Books bring us together, help us feel less alone, open our eyes in wonder and understanding, and share a common narrative. It’s deeply important to share the perspectives, lifestyles and cultures of our beautiful yet challenging world.
So we’re bringing you some of the best and biggest LGBTQA+ books of 2021 that illuminate the vast and multifaceted world of the queer experience. Memoir and nonfiction bring the history of the ongoing challenges faced by the LGBTQA+ communities, poetry and essays bring an array of perspectives to one place, and fiction and YA, not necessarily about the struggle of being queer in an everyday world, but about a world that exists with people who fall on the LGBTQA+ spectrum.
Outlawed by Anna North (January 5, 2021)
From the author of the Lambda Literary Award-winning The Life and Death of Sophie Stark comes an alt-history feminist western set in a world in which women unable to bear children are tried for witchcraft. Enter Ava, a young woman whose new husband can’t get her pregnant, forcing her to flee the only home she’s ever known. She ends up enmeshed in a gang of mostly female outlaws, led by a genderless desperado known only as The Kid.
Reese and Amy were in love and living their best life in New York City. The only thing that could make their already good life perfect would be to add a baby to complete their family. However, things start to unravel when Amy decides to detransition to Ames, leaving Reese heartbroken. Even though Ames knows their relationship is over, he can’t stop thinking about Reese, and when he finds out that he’s impregnated another woman who’s not sure if she wants to keep it, he can’t help but wonder if this is a sign that maybe the three of them could create their own unconventional version of happily ever after.-– Kandi Neal, @kandi_neal_
In her work as the former editor-in-chief of Nylon, Korn placed the worlds of beauty and fashion within the cultural context of internet feminism and queerness. In her first-ever essay collection, a mix of The Devil Wears Prada and Jia Tolentino’s Trick Mirror, she tells her story of navigating New York media. Of course, underneath the lavish parties and clothing hookups, there’s as much grit as there is glamour, and Korn doesn’t shy away from exposing the physical and emotional costs of being a lesbian in an industry that has traditionally discounted women like her.
Want more books that celebrate the LGBTQ+ community? Here are 5 books that honor International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. >>
Milk Fed by Melissa Broder (February 2, 2o21)
Even though Rachel was born Jewish, the only thing she does religiously is monitor her food intake. She’s got everything down to a science, from counting calories to burning them off. Although she seems to have it all together at twenty-four, the truth is that she’s still very much influenced by her mom, who was the one to teach her all about calorie control to begin with. When Rachel’s therapist recommends that she take a break from communicating with her mother, she ends up meeting Miriam, an Orthodox Jew who turns her life around with shared faith, physical affection and even her favorite frozen yogurt. – Kandi Neal, @kandi_neal_
Kink Edited by R.O. Kwon and Garth Greenwell (February 9, 2021)
“What I appreciated most about Kink is that while it is certainly a book about sex, it is also very much a book about human connection. The stories aren’t stereotypical but really specific and vivid. While sex can be very exciting and thrilling and unique, it can also be mundane and common and human, and this book plays into both extremes. I also love that Kink is a truly diverse collection—it includes many kinds of sex with many kids of people and no two writing styles are the same. No two stories are alike and that goes to show that being kinky isn’t niche or fringe, it is very much human, and everyone is into it in some way or another.” – Traci, The Stacks Podcast
Explore the best 2021 books by Asian and Pacific Islander authors that speak to the intricacies of people from different regions of Asia. >>
Millennial queers exist in a kind of crossroads of gay history: many are too young to fully grapple with the magnitude of AIDS, some are too old to appreciate the social-media-influenced openness of Gen Z. It’s at this crossroads that Salih’s stirring ode to the many faces of queerness exists. It centers on two former friends, Sebastian and Oscar, who reconnect at a wedding, just as marriage equality has become the law of the land, and who both feel adrift in the constantly changing gay landscape. What unfolds is an intimate saga that brims with necessary conversations about cultural identity.
Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers (February 23, 2021)
“Honey Girl is the late ’20s Millennial coming-of-age novel I never knew I needed, but absolutely did. It’s also a [female, female] romance novel, so you get two genres for the price of one. Jokes aside, I really loved reading as Grace and Yuki’s relationship blossomed and evolved. Honey Girl definitely reads like a contemporary novel, but Rogers also seamlessly incorporates sections of beautiful, more abstract prose that never felt jarring or out of place” – Landice, @manicfemme
From spoken word poet Jasmine Mans comes an unforgettable poetry collection about race, feminism and queer identity. With echoes of Gwendolyn Brooks and Sonia Sanchez, Mans writes to call herself—and us—home. Each poem explores what it means to be a daughter of Newark, and America—and the painful, joyous path to adulthood as a young, queer Black woman. Black Girl, Call Home is a love letter to the wandering Black girl and a vital companion to any woman on a journey to find truth, belonging, and healing.
Read our exclusive interview with Jasmine Mans on Black Girl, Call Home >>
Girlhood by Melissa Febos (March 30, 2021)
In Girlhood, Melissa Febos tackles themes of coming of age and what girlhood looks like, as well as how experiences that stem from girlhood can flow directly into adulthood. Many of the experiences she describes relates to how the world views a girl and her body. Every single essay in this collection is extraordinary—but my favorite that I still think about is the one that covers Fabos learning about the power of consent/boundaries at a cuddle party, and the necessity of unlearning the discomfort that comes with establishing boundaries. -Lupita Aquino, @Lupita.Reads
Lara has spent the better part of her high school days dreaming of Chase Harding. He might possibly be the hottest guy in school and has actually started to notice Lara, too. As they start to get closer, Lara can’t believe her luck. She’s got the best friends a girl could ask for, a great job, and having the attention of her school’s football star is the icing on the already delicious cake. There’s just one thing…Lara can’t stop thinking about her summer romance with Jasmine, and when she ends up at the same school, things get complicated. This is a story of what happens when girl meets boy then girl meets girl again. – Kandi Neal, @kandi_neal_
Legendary author and thinker Sarah Schulman—whose works include such touchstones as After Dolores, The Gentrification of the Mind, and Conflict is Not Abuse—returns with a comprehensive chronicle of ACT UP New York, an indefatigable band of revolutionaries whose hardscrabble activism essentially waged war on the many systems of oppression perpetuating the AIDS crisis. This sweeping account, based on hundreds of interviews with former members of the group, offers both a street-level and birds-eye view of the kind of grassroots advocacy that can turn the world upside down.
A pansexual bloodmage reluctantly teams up with an undead spirit to start a rebellion among the living and the dead, in this dark YA fantasy by A.M. Strickland, author of Beyond the Black Door, whom Richard Kadrey calls “a storyteller of both grace and power.” In Thanopolis, those gifted with magic are assigned undead spirits to guard them―and control them. Ever since Rovan’s father died trying to keep her from this fate, she’s hidden her magic. But when she accidentally reveals her powers, she’s bound to a spirit and thrust into a world of palace intrigue and deception.
The Guncle by Steven Rowley (May 25, 2021)
Patrick is the beloved Gay uncle of his niece Maisie and nephew Grant. He loves them too, but he’s very overwhelmed. When tragedy strikes and Maisie and Grant lose their mother, Patrick finds himself in the position of being their primary guardian. Patrick has no idea what to expect but soon opens his eyes to the sense of responsibility and mistakes that come with responsibility larger than life.
You’ll love these 11 LGBTQA 2021 fiction releases >>
With Teeth by Kristen Arnett (June 1, 2021)
Sammie Lucas is scared of her son, and lives her life working from home and watching him. She’s also scared of her own abilities as a mother, and she tries her best to do it all but grows increasingly resentful of her absent wife Monika. As Sammie’s son grows older, her life begins to unravel. When her son is finally physically aggressive to her, Sammie must confront the role she’s played in the mess, and understand that perfection may never be achieved.
The Lucky List by Rachel Lippincott (June 1, 2021)
Emily and her mom were always lucky. Every month they’d take her lucky quarter, select lucky card 505, and dominate the bingo night in their small, quirky town of Huckabee. But Emily’s mom’s luck ran out three years ago when she succumbed to cancer. Now, the summer before her senior year, Emily’s lost her boyfriend and her dad is selling the house she grew up in. The only person she has to talk to about it is her dad’s best friend’s daughter, Blake, a girl she barely knows. But then Emily finds her mom’s senior year summer bucket list. When Blake suggests that Emily take it on as a challenge, the two set off to tick each box. Emily finally begins to feel closer to mom again, but her bond with Blake starts to deepen into something she wasn’t expecting. Suddenly Emily must face another fear: accepting the secret part of herself she never got a chance to share with the person who knew her best.
Hear about how Rachel Lippincott duplicated The Lucky List bucket list items in our exclusive interview >>
One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston (June 1, 2021)
If you read Red, White, and Royal Blue by McQuiston then you know what you are in for: sexual tension out the wazoo from characters you can’t help but connect with. Not only do you get queer representation in this book, but a seemingly plus-size heroine. The author doesn’t straight out call her plus-size, there is language that leads the reader to that conclusion. This romcom also features some found family goodness. Definitely a feel good book for summer.
We celebrate Pride all year long! But for June, here are 10 book picks specific to Pride Month >>
This is a must-read memoir of a Black girl growing up in Indiana, and is one of the most deeply layered memoirs I’ve read in a very long time. It touches on Ashley C. Ford’s complicated and sometimes emotionally unstable relationship with her mother, while reflecting on a childhood without her father, who was incarcerated. The writing in this felt so tender to Ashley C. Ford’s inner child, which I saw as a reminder to allow myself my own childhood memories without questioning them or trying to pick them apart as an adult now. -Lupita Aquino, @Lupita.Reads
A 2021 Most Anticipated Pick for Oprah Magazine and USA Today (among many others!), this book has been described by R.F. Kuang as “Gatsby the way it should have been written―dark, dazzling, fantastical.” Protagonist Jordan Baker grows up in the most rarefied circles of 1920’s American society with money, education and invitations to the most exclusive parties of the Jazz Age. She’s also queer and Asian, a Vietnamese adoptee treated as an exotic attraction by her peers, while the most important doors remain closed to her. But Jordan has a secret talent in connecting with lost ghosts and elemental mysteries. This coming of age story is full of magic, mystery, and glittering excess.
Explore the best 2021 books by Asian and Pacific Islander authors that speak to the intricacies of people from different regions and countries of Asia. >>
You might be familiar with the column now substack íHola Papi! or you might not. Either way, you need John Paul Brammer in your life and íHola Papi!: How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons will tell you exactly why. Through short essays prompted from questions asking for advice, you learn more about John Paul Brammer and how he got through tough periods of his life as a queer mixed-race guy—like bullying in middle school, dealing with imposter syndrome, or coming out in, you guessed it, a Walmart parking lot! This memoir-in-essays is one of my favorite books ever. Hot tip: you can totally use the chapter prompt questions for your own journaling and to tap into your own story.
If you love memoirs, here’s 11 LGBTQA+picks for your #TBR pile >>
Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé (June 10, 2021)
In this YA thrill ride, Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé throws down the gauntlet by challenging readers to face the treatment of these Black characters head on. This book is dark, gritty, and twisty for a YA novel. Even adults will be drawn in and held tight by Àbíké-Íyímídé’s riveting debut. According to the author, this book is Get Out meets Gossip Girl—but Black and queer. Take a chance on this dark academia rollercoaster; you won’t be disappointed.
Bath Haus by PJ Vernon (June 15, 2021)
P.J. Vernon is a sensational storyteller with a wild imagination and a knack for crafting stories filled with twists and turns that even this thriller fanatic never saw coming. Bath Haus tells the story of a young man who has come a long way from the addict he was in Indiana to being now married to a successful doctor in Washington DC. Oliver and his husband Nathan have a beautiful life together – that is, until Nathan goes out of town and Oliver visits a gay bathhouse out of curiosity. Once inside, Oliver is attacked and lies about what happened, to not only cover his tracks, but his bruises as well. From the moment that first lie slips from his lips, Vernon takes the reader on a terrifying and anxiety-filled ride, as well as jaw-dropping moments, that will have you white-knuckled about who will survive.–Gare Billings @gareindeedreads
Don’t miss Gare’s LGBTQ Books We Would Love to See on the Big Screen >>
In another upcoming summer read, take a moment of clarity with some of the great queer icons of our day. This book is a collection of essays by so many voices who raise us up, keep us strong. Elton John, Paris Lees, Susan Sontag, and so many more took the time to evoke their own heroes so we can meet them. Perfect read to take to the beach.–Monica Corwin, @rosetyper9
Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor (June 22, 2021)
This series of psychologically taut and quietly devastating linked stories is set among young creatives in the American Midwest: A young man treads delicate emotional waters as he navigates sexually fraught encounters with two dancers in an open relationship, forcing him to weigh his vulnerabilities against his loneliness. A young woman battles with the cancers draining her body and her family. Menacing undercurrents among a group of teenagers explode in violence on a winter night. A little girl tears through a house like a tornado, driving her babysitter to the brink. And couples feel out the jagged edges of connection, comfort and cruelty.
Gilda is an atheists lesbian who can’t stop thinking about death. In a desperate attempt to stop these thoughts, she goes to free therapy at a local Church. However, she’s mistakenly hired as the new receptionist to replace their recently deceased one, Grace. Gilda must make her way in this new job by trying to memorize lines to mass and hiding her sexuality. When Grace’s friend starts sending emails to the church email, Gilda answers them, not wanting to break the news of her predecessor’s death. But when the police dig deep into Grace’s death, Gilda may finally have to share the truth of her existence.
Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So (August 3, 2021)
Following Anthony Veasna So’s tragic death in December 2020, the author “on the brink of stardom,” as The New York Times calls him, will release his debut collection of vibrant stories about everyday Cambodian-American life—immersive and comic, yet unsparing—that offers profound insight into the intimacy of queer and immigrant communities. A Roxane Gay’s Audacious Book Club Pick!
Imagine Riverdale crossing streams with Stephen King’s The Outsider and you’ll get a sense of this gripping supernatural mystery in which two girls from very different walks of life investigate the ghostly goings-on in a rural Oregon town. Gould’s debut begins as a snappy paranormal yarn and unspools into a profound story about the complex interplay between grief, guilt, and identity.
The Perfume Thief by Timothy Schaffert (August 3, 2021)
A hint of Moulin Rouge, a whiff of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale, a little spritz of Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief—Schaffert’s Paris-set page-turner is the exhilarating tale of a queer former criminal whose whims and wits just might help drive the Nazis out of the City of Lights. The Perfume Thief is a pulse-pounding thriller and a sensuous experience you’ll want to savor.
You’ll love these 11 LGBTQA 2021 fiction releases >>
The City Beautiful by Aden Polydoros (September 7th, 2021)
As you can tell by now, I get attached to books quickly based on short succinct pitches. This book’s pitch is: a queer Jewish gothic fantasy set during the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. If that pitch doesn’t deserve a mic drop, I don’t know what does. I love how historical fiction is branching out from the usual highlanders and Vikings into these little historical niches that gives us such a richer look into a time period. Plus, who doesn’t love a good gothic read for the fall?–Monica Corwin, @rosetyper9
There are no easy answers to love—whether it’s family love or friend love or romantic love. In Things We Couldn’t Say, Jay Coles, acclaimed author of Tyler Johnson Was Here, shows us a bi Black boy trying to navigate love in all its ambiguity—hoping at the other end he’ll be able to figure out who is and who he should be. There’s always been a hole in Gio’s life. Not because he’s into both guys and girls. Not because his father has some drinking issues. No, the hole in Gio’s life takes the shape of his birth mom, who left Gio, his brother, and his father when Gio was nine years old. For eight years, he never heard a word from her . . . and now, just as he’s started to get his life together, she’s back. Can he forgive her like she wants to be forgiven? Complicating things further, Gio’s started to hang out with David, a new guy on the basketball team. Are they friends? More than friends? At first, Gio’s not sure . . . especially because he’s not sure what he wants from anyone right now.
Read more from Jay Coles about the intersection between Blackness and queerness, and the hardest part of writing Things We Couldn’t Say. >>
Tink and Wendy by Kelly Ann Jacobson (October 26, 2021)
If that title didn’t immediately sell you this book, then let me expand things a bit for you. In this reimagining, Tink is telling the story of how she was in love with both Wendy and Peter and how their love triangle didn’t go as planned. Let that sink in a moment and consider grabbing this classic queer adaption for your cool fall snuggle fests.–Monica Corwin, @rosetyper9
This is the third book in the Hell’s Library Series. Dang, it’s a wonderful year for LGBTQ fantasy. The basic premise of this world is a library, in hell, that catalogues and “guards” all the unfinished works by authors. This world is another one where most of the characters are some variations of not straight. Another refreshing example of a fantasy featuring bisexual, pansexual and queer characters where the story isn’t focused on the queer experience of the characters, but let’s them live their adventurous lives.
All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman (November 9, 2021)
I have no words looking at the description of this book except…can we skip summer and go to the awesome fall release schedule? This book is like Fate Zero (the anime if you haven’t read/watched it) but you know…with morally gray characters and queerness. Oh wait…well, I guess now you have two things to read that fits this bill. If you haven’t heard of Fate Zero, or that world), you can compare it to The Hunger Games, but darker and more villainous. A great fit for a deep fall read.–Monica Corwin, @rosetyper9