bittersweet,” “powerful and compelling,” and often “beautiful.” In Tan’s debut tear-jerker of a novel about a gay man’s grief over the loss of his fiance just a day before their wedding, we are treated to a story that is complex and tragic, and worth absorbing.
Best queer femme historical fiction: Last Night at The Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo
Written by critically acclaimed author Malinda Lo, this tale of two young women falling in love in San Francisco’s Chinatown in the 1950s has already become a national bestseller since its debut in January of this year. Reviewers have called this novel an “instant classic” and a “joy to read” and we agree.
Best memoir that doubles as a manifesto: All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
Journalist and LGBTQ+ activist George M. Johnson treats readers to a vivid series of essays of his youth on the east coast—the painful and the beautiful memories, and all the in-between experienced by a Black queer boy. Nominated for a Goodreads Choice Awards Best Memoir & Autobiography, Johnson’s book has also been optioned for television by actress and activist Gabrielle Union. These are move books that are in the process of becoming movies or TV shows.
Best essay collection: Tomboyland by Melissa Faliveno
Faliveno’s essay collection of her memoirs takes us on a much different journey than our previous pick—growing up a queer girl in the American Midwest. In her debut book, Faliveno paints vivid pictures of tornadoes and softball, roller derby, and gun culture, weaving memories and facts seamlessly. Tomboyland has been chosen as an Editor’s Pick for Best Biographies and Memoirs by Amazon.
Best memoir about starting over: Leaving Isn’t The Hardest Thing by Lauren Hough
Hough’s highly anticipated memoir about life after leaving the cult she was raised in takes readers on one journey after another, each as intriguing as the next. From her experiences as a queer woman in the military to working as a bouncer, and more, there’s never a dull moment in this riveting essay collection.
Best exploration on asexuality: Ace by Angela Chen
Asexuality often gets left out of the LGBTQIA+ conversation, but author and journalist Angela Chen asks readers to explore just what it means to identify as ace in her non-fiction book. Through a series of interviews with other asexual individuals, Chen reveals some of the complexities of discovering and embracing one’s own asexuality.
Best queer poetry collection: Black Girl, Call Home by Jasmine Mans
Deemed one of the most anticipated books of 2021 by Oprah, Shondaland, and many more, this gorgeous collection of poems by spoken word poet Jasmine Man celebrates queer Black womanhood in all its glory. Reviewers on GoodReads have called it “breathtaking,” “powerful,” and “incredibly moving.”
Best gay historical fiction: The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr.
This historical fiction book is centered around the forbidden love between two men forced into slavery on a Mississippi plantation in the antebellum south and how a betrayal unravels all their secrets. Receiving 4.6 stars on Amazon, it’s also been listed as an Editors’ Picks: Best Literature & Fiction on the site, and also became an instant New York Times Bestseller.
Best memoir for anyone who wants to be a parent: The Other Mothers by Jennifer Berney
Author Jennifer Berney brings readers along on her and wife Kelly’s often frustrating journey into finally starting a family, despite the patriarchal, anti-queer doctors and others who seem bent on preventing her and other LGBTQ+ folks from doing so. Berney offers her first-hand experience while also educating us on the many hoops queer families are forced to jump through to simply become parents.
Best for sci-fi lovers: Fragile Remedy by Maria Ingrande Mora
While many LGBTQ books focus strongly on romance or coming out stories, it’s also nice good to have solid queer representation in other genres, such as science fiction. Cue the JGL Gold Star Selection novel Fragile Remedy. In Ingrande Mora’s dystopian tale, a group of diverse characters finds themselves trying to survive a widespread pandemic that’s devastating the world while leaning on one another—which feels all too timely.
Best fiction about families: Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters
This debut novel by author Torrey Peters has already been chosen for both Roxane Gay’s Audacious Book Club and has been named one of the most anticipated fiction books of 2021 by a bevy of publications. Peters’ book about three (trans and cis) individuals tackling both what it means to be a woman and what it means to have a family is a definite must-read.
Best immigrant coming-of-age novel: Fiebre Tropical by Juliana Delgado Lopera
This multilingual, coming-of-age story revolves around a queer Colombian teen who moves to Miami only to be thrust into the Evangelical church. A finalist for the 2020 Kirkus Prize for Fiction, Delgado Lopera’s novel was called “ebullient and assertive” by the New York Times.
Best queer photography book: Queer Love In Color by Jamal Jordan
Written and photographed by New York Times multimedia journalist Jamal Jordan, Queer Love In Color celebrates love and diversity in an unforgettable way. Featuring queer couples and families from across the United States, Jordan gifts us with the perfect art book to keep on hand as a reminder that love truly is love.
Best summer read: BeDazzled by Ryan La Sala
This tale of a budding young fashion designer entering a cosplay competition only to find his ex is the main competition is as refreshing and enjoyable as it sounds. La Sala’s second novel is already pleasing fans, with reviewers calling it “heartfelt and hilarious” and “a crafty queer romance about self-acceptance.” You would be hard-pressed to find a better summer read.
Best queer comics collection: My Life in Transition by Julia Kaye
This follow-up to Kaye’s Super Late Bloomer, My Life in Transition documents the award-winning trans artist’s life six months after transitioning. In a series of comics, Kaye reveals the joys and struggles in relatable, sometimes painful, but overall hopeful images and stories.