In this article:
- Queer romance book recommendations approved by TikTok’s #BookTok📖 community.
- Classic queer romance books and fiction books that you may not have heard of.
- Non-fiction queer book recommendations about queer experiences and queer history.
June may be over but #Pride🏳️🌈 doesn’t have to be. One of the ways to support the queer community is to read books from queer authors that center on LGBTQIA+ protagonists.
Queer books are a little less common than their straight counterparts, making it harder to find good ones. But that hasn’t stopped TikTok’s book-loving community, #BookTok📖, from putting together a list of book recommendations for everything from romance to queer history.
Queer Romance and Fiction Books
It’s not every day you get a romance novel that features queer characters, much less one that makes its queer characters its romantic leads. That said, queer writers have given us plenty of books to choose from, whether you’re looking to read about queer women or men.
1. The Song of Achilles
No queer book recommendations list would be complete without Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles. The author’s debut novel received critical acclaim and was awarded the 17th annual Orange Prize for Fiction.
The story centers on the romance between Achilles, the most famous Greek hero of his time, and Patroclus, the abused and neglected son of a king. It’s told entirely from Patroclus’ perspective which reflects in the book’s tendency to wax poetic about Achilles.
After an incident that leads to his exile, Patroclus finds himself growing up with the dashing — if a bit hot-headed — Achilles. The two develop a friendship that quickly turns into a romantic bond.
But the life they’ve built together is put to the test when Achilles is forced to fight in the Trojan War.
You can get The Song of Achilles here.
Turns out, the fame and virality are well deserved.
Heartstopper is a coming-of-age romance that follows teenager Charlie Spring, an openly gay student at an all-boys school.
Life’s been rough for Charlie since he came out but he finds an unlikely friend in Nick Nelson, a member of his school’s rugby team who seemed to be a stereotypical jock until he was outed last year.
The two bond over their shared experience and eventually fall in love, all while trying to navigate the tumultuous waters of teenage life.
Plus, this queer love story is a graphic novel, making it an enjoyable read even if you’re not too fond of reading.
You can get Heartstopper here.
3. Bottle Rocket Hearts
Bottle Rocket Hearts is another romantic coming-of-age story that follows two women, free-spirited Eve and mysterious Della. There’s one big difference between them, though: Della is a decade older than Eve.
The book drops you into the tense political atmosphere of 1990s Canada, just as the 1995 referendum about whether Quebec should become its own country was being decided on by voters.
Throw sex garage riots and the OKA crisis into the mix and it’s no wonder 18-year-old Eve is itching to discover herself and get into less than ideal romances with older lesbian women.
It’s not uncommon to hear complaints about how queer romance books can be a little too self-flagellating for some readers so if you’re looking for a sweet romance, Bottle Rocket Hearts may not be the best pick.
4. Red, White, & Royal Blue
Red, White, & Royal Blue is a New York Times best-selling debut novel written by Casey McQuistion, a non-binary author who’s also known for writing One Last Stop, a lesbian romance.
The novel gets its name from its two gay protagonists, Alex Claremont-Diaz and Prince Henry. The former is the son of America’s first female president while the latter is a British prince.
While the two seem like PR daydreams for their respective countries, the truth is that they’ve been rivals for years and have simmering resentments from constantly being compared with each other.
Diplomatic relations between the White House and the British royal family turn sour when the two young men get in a fight. As part of damage control, the two are forced to fake a friendship, but their time spent together leads them to discover they have more in common than they thought.
You can get Red, White, & Royal Blue here.
Dracula is usually the first book people think of when it comes to classic vampire novels, but Bram Stoker’s book was preceded by a lesbian vampire romance between a mysterious woman and a naive young lady.
Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla was published in 1872, over twenty years before the release of Dracula in 1897.
The novel also begins in an isolated European castle where Laura lives with her father. Her dull life is changed when Carmilla’s carriage breaks down outside their home, giving Carmilla no choice but to stay at the castle.
Carmilla parallels the internal struggle within Laura to accept her attraction to Carmilla with the inhumanity of Carmilla’s vampiric nature which might sound kind of homophobic but is a lot more progressive than it seems.
Besides, there’s a whole lot more female agency here than you’ll find in Dracula…or most classics, for that matter.
You can get Carmilla here.
6. The Kingdom of Sand
You might remember Andrew Holleran for his previous novels, Dancer from the Dance, Grief, and The Beauty of Men. His fifth novel, The Kingdom of Sand, is his first published book in nearly two decades.
The book follows an unnamed narrator who’s going through an existential crisis as he realizes his vibrant queer youth is quickly fading and his old interests no longer hold the same excitement they once did.
The narrator forms a friendship with Earl, an older gay man who he first met in his 40s, who becomes a platonic companion for him.
You can find The Kingdom of Sand here.
Non-Fiction Queer Books to Check Out
You’ve probably heard or read the phrase “Pride was a riot” more than a couple of times and that’s because the first Pride was a series of protests that later became known as the Stonewall riots. The first altercation broke out on June 28, 1969, after NYPD raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village, New York.
Martin Duberman’s Stonewall re-creates the Stonewall riots, giving readers a front seat to a pivotal moment in LGBTQIA+ history.
Duberman, a historian and activist, sets aside academic formality in favor of letting readers experience the atmosphere of the times through the lived experiences of six people involved in the struggle against the NYPD.
You can get Stonewall here.
2. We Are Everywhere
We Are Everywhere is a comprehensive account of American queer history that starts in the 19th century and stretches to contemporary events.
The cool thing about We Are Everywhere is that it not only tells you that queer people have been around even when queerness was aggressively and openly persecuted by states, but shows you photographic evidence of queer lives, struggles, and joys.
The book is packed with photos of protests, intimate moments, and celebrations shared between queer people. Throughout the book, you’ll find quotes from interviews with people featured in the included photographs.
3. Gay New York: Gender Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World 1890 – 1940
Being queer isn’t a walk in the park today and it was definitely harder in previous decades, but in Gay New York, author George Chauncey, himself a professor of American history, challenges the idea that queer life was always furtive and invisible.
To do this, Chauncey presents us with evidence of how queer people have always been around and were able to carve out a place for themselves in New York City.
Chauncey pieces together the lives of gay men from the 19th to 20th century through their diaries, public legal records, and other miscellaneous documents to give readers a glimpse into the unseen world of gay life at the time.
4. Stone Butch Blues
Stone Butch Blues has a reputation for being hard to find in its print form, but if you’re fine with reading it digitally, the novel is available for free.
The book straddles the line between fiction and non-fiction, so let’s start with the author. Leslie Feinberg was a butch lesbian activist who grew up in Buffalo, New York where she would frequently go to gay bars and organize with a branch of the Workers World Party.
Stone Butch Blues had been published by Firebrand Books and Alyson Books until the latter filed for bankruptcy, forcing Feinberg into a protracted legal battle to regain ownership of her book. When she did, she published her book for free and banned many commercial uses of the book.
As for the book, it reads like a fictionalized account of the author’s life.
It follows Jess Goldberg, a butch lesbian constantly reinventing and discovering herself throughout several landmarks in queer history, including the Stonewall riots. It’s part coming-of-age story, part queer history and you can get a free PDF copy here or buy a low-cost paperback edition here.
5. Greedy: Notes From a Bisexual Who Wants Too Much
Greedy is a memoir by Jen Winston on what it’s like to be a bisexual receiving pressure from both sides of the queer-straight fence. It consists of essays about coming out, having same-sex crushes, and the feeling of being isolated from the queer community.
The book touches on several bisexual stereotypes and the confusion that comes with being told you’re just confused. It’s basically Winston’s internal dialogue as she tries to untangle her sexuality from the male gaze, the expectation of straightness, and the nagging feeling of not being “queer enough.”
You can get Greedy: Notes From A Bisexual Who Wants Too Much here.
These queer books about activism, personal life, and romance are just scratching the surface of queer literature and its many divisions.
Now that publishers are more willing to publish queer stories and queer creators can easily get their work to their target audience, there’s always a new voice waiting to be the next great queer novel.