10 Queer Books by Queer Authors to Pick Up Before Pride Month Ends

From novels and memoirs to essay collections and one standout graphic novel, these are some of the best books you'll read all year.

Pride Month is almost over, but these must-read Queer books are worth picking up all year round. Courtesy the publishers

June is Pride month, so what better time to add some queer books by queer writers to your must-read pile? We’ve rounded up a list of recommendations that spans setting and format but include a Folio Prize winner, an American Book Award winner and two Booker Prizes. This list will take you from an Indiana dream house to the statuesque homes of Notting Hill, from Giovanni’s Room to a funeral home in Pennsylvania. It includes both fiction and nonfiction: there are novels, memoirs, essay collections, even a graphic novel. What they have in common is that they are stories of bravery, love and community. Yes, they are stories of gender and sexuality, but they are really about the people who live those stories, and that’s what makes them so compelling. They are some of the best books out right now, and we hope they will keep you reading all month—or all year—long.

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In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado. Graywolf Press

With searingly intense prose, Machado writes about her experience in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship with another woman. The book’s point of view goes back and forth between “I”—the present-day Machado, eloquent and direct—and “you”—the victim Machado, trapped and struggling—creating a unique relationship between writer and reader that contributes to a sense of collective ownership over this story, and all the others like it. It’s not written chronologically, but rather comes together in fragments, mirroring the slow breakdown of the relationship. It’s heartbreaking, deeply emotional, and exquisitely written.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong. Penguin Press

Another heartbreaking yet beautiful tale, Vuong’s epistolary novel centers around a young Vietnamese American boy nicknamed Little Dog. He writes to his abusive mother Hong, translated as Rose, who is barely literate, her education having ended at seven when her school collapsed after an American napalm raid in Vietnam. He knows she won’t read it, but the healing is in the exercise. Like In the Dream House, the book is a series of vignettes, and ultimately, a story emerges, about Little Dog’s challenges at home and at school, his relationships with his mother, who suffers from PTSD, and his grandmother, who has schizophrenia, and the boy he meets working on a tobacco farm one summer. Based largely on Vuong’s own life, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a profound and lyrical interrogation of how we process the events of our lives.

Girls Can Kiss Now by Jill Gutowitz

Girls Can Kiss Now by Jill Gutowitz. Simon & Schuster

A lighter pick, Gutowitz combines reflections on her sexuality with a meditation on pop culture to write about how lesbian representation in the media and growing up in the early 2000s impacted her view of life and sexuality. It’s funny and bright, but through the essays, a vulnerable story emerges. Girls Can Kiss Now is well done because it’s not only cultural commentary; rather, it explores the ways in which the culture Gutowitz grew up in molded her. She writes about Orange is the New Black, Taylor Swift’s folklore and evermore albums, the media’s hyperfocus on Lindsay Lohan when she began dating Samantha Ronson, and a host of topics in between.

Lesbian Love Story by Amelia Possanza

Lesbian Love Story by Amelia Possanza. Catapult

A unique blend of archival research and personal memoir, Lesbian Love Story is about seven lesbians and their life’s loves. In each chapter, Possanza tells the story of one of them while also reflecting on her own journey with her lesbian identity. Her choice to write about lesser-known lesbians, rather than the major historical figures we all know, works well here: readers learn something new, and she represents new voices. Her passion for this research is palpable, and wherever possible, she lets her characters tell their own stories, using quotes from diaries, memoirs, and oral history tapes. The result is characters that feel truly real and a retelling that feels honest and diligent.

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin. Dial Press

We would be remiss not to include the iconic Giovanni’s Room on this list. Baldwin, far ahead of his time in 1956, wrote about a young American man named David and the affair he begins with an Italian man, Giovanni, while his girlfriend is in Spain contemplating marriage. It raises discussions about representations of sexuality alongside masculinity and the public performance of gender, and is a timeless classic worth everyone’s attention.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel. Houghton Mifflin

lison Bechel is best known for creating the Bechdel test, a method that asks whether a work of art (a book, a play, a film, a TV show, et cetera) features at least two female characters having a conversation that isn’t about a man. But she’s also a fabulously talented writer, and her graphic memoir Fun Home, later adapted into a hit Broadway musical, is a comical exploration of her life as a queer woman. She writes about her upbringing in a funeral home (which they call the “fun home”) and her dynamic with her family, including her closeted gay father who ultimately commits suicide. It’s a story of family, but it’s also a story of repressed sexuality, of embodied sexuality, of gender roles, of depression and suicide. Surprisingly funny and deeply heartfelt, with comics that make the narrative come alive, Fun Home is a can’t-miss.

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart. Grove Atlantic

Shuggie Bain takes us to 1981 Glasgow and deposits us in the decrepit home of Agnes Bain and her three children. Shuggie’s two older siblings escape as soon as they can, leaving Shuggie to deal with his alcoholic mother and the neighborhood kids who bully him for being “no’ right” (read: gay). The beauty of this narrative is in the understatedness of his sexuality; it’s not explicitly stated, but it comes out as the story progresses and Shuggie grows into himself in what is a beautifully realistic portrayal of the way queer identity blooms over time. Stuart writes poetically about the big feelings of childhood and Shuggie is a rich, developed character who burrowed his way into my heart and has not left. This book is full of sadness, but also full of hope.

The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst

The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst. Picador Books

Set in 1980s England, Hollinghurst explores his protagonist Nick’s sexuality through the lens of Margaret Thatcher’s prime ministership. The book, which also touches on the beginnings of the AIDS crisis, centers around Nick’s experience straddling two worlds, one of Conservative MPs and Oxford and the other of his sexuality and true self. It’s a captivating and intriguing story, a real look into another world delivered by Hollinghurst’s eloquent and mature writing style.

Pageboy by Elliot Page

Pageboy by Elliot Page. Flatiron Books

After establishing himself as an actor in 2007 with his breakout role in Juno, for which he received an Oscar nomination, Page came out publicly as gay in 2014 and as trans in 2020. His memoir, Pageboy, is an intimate portrait of what it took to embrace his identity amid the backlash of Hollywood and its forceful pressure to conform. This is a forcefully introspective, well-written must-read memoir.

Old Enough by Haley Jakobson

Old Enough by Haley Jakobson. Penguin Random House

Jakobson takes the campus novel and flips it on its coming-of-age head in Old Enough, a novel about college sophomore Sav, who’s torn between her new queer identity at college and her old best friend, Izzie, from home. Its first-person point of view adds authenticity and believability to a story that’s all too familiar for many, queer or not: a deepening divide between who you once were and who you’re becoming. The novel explores burgeoning sexuality with compassion, and treats the sexual assault Sav is still slowly processing with equal care. The result is a multifaceted exploration of what it means to come of age, with easy-to-love characters and a fast-paced narrative.

10 Queer Books by Queer Authors to Pick Up Before Pride Month Ends