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25 best LGBTQ books of 2020, according to Lambda Literary

The 2020 Lambda Literary Awards — or Lammy Awards — highlight the 25 best LGBTQ books this year, chosen out of more than 160 finalists.
“SLINGSHOT” by Cyrée Jarelle Johnson; “Little Blue Encyclopedia (for Vivian)” by Hazel Jane Plante; “HULL” by Xandria Phillips
“SLINGSHOT” by Cyrée Jarelle Johnson; “Little Blue Encyclopedia (for Vivian)” by Hazel Jane Plante; “HULL” by Xandria PhillipsAmazon

Though the Lambda Literary Foundation had to cancel its annual and in-person Lambda Literary Awards ceremony given the coronavirus, the organization announced winners Monday. Twenty-five LGBTQ books earned awards across categories like fiction and nonfiction, comics, romance and anthology.

In this article

  1. 2020 Lammy Awards winners
  2. Best LGBTQ books: Lammy Awards finalists and winners

“Because of the pandemic, the list is even more vital because we’re feeling even more separated and isolated,” William Johnson, the deputy director of Lambda Literary, said. “I think the need to have some sort of communal celebration around queer art is only heightened as we’re operating under these extraordinary circumstances.”

Lambda Literary is the premier organization promoting emerging queer writers. As in previous years, the 2020 “Lammy Awards” recipients celebrate the “dynamic diversity” of the LGBTQ community, with categories ranging from transgender poetry to LGBTQ drama. More than 60 literary pros perused more than 1,000 submissions to determine the year’s best books — which came from more than 300 publishers. The list of finalists clocks in at 164, out of which Lambda selected the best 25.

Our list constantly evolves as the community becomes more expansive in terms of what queerness can contain and what queerness can hold

William Johnson, Deputy Director, Lambda Literary

“Our list constantly evolves as the community becomes more expansive in terms of what queerness can contain and what queerness can hold,” Johnson said. “We are brilliant, we are wonderful, we are talented. I want everyone to understand that that’s the actual power of queer creativity.

While in-person meetings, like the Lammy Award ceremony, have been curtailed, Johnson believes there is still ample opportunity for readers to find connection through rallying around books. If you’re looking for your next LGBTQ read, why not start with those that Lambda Literary has rated among this year’s best?

2020 Lammy Awards winners

Below are the Lammy Awards category winners. Click the category to see the rest of its finalists.

Best LGBTQ books in 2020

Below are the finalists and winners of the 2020 Lambda Literary Awards, totaling more than 160 books across 25 categories. Some categories comprise as few as three finalists while the majority of categories include eight finalists.

Lesbian Fiction

1. "Cantoras" by Carolina De Robertis (pre-order, ships June 2)

2. "A Generous Spirit: Selected Work" by Beth Brant

3. "Mostly Dead Things" by Kristen Arnett

4. "On Swift Horses" by Shannon Pufahl

5. "Patsy" by Nicole Dennis-Benn (winner)

6. "A People’s History of Heaven" by Mathangi Subramanian

7. "Red at the Bone" by Jacqueline Woodson

8. "Stay and Fight" by Madeline Ffitch (pre-order, ships August 18)

Gay Fiction

1. "Animalia" by Jean-Baptiste Del Amo, translated by Frank Wynne (pre-order, ships August 18)

2. "The Archive of Alternate Endings" by Lindsey Drager

3. "In West Mills" by De’Shawn Charles Winslow (pre-order, June 16)

4. "Like This Afternoon Forever" by Jaime Manrique

5. "Lord" by João Gilberto Noll, translated by Edgar Garbelotto

6. "Lot" by Bryan Washington (winner)

7. "Murmur" by Will Eaves

8. "On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous" by Ocean Vuong

Bisexual Fiction

1. “Big Familia” by Tomas Moniz

2. “Deposing Nathan” by Zack Smedley

3. “Exquisite Mariposa” by Fiona Alison Duncan (winner)

4. “Jude” by Garrett Leigh

5. “Just Pervs” by Jess Taylor

6. “The Man Who Saw Everything” by Deborah Levy

7. “The Not Wives” by Carley Moore

8. “The Remainder” by Alia Trabucco Zerán, translated by Sophie Hughes

Transgender Fiction

1. “The Beatrix Gates” by Rachel Pollack

2. “Honey Walls” by Bones McKay

3. “Little Blue Encyclopedia (for Vivian)” by Hazel Jane Plante (winner)

4. “Poet, Prophet, Fox: The Tale of Sinnach the Seer” by M.Z. McDonnell

5. “The Trans Space Octopus Congregation” by Bogi Takács

Bisexual Nonfiction

1. “IMPERVIOUS: Confessions of a Semi-Retired Deviant” by Janet W. Hardy

2. “Socialist Realism” by Trisha Low (winner)

3. “A World Without Martha: A Memoir of Sisters, Disability, and Difference” by Victoria Freeman

Transgender Nonfiction

1.“Females” by Andrea Long Chu

2.“Real Queer America: LGBT Stories from Red States” by Samantha Allen

3. “Theorizing Transgender Identity for Clinical Practice: A New Model for Understanding Gender” by S.J. Langer

4. “Time Is the Thing A Body Moves Through” by T Fleischmann

5. “We Both Laughed in Pleasure: The Selected Diaries of Lou Sullivan” by Ellis Martin and Zach Ozma (winner)

LGBTQ Nonfiction

1. “Bloodflowers: Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Photography, and the 1980s” by W. Ian Bourland

2. “The Bodies of Others: Drag Dances and Their Afterlives” by Selby Wynn Schwartz

3. “Dying to Be Normal: Gay Martyrs and the Transformation of American Sexual Politics” by Brett Krutzsch

4. “Honeypot: Black Southern Women Who Love Women” by E. Patrick


5. “In the Dream House” by Carmen Maria Machado (winner)

6. “When Brooklyn Was Queer: A History” by Hugh Ryan

7. “Why Karen Carpenter Matters” by Karen Tongson

8. “A Year Without a Name” by Cyrus Grace Dunham

Lesbian Poetry

1. “& more black” by t’ai freedom ford (winner)

2. “Odes to Lithium” by Shira Erlichman

3. “(the other house)” by Rocío Carlos

4. “Pressure Cooker Love Bomb” by Sharanpal Ruprai

5. “Soft Science” by Franny Choi

6. “Time” by Etel Adnan, translated by Sarah Riggs

7. “tsunami vs. the fukushima 50” by Lee Ann Roripaugh

8. “Without Protection” by Gala Mukomolova

Gay Poetry

1. “Doomstead Days” by Brian Teare

2. “The Experiment of the Tropics” by Lawrence Lacambra Ypil

3. “Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers” by Jake Skeets

4. “Losing Miami” by Gabriel Ojeda-Sagué

5. “NDN Coping Mechanisms: Notes from the Field” by Billy-Ray Belcourt

6. “The Revisionist & The Astropastorals” by Douglas Crase

7. “SLINGSHOT” by Cyrée Jarelle Johnson (winner)

8. “The Tradition” by Jericho Brown

Bisexual Poetry

1. “Build Yourself a Boat” by Camonghne Felix

2. “HoodWitch” by Faylita Hicks

3. “Moira of Edges, Moira the Tart” by Moina Pam Dick

4. “Pet Sounds” by Stephanie Young (winner)

5. “Revenge of the Asian Woman” by Dorothy Chan

6. “ROMANS/SNOWMARE” by Cam Scott

7. “A Sand Book” by Ariana Reines

8. “water/tongue” by mai c. doan

Transgender Poetry

1. “Dispatch” by Cameron Awkward-Rich


3. “HULL” by Xandria Phillips (winner)

4. "Our Weather Our Sea" by Samuel Ace

5. "The Year of Blue Water" by Yanyi

Lesbian Mystery

1. “The Blood Runs Cold” by Catherine Maiorisi

2. “Galileo” by Ann McMan (winner)

3. “The Hound of Justice” by Claire O’Dell

4. “The Mirror of Muraro” by Amelia Ellis

5. “Twisted at the Root: A Jane Lawless Mystery” by Ellen Hart

Gay Mystery

1. “Carved in Bone: A Henry Rios Novel” by Michael Nava (winner)

2. “ChoirMaster: A Mister Puss Mystery” by Michael Craft

3. “Death Takes a Bow” by David S. Pederson

4. “The Fourth Courier” by Timothy Jay Smith

5. “The Nowhere” by Chris Gill

6. “The Quaker” by Liam McIlvanney

7. “Rewind” by Marshall Thornton

8. “Royal Street Reveillon” by Greg Herren

Lesbian Memoir/Biography

1. “Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls” by T Kira Madden

2. “Motherland: A Memoir of Love, Loathing, and Longing” by Elissa Altman

3. “Ordinary Girls” by Jaquira Díaz

4. “The Rib Joint: A Memoir In Essays” by Julia Koets

5. “Sontag: Her Life and Work” by Benjamin Moser

6. “Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval” by Saidiya Hartman

7. “We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir” by Samra Habib (winner)

8. “A Wild and Precious Life” by Edie Windsor with Joshua Lyon

Gay Memoir/Biography

1. “The Amphitheater of the Dead” by Guy Hocquenghem, translated by Max Fox

2. “DISASTERAMA! Adventures in the Queer Underground 1977-1997” by Alvin Orloff

3. “How We Fight for Our Lives” by Saeed Jones (winner)

4. “I.M.” by Isaac Mizrahi

5. “In the Shadow of the Bridge” by Joseph Caldwell

6.“An Indefinite Sentence: A Personal History of Outlawed Love and Sex” by Siddharth Dube

7. “Jimmy Neurosis” by James Oseland

8. “The Light Years” by Chris Rush

Lesbian Romance

1. “Aurora’s Angel: A Dark Fantasy Romance” by Emily Noon (winner)

2. “Create a Life to Love” by Erin Zak

3. “Once Ghosted, Twice Shy” by Alyssa Cole

4. “Pretending in Paradise” by M. Ullrich

5. “The Roommate Arrangement” by Jae

6. “The Secret Chord” by Virginia Hale

7. “Tennessee Whiskey” by Donna K. Ford

8. “Top of Her Game” by M. Ullrich

Gay Romance

1. “Best Man” by Chris Delyani

2.“Blue Umbrella Sky” by Rick R. Reed

3. “Code Name: Liberty” by Marshall Thornton

4. “Digging Deep” by Jay Hogan

5.“Escaping Camp Roosevelt” by Bryan T. Clark

6. “Joseph Chapman: My Molly Life” by James Lovejoy (winner)

7. “Kiss Me Again” by Garrett Leigh

8. “My Baby Chased Away the Blues” by R.A. Thorn

LGBTQ Anthology

1. “The BreakBeat Poets Volume 3: Halal if You Hear Me” by Fatimah Asghar and Safia Elhillo

2. “Foglifter Volume 4 Issue 2” by Luiza Flynn-Goodlett (sold out)

3. “The Heart of the Matter: The Gerald Kraak Anthology Volume III” by The Other Foundation

4. “Hustling Verse: An Anthology of Sex Workers’ Poetry” by Amber Dawn and Justin Ducharme

5. “LGBTQ Fiction and Poetry from Appalachia” by Jeff Mann and Julia Watts

6. “Love WITH Accountability: Digging up the Roots of Child Sexual Abuse” by Aishah Shahidah Simmons (winner, tie)

7. “Nonbinary: Memoirs of Gender and Identity” by Micah Rajunov and Scott Duane

8. “A Rainbow Thread: An Anthology of Queer Jewish Texts from the First Century to 1969” by Noam Sienna (winner, tie)

LGBTQ Children’s/Young Adult

1. “All the Things We Do in the Dark” by Saundra Mitchell

2. “The Grief Keeper” by Alexandra Villasante (winner, Young Adults)

3. “Hazel’s Theory of Evolution” by Lisa Jenn Bigelow (winner, Children's/Middle Grade)

4. “Hurricane Season” by Nicole Melleby

5. “The Meaning of Birds” by Jaye Robin Brown

6. “Pet” by Akwaeke Emezi

7. “Pride Colors” by Robin Stevenson

8. “Wilder Girls” by Rory Power

LGBTQ Comics

1. “Are You Listening?” by Tillie Walden

2.“Cannonball” by Kelsey Wroten (winner)

3. “Death Threat” by Vivek Shraya, illustrated by Ness Lee

4. “Is This How You See Me?” by Jaime Hernandez