The 17 Best Gay Books you Must Read this Pride Month

In honor of Pride Month, we put together this list of amazing queer stories you have to check out. Use this guide to explore the diversity of voices in the LGBTQ community of all genres.

Writing has always been a profound form of expression. Although the media for a very long time sorely lacked queer representation, there was less stringent censorship in the publishing sphere. This allowed writers to explore LGBTQ characters more freely and shed light on the gay experience.

For many people, books were a source of validation. If the stories of marginalized characters on the page mattered, so did yours in real life. Here are some of the best gay novels, poem collections, and memoirs.

Call Me By Your Name

By: André Aciman

This amazing novel (now Oscar-winning movie), tracks the love story of Oliver and Elio. Although the movie uses a third-person lens to show both characters’ journeys, the novel takes you into the mind of Elio. Every page builds on Elio’s mild crush to his overwhelming obsession for Oliver. Aciman’s beautiful prose explores the universally understood feelings of lust, love, heartbreak, and human connection. Pick up this book and travel to a beautiful summer in northern Italy. 

Nevada

By: Imogen Binnie

I actually read this novel for a literature class I took freshman year of college. Nevada is about a young trans girl named Maria living in New York City. She tries to navigate the punk scene and LGBTQ scene while working at a super normal retail job. After finding out her girlfriend lied to her, her whole world starts to collapse. She embarks on a journey to escape on a cross country road trip and meets James (a stoner living in Nevada who is also locationally and psychologically lost). The book jumps between both of their perspectives and sheds light on identity in the modern world and the trans experience.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

By: Oscar Wild

A true classic. This provocative book asks the question, “Would you sell your soul for eternal youth”. Wilde is a literary genius who tells the story of a beautiful young man who grapples with seduction, moral corruption, and his eventual downfall. This book actually outraged Victorian society and even led to Wilde being imprisoned for 2 years for “gross indecency” with men. For anyone. This novel is a key text for any reader skeptical of our society’s obsession with superficial beauty. 

The House of Impossible Beauties

By: Joseph Cassara

This book explores New York City’s ballroom culture in the 80’s and 90’s. It follows a group of gay and transgender individuals who enter the scene for different reasons, inspired by the House of Extravaganza made famous by the award-winning documentary Paris is Burning. If you like tragic stories of love, family, and the endurance of the human spirit, this is for you. 

The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man’s World

By: Alan Downs

Down’s groundbreaking book explores the psychology of homosexuality and shame. By drawing on his own struggles with shame and anger, contemporary research, and anecdotes for his patients, he describes the gay man’s journey. He offers strategies to stop the cycle of self-defeating behavior and avoidance in an empowering book that has changed the public discourse on gay culture. 

Less

By: Andrew Sean Greer

Greer’s 2018 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel highlights a struggling novelist named Arthur in crisis. Already feeling deeply existential as he approaches his 50th birthday, he receives an initiation to his ex-boyfriend’s wedding. But instead of resigning, he embarks on a literary world tour. This book is deeply heartwarming and humorous.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

By: Becky Albertalli

Published in 2016, this novel follows 16-year-old Simon Spier, a closeted gay teen in Atlandta, Georgia. Simon begins an email romance under a pseudonym but when his emails are discovered, he is blackmailed into helping someone in his class or risk being exposed to his school and losing his virtual partner. Simon’s struggles shed light on the emotional impact of many LGBTQ adolescents who fear rejection and desperately want to feel wanted.  

Last Seen Leaving

By: Caleb Roehrig

If you’re looking for a darker and more suspenseful read this month, this one’s for you. This book is a coming out story/mystery thriller about Flynn, the primary suspect in an active investigation following his girlfriend’s disappearance. This book will have you on the edge of your seat.

Madness

By: Sam Sax

This poetry collection covers a range of issues, including sexuality, mental health, culture, heritage, and community. Sax’s prose is descriptive, thoughtful, and evocative. A perfect read for the month.

Fun Home

By: Alison Bechdel

This graphic memoir is about two people coming out and finding love. The book centers around Alison Bechdel who came up with the Bechdel test (a measure of the representation of women in fiction). It deals with exploring one’s sexuality, having a resistant family, and the power of death to change one’s perspective. 

They Both Die at the End

By: Adam Silvera

This novel follows a day in the life of 2 boys named Mateo and Rufus who get early morning calls telling them that they will die that day. Though initially strangers, these characters are brought together through the Last Friend app (an app that connects people on their last day alive). Silvera explores how it feels to fall in love with someone amid the pressures of time. 

Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl

By: Andrea Lawlor

I guarantee you haven’t read a book like this. This novel details the adventures of Paul Polydoris who studies queer theory. Paul is able to shapeshift from Paul to Polly on command. It seems super absurd, but Lawlor uses it to grapple with gender, identity, and relationships with others and ourselves.  

The Argonauts

By: Maggie Nelson

This poetic memoir is about Nelson’s relationship with gender-fluid artist Harry. They fall in love and start a family. The memoir features evocative descriptions of being queer in love. It is a must read!

Don’t Call Us Dead

By: Danez Smith

This devastating poetry collection is beautiful and raw. Award-winning poet Smith grapples with race, queer identity, and AIDS with a keen eye. He imagines the afterlife for black men shot by police, where suspicion, violence, and grief are substituted for safety, love, and health. 

Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit

By: Jaye Robin Brown

This book follows Joanna “Jo” Gordon who actually goes back into the closet when her evangelical father remarries. After they move, he asks Joe to hide her identity before she graduates high school. One problem though. Jo is falling for her friend’s sister. This heartwarming novel deals with young love, coming out, and the pressures of family.

Release

By: Patrick Ness

This book is sort of like the gay, young adult version of Mrs. Dalloway – it even starts with “Adam would have to get the flowers himself,” echoing Virginia Woolf’s iconic opening line). The novel centers around 17-year-old Adam Thorn who deals with his boss sexually harassing him, his ex coming back into his life, and tension between himself and his preacher father. There is also a subplot about a ghost who haunts the town. Check it out!

Leah on the Offbeat

By: Becky Albertalli

Albertalli (author of Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda) follows character Leah who struggles with her bisexual identity. She works up the courage to come out to her friends but as she navigates senior year of high school, she realizes that she may love one of her friends (and not just as a friend). 

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