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32 of the best LGBTQ books to read yourself or gift others

“There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.” — Oscar Wilde, from the preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray

It’s no secret that queer books are under siege. But that’s not stopping publishers or writers from exploring themes of queer love and the LGBTQ community. This year has proven extraordinary in terms of the volume and diversity of titles as authors continue to embrace an ageless art form that will always find an audience. Here are 32 of Queerty‘s favorite picks from this year’s releases. Gift them or read them!

Jump to your favorite titles:
Queer memoirs and biographies
LGBTQ fiction
Books for young adults, kids, and allies
Queer coffee table books and conversation-starters
Cookbooks by queer chefs and food writers
Get graphic: illustrated books for every age


Queer memoirs and biographies

Coming Up for Air by Tom Daley

Four-time Olympic medalist Tom Daley takes a deep dive into his childhood, rigorous training, and personal relationships to reveal intimate details about his groundbreaking achievements. “I think for a lot of queer people growing up, you always feel like you have to overachieve and do something to distract from the fact that you know that you’re different,” Daley told Queerty. In his new memoir, Daley reveals the rarely-seen side of fame and athletic greatness.

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Unprotected: A Memoir by Billy Porter

Multi-hyphenate Billy Porter added author to his list of accolades, releasing a memoir that traces his early years in Pittsburgh to his star turn on Broadway in Kinky Boots and Emmy-winning role as Pray Tell in Pose. The inspirational story of trauma and healing is told in a way only Porter can deliver, with a fervent passion and determination to live an authentic life.

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This Time for Me: A Memoir by Alexandra Billings

Actress, producer, and activist Alexandra Billings was born in 1962 and began transitioning in 1980 — long before the word “transgender” was commonly used. Her raw vulnerability leaps from the page as she describes years of addiction, surviving the height of the AIDS epidemic, and her hard-won success in Hollywood.

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Playing with Myself by Randy Rainbow

Musical satirist Randy Rainbow (real name!) had produced more than 100 videos that humorously jab at some of our most controversial politicians and celebrities. But the Long Island native also has a vulnerable side. Rainbow’s new memoir is more than just laughs, as he shares personal details of the tough relationship with his father, telling Queerty, “I felt like I could be humorous while also being very serious about this man who was a dark cloud in my home.” But also expect plenty of celebrity name-dropping!

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Finale: Late Conversations with Stephen Sondheim by D.T. Max

New Yorker staff writer D.T. Max interviewed legendary Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim for years, compiling notes and quotes in the hopes of producing an epic feature. That story never came to fruition, but what remains is a telling exploration of a journalist’s commitment to his subject and the effort to reveal a never-before-seen side of Sondheim.

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A Secret I Can’t Tell: The First Generation of Children From Openly Gay and Lesbian Homes by Joe Gantz

In 1979, author Joe Gantz began documenting the lives of five families in which one or both parents lived openly as queer. The book was published in 1983, and now — 40 years later — their stories have been revisited, with many of the children offering insights about their lived experiences. Civil rights lawyer and strategist Evan Wolfson said, “Gantz’s original interviews and later updates confirm what the evidence, expertise, and experience of the intervening years have shown: despite discrimination, gay parents are doing a great job, their kids are okay, and families are, well, families.”

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LGBTQ Fiction

My Government Means to Kill Me by Rasheed Newson

Writer-producer Rasheed Newson (Bel-Air, The Chi, Narcos) crafts an exhilarating and humorous portrayal of 1980s New York City as seen through the eyes of its main character, Earl “Trey” Singleton III, who leaves his wealthy Black family behind to make it on his own. Newson told INTO, “I wrote [My Government Means to Kill Me] because the idea has been kicking around in my head. I love history and fiction, and this is a way to sort of meld the two. I think probably every Black person has wondered, ‘What would I do during the Civil Rights Movement? What kind of person would I have been?'” 

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Just by Looking at Him by Ryan O’Connell

The star of Peacock’s Queer as Folk and Netflix‘s Special debut novel follows the story of Eliott, a gay TV writer with cerebral palsy who falls down a rabbit hole of sex, drinking, and Hollywood backstabbing but slowly claws his way despite the challenges of living in an ableist society. O’Connell will be starring in, directing, and writing the film adaptation, which will also feature Jim Parsons.

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This Could Be Different by Sarah Thankam Mathews

A finalist for the National Book Award, Mathews portrays a stunning portrait of queer immigrant life, following the journey of Sneha as she forges her way in a new country, explores her queer identity, and juggles the challenges of work and romance. Vogue described the book as “one of the buzziest, most human novels of the year … breathless, dizzying, and completely beautiful.”

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Let’s Not Do That Again by Grant Ginder

You may be familiar with Ginder from his 2017 novel People We Hate at the Wedding, recently made into a film starring Ben Platt, Allison Janney, and Cynthia Addai-Robinson. His latest, equally hilarious book depicts Nancy Harrison’s run for Senate, her daughter’s unexpected trip to Paris to join extremist protesters, and her gay son, who shelves his attempt to write a musical about Joan Didion to head across the ocean and dig the family out of trouble.

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The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr.

A lyrical and captivating piece of historical fiction, Jones’s debut novel tells the story of two slaves in the Deep South — Samuel and Isiah — whose forbidden love defies their circumstances. “A psychologist might say that’s your own conscience speaking to you, but I wanted to be a little bit more spiritual in my thinking about it,” Jones told NPR. “And imagine that it was my ancestors sort of pushing me toward writing this story, toward being a witness to their testimonies that have not made it into the official record.”

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Greenland by David Santos Donaldson

The story of E.M. Forster’s Egyptian lover Mohammed el Adl and the present-day Kip, a young author with a looming deadline, intersect in this sweeping, century-spanning tale. Bethanne Patrick wrote for The Los Angeles Times, “This is a book with respect for neither the margins of the page nor those that confine us in the real world. Some may find its bountiful overflows confusing or unnecessary; I found them mostly captivating.” And on top of that, there’s plenty of sex.

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Books for young adults, kids, and allies

The You Kind of Kind by Nina West

Drag queen favorite Nina West (RuPaul’s Drag Race Miss Congeniality winner, Season 6), along with illustrator Hayden Evans, offers young readers the chance to discover the value of kindness as young Nina fills her backpack and heads out on a neighborhood adventure to discover all the unique ways to express kindness. Dolly Parton loves it, too: “To quote some lines in a song I wrote, I always say: ‘Whatever you are, be that. Whatever you do, do that. Anything else is just an act. Whoever you are, be that, be that. Whatever you are, be that.’ Nina West’s The You Kind of Kind teaches the same lesson — just be yourself!”

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Nikhil Out Loud by Malik Pancholy

Actor, advocate, and author of the Stonewall Honor-winning The Best at It, Malik Pancholy (30 Rock, Off-Broadway’s To My Girls) returns with another charming coming-of-age story. Thirteen-year-old Nikhil Shah is a popular voiceover actor, but when his mom moves the family to small-town Ohio to help take care of his grandfather, life begins to change, including his voice — not to mention a group of conservative parents who aren’t too happy that a gay teenager has landed the lead in the school musical.

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Take Her Down by Lauren Emily Whalen

Author Lauren Emily Whalen has forged a unique niche by adapting classic Shakespearean texts for young adult readers. Her latest title, Take Her Down, sets Julius Caesar in Augustus Magnet School, where ex-girlfriends vie for student body president. When one goes missing, all fingers point in one direction, but who’s guilty? Double the gifting with Two Winters, Whalen’s re-telling of A Winter’s Tale.

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Kiss & Tell by Adib Khorram

Adib Khorram (Darius the Great is Not Okay) returns with another heartwarming queer story, this time following Hunter Drake, the only gay member of a wildly popular boy band. A public breakup with his first boyfriend leads to self-discovery, the possibility of a new romance with the drummer of his band’s opening act, and the chance to discover himself when the concert lights dim.

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Continuum by Chella Man

Artist, director, and author Chella Man contributes his thoughts as part of Pocket Change Collective, a series of “small books with big ideas.” He navigates his experiences as a deaf, transgender, genderqueer, Jewish person of color, offering hope and inspiration for readers. “Chella chronicles the value in creating your own mold in order to reclaim your space and to feel represented in this always ever-evolving world,” says Nyle DiMarco. “He inspires others to stretch what it means to be human — and there’s no right way.”

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Queer coffee table books and conversation-starters

From Gay to Z: A Queer Compendium by Justin Elizabeth Sayre

Featuring illustrations by Fredy Ralda, this hilarious and provocative guide through queer history is told by one of Hollywood’s funniest screenwriters, who also hosts regular gigs at Joe’s Pub in New York City and founded Night of a Thousand Judys, an annual fundraiser for the Ali Forney Center. Sayre told Queerty, “It was important to me that it was diverse and talk about all the LGBTQ people and not just gay, white men, which a lot of these books have been written about. This is a jumping point. This isn’t authoritative. Take this and run with it and see who else you want to add.”

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Working Girls: Trixie and Katya’s Guide to Professional Womanhood by Trixie Mattel and Katya

The two stars of RuPaul’s Drag Race and co-hosts of the web series UNHhhh offer debatable advice for how to get ahead, from pulling together the perfect interview wardrobe to negotiating salary and how to get fired. With tongue in cheek, Mattel told NPR, “We’re very Hollywood. So, you know, when it comes to self-help, just be happy we didn’t make you pay $40,000 to go to a retreat in Modesto or something, you know?” For those inspiring to be a stay-at-home drag queen, bundle the love with their previous title, Trixie and Katya’s Guide to Modern Womanhood.

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Annie Leibovitz by Annie Leibovitz

More is more when it comes to one of the most prolific portrait photographers of our generation. When the book was originally published in 2014, it weighed 57 pounds — a new edition has just been released in XXL book format. From photos first shot for Rolling Stone to iconic images that have appeared on the pages of Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair. “What I had thought of initially as a simple process of imagining what looked good big, what photographs would work in a large format, became something else,” Leibovitz says. “The book is very personal, but the narrative is told through popular culture. It’s not arranged chronologically and it’s not a retrospective. It’s more like a roller coaster.”

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Queer Maximalism x Machine Dazzle by Machine Dazzle, Elissa Auther, Mx. Justin Vivian Bond, David Román, Taylor Mac, and madison moore

A companion to the stunning exhibit at the Museum of Arts and Design, the book chronicles the designer’s creations for himself and some of New York City’s most prolific cabaret and drag performers. “I love the sense of the hand. I don’t make products that are for sale; I create moments,” Dazzle told Queerty. “I love unique, one-of-a-kind things. I love when people do things themselves. People tell me I inspire them to make things, and that’s great.”

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The Love That Dares: Letters of LGBTQ+ Love & Friendship Through History by Rachel Smith & Barbara Vesey

Before the phone, internet, and text messages, we relied on letters to convey our most intimate feelings. For queer folks, these expressions were sometimes coded and at other times, wildly vivid expressions. The book’s title is drawn from a letter that Lord Alfred Douglas wrote to Oscar Wilde, which was then used in court as evidence in Wilde’s libel case against Douglas’s father, who had accused him of being a “sodomite.” Perfect to kick off conversations at your next queer book club, The Love That Dares spans centuries, including letters, scribbled notes, and poetry ranging from Sappho and James I to Lorraine Hansberry and Bayard Rustin.

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Cookbooks by queer chefs and food writers

Small Batch Bakes by Edd Kimber

The OG Great British Baking Show winner Edd Kimber returns with a collection of sweet and savory treats for small gatherings, or even just one, from a single “emergency” chocolate chip cookie to everything bagel morning buns filled with a cheesy sauce and crispy pancetta. In a recent interview with Queerty, Kimber said to ditch the measuring cups. “Just buy an electronic scale. They are cheap and make your baking so much more accurate, and most importantly, there’s also less washing up!”

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Give My Swiss Chards to Broadway: The Broadway Lover’s Cookbook by Gideon Glick and Adam Roberts

These are a few of our favorite things! Tony-nominated Gideon Glick (To Kill a Mockingbird) teamed up with food writer Adam Roberts to create a collection of musical-themed recipes like Yam Yankees and Clafoutis and the Beast. Recipes are paired with a bit of each show’s history for a two-act take on each dish, accompanied by Justin “Squigs” Robertson’s theatrical illustrations. For those visiting New York City, the book is also available at the newly opened Museum of Broadway.

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Korean American: Food That Tastes Like Home by Eric Kim

New York Times food writer Eric Kim grew up in Atlanta, but his roots are in Korea. The two cultures coverage in Kim’s personal and passionate exploration of what it means to be Korean American. Kim developed many of the recipes with his mother, Jean, even convincing her to give up her coveted kimchi recipe. “Food has always been a nexus point for me for conversation, but also as a writer for intersections in my life, it’s almost like a plot point,” Kim told INTO. “Food always kind of roots you, it’s a physical object you can write about, you can talk about, you can describe it. And I think that’s a really lovely way to tell a story around the food so that there’s something tangible there.”

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Mi Cocina: Recipes and Rapture from My Kitchen in Mexico by Rick Martínez

Martínez traveled throughout all of Mexico’s 32 states, traversing more than 20,000 miles to capture the unique and vibrant flavors of his home country. Highlights include carne asada, tamales overflowing with sweet shrimp, chiles, and roasted tomatoes, and meatballs with a smokey chipotle sauce from Oaxaca. “In Mexico, people cook the food they love to eat without any fear of getting it wrong,” Martínez wrote in the New York Times. “And just like cooks in the United States, Mexicans use food to celebrate individuality, creativity, and diversity.”

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Cook as You Are: Recipes for Real Life, Hungry Cooks, and Messy Kitchens by Ruby Tandoh

Accessible, homey, and globally inspired dishes pepper the pages of Tandoh’s collection. More than 100 recipes — including smoky chicken, okra, and chorizo casserole and lemon mochi squares — are easy to follow and make for no-fuss entertaining. Named one of Bon Appetit‘s best books of the year, one of our favorite British cookbook authors, Nigella Lawson, also chimed in, saying Cook as You Are is “Not simply a recipe book, but a warm invitation to relax into and enjoy the experience of cooking and eating.”

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Get graphic: illustrated books for every age

Edmund White’s A Boy’s Own Story by Edmund White, adapted by Brian Alessandro and Michael Carroll. Illustration by Igor Karash

Originally published in 1982, White’s semi-autobiographical work told of the author’s experience coming out in the 1950s. A new adaption shares the seminal work with a new generation. The painted panels convey in new light White’s experiences from Cincinnati to Paris and his ongoing journey of self-discovery. “I remember thinking I had no idea what was happening to me,” Carroll told LGBTQ Nation of reading A Boy’s Own Story for the first time. “I understood the narrator, though he did seem sort of superior to me. I think it’s because he could express himself so well in so few words, and I wanted to be a great writer, too. So, at the time, I came at it largely from a literary standpoint. I thought, ‘Why doesn’t this man have the Nobel Prize?’” (Note: You’ll have to pre-order for holiday gift-giving. The book’s official release is January 3, 2023.)

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Galaxy: The Prettiest Star by Jadzia Axelrod, illustration by Jess Taylor

At first glance, Taylor Barzelay has a perfect life — good grades, star of the basketball team, and a loving family. But underneath the facade, Taylor is actually Galaxy Crowned, a princess from the planet Cyandii and an intergalactic war survivor. But when Taylor meets Katherine “call me Kat” Silverberg, an awakening begins as she realizes the importance of living as her authentic self. Graphic novelist Jul Maroh describes the book as “an enchanting new addition to queer myths that celebrates everything we gain, everything our world gains, when we stand up for becoming ourselves.”

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Chef’s Kiss by Jarrett Melendez, illustration by Danice Brine, coloring by Hank Jones, and lettering by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou

This adult graphic novel rom-com follows recent college graduate Ben Cook as he starts life as an adult. The only problem is he can’t find a job with an English degree. Ben takes a gig working in a restaurant kitchen and soon falls head over heels for one of the chefs. Melendez, a regular contributor to Bon Appetit and Food52, brings his food expertise to the page, along with an endearing romance that seems ripe for film adaptation.

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Flung Out of Space: Inspired by the Indecent Adventures of Patricia Highsmith by Grace Ellis, illustration by Hannah Templer

A love letter to the lesbian novel The Price of Salt, Ellis and Templer reimagine the events that inspired Highsmith to pen one of the most iconic pieces of queer literature. The authors also tackle the writer’s anti-Semitism, self-loathing, and failed relationships. The New York Times describes the work as “a deftly told, funny, and sad tale of a great lesbian writer’s struggle to find herself amid the collective psychological lockdown of the late 1940s and ’50s.

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Messy Roots: A Graphic Memoir of a Wuhanese American by Laura Gao

The daughter of Chinese immigrants, Gao fearlessly illustrates their early years in Wuhan, China, to life in Texas as the pandemic shines a brutal spotlight on her homeland. This coming-of-age story also speaks to those fraught high school years and sexual awakening. “As I was writing these stories of finding myself and being proud of myself, I realized it became impossible to decouple that Asianness from the queerness,” Gao told NPR. “So much of who I am today stems from me taking pride in who I love.”

The daughter of Chinese immigrants, Gao fearlessly illustrates their early years in Wuhan, China, to life in Texas as the pandemic shines a brutal spotlight on her homeland. This coming-of-age story also speaks to those fraught high school years and sexual awakening. “As I was writing these stories of finding myself and being proud of myself, I realized it became impossible to decouple that Asianness from the queerness,” Gao told NPR. “So much of who I am today stems from me taking pride in who I love.”

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