Casey McQuiston, whose work is featured in NBC OUT’s Pride 30, told OUT they write romantic stories with queer people in mind because they grew up in a conservative, evangelical environment — and they want readers, especially queer readers, to feel less alone. McQuiston’s books could be reaching at least 20 million LGBTQ+ adults in the U.S., according to a survey by the U.S. Census Bureau (the Human Rights Campaign wagers that number is even higher). With Pride Month in full swing, now is a great time to browse books that explore the LGBTQ+ experience — or, better yet, are written by LGBTQ+ authors.
To help you narrow down your choices, we tapped into Goodreads data about books written by LGBTQ+ authors and spanning various genres — from political family dramas to southern Gothic fables, from straightforward essays around self actualization to lyrics collections of short stories and poems — and tackling a variety of universal themes, like identity and love. Based on that data, we recommend the following books based on a combination of their reviews, average ratings and how often they landed on Goodreads members’ "want to read" lists.
‘Young Mungo’ by Douglas Stuart
Goodreads: 4.45-star average rating from 6,616 reviews
“Young Mungo” is a coming-of-age story about a fifteen year-old boy named Mungo in 1980s Glasgow, Scotland, who falls in love with another boy named James. We follow Mungo as he struggles with his identity as a gay person (and hiding it from family). The novel begins when his mother sends him on a fishing trip with two strangers she’s met at her Alcoholics Anonymous group, who promise to teach him to be more masculine. Throughout the rest of the book, we learn more about Mungo’s relationship with James and his home.
‘Afterparties: Stories’ by Anthony Veasna So
Goodreads: 4.02-star average rating from 7,372 reviews
We highlighted “Afterparties” in our guide to the best books from AAPI authors — its author Anthony Veasna So posthumously won the John Leonard Prize for Best First Book. At its simplest, “Afterparties” is a collection of short stories that center on the children of Cambodian-American refugees who move to California, as characters struggle with their status as immigrants and their sexuality, as well as their fraught relationships with their families. Veasna So’s work has been described as “mindfryingly” funny by author Mary Karr, and “deeply empathetic” by his editor at Ecco, Helen Atsma.
‘One Last Stop’ by Casey McQuinton
Goodreads: 4.04-star average rating from 125,601 reviews
McQuiston, whose work was highlighted in NBC OUT’s Pride 30, has followed up their massively popular “Red, White & Royal Blue” with the romantic comedy “One Last Stop.” It’s a love story about two girls, August and Jane. There’s just one issue: Jane is “literally displaced in time from the 1970s.” (McQuiston said that she was inspired by the TV show “Outlander.”) August, a pseudo detective who just recently moved to New York City, is going to have to use her investigative skills to figure out how to get Jane home.
‘Under the Whispering Door’ by T.J. Klune
Goodreads: 4.2-star average rating from 75,339 reviews
Like many popular fantasies told recently, T.J. Klune’s “Under the Whispering Door” begins with death (think of the workplace/afterlife-combo comedy, “The Good Place”). Wallace has died having not done a whole lot with his life — at least not a whole lot of good. It then becomes the job of Hugo, who helps the dead transition into the afterlife via ferry, to help Wallace come to terms with his situation. In the process, Hugo hopes to teach Wallace about all of the things he missed in life, things like love and beauty. Maybe Wallace will even become a better person because of it.
‘Time Is a Mother’ by Ocean Vuong
Goodreads: 4.18-star average rating from 5,132 reviews
Ocean Vuong follows his 2016 critically acclaimed poetry collection “Night Sky With Exit Wounds” and his 2019 bestselling novel “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” with another bestselling poetry collection called “Time Is a Mother.” Using poetry as his vehicle, Vuong innovatively explores deep and heavy subjects like grief in response to his mother’s death, as well as the meaning of family and his own identity as a Vietnamese American in 2022.
‘Yerba Buena: A Novel’ by Nina LaCour
Goodreads: 4.07-star average rating from 2,347 reviews
“Yerba Buena” is Nina LaCour’s debut adult novel after writing primarily for young adults. It follows two women’s journeys: Sara, who runs away from home at sixteen to eventually become a sought-after bartender in Los Angeles, and Emilie, who struggles with her longing for the community established by her Creole grandparents against her desire for independence. The two women meet at the titular Yerba Buena, a glamorous restaurant, and the story becomes at once about love as well as finding your purpose — and forging your own path.
‘Let's Not Do That Again: A Novel’ by Grant Ginder
Goodreads: 3.77-star average rating from 1,205 reviews
If your brain has become a cesspool where only news about politics lives, give it a place to rest with this democratic comedy. Grant Ginder’s “Let’s Not Do That Again” is about a woman named Nancy who is running for Senate and her grown kids, who might stand in the way of her dreams — especially her daughter, Greta, who went to Paris to partake in an extremist demonstration (throwing champagne bottles through business windows, no less). Nancy and her son, Nick, have to go to Paris and find Greta before it gets worse. (To save her campaign. Or, I guess, her family.)
‘You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty: A Novel’ by Akwaeke Emezi
Goodreads: 3.97-star average rating from 1,466 reviews
“You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty,” by Akwaeke Emezi, is a book that’s title describes its plot well: a young bi woman becomes entranced by a man five years after the love of her life’s death. Of course, it’s not quite that simple — the man that she’s taken with is actually the father of her new boyfriend. Emezi poses difficult questions through their work that should resonate with readers. Questions like, is it possible to embrace your future while honoring your grief? And how far would any of us be willing to go for another shot at true love?
‘Summer Sons’ by Lee Mandelo
Goodreads: 3.83-star average rating from 4,680 reviews
“Summer Sons,” by Lee Mandelo, is a Southern gothic tale with a modern twist. It tells the story of Andrew and Eddie, two best friends, who do everything together — that is, until Eddie dies of an apparent suicide. Andrew then sets out on a quest to learn the truth about Eddie’s death and discovers secrets that he never knew existed, as well as a family history that’s filled with blood and death. Additionally, Andrew has a phantom to contend with, who’s only begun to show up after Eddie’s death — a phantom with bleeding wrists who wants revenge.
‘The Chosen and the Beautiful’ by Nghi Vo
Goodreads: 3.59-star average rating from 10,253 reviews
Nghi Vo’s “The Chosen and the Beautiful,” which was also featured on our list of the best books from AAPI authors, is a retelling of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” but from the point of view of Jordan Baker, who’s recast as a queer, adopted, Vietnamese socialite who’s grown up in the wealthiest and most exclusive circles in the Jazz Age. Unfortunately, privilege does not protect her from discrimination, and Jordan finds herself exoticized by her peers — and possibly discriminated against by Congress.
‘Happy-Go-Lucky’ by David Sedaris
Goodreads: 4.29-star average rating from 750 reviews
You (should) know David Sedaris. The man wrote some of the most formative essays of my youth, some about his dysfunctional upbringing in North Carolina as a gay kid and other about his obsessive tendencies as an adult man, found in 2000’s “Me Talk Pretty One Day” and 2004’s “Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim.” “Happy-Go-Lucky” is another collection of personal essays, this time exploring the pandemic and what he called “battle-scarred America” in the aftermath of our political and societal struggles. That said, he continues to be very funny — vacuuming his apartment twice a day and considering, through the written word, how sex workers and acupuncturists make a living in lockdown.
‘Girls Can Kiss Now: Essays’ by Jill Gutowitz
Goodreads: 4.02-star average rating from 1,466 reviews
Jill Gutowitz always brings a smile to my face on the hellsite that is Twitter dot com, and now you can read a collection of her essays — which describe the ways her life has been impacted by popular culture (from Taylor Swift to “Orange Is The New Black”) — to see what I find so charming and remarkable about her perspective. “Girls Can Kiss Now: Essays” examines identity, desire, self-worth and how pop culture reflects back to us what’s already there — and shines a light on the path for us to move forward.
‘High-Risk Homosexual’ by Edgar Gomez
Goodreads: 4.2-star average rating from 347 reviews
Edgar Gomez’s “High-Risk Homosexual” is a very funny memoir that sits on my fireplace mantel with more-pages-than-is-useful earmarked — the universally accepted sign of a great book. Gomez describes his journey towards self-acceptance (the acceptance of both his queer identity, as well as his identity as a Latinx man) from Orlando to Los Angeles, where he was deemed — by a doctor, no less — to be a high-risk homosexual, the book’s title. Though he was taught to keep these important parts of himself stashed away, we watch as Gomez defies his upbringing and learns to love himself.
‘Conversations with People Who Hate Me: 12 Things I Learned from Talking to Internet Strangers’ by Dylan Marron
Goodreads: 4.05-star average rating from 371 reviews
Dylan Marron is an actor, writer and activist, whose award-winning podcast, “Conversations with People Who Hate Me,” has turned into a book with a similar — but longer — title: “Conversations with People Who Hate Me: 12 Things I Learned from Talking to Internet Strangers.” The premise is simple: Marron flips back through years of talking with strangers who hate him on the internet for his socially progressive views — and what those conversations revealed. It serves as both a reflection of Marron’s experiences, as well as a guide for anyone hoping to have a difficult conversation with someone who feels distant to them.
‘Burn the Page: A True Story of Torching Doubts, Blazing Trails, and Igniting Change’ by Danica Roem
Goodreads: 4.26-star average rating from 73 reviews
In 2017, Danica Roem became America’s first openly trans person to be elected to US State legislature, when she was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates — and, in the process, unseated Virginia’s anti-LGBTQ incumbent Bob Marshall. In this her memoir, “Burn the Page: A True Story of Torching Doubts, Blazing Trailers, and Igniting Change,” Roem gets real with her readers and details how to turn the lowest points of your life into your greatest strengths. She describes how to become the author of your own destiny —how to take back the narrative that was given to you and rewrite it in your own words.