Books

The best LGBTQ+ books to read this Pride month, and beyond

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Stylist Team
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LGBT reading list

From graphic novels to comedy, we’ve got the books you need to add to your to-read pile.

Pride 2019 is a worldwide, month-long celebration of members of the LGBTQ+ community and the movement’s history, and there are plenty of events going on during June, from parades to cabaret shows and lectures.

But bookworms may want to celebrate Pride by curling up with a book, and what better than something by or about people from the LGBTQ+ community?

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The canon of LGBTQ+ literature is wide-ranging, covering everything from classics like Orlando by Virginia Woolf to contemporary novels like Alan Hollinghurst’s The Swimming Pool Library and memoirs like Tig Notaro’s I’m Just a Person.

LGBTQ+ literature can often be described as a genre, but in reality it’s a grouping that encompasses everything from romance to graphic novels to biography.

Here are nine books by and about the LGBTQ+ experience to read this Pride, and beyond.

  • Carol by Patricia Highsmith

    Carol by Patricia Highsmith.
    Carol by Patricia Highsmith.

    Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel Carol was brought back into our consciousness with the release of the 2015 film adaptation starring Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett. The book tells the story of Therese, a sales assistant at a New York department store who meets the alluring Carol at work. A bored suburban housewife in the middle of a divorce, Carol draws Therese into her world, with the latter soon realising how much they both stand to lose. Carol was originally published pseudonymously as The Price of Salt, and is as haunting and beautiful as it was on its first release.

    Bloomsbury, £8.99

  • Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde

    Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde.
    Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde.

    Feminist, writer and civil rights activist Audre Lorde described herself as “Black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet”. Sister Outsider collects together essays, speeches, letters and interviews exploring race, sexuality, poetry, friendship, the erotic and the need for female solidarity. Among the pieces is her famous essay ‘The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House’. Sister Outsider is being published in a new edition alongside The Black Unicorn, Lorde’s seminal poetry collection, which has never been published in the UK before.

    Sister Outsider is out on 4 July, Penguin Modern Classics, £8.99.

  • Against Memoir by Michelle Tea

    Against Memoir by Michelle Tea.
    Against Memoir by Michelle Tea.

    In this collection of essays, writer and literary organiser Michelle Tea covers arts, music, queerness and love. Her subjects include a doomed lesbian biker gang and teenagers barely surviving at an ice creamery, and she addresses topics including miscarriage, transgender rights, poverty, feminism, addiction and more. A wide-ranging, fascinating set of essays that give an insight into people on America’s fringes, as well as Tea herself.

    Against Memoir is published on 3 September by And Other Stories, £10.

  • Queer Intentions by Amelia Abraham

    Queer Intentions by Amelia Abraham.
    Queer Intentions by Amelia Abraham.

    Part history of LGBTQ+ rights and freedoms, part manifesto and part personal essay, journalist Amelia Abraham’s Queer Intentions asks what it means to be queer in 2019. Abraham looks at the first same-sex marriage in Britain, a giant drag convention in Los Angeles, pride parades in Europe, the underground LGBTQ+ scene in Turkey and more in her exploration of queer culture. Looking at what LGBTQ+ people have historically fought for, and the cost of assimilation, Queer Intentions astutely paints a picture of the joys and pains of being LGBTQ+ at a time when queer culture has never been so mainstream.

    Picador, £14.99

  • This Brutal House by Niven Govinden

    This Brutal House by Niven Govinden.
    This Brutal House by Niven Govinden.

    Queer ball culture in New York has been explored recently in the TV show Pose, and in This Brutal House, Niven Govinden offers a different perspective, turning the focus away from the glamour of the fabulous outfits and music. On the steps of New York’s City Hall, five Mothers sit in silent protest. The guardians of the queer vogue ball community, they opened their hearts and homes to countless lost Children, providing them with safe spaces where they could be themselves. But now, the Children are going missing, and the authorities don’t care. Watching the Mothers’ protest is Teddy, a city clerk raised by the Mothers who is now charged with brokering an uneasy truce.

    Dialogue Books, £14.99.

  • Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman

    You’ll likely be familiar with Call Me By Your Name because of its critically-acclaimed film adaptation starring Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet, but even if you’ve seen the film, the book is well worth your time. Set during a restless summer on the Italian Riviera, it tells the story of the romance between 17-year-old Elio and his father’s house guest, the student Oliver. Despite the brevity of their romance, the experience of that summer stays with Elio and Oliver for a lifetime.

    Atlantic Books, £8.99.

  • In at the Deep End by Kate Davies

    In At The Deep End by Kate Davies
    In at the Deep End by Kate Davies.

    LGBTQ+ literature can sometimes be wrongly labelled as a genre, and one that – like many books by underrepresented communities – seems to only contain serious books that deal with pain or loss. Kate Davies’ raucous debut novel is an antidote to that, and an illustration of the variety of books available by and about LGBTQ+ writers. In at the Deep End is the story of Julia, who after a dry patch has a terrible one-night stand with a man, which leads her to realise she’s been looking for love and satisfaction in the wrong places. A story about friendship, love, identity and more, this book will make you cry-laugh.

    The Borough Press, £12.99.

  • Indecent Advances: A Hidden History of True Crime and Prejudice Before Stonewall by James Polchin

    Indecent Advances by James Polchin.
    Indecent Advances by James Polchin.

    This year marks the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, when police raided the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan, New York, prompting a series of demonstrations by members of the LGBTQ+ community. But what came before Stonewall? In his book, cultural critic and professor James Polchin examines the hidden history of violence against gay men in America. Exploring how gay men navigated a society which criminalised them, Polchin explores the resonances of that discrimination in the run up to Stonewall, and through to the policing of Gianna Versace’s murder in 1997.

    Indecent Advances is released on 4 July, Icon Books, £16.99.

  • XX by Angela Chadwick

    This timely novel looks at reproductive rights, politics and parenthood. When Rosie and Jules discover a ground-breaking clinical trial that enables two women to have a female baby, they jump at the chance to make history. But fear-mongering politicians and right-wing movements are not so happy about Ovum-to-Ovum technology, worried about what will happen to the number of boys born and whether the tech is part of a sinister conspiracy to eradicate men. In the ensuing toxic political debate, Rosie and Jules’ relationship is put under a microscope and they’re forced to question the loyalty of those closest to them.

    Dialogue Books, £8.99.

  • Fun Home by Alsion Bechdel

    Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
    Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

    You’ll no doubt be familiar with the Bechdel Test, a measure of the representation of women in fiction, but how much do you know about the woman it’s named after? A cartoonist, Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic is a great place to start if you want to explore her work. Combining childhood memories, college life and the present day, Bechdel explores her complex relationship with her father, a closeted homosexual who is involved with his male students and the family babysitter, and how it changed when she came out. The book has been turned into an award-winning musical.

    Jonathan Cape, £12.99. 

Images: Supplied by publishers

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