15 LGBTQ+ Books to Read for Pride

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It should come as no surprise that, as a writer of queer books, I’m also a voracious reader of them. My house is filled with LGBTQ+ novels, poetry, memoirs, zines, essays, plays, short fiction, and much more. I recently got married and my wife’s reading collection subsequently married my own, so now we have double the stacks. You name a gay book and it’s probably somewhere in our home, just waiting to be picked up and loved again.

As a queer person who lives in a state where more books were challenged for removal last year than any other state (and where a slew of laws attempt to silence and oppress LGBTQ+ people), I believe it’s important to champion queer narratives. So much beauty can be found in our stories, and I want to see our community reflected in the world. The list below is not a compilation of my all-time favorites, because that would be too many books to count. Instead, I’ve provided a wide sampling of some of the work that has caught my attention (and my heart) as a queer reader. It’s meant to tempt myriad tastes when it comes to LGBTQ+ reading fare, and I hope you’ll pick up one or several of these books this Pride Month. Of course, just a loving reminder that you can read queer all year. There’s no wrong time to read across the rainbow.

Housemates, Emma Copley Eisenberg

Emma Copley Eisenberg’s debut novel tracks the summer travels of two housemates, Bernie and Leah, as they get to know each other and process what they want to do with their lives. While they drive across the country to settle the estate of Leah’s late (and complicated) former mentor, they begin compiling an archive of photographs and letters that document America through a queer lens. Eisenberg has written a beautiful love story, but she’s also crafted a novel about the enduring power of art and the importance of building community. Tender, introspective, and at times delightfully funny, this is the perfect book to bring on a road trip.

Buy Now: Housemates on Bookshop | Amazon

Bastard Out of Carolina, Dorothy Allison

Dorothy Allison’s 1992 novel is a semi-autobiographical take on her childhood and the strained relationship she had with her mother, who married an abusive man. The protagonist, Ruth Anne “Bone” Boatwright, is the titular bastard of the novel, a girl who longs to better understand herself and her precarious place in the world. Allison personifies South Carolina with all the steamy, sweaty heat of an actual human body. The landscape takes precedent here, with tree bark and riverbanks and dirt roads just as significant as the characters on the page. This is the book that made me want to become a writer.

Buy Now: Bastard Out of Carolina on Bookshop | Amazon

Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado

This short-story collection has gotten a lot of praise over the years, and for good reason: it’s a masterclass on how to write work that refuses to acknowledge literary boundaries. In a rave review in the New York Times, Parul Sehgal called the book “a wild thing,” and I believe this collection is that and much more: feral, ambitious, and exceptionally sultry. The stories here defy genre. Bodies morph and shift monstrously. Prom dresses hold nightmares in their guts. In one story, a character candidly details their sex life as a creeping plague destroys mankind. This is the book that brought back the green ribbon (IYKYK). If you haven’t read any of Carmen Maria Machado’s work, this is a great place to start.

Buy Now: Her Body and Other Parties on Bookshop | Amazon

Wow, No Thank You, Samantha Irby

I’ll go ahead and say it: Sam Irby may be the funniest writer around. She’s irreverent, personable, and not afraid to turn a joke about lesbian bed death into an incredibly moving essay. In her collection, which won a Lambda Literary Award for Bisexual Nonfiction, Irby writes about what it means to live trapped inside a body that rarely does what you want. It’s unruly work, and deeply relatable. Her bodily humor is off-the-charts good; she makes lowbrow feel highbrow. I would be shocked if you didn’t laugh out loud.

Buy Now: Wow, No Thank You on Bookshop | Amazon

Hijab Butch Blues, Lamya H

Lamya is 14 years old when she realizes that her crush on a female teacher means that she is different from other girls in her class. As we follow Lamya (who writes under a pseudonym) through her coming-out process – comparing her journey to the struggles and triumphs of those cited in the Quran – we grow along with her. Warm, fearless, and breathtakingly compassionate, this memoir deftly charts what it’s like to be seen as a queer person, but also how it feels to finally see yourself for who you really are.

Buy Now: Hijab Butch Blues on Bookshop | Amazon

Our Wives Under the Sea, Julia Armfield

It’s that classic queer story: wife goes off on a submarine mission and subsequently comes back wrong. Julia Armfield turns a concept that should be frightening into a love story, one that’s simultaneously haunting and romantic. This debut novel switches perspectives, allowing insight from both wives – one, in the past, journaling from the ocean floor, and the other in the present, dry on land, who is now dealing with the aftermath of the failed operation. It’s a novel about grief, but also? It’s ridiculously sexy.

Buy Now: Our Wives Under the Sea on Bookshop | Amazon

Family Meal, Bryan Washington

Bryan Washington has written about food for publications like The New York Times, but his latest novel takes culinary writing to a whole new level, asking us to taste everything put in front of us, from the bitter to the sweet. In Family Meal Cam is being haunted by the ghost of his recently deceased partner and moves back home in an effort to escape his grief. There, he finds solace with his former childhood best friend, TJ, and though the preparation of elaborate meals, the characters sate their hunger while working through their issues. I’m a sucker for a domestic novel, and Washington writes what I love: families with complex interpersonal issues, love for each other, and also just a hell of a lot of mess.

Buy Now: Family Meal on Bookshop | Amazon

How Far the Light Reaches, Sabrina Imbler

This Los Angeles Book Prize winner isn’t just an exploration of marine life, it’s also a close look into what it means to be queer and trans while navigating a renewed connection with humanity. In a dozen essays, Sabrina Imbler invites us to consider the transformative properties of ocean creatures and compare them to our own bodies. Impressively, Imbler is less interested in knowing why something happens than in working to uncover even greater mysteries. The collection is a plea to consider how little we actually know about sea life as well as how little we know about ourselves or each other.

Buy Now: How Far the Light Reaches on Bookshop | Amazon

FEED, Tommy Pico

Tommy Pico’s a gifted screenwriter – most recently for the award-winning Reservation Dogs – but before he was writing in Hollywood, he was a poet. His book FEED, the last in what he calls his “Teebs tetralogy,” is one of his absolute best. Pico delves into questions about nourishment, home, friendship, culture, and loneliness, all while bringing a spark of genuine humor to the proceedings. Life is a jumble of confusion most of the time, he tells us, but it can also be pretty goddamn funny. It doesn’t hurt that Pico’s writing is achingly gorgeous.

Buy Now: FEED on Bookshop | Amazon

Soft Science, Franny Choi

In this striking collection, Franny Choi weaves together poems of the robotic and of the flesh, asking readers to sit in duality. How do we consume art? How do we ingest the world? This collection feels a bit like a computer port-to-the-skull, but in a thoughtful way. Mankind loves activities that involve repetition and ritual, and computers do too, because we built them in our image. Choi writes about that mimicry with incredible tenderness. Robots are like us, she tells us, they ask questions in order to learn more. At a time when everyone is talking about AI, these poems ask us to observe the Venn-diagram intersection of softness between machine and man. No one is queering the robotic like Franny Choi.

Buy Now: Soft Science on Bookshop | Amazon

Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls, T Kira Māhealani Madden

T Kira Māhealani Madden is one of our greatest Florida writers (among the highest complaints I can bestow as a Florida writer myself). Her debut memoir is steeped in humidity and flecked with beads of sweat, pricked by mosquitoes, and slathered with candy-scented body lotion. This collection contains essays about trauma and sexual assault, connections with parents who sometimes need parenting, coming out, and queerness in the Sunshine State. It’s a book that defies traditional stories of girlhood and coming-of-age narratives in favor of something tangled and ultimately more nuanced: how to grow when you’ve been hurt, and how to give yourself kindness. With this book of grief that’s really a book of love, Madden provides a look at how we live with the people who sometimes fail us.

Buy Now: Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls on Bookshop | Amazon

Let the Record Show, Sarah Schulman

Sarah Schulman has long been on the queer writing scene. In her most recent book, she tackles the history of ACT UP, an alliance of activists that took on the AIDS crisis in America. Schulman includes interviews with more than 200 ACT UP members and doesn’t shy away from any of the rough spots. She provides a thorough and necessary examination of the organization from 1987 to 1993, including its conflicts, triumphs, setbacks, and eventual fissure. This dynamic exploration of a landmark LGBTQ+ movement, which won a Lambda Literary Award for Nonfiction, is a must-read for anyone who wants a firsthand account of an important period in queer history.

Buy Now: Let the Record Show on Bookshop | Amazon

Manywhere, Morgan Thomas

This book takes the concept of Southern nostalgia and gives it a firm and ample twist. The nine stories in Manywhere aren’t concerned with guarding memories of the past; rather, they take a fresh look at the people who sit inside history who haven’t always been counted. Genderqueer and trans characters populate this collection, searching for themselves in the historical record as well as attempting to exist in the present. In one story, a trans woman purchases a pregnancy bump and wears it out in the world. In another, a person chooses to live vicariously through the documented life of an intersex person from Colonial-era Virginia. Queerness feels reimagined in these pages. Morgan Thomas’ writing is promisingly innovative, magnificently scrambling the gender binary.

Buy Now: Manywhere on Bookshop | Amazon

You Exist Too Much, Zaina Arafat

Zaina Arafat’s debut novel tells the story of a Palestinian American’s trek from girlhood to adulthood, albeit in a nonlinear fashion, with pieces coming together to form an extremely satisfying whole. The novel’s protagonist makes personal choices that feel like slippery emotional zigzags. A self-proclaimed “love addict,” she slips from messy relationship to messy relationship, often successfully sabotaging things all on her own. She also has a fraught relationship with her mother, an intense and tough woman she constantly disappoints. You Exist Too Much underscores the fact that human beings are at our most interesting when we’re honest about our failures and our flaws.

Buy Now: You Exist Too Much on Bookshop | Amazon

Edinburgh, Alexander Chee

Twelve-year-old Aphias "Fee" Zhe has a beautiful voice, so he is asked to join an elite boys’ choir. This is what opens Edinburgh, a novel so entrenched in musicality that oftentimes it’s hard to separate the language on the page from the song in your heart. The book takes us through time and through trauma, following Fee as he falls in love and ultimately has his heart broken. He makes mistakes, he learns, he grows, but the ache remains, buried under the flesh like an unseen bruise. Alexander Chee is an exquisite writer, and this novel is proof of his mastery on the sentence level. It made me weep openly on an airplane! If that’s not a ringing endorsement, I don’t know what is.

Buy Now: Edinburgh on Bookshop | Amazon

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