13 LGBTQ+ books you won’t be able to put down
Our top reads for LGBT+ History Month
By Becky Hardy
THE LITTLE BOOK OF PRIDE BY LEWIS LANEY
What began as a protest for gay rights in 1969 New York has now grown to become a global celebration of LGBTQ+ culture. Lewis Laney’s The Little Book of Pride delves into it all – taking us through the history of Pride and introducing us to the key people involved with the movement, all while throwing an inspirational quote in here and there along with other little nuggets of good-to-know info. Little, bright, happy and gay, if you’re looking to become a little more knowledgeable about LGBTQ+ life then this is the perfect pocketbook to get you on your way.
On a side note: when closed, the pages of this book combine to make a glittering rainbow. If that doesn’t seal the deal for you we don’t know what will.
IN AT THE DEEP END BY KATE DAVIES
This frank, funny and fabulously filthy book has been described by Grazia as having ‘Fleabag–level dirty jokes’ and ‘Eleanor Oliphant-levels of empathy’. It was also described by The Guardian as ‘a Sapphic sexual odyssey’. And we’d have to agree with all of the above.
A hysterical read about self-discovery, sexual awakening, and how a bad relationship can help you to learn about yourself, In At The Deep End follows Julia – who’s about to learn she’s been looking for love – and satisfaction – in all the wrong places…
Spoiler alert: this one’s definitely NSFW.
THE WELL OF LONELINESS BY RADCLYFFE HALL
This novel was actually banned for obscenity when it was first published in 1928 so, naturally, it went on to become an international bestseller, was – for decades – the single most famous lesbian novel and has become an absolute classic within LGBTQ+ culture.
The story revolves around Stephen: an ideal child of aristocratic parents. He fences, he rides horses, he’s a keen scholar, and he even grows up to become a war hero. But Stephen is, in fact, a woman and her lovers are women. As her ambitions drive her, and society confines her, Stephen is forced into desperate action.
WHAT IS NOT YOURS IS NOT YOURS BY HELEN OYEYEMI
This brilliant collection of nine, interwoven short stories is cleverly built around the idea of keys: both literal and metaphorical. The key to a house, the key to a heart, the key to a secret. Playful, ambitious and delightfully strange, Oyeyemi’s tales completely captivate as they tease out whether these keys provide a gateway, an answer or an invitation to something more.
GIRL, WOMAN, OTHER BY BERNARDINE EVARISTO
From Newcastle to Cornwall, from the birth of the 20th century to the teens of the 21st, Girl, Woman, Other follows a cast of 12 characters on their personal journeys through this country and the last 100 years. They’re each looking for something – a shared past, an unexpected future, a place to call home, somewhere to fit in, a lover, a missed mother, a lost father, or even just a touch of hope…
Uniting poetry, social history and women’s voices, Girl, Woman, Other won the 2019 Booker Prize. This was possibly because it shows us Britain as we’ve never read it before – because it is Britain as it has never before been told. Unbelievably brilliant.
QUEER CITY BY PETER ACKROYD
In Queer City, historian Peter Ackroyd looks at London in a whole new way – through the story of its gay population. Taking us into the hidden history of the city, from the notorious Normans to the frenzy of executions for sodomy in the early 19th century, the recreation of gender roles during the Second World War to the Gay Liberation in the 1970s, Ackroyd tells us the story of how London became the open, tolerant and decidedly queer city it is today. And not in a dull history book kind of way.
TRUMPET BY JACKIE KAY
In some ways, Trumpet is very similar to Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness. In others, it’s starkly different. Both are triumphant. In Newcastle University professor Jackie Kay’s novel, the death of a legendary jazz trumpeter, Joss Moody, exposes an extraordinary secret unknown to all but his wife – that Joss was a woman. The discovery is most devastating for their adopted son, Colman, whose bewildered fury brings the press to the doorstep.
Based on the true story of an American musician, Trumpet is about the lengths to which people will go for love, an examination of when private life turns horribly public and a vessel through which Kay says things about gender and ethnicity that had never been said before.
THE TRADITION BY JERICHO BROWN
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, this poetic exploration of fatherhood, blackness, queerness, and what freedom really costs is a cutting collection that will have you reeling – in a way that is long overdue. Having even invented his own poetic form, the duplex (a combination of the sonnet, the ghazal and the blues), Brown brings us poetry for the modern age. Even if you’d normally see a poem and run a mile, give The Tradition a try.
ORANGES ARE NOT THE ONLY FRUIT BY JEANETTE WINTERSON
For anyone who has ever grappled with the complexities of sexual orientation within a religious context, this coming-out novel will hit you right in the feels.
Jeanette’s adoptive mother has brought her up to be one of God’s elect. Zealous and passionate, she seems destined for a life as a missionary – but then she falls for one of her converts. Innovative, punchy and tender, Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit explores the bizarre outposts of religious excess and human obsession with exceptional skill.
TOMORROW WILL BE DIFFERENT: LOVE, LOSS AND THE FIGHT FOR TRANS EQUALITY BY SARAH MCBRIDE
The clue is in the title for this one. In 2016, at the age of only 26, Sarah McBride became the first transgender person to speak at a national political convention. Since then, she has become one of the USA’s most prominent transgender activists and is now the Democratic member of the Delaware Senate. But that doesn’t mean her transition has been easy.
This book weaves Sarah’s personal journey together with the steps America has taken toward trans acceptance in a memoir that’s both deeply individual and a primer on civil rights. Oh, it has a forward by President Joe Biden too.
MIDDLESEX BY JEFFREY EUGENIDES
A Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, the opening lines to Middlesex reads: ‘I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day of January 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.’ Now if that doesn’t hook you, nothing will.
This intersex coming-of-age story has received a fair amount of criticism in its time, but undoubtedly remains one of the landmarks of queer literature.
CITY OF NIGHT BY JOHN RECHY
Take a trip into the underground world of gay hustlers, drag queens, Hollywood stars and sex workers in a book that scandalised the literary world when it first came out – but went on to become a classic. Having gone on to inspire musicians like the Doors and earning Rechy comparisons to authors like Kerouac and JD Salinger, (high praise indeed), you know you’re in, if not exactly safe, then steady literary hands with this one.
ON BEING DIFFERENT: WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A HOMOSEXUAL BY MERLE MILLER
This small book is the epitome of courage. For the first 50 years of his life, Merle Miller rarely spoke about his homosexuality – even to the people closest to him. Then, in January 1971, two years after the Stonewall Riots and in response to a homophobic essay in Harper’s Magazine, he penned this poignant essay for the New York Times Magazine that has now become a seminal book reaffirming the importance of coming out.
Essential reading for anyone who is or loves someone who identifies as LGBTQ+.