Your Pride reading list: The best LGBTQ+ books

Here's an edit of the best books exploring LGBTQ+ experiences and relationships, for Pride Month and beyond.

04/06/2020
3 minutes to read
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Here are just a few of our favourite books that feature LGBTQ+ characters, are written by LGBTQ+ authors or explore themes that have greatly affected LGBTQ+ communities.  Our selection encompasses everything from novels by writers as diverse as Virginia Woolf to Alan Hollinghurst, to popular science books on the AIDS epidemic and explorations of gay lives around the world

Here we’ve curated our edit of the very best fiction and non-fiction LGBTQ+ books.


Orlando

by Virginia Woolf

Book cover for Orlando

One of BBC's 100 Novels That Shaped Our World.

Virginia Woolf’s wildly imaginative, comic novel was inspired by the life of her lover, Vita Sackville West.

Part of the Macmillan Collector’s Library; a series of stunning, clothbound, pocket sized classics with gold foiled edges and ribbon markers. These beautiful books make perfect gifts or a treat for any book lover. This edition features original illustrations and with an introduction by the academic and novelist, Professor Susan Sellers.

Orlando is a young Elizabethan nobleman whose wealth and status afford him an extravagant lifestyle. Appointed ambassador in Constantinople, he wakes one morning to find he is a woman. Unperturbed by such a dramatic transformation, and losing none of his flamboyance and ambition, the newly female Orlando charges through life and English history so that by the end of this extraordinary biography she is a modern, 1920s woman.

What Belongs to You

by Garth Greenwell

Book cover for What Belongs to You

Winner of the Debut of the Year Award at the British Book Awards.
Shortlisted for the James Tait Black Prize.

On an unseasonably warm autumn day, an American teacher enters a public bathroom beneath Sofia's National Palace of Culture. There he meets Mitko, a charismatic young hustler, and pays him for sex. He returns to Mitko again and again over the next few months, their relationship growing increasingly intimate and unnerving.

As he struggles to reconcile his longing with the anguish it creates, he's forced to grapple with his own fraught history: his formative experiences of love, his painful rejection by family and friends, and the difficulty of growing up as a gay man in southern America in the 1990s.

Startlingly erotic and immensely powerful, Garth Greenwell's What Belongs to You tells an unforgettable story about the ways our pasts and cultures, our scars and shames can shape who we are and determine how we love.

Longlisted for the National Book Award in Fiction.
A Finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.
A Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction.

Trumpet

by Jackie Kay

Book cover for Trumpet

With an introduction by Ali Smith.

When the love of your life dies, the problem is not that some part of you dies too, which it does, but that some part of you is still alive.

The death of legendary jazz trumpeter Joss Moody exposes an extraordinary secret. Unbeknown to all but his wife Millie, Joss was a woman living as a man. The discovery is most devastating for their adopted son, Colman, whose bewildered fury brings the press to the doorstep and sends his grieving mother to the sanctuary of a remote Scottish village.

Winner of the Guardian Fiction Prize, Trumpet by Jackie Kay is a starkly beautiful modern classic about the lengths to which people will go for love. It is a moving story of a shared life founded on an intricate lie, of loving deception and lasting devotion, and of the intimate workings of the human heart.

The Line of Beauty

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The Dark Light

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Boy Meets Hamster

by Birdie Milano

Book cover for Boy Meets Hamster

Fourteen-year-old Dylan Kershaw's idea of a dream holiday includes at least three things: beaches to bask on, cosmopolitan culture, and a chance for romance (or at least his first kiss) with another boy. Unluckily for Dylan, his mum's treating the family to the least dreamy holiday ever: a £9.50 break at Starcross Sands, Cornwall's Crummiest Caravan Park.

But Starcross Sands might not be so bad after all, especially if Dylan can win the heart of Jayden-Lee, the gorgeous boy in the caravan next-door. There's only one thing standing in true love’s way: the park's massive hamster mascot, Nibbles, who seems to have it in for both Dylan and his romantic chances. Dylan’s best friend, Kayla, claims that appearances can be deceptive: so is Jayden-Lee just as lovely beneath the surface, and what could be lurking under Nibbles' furry face?

Boy Meets Hamster is the laugh-out-loud funny debut novel from Birdie Milano.

How to Survive a Plague

by David France

Book cover for How to Survive a Plague

Winner of the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction
Winner of The Green Carnation Prize for LGBTQ literature

Winner of the Lambda Literary Award for LGBT non-fiction
Shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize 2017

How to Survive a Plague by David France is the riveting, powerful and profoundly moving story of the AIDS epidemic and the grass-roots movement of activists, many of them facing their own life-or-death struggles, who grabbed the reins of scientific research to help develop the drugs that turned HIV from a mostly fatal infection to a manageable disease. Around the globe, the 15.8 million people taking anti-AIDS drugs today are alive thanks to their efforts.

Not since the publication of Randy Shilts's now classic And the Band Played On in 1987 has a book sought to measure the AIDS plague in such brutally human, intimate, and soaring terms.

Weaving together the stories of dozens of individuals, this is an insider's account of a pivotal moment in our history and one that changed the way that medical science is practised worldwide.

'This superbly written chronicle will stand as a towering work in its field' - Sunday Times

'Inspiring, uplifting and necessary reading' - Steve Silberman author of Neurotribes, Financial Times

What's Up With Jodie Barton

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Queer Intentions

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Me

by Elton John

Book cover for Me

'The rock memoir of the decade' Daily Mail

'The rock star's gloriously entertaining and candid memoir is a gift to the reader' Sunday Times


In his first and only official autobiography, music icon Elton John reveals the truth about his extraordinary life, which is also the subject of the smash-hit film Rocketman. The result is Me - the joyously funny, honest and moving story of the most enduringly successful singer/songwriter of all time.
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Christened Reginald Dwight, he was a shy boy with Buddy Holly glasses who grew up in the London suburb of Pinner and dreamed of becoming a pop star. By the age of twenty-three, he was performing his first gig in America, facing an astonished audience in his bright yellow dungarees, a star-spangled T-shirt and boots with wings. Elton John had arrived and the music world would never be the same again.

His life has been full of drama, from the early rejection of his work with songwriting partner Bernie Taupin to spinning out of control as a chart-topping superstar; from half-heartedly trying to drown himself in his LA swimming pool to disco-dancing with the Queen; from friendships with John Lennon, Freddie Mercury and George Michael to setting up his AIDS Foundation. All the while, Elton was hiding a drug addiction that would grip him for over a decade.

In Me Elton also writes powerfully about getting clean and changing his life, about finding love with David Furnish and becoming a father. In a voice that is warm, humble and open, this is Elton on his music and his relationships, his passions and his mistakes. This is a story that will stay with you, by a living legend.
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'Self-deprecating, funny . . . You cannot help but enjoy his company throughout, temper tantrums and all' The Times

'Racy, pacy and crammed with scurrilous anecdotes - what more could you ask from the rocket man' Guardian (Book of the Week)

'Chatty, gossipy, amusing and at times brutally candid' Telegraph

Wayward Son

by Rainbow Rowell

Book cover for Wayward Son

Wayward Son is the stunning YA novel by the bestselling author of Fangirl, Rainbow Rowell. With all of her signature wit and heart, and gorgeous chapter head illustrations, this is Rainbow at her absolute best.

The story is supposed to be over.

Simon Snow did everything he was supposed to do. He beat the villain. He won the war. He even fell in love. Now comes the good part, right? Now comes the happily ever after . . .

So why can’t Simon Snow get off the couch?

What he needs, according to his best friend, is a change of scenery. He just needs to see himself in a new light . . .

That’s how Simon and Penny and Baz end up in a vintage convertible, tearing across the American West. They find trouble, of course. (Dragons, vampires, skunk-headed things with shotguns.) And they get lost. They get so lost, they start to wonder whether they ever knew where they were headed in the first place . . .

With Wayward Son, the sequel to Carry On, Rainbow Rowell has written a book for everyone who ever wondered what happened to the Chosen One after he saved the day. And a book for everyone who was ever more curious about the second kiss than the first.

Come on, Simon Snow. Your hero’s journey might be over – but your life has just begun.

Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl

by Andrea Lawlor

Book cover for Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl

'One of the most exciting - and one of the most fun - novels of the decade.' - Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You

It’s 1993 and Paul Polydoris tends bar at the only gay club in a university town thrumming with politics and partying. He studies queer theory, has a lesbian best friend, makes zines, and is a flâneur with a rich dating life. But Paul’s also got a secret: he’s a shapeshifter. Oscillating wildly from Riot Grrrl to leather cub, Women’s Studies major to trade, Paul transforms his body at will in a series of adventures that take him from Iowa City to Boystown to Provincetown and finally to San Francisco – a journey through the deep queer archives of struggle and pleasure.

Andrea Lawlor’s debut novel offers a speculative history of early 90s identity politics during the heyday of ACT UP and Queer Nation. Paul Takes the Form of A Mortal Girl is a riotous, razor-sharp bildungsroman whose hero/ine wends his way through a world gutted by loss, pulsing with music, and opening into an array of intimacy and connections.

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'Playful, sexy, smart' - Carmen Maria Machado
'Evocative and urgent . . . and very funny' Observer
'"90s punk Orlando”. . . a pretty wild ride' Dazed & Confused
'Sexy, outrageous, completely compulsive' Daisy Johnson

The Animals of Lockwood Manor

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The Mercies

by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Book cover for The Mercies

The Sunday Times Bestseller and BBC Radio 2 Book Club Pick.

For readers of Circe and The Handmaid’s Tale, Kiran Millwood Hargrave's The Mercies is a story about a love that could prove as dangerous as it is powerful.

Winter, 1617. The sea around the remote Norwegian island of Vardø is thrown into a reckless storm. A young woman, Maren, watches as the men of the island, out fishing, perish in an instant. Vardø is now a place of women.

Eighteen months later, a sinister figure arrives. Summoned from Scotland to take control of a place at the edge of the civilized world, Absalom Cornet knows what he needs to do to bring the women of the island to heel. With him travels his young wife, Ursa. In her new home, and in Maren, Ursa finds something she has never seen before: independent women. But Absalom sees only a place flooded with a terrible evil, one he must root out at all costs . . .

'Beautiful and chilling' – Madeline Miller, author of Circe
'Took my breath away' – Tracy Chevalier, author of Girl with a Pearl Earring

Cleanness

by Garth Greenwell

Book cover for Cleanness

Cleanness revisits and expands the world of Garth Greenwell’s beloved debut, What Belongs to You, declared ‘an instant classic’ by the New York Times Book Review. In exacting, elegant prose, Greenwell transcribes the strange dialects of desire, cementing his stature as one of our most vital living writers.

‘This is an exceptional work of fiction, which places Greenwell among the very best contemporary novelists.’ Independent

Sofia, Bulgaria, a landlocked city in southern Europe, stirs with hope and impending upheaval. Soviet buildings crumble, wind scatters sand from the far south, and political protesters flood the streets with song.

In this atmosphere of disquiet, an American teacher navigates a life transformed by the discovery and loss of love. As he prepares to leave the place he’s come to call home, he grapples with the intimate encounters that have marked his years abroad, each bearing uncanny reminders of his past. A queer student’s confession recalls his own first love, a stranger’s seduction devolves into paternal sadism, and a romance with a younger man opens, and heals, old wounds. Each echo reveals startling insights about what it means to seek connection: with those we love, with the places we inhabit, and with our own fugitive selves.

Chosen as a book of the year in the New Yorker, Daily Telegraph, Observer and Irish Times.