We’re just past halfway through Pride Month, so it seems like the natural time for me to share with you my top 10 favorite LGBT+ books. Because, you know, I’m known for being consistent and timely.
As I compiled this list, I thought about how limited my experience actually is with books featuring LGBT+ protagonists. I know I’ve spoken about it before, but I am painfully aware that the Queer Lit I have read has feature predominantly male protagonists. Yes, part of this speaks to my own bias as a reader, but it also speaks to the biases of the publishing industry and how far we still have to go to achieve actual representation in the publishing world. (I said we there as if I’m part of the publishing world. I’m not. The closest I’ve gotten was standing outside of the Random House offices and screaming, “publish me, publish me, publish me” over and over until my best friend got embarrassed and made me leave.)
I don’t have a rubric or scoring system to rank these books. The way I’ve chosen to order these books is based 100% on the way these books made me feel. So, without further ado, here is my list of my Top 10 LGBT+ Books to Read During Pride Month.
10. Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman
Call Me By Your Name is a book that is beloved by many. It was turned into a movie a few years ago. I’ve already written about this book here, so I’m not going to belabor it again.
9. What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera
What If It’s Us was one of those delightful teen reads that I love as a pallet cleanser. Every once in a while, I’ve read too many crime books, or memoirs, or heavy books, and I just need a quick young adult read. Young adult books are so fun; the characters feel everything in very large, very real ways. Everything is blown out of proportion and they’re all a little bit like a fairy tale. And that’s why I love them. Even if I was dissatisfied with the ending of this one, it was such a good read. I was hung up on for days afterward.
What If It’s Us tells the story of Arthur and Ben, having the world’s cutest meet-cute in New York City and falling quickly in love. Everything goes awry every time they try to make things perfect. The fight over stupid things. There’s heartbreak. It’s my favorite kind of escapist book. I love that it’s told in alternating perspectives. I love that Broadway musicals thread constantly throughout this book. It was just such a wonderful read.
8. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo caught my eye simply because the cover was beautiful. I wish I could say that I don’t judge books by their covers, but that would be a lie. Honestly, I think most people do.
Luckily, I had also heard great things about this book from book bloggers I like and podcasts I listen to, so I was willing to take a gamble. What I knew was it was about an Elizabeth Taylor-type old Hollywood actress and it was the fictional memoir of the seven men to whom she’d been married throughout her lifetime. What I did not know was that it was, more importantly, the story about a Hollywood actress who was in love with a woman and how the prejudices of the time and their careers kept them apart. It was a truly moving, truly beautiful story. I’m sad that I can’t read it again for the first time.
7. Every Day by David Levithan
Every Day is not necessarily a book that is specifically about LGBT characters. It is, though, a book about loving somebody for the person they are, for their mind and their heart above all else.
I’ve also written about this book in the past, so rather than rehash everything I’ve already said, I’ll just link back to it.
6. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
Fun Home is a very different kind of book for this list, because it is biographical and not fiction, like the other books on this list. It is also a graphic book and is a beautiful work of art.
In Fun Home, cartoonist Alison Bechdel tells the her own story of growing up to understand her own sexuality while navigating a complicated relationship with her father. Bechdel describes the emotional abuse her family experienced from her father, even illustrating a story explaining why she only cartoons in black and white. It is a coming of age story rife with pain and secrets. It’s complicated. As Alison is coming to terms with her sexuality, she’s also fighting to understand her father’s and everything he’s going through.
It was also the inspiration to one of my favorite musicals. So, there’s that.
5. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
So, Carry On is the most Inceptionest Inception to have ever inceptioned. Carry On was first introduced to the world through Rainbow Rowell’s book Fangirl, about a budding writer who had devoted much of her life to writing fanfiction about a character named Simon Snow.
Simon Snow has some very obvious reflections of Harry Potter, but with an entirely unique story, which is fleshed out throughout the course of Fangirl and Carry On. So, Rainbow Rowell being the brilliant genius she is, wrote the fanfiction herself. And it’s wonderful! It’s a fantasy setting with a cast of amazing characters. It’s charming. And it’s got an unlikely love story featuring a gay protagonist and a gay antagonist. It’s absolutely lovely.
And there’s a sequel coming in a few months. I’m so pumped!
4. Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda is one of the few books in my life I read in a single day. I sat on the couch to read the first chapter. And several days or months or years or lifetimes later, I looked up and I had finished the book. I didn’t eat. I didn’t sleep. I didn’t do anything but read this delightful, amazing book. I read it right on the heels of Carry On and then I didn’t want to do anything but think about the Simons for days. It was bad. I was stuck in this world with these amazing people. I loved their stories. I loved them. I wanted them to be happy and to stay as beautiful as they were when the books ended. I wanted their lives to continue in a way that I was invited to watch. And I wanted them to be happy.
I cried a lot while reading this book. It was beautiful. I had so much heart. It was genuine. I’m still hungover from reading this book.
3. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Not only was this a wonderful read, I had the pleasure of listening to it on audio, where it is narrated by the one and only Lin-Manuel Miranda.
This book features two Latino boys finding their own sexual and cultural identities while navigating life from very different sides of the tracks. There’s an underlying mystery that weaves throughout, as well as some really dramatic and beautiful scenes. I listened in awe at this book and everything Ari and Dante had to bring me.
There was a sequel in the works, but I actually don’t know the status of it and can’t seen to find any information.
2. The Dangerous Art of Blending In by Angelo Surmelis
I cried and cried and cried over this book. I wrote a very heartfelt review of this book when it first came out. You can find it here.
1. I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
This is one of the other few books I read in one day. I’m a slow reader, so a commitment to finish a book in a day really takes the entire day for me. And I did not regret it at all. I shirked responsibilities for an entire day and sat in my bedroom and read and cried and gasped. It was like watching the best movie I’d ever seen.
That’s not to say this was the best book I’ve ever read. But it’s one of my favorites. I still wonder about the characters. I still want to know what happened next. Jandy Nelson tied up every string, and I still want more. Between the sibling rivalry, the enigmatic mother, the distant father, Noah and his understanding is own sexuality. Jude being haunted. There’s a sense of magic realism to this book that is just so natural. It’s like this is how books should always be written. The alternating viewpoints of the siblings. All of it just grabbed hold of me and wouldn’t let me go. Even today, years afterward. It was the best reading experience I’ve had in a very long time, and sometimes I’m still chasing the high I got from the book. Maybe I’ll never get another, in which case, I’m happy to have gotten it once.
Happy reading and happy Pride Month!
The Plucky Reader