This Classic Novel Is Essential LGBTQ Reading


Though Pride month marks an ideal time to brush up on and celebrate the history and culture of the community, some of the most influential and educational LGBTQ books deserve a top spot on your reading list year-round — regardless of how you identify. From classic literature to contemporary nonfiction, there are a few texts in particular that have made their way into the canon due to their ability to spotlight the realities that exist outside the heteronormative world, including love and relationships, cultural acceptance, and other inherent struggles.

It's important to note that reading up on LGBTQ culture, much like watching TV shows and movies, is just one way of honoring the community. You can also shop products that give back or donate your time and money to beneficial organizations. That said, it is a way for you to not only celebrate the talents of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning artists, but also be able to connect with and become empathetic to their stories — not to mention deeply relating.

And there are tons to choose from (including countless by Black authors like James Baldwin, Alice Walker, and Roxanne Gay). Ahead, find a list of 15 informative and inspiring books that discuss the LGBTQ experience — from the early 20th century to modern day — that would make a great addition to any summer reading list.

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LGBTQ Book: The Stonewall Reader edited by The New York Public Library

If you're specifically looking for something that speaks to Pride month and its history, this nonfiction text zeroes in on the legendary Stonewall uprising by knitting together journal entries, newspaper articles, and firsthand accounts.

LGBTQ Book: Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg

Written in the early 1990s, but taking place in the mid-20th century, this novel follows the lifelong exploration of gender identity of its central character, Jess, who experiences institutionalization, police brutality, and other forms of repression and harassment as she tries to fit in, stand out, find love, and more.

LGBTQ Book: Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin

Baldwin's novel may be considered by many to be one of the most classic — and complex — representations of same sex desire, but Baldwin has gone on record to say the book is less about homosexuality and more about fear and maintaining appearances and expectations.

LGBTQ Book: Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin

The first in a series of nine, this novel — originally published in 1978 — shares the various stories of the residents of 28 Barbary Lane, a San Francisco compound overseen by an eccentric landlord who acts as a matriarch for the bohemian, fluid community she creates.

LGBTQ Book: The Color Purple by Alice Walker

In this seminal coming-of-age story that takes place in the rural American South during the early 20th century, the hardships of a young Black woman living during this time are described in equally brutal and beautiful detail — including a sensitive exploration of same sex romantic love.

LGBTQ Book: When Brooklyn Was Queer by Hugh Ryan

History buffs will love this look back at the the very beginnings of LGBTQ culture in this NYC borough.

LQBTQ Book: Orlando: A Biography by Virginia Woolf

First published in 1928, this satirical novel is one of the earliest and most well-known literary accounts of a gender-fluid main character.

LGBTQ Book: Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More by Janet Mock

Writer, director, and LGBTQ activist Mock penned this courageous memoir, which is not only inspiring to other Black trans women, but anyone who struggles with concepts of identity and acceptance.

LGBTQ Book: Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown

Brown's 1973 novel was groundbreaking in its honest and unapologetic account of lesbian relationships and sexuality that was so ahead of its time.

LGBTQ Book: Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us by Kate Bornstein

Though it was written nearly three decades ago, Bornstein's memoir still holds up today as an informative text on what it means to be non-binary and gender non-conforming — including all the intimate details along the author's path to self discovery.

LGBTQ Book: Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg

The beat poet paved the way for so many writers to unapologetically tackle themes of sexuality and its inherent politics. This collection of poetry includes his best-known work, Howl, which became a literary anthem for the LGBTQ community as well as other countercultures.

LGBTQ Book: On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

Written as a letter to the narrator's illiterate mother, this poetic novel mirrors many of the experiences of its author, including cultural identity/expectation, sexuality, class, and family trauma.

LGBTQ Book: Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

In Gay's funny and often heartbreaking book of essays about gender identity, politics, and culture, the author proves why she's become one of the most celebrated contemporary voices.

LGBTQ Book: Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde

This comprehensive collection of essays and speeches by the groundbreaking writer, poet, and activist is essential reading for anyone looking to educate themselves on racism and homophobia.

LGBTQ Book: The Women by Hilton Als

Als' take on a memoir is actually a collection of stories about a few of the women who helped to shape his identity at a Black gay man.