The best LGBTQIA+ books: your essential reading list

Our edit of the best books exploring LGBTQ+ experiences and relationships.

Discover our edit of the best books featuring LGBTQIA+ characters and narratives, written by LGBTQIA+ authors, or exploring themes that have greatly affected LGBTQIA+ communities. From Booker-winning novels to autobiographies, explore our favourite fiction and non-fiction LGBTQIA+ books.

Young Mungo

by Douglas Stuart

Book cover for Young Mungo

Mungo is a Protestant and James is a Catholic, both inhabiting the hyper-masculine world of two Glasgow housing estates, split violently along sectarian lines. The two should be enemies but, finding sanctuary in the doocot James has created for his racing pigeons, they grow closer and closer. Dreaming of escape and under constant threat of discovery, Mungo and James attempt to navigate a dangerous and uncertain future together.


by Imogen Binnie

Book cover for Nevada

A hilarious cult classic that launched a literary movement, Nevada is the book that launched the trans writing scene in Brooklyn. Maria is a trans woman in her thirties who spends idle days working in a New York bookstore, drinking and having muddling sexual encounters. When her girlfriend cheats on her, Maria steals her girlfriend's car and embarks on her own version of the Great American Road Trip. In Reno, Nevada, she meets James who works in the local Walmart. The unexpected but powerful bond they form will have huge implications for both Maria and James . . .


by James Hynes

Book cover for Sparrow

This vivid coming of age story set at the end of the Roman Empire, follows Sparrow – a boy of no known origin living in a brothel. He spends his days listening to stories told by his beloved ‘mother’ Euterpe, running errands for her lover the cook, and dodging the blows of their brutal overseer. But a hard fate awaits him – one that involves suffering, murder and mayhem. To cope he will create his own identity – Sparrow – who sings without reason and can fly from trouble. This is a book with one of the most powerfully affecting and memorable characters of recent fiction, brought to life through James Hynes meticulous research and bold imagination. 

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Our Wives Under the Sea

by Julia Armfield

Book cover for Our Wives Under the Sea

Our Wives Under the Sea is the debut novel by the acclaimed author of Salt Slow, Julia Armfield. Leah returns to her wife Miri after a deep sea mission that has ended in disaster. Leah carries this catastrophe inside her, into the home she shares with Miri. As Miri searches for answers to her wife’s altered state, she must face the possibility that the woman she loves is slipping from her grasp. This is a study of how two people can feel worlds apart while under the same roof, and of the life that resides in the deep oceans.

The World and All That It Holds

by Aleksandar Hemon

Book cover for The World and All That It Holds

Rafael Pinto spends his days crushing herbs and tablets at the pharmacy he inherited from his father. While it's a far cry from his poetry-filled student days in Vienna, life feels peaceful. That is until a June day in 1914 when the world explodes and soon, finding himself in the trenches of Galicia, Pinto's fantasies fall flat. As war devours, all he has left is the attention of Osman, a fellow soldier who complements Pinto's introspective, poetic soul. Together, Pinto and Osman will escape the trenches and find themselves entangled with spies and Bolsheviks. In this story of love and war, it is Pinto's love for Osman that will truly survive. 

Shuggie Bain

by Douglas Stuart

Book cover for Shuggie Bain

Set in a poverty-stricken Glasgow in the early 1980s, Douglas Stuart’s Booker Prize-winning debut is a heartbreaking story which lays bare the ruthlessness of poverty and the limits of love. Agnes Bain has always dreamed of greater things, but when her husband abandons her she finds herself trapped in a decimated mining town with her three children, and descends deeper and deeper into drink. Her son Shuggie tries to help Agnes long after her other children have fled, but he too must abandon her to save himself. Shuggie is different, and he is picked on by the local children and condemned by adults. But he believes that if he tries his hardest he can escape this hopeless place.

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by Garth Greenwell

Book cover for Cleanness

In Sofia, Bulgaria, an American teacher grapples with the intimate encounters that have marked his years abroad as he prepares to leave the country he has come to call home. A queer student’s confession recalls his own first love, a stranger’s seduction devolves into paternal sadism, and a romance with a younger man opens, and heals, old wounds. Each echo reveals startling insights about what it means to seek connection. Around him, Sofia stirs with hope and impending upheaval. Expanding the world of Garth Greenwell’s debut novel, What Belongs to You, this is the story of a life transformed by the discovery and loss of love. 

Paul Takes the Form of A Mortal Girl

by Andrea Lawlor

Book cover for Paul Takes the Form of A Mortal Girl

This funny, sharp, sweet and frequently filthy book follows Paul Polydoris, a shapeshifting bartender who can change gender at will, on a riotous adventure through early ‘90s queer America. From Riot Grrl to leather cub and Iowa City to San Francisco, this is a journey through queer theory, LGBT communities and gender fluidity, as well as a love letter to early ‘90s counter-culture.


by Patricia Highsmith

Book cover for Carol

Therese is just an ordinary sales assistant working in a New York department store when a beautiful, alluring woman in her thirties walks up to her counter. Standing there, Therese is wholly unprepared for the first shock of love. Carol is a visceral portrait of the relationship between Therese, a lonely young artist, and Carol, a self-assured divorcee, set against the backdrop of 1950s New York. Highsmith first published Carol as The Price of Salt under a pseudonym in 1952 to avoid potential scandal around her own personal life.

What Belongs to You

by Garth Greenwell

Book cover for What Belongs to You

After a one off meeting in a public bathroom, a charismatic young hustler and an American teacher begin an intimate, intense, and unnerving relationship. What Belongs to You is a powerful and erotic debut novel, which explores how being rejected for being who you are shapes the way you love, and the difficulty of growing up as a gay man in Southern America in the 1990s.

Briefly, A Delicious Life

by Nell Stevens

Book cover for Briefly, A Delicious Life

It's 1838, and Frédéric Chopin, George Sand and her children are making a journey to a monastery in Mallorca. After wild days in Paris, they are intent on creativity and recovery. The witness of their arrival is Blanca, the 300-year-old ghost of a teenage girl whose life was cut short. She has always sought to protect women from the attentions of men and, when she sees George Sand wearing men's clothes, Blanca is in love. The visitors are surrounded by suspicious villagers and, with Chopin composing prelude after prelude on an untuned piano in the gathering winter, the longed-for retreat seems on the brink of disaster . . . 

The Dance Tree

by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Book cover for The Dance Tree

It's 1518 in Strasbourg, and in the intense summer heat a solitary woman starts to dance in the main square. She dances for days without rest, and is joined by hundreds of other women. The city authorities declare a state of emergency, and bring in musicians to play the devil out of the dancing women. Meanwhile pregnant Lisbet, who lives at the edge of the city, is tending to the family's bees. The dancing plague intensifies, as Lisbet is drawn into a net of secret passions and deceptions. Inspired by true events, this is a compelling story of superstition, transformative change and women pushed to their limits.


by Hannah Kent

Book cover for Devotion

Set in nineteenth-century Prussia, Devotion is the story of teenage Hanne, who wants to escape the strictures of approaching womanhood for the wilds of the world around her. She finds it hard to connect with other girls and to make friendships – until she meets kindred spirit Thea. Hanne's family are Old Lutherans who must worship in secret, and passage to religious freedom in Australia seems like the answer to their prayers. Things are more complicated for Hanne and Thea, whose bond continues to deepen on the long, treacharous journey across the world.

The Mercies

by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Book cover for The Mercies

Inspired by the real Vardø storm and the subsequent witch hunt of the 1600s The Mercies tells a story of suspicion, community and love. When a catastrophic storm wipes out almost the entirety of the male population of the island, the women who are left grieving for their men are forced to fend for themselves. Eighteen months later, the sinister new commissioner, Absolom Cornet, arrives with his young wife Ursa. Here, she sees independent women for the first time and gets to know Maren, who helps her navigate life in this harsh new world. The two women are irresistibly drawn to each other, but Absolom is convinced that the women’s behaviour is ungodly and he must bring them to heel by any means necessary. 

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The Animals at Lockwood Manor

by Jane Healey

Book cover for The Animals at Lockwood Manor

It's 1939, and Hetty Cartwright has been tasked with the evacuation of the Natural History Museum's collection of mammals. But whan she arrives at Lockwood Manor, where she and the animals will stay until the end of the war, she realises she's taken on more than she bargained for. When some of the animals go missing, Hetty fears that an unknown presence is stalking her through the corridors of the house. And, all the while, she finds herself falling under the spell of Lord Lockwood's daughter Lucy . . .


by Jackie Kay

Book cover for Trumpet

After the death of legendary jazz trumpeter Joss Moody, his secret is revealed to the world: Joss was trans, a fact that even his adopted son Colman never knew. Trumpet is a starkly beautiful modern classic about the lengths to which people will go for love. It is a moving story of a shared life founded on an intricate lie, of loving deception and lasting devotion, and of the intimate workings of the human heart. Jackie Kay carefully registers the difficulties of transgendered life, and the challenges of private lives made suddenly public. 


by TJ Klune

Book cover for Wolfsong

When the mysterious Bennett family move in next door to sixteen-year-old Ox Matheson, he finds himself drawn to Joe Bennett, the youngest Bennett son, in a way he doesn’t understand but can’t deny. As he spends more time with Joe and his energetic family and discovers that they are shapeshifting werewolves, Ox finds himself entangled in a world he doesn’t understand but can’t tear himself away from. The first novel in TJ Klune’s Green Creek LGBTQIA+ fantasy series, Wolfsong is equal parts heartwarming, heartbreaking, and utterly unputdownable.

The Women Could Fly

by Megan Giddings

Book cover for The Women Could Fly

Part dystopia, part fantasy, The Women Could Fly is a powerful novel that speaks to our times. In a world where witches are real and unmarried women over the age of thirty must be monitored by the state, Josephine Thomas is twenty-eight, ambivalent about marriage and on the cusp of losing autonomy over her own life. It's been fourteen years since her mother's disappearance, but all these years later, she feels she's never understood her mother more. So when she's offered an opportunity to honour one last request from her mother's will, she takes it . . .

The Atlas Six

by Olivie Blake

Book cover for The Atlas Six

Bestselling fantasy sensation The Atlas Six follows six young magical practitioners as they compete to join the secretive Alexandrian Society, whose custodians guard lost knowledge from ancient civilizations. Their members enjoy a lifetime of power and prestige. Yet each decade, only six practitioners are invited – to fill five places. Following recruitment by the mysterious Atlas Blakely, they travel to the Society’s London headquarters. Here, each must study and innovate within esoteric subject areas. And if they can prove themselves, over the course of a year, they’ll survive. Most of them.

The Atlas Paradox

by Olivie Blake

Book cover for The Atlas Paradox

Six magicians were offered the opportunity of a lifetime. Five are now members of the Society. And two paths lie before them. In the second, eagerly-anticipated, installment in the Atlas Six series, the secret society of Alexandrians is unmasked. Its newest recruits realize the institute is capable of raw, world-changing power. It’s also headed by a man with plans to change life as we know it – and these are already underway. But the cost of this knowledge is as high as the price of power, and each initiate must choose which faction to follow.

A Marvellous Light

by Freya Marske

Book cover for A Marvellous Light

A Marvellous Light is a queer romance with a difference – a murder-mystery concoction set amongst Edwardian manor houses and hedge mazes with more than a dash of magic to it. Youthful baronet Robin Blyth is about to take up a minor post in government. Or so he thinks. He's actually been appointed to be the parliamentary liaison to an underground magic society. This administrative blunder reveals to Robin the mysticism that lies just below the surface of his world, as he embarks on a perilous mission with a simmering dose of sexual tension. 

A Restless Truth

by Freya Marske

Book cover for A Restless Truth

In the thrilling follow-up to A Marvellous Light, Maud Blyth hoped to quell her thirst for adventure when she volunteered to serve as an old lady's companion on an ocean liner. But she didn't expect the old lady to turn up dead on the first day of the voyage. Now she has to deal with a dead body, and the lovely, dangerously outrageous Violet Debenham. Violet is everything Maud has been taught to distrust, yet can’t help but desire. Surrounded by open sea and a ship full of suspects, Maud and Violet must learn to work together to locate a magical object worth killing for – and unmask a murderer. . .

She Who Became the Sun

by Shelley Parker-Chan

Book cover for She Who Became the Sun

In a famine-stricken village on a dusty plain, a seer shows two children their fates. For a family’s eighth-born son, there’s greatness. For the second daughter, nothing. In 1345, China lies restless under harsh Mongol rule. And when a bandit raid wipes out their home, the two children must somehow survive. Zhu Chongba despairs and gives in. But the girl resolves to overcome her destiny. So she takes her dead brother's identity and begins her journey. Can Zhu escape what’s written in the stars, as rebellion sweeps the land? Or can she claim her brother’s greatness – and rise as high as she can dream?

The Black Tides of Heaven

by Neon Yang

Book cover for The Black Tides of Heaven

The first book in Neon Yang's acclaimed Tensorate series, The Black Tides of Heaven follows twins Moyoka and Akeha. In their world, children are considered genderless until they choose a gender at the age of three, sixteen, or never. But with some families, strong gender traditions often influence the decision – one of the twins is assumed to want to follow the family tradition of becoming female. As the twins grow they drift further and further apart, and when Akeha leaves his home behind to join a growing rebellion he must find peace without tearing apart the bond with his sister. 

Red, White & Royal Blue

by Casey McQuiston

Book cover for Red, White & Royal Blue

Alex Claremont-Diaz is handsome and charismatic, and the son of the President of the US. There’s only one problem. When the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an altercation between Alex and Prince Henry, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse. Heads of family and state devise a plan for damage control: stage a truce. But what begins as a fake, Instagrammable friendship grows deeper, and soon they are hurtling into a secret romance that could derail the presidential campaign and upend two nations. Now also an Amazon film, this feel-good romance is sexy, witty and hilarious. 

Sorry, Bro

by Taleen Voskuni

Book cover for Sorry, Bro

When Nar’s boyfriend gets down on one knee and proposes to her a San Francisco bar, she realises it’s time to find someone who shares her idea of romance. But her mother has other ideas. Armed with a spreadsheet of suitable Armenian men, she convinces Nar to attend 'Explore Armenia', a month-long festival celebrating their heritage. Soon, Nar meets Erebuni, an intriguing young woman who helps her to see the beauty of their shared culture and makes her feel understood like never before.  However, there's one teeny problem: Nar's not out as bisexual. This funny, heartfelt and relatable romance beautifully explores themes of family, cultural identity, queer love and the process of self-discovery. 

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The Queer Parent

by Lotte Jeffs and Stu Oakley

Book cover for The Queer Parent

This informative, funny and empowering book from the hosts of the award-winning podcast Some Families is the must-have parenting toolkit for the LGTBQ+ community, their friends, family and allies. 90% of queer parenting is just . . . parenting, but being LGBTQ+ when you’re a parent does bring with it a host of conundrums that mainstream guides – which tend to assume heterosexuality – do not address. Authors Lotte Jeffs and Stu Oakley spoke to dozens of experts and queer families, and this hugely-needed book is the product of those conversations and their own experiences of becoming parents through IUI and adoption respectively.

Queer Intentions

by Amelia Abraham

Book cover for Queer Intentions

Owen Jones called Queer Intentions a book that will ‘not just resonate with a new generation of queer people, but with all those who seek to be their allies.’ Combining journalism and personal experience, Amelia Abraham seeks answers to the challenges facing LGBTQ+ people today. Are the options available to LGBTQ+ people all they’re cracked up to be? And what happens to those left behind, in parts of the world where LGBTQ+ rights aren’t so advanced? This thought-provoking and often funny book takes the reader on a exploration of what it means to be queer in 2019.


by Elton John

Book cover for Me

In his first and only autobiography, the iconic Elton John reveals all about his incredible life, from growing up as Reginald Dwight in a London suburb to touring the world and forming friendships with Freddie Mercury, John Lennon and George Michael. In Me, Elton writes powerfully about his struggles with addiction, setting up his AIDS Foundation, finding love with David Furnish and becoming a father. A must-read for all Elton fans.

How to Survive a Plague

by David France

Book cover for How to Survive a Plague

How to Survive a Plague was the winner of The Green Carnation Prize for LGBTQ Literature and the Lambda Literary Award for LGBT non-fiction. The book is a riveting and moving account of the AIDS epidemic and the activists at grass-roots level who fought to develop the drugs which turned AIDS from an almost always fatal infection to a manageable disease. Weaving together dozens of individual stories, many from people who were facing their own life or death struggles with the disease, this is an insider’s account of an incredibly important moment in our history.


by Virginia Woolf

Book cover for Orlando

Following its immortal namesake through three centuries of history, Orlando is a whimsical exploration of perceptions of gender and love through the ages. Orlando is a young Elizabethan nobleman whose wealth and status afford him an extravagant lifestyle. Appointed ambassador in Constantinople, he wakes one morning to find he is a woman. Inspired by the life of her lover, Vita Sackville West, Virginia Woolf's wildly imaginative, comic story is a real trailblazer. 

A Little Life

by Hanya Yanagihara

Book cover for A Little Life

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize and celebrated as ‘the great gay novel’, Hanya Yanagihara’s immensely powerful story of brotherly love and the limits of human endurance has had a visceral impact on many a reader. Willem, Jude, Malcolm and JB meet at college in Massachusetts and form a firm friendship, moving to New York upon graduation. Over the years their friendships deepen and darken as they celebrate successes and face failures, but their greatest challenge is Jude himself – an increasingly broken man scarred by an unspeakable childhood. This is a book that will stay with you long after the last page.

The Line of Beauty

by Alan Hollinghurst

Book cover for The Line of Beauty

Alan Hollinghurst's Man Booker Prize-winning novel explores themes of identity and class in Thatcher's Britain. In the summer of 1983, twenty-year-old Nick Guest moves into an attic room in the Notting Hill home of the wealthy Feddens: Gerald, an ambitious Tory MP, his wife Rachel and their children Toby and Catherine. Innocent of politics and money, Nick is swept up into the Feddens’ world and an era of endless possibility, all the while pursuing his own private obsession with beauty. The Line of Beauty lifts the veil on the Conservative elite and the relationship between politics and sexuality in 1980s London.

Giovanni's Room

by James Baldwin

Book cover for Giovanni's Room

After David, a young American living in 1950s Paris meets the mysterious Giovanni in a bar the two begin an intense affair. When David's girlfriend returns three months later he is forced to choose between them, which has devastating consequences for them all. Highly controversial when it was first published in 1956 for it's portrayal of a gay relationship in mainsteam literature, James Baldwin’s tale of an ill fated love triangle is now considered a classic.

Ophelia After All

by Racquel Marie

Book cover for Ophelia After All

The course of love – and sexuality – never did run smooth. Ophelia Rojas knows what she likes and who she is,  but when she finds herself thinking more about cute, quiet Talia Sanchez than the loss of a perfect prom with her ex-boyfriend, seeds of doubt take root in Ophelia’s self-image. Soon, she must make a choice between clinging to the fantasy version of herself or embracing who she truly is. Exploring themes of friendship, the end of high school and discovering queerness, Ophelia After All is both a hilarious and heartfelt YA debut and an essential LGBTQIA+ read. 

I Kissed Shara Wheeler

by Casey McQuiston

Book cover for I Kissed Shara Wheeler

Chloe Green wants to be a winner. Her moms have moved her from SoCal to Alabama for high school, and she has had to spend four years navigating gossips and the puritans who run Willowgrove Christian Academy. She is determined to win valedictorian, and only prom queen Shara Wheeler stands in her way. But, a month before they graduate, Shara kisses Chloe and disappears. Chloe launches an investigation with some fellow students –  quarterback Smith and bad boy Rory. Could it be there's more to Shara than meets the eye? 

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Clap When You Land

by Elizabeth Acevedo

Book cover for Clap When You Land

A verse novel that swings between grief and love, Clap When You Land is a dual narrative from award-winning and bestselling author Elizabeth Acevedo. Camino Rios lives in the Dominican Republic while her sister, Yahaira, lives a separate life in New York.  That is until the sisters learn of each other after the death of their father in a plane crash. Connected by their father's secrets but separated by distance, Yahaira and Camino's lives are forever altered by their new reality. 

Love is for Losers

by Wibke Brueggemann

Book cover for Love is for Losers

As far as Phoebe Davis is concerned, love is to be avoided at all costs. Why would you spend your life worrying about something that turns you into a complete moron? If her best friend Polly is anything to go by, the first sniff of a relationship makes you forget about your friends, get completely obsessed with sex and bang on constantly about a person who definitely isn't as great as you think they are. So Phoebe isn't going to fall in love, ever. But then she meets Emma. Love is for Losers is a hilarious, life-affirming novel about all the big stuff in a teen girl’s life: first love, sex, death, family, heartbreak and kisses that turn the whole world upside down.

Boy Meets Hamster

by Birdie Milano

Book cover for Boy Meets Hamster

Fourteen-year-old Dylan Kershaw's idea of a dream holiday includes at least three things: beaches to bask on, cosmopolitan culture, and a chance for romance. Unluckily for Dylan, his mum's treating the family to the least dreamy holiday ever: a £9.50 break at Starcross Sands, Cornwall's Crummiest Caravan Park. But Starcross Sands might not be so bad after all, especially if Dylan can win the heart of Jayden-Lee, the gorgeous boy in the caravan next-door. Only the park's massive hamster mascot, Nibbles, stands in their way. This essential LGBTQIA+ YA romance is Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging meets Love, Simon. 

Wayward Son

by Rainbow Rowell

Book cover for Wayward Son

Wayward Son is the stunning sequel to Rainbow Rowell's much-loved YA novel Carry On. Simon Snow beat the villain, won the war and even fell in love. So why can't he get off the couch? According to his best friend, he needs a change of scenery, and so Simon, Penny and Baz head to America for the roadtrip of a lifetime. But trouble finds them before too long, and they get lost. Thrilling, funny and deeply moving, this is Rowell and YA writing at its best. 

Felix Ever After

by Kacen Callender

Book cover for Felix Ever After

Young, black, queer and transgender – Felix Love is proud of his identity but feels like he might never get his own love story. Eager to know what falling in love really feels like, Felix suddenly finds himself in a mysterious catfish-love-triangle with an anonymous student who has been sending him transphobic messages. But as Felix navigates his ever more complicated feelings, he might finally come to terms with his most important discovery – his feelings about himself.

The Dark Light

by Julia Bell

Book cover for The Dark Light

Rebekah has lived on the island her whole life, and until recently, had never imagined what life might be like outside her strict religious community. But when another teenage girl, Alex, is sent to join the community to escape her dark past, the two girls strike up a strong friendship. And when a kiss between the girls is witnessed by another islander, there’s nowhere to escape.

In these episodes of Book Break, Emma celebrates happy LGBTQIA+​ stories and shares 21 must-read books by trans, non-binary and genderqueer authors: