The end of this chaotic year is finally in sight. If you’re Zoomed out, tired of trying to learn TikTok dances or need an escape from the news, now may be the perfect time to get lost in a book.
From novels centered on contemporary social issues to heartbreaking memoirs and bisexual thrillers, LGBTQ authors published a diversity of books in 2020, with many of the titles providing the education, empathy and escapism many of us need.
“LGBTQ writers are continuing to change the master narrative,” according to William Johnson, deputy director of Lambda Literary, an organization dedicated to developing and promoting LGBTQ authors and preserving queer literature. “Books dealing with social issues such as transphobia and racism with a creative and personal presentation are taking center stage.”
This rise of LGBTQ characters in the young adult category also continued on pace this year. Johnson attributes this increase to social media.
“With social media, authors are bypassing gatekeepers,” Johnson said. “And with this increased hunger for inclusive queer representation in books, publishers are recognizing the changing landscape.”
As 2020 comes to an end, here’s a list of bestsellers, award-winners and envelope-pushers for you to wrap as gifts or enjoy as you wrap yourself up in a cozy blanket.
“Bestiary”by K-Ming Chang
Three generations of Taiwanese American women are haunted by the myths of their homeland in this spellbinding novel about one family's buried secrets, violent impulses and queer desires.
“All Boys Aren't Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto”by George M. Johnson
In this series of personal essays, journalist and activist George M. Johnson covers topics such as gender identity, toxic masculinity, consent and Black joy while also exploring his childhood, adolescence and college years. The memoir has been optioned for television by Gabrielle Union.
“Cemetery Boys”by Aiden Thomas
A trans boy determined to prove his gender to his traditional Latinx family summons a ghost who refuses to leave in this bestselling young adult novel.
“Memorial”by Bryan Washington
In this funny yet heartbreaking novel, Mike, a Japanese American chef at a Mexican restaurant, and Benson, a Black day care teacher, have been together for a few good years — but now they're not sure why they're still a couple.
“Crosshairs”by Catherine Hernandez
In this page-turning dystopian novel, massive floods lead to rampant homelessness and devastation, and a government-sanctioned regime seizes on the opportunity to round up communities of color, disabled people and LGBTQ people to put them into labor camps.
“The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue”by V. E. Schwab
In this captivating novel that, according to NPR, was written for “romantic bisexual goths,” a desperate young woman in France makes a Faustian bargain in 1714 to live forever ― and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets. Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue and a dazzling adventure that plays out across centuries and continents. But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore who remembers her name.
“Fairest”by Meredith Talusan
In this coming-of-age memoir, Talusan takes the reader on a journey of her life — from a precocious child with albinism in the Philippines to a Harvard scholarship student and eventually a transgender activist and writer. According to The New York Times Book Review, “Rather than flaying her identities one by one, she examines the links between them to illustrate that it is here, in the messy overlap, that a person is made.”
“Boys of Alabama”by Genevieve Hudson
A sensitive teen newly arrived in Alabama falls in love, questions his faith and navigates a strange power in this bewitching Southern fiction novel.
“13th Balloon”by Mark Bibbins
Bibbins’ book-length poem sequence brings the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and ’90s into a new light.
“Becoming a Man: The Story of a Transition”by P. Carl
For 50 years, Carl lived as a girl and a queer woman, building a career, a life and a loving marriage — yet still never realizing himself in full. In this memoir, Carl takes us inside the complex shifts and questions that arise as he transitions, including the alternating moments of self-discovery and estrangement.
“Postcolonial Love Poem”by Natalie Diaz
Diaz centers queer Indigeneous people in this collection of love poems while also making readers examine the legacies of colonialism.
“Ghost Wood Song”by Erica Waters
This is a haunting, young adult fantasy novel about grief and supporting one’s family no matter the cost. There are ghosts, a queer love triangle, mystery and music.
“Homie: Poems”by Danez Smith
Rooted in the loss of one of Smith’s close friends, this book comes out of the search for joy and intimacy when both can seem scarce and getting scarcer.
“Untamed”by Glennon Doyle
Doyle, an activist, speaker and author of "Love Warrior," explores the joy and peace we discover when we stop striving to meet the expectations of the world and start trusting the voice within in this self-help bestseller.
“A Beautiful Crime”by Christopher Bollen
In this psychological thriller, Nicholas Brink leaves New York City to join his boyfriend, Clay Guillory, in Italy. Clay comes into a small inheritance of counterfeit heirlooms and a share in a decrepit Venetian palazzo and tries to use Nick's connection to an antiques dealer to unload the fake silver on a brash, unsuspecting American.
“Here for It: Or, How to Save Your Soul in America”by R. Eric Thomas
In this collection of essays, Thomas — the creator of Elle’s “Eric Reads the News” — shares real-life stories about growing up, seeing the world differently and finding his joy.
“Cinderella Is Dead”by Kalynn Bayron
This young adult fantasy is a fresh take on the classic "Cinderella" story that makes readers question the tales they’ve been told and root for girls to break down the constructs of the world around them.
“The Fire Never Goes Out: A Memoir in Pictures”by Noelle Stevenson
In this collection of essays and personal mini-comics that span eight years of her young adult life, author-illustrator Stevenson charts the highs and lows of being a creative human in the world.
“Every Body Looking”by Candice Iloh
Iloh’s debut young adult novel about a young Nigerian girl named Ada attending a historically Black college explores queerness, agency and the pressures often put on first-generation children both socially and culturally.
"Wound From the Mouth of a Wound" by torrin a. greathouse
The author, a self-described “transgender cripple-punk” who writes her name in all lowercase letters, challenges a canon that decides what shades of beauty deserve to live in a poem and honors bodies the world too often wants to bury.