The world of fiction is full of magic, and that’s no less the case if you are interested in LGBTQ+ fiction than any other kind – you’ll find books galore, in all sorts of genres and settings, with a myriad of engaging characters to fall in love with. Let’s get started on the world of LGBTQ+ fiction.
Some of the top queer books for adults include things like Thrall, by Julie Mannino, Annie on My Mind, by Nancy Garden, Tipping the Velvet, by Sarah Waters, Captive Prince, by C. S. Pacat, Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan, We All Loved Cowboys, by Carol Bensimon, and more.
Let’s check these out and discuss what they feature, so you can choose whichever seems most likely to be right for you!
Book 1) Thrall
A book that’s definitely not for the younger readers, Thrall contains a lot of themes that are not considered “light reading.” The book centers on slavery, degradation, punishment, and the question of love and freedom. It also brings in paranormal themes and half-gods, plus various forms of bondage.
A read decidedly intended for mature audiences, this is very enjoyable and interesting, and has enthralled (if you’ll pardon the pun) many readers who love the adult themes it explores. If you’re into the kinkier side of queer literature, it’s well worth considering, but don’t worry if not – there are plenty of other books on this list that may suit your fancy more.
Book 2) Annie on My Mind
Focused on two young women, Liza and Annie, this book is very readable and enjoyable, and has been loved by thousands. The friendship between the two girls blossoms into natural, beautiful love, and the two characters face enormous pressure, but remain true to each other in spite of the difficulties.
This book has provoked some very strong feelings, even getting banned from some school libraries, and it’s a beautiful read if you want something inspiring and uplifting. Some say it’s the most important book in teen literature that has been written for decades – so it’s a must-read if you’re interested in queer fiction.
Book 3) Tipping the Velvet
Written by Sarah Waters, this is the perfect option if you enjoy historical fiction and lesbian characters. Tipping the Velvet is set in Victorian England, and the main character has a series of different love interests, meeting three different women throughout her difficult journey.
A story of betrayal, heartbreak, loss, and beauty in a harsh and unwelcoming world, this book is a thrilling read that’s hard to put down, and it was the writer’s debut novel – a highly impressive achievement. The other great news is that there are other novels by this author, so if you enjoy it, you can plunge into her other books, and enjoy many lesbian love stories.
Book 4) Captive Prince
Another story invoking the theme of slavery, Captive Prince is part of a trilogy, so there’s plenty of reading if you enjoy it! The main character, Damen, is robbed of his throne by his evil half-brother and sent to serve as a pleasure slave in another nation. He must keep his identity a secret as he seeks to free himself and retake his home country.
A gripping read for anybody, this trilogy is well worth considering for your list; Damen is a fascinating character. However, be aware that it does contain some very sensitive themes that aren’t to all readers’ tastes; it’s important to check out the reviews and decide whether its approach to sex and relationships is for you, or if it’s a little too dark and non-consensual.
Many people have enjoyed this book, but it is definitely a controversial one, and not right for everybody! It’s very much one of those love-it-or-hate-it things!
Book 5) Two Boys Kissing
Based on a true story, this appeals to many readers just because it carries threads of realism in it. With a light-hearted theme, the two main characters are aiming to set a new World Record for kissing – with the narrators being a Greek chorus of gay men. And if that sounds a little weird to you, the answer is that… well, it is, but it’s still very enjoyable!
The book explores many different aspects of romance and relationships, as well as how people grapple with gender identity and what it means to be queer in today’s world. It’s a fascinating journey for the reader, and has been highly reviewed by many people, who have fallen in love with its beautiful words and rich, often sad storytelling.
Book 6) We All Loved Cowboys
A profound novel, this is short enough to enjoy over just a few days, and the narrative will likely stick with you for life. It was written by a Brazilian writer, and is a stunning exploration of love and the complexities of friendship. Set in Brazil, this is a coming of age story that has captured the imaginations of thousands of readers, and follows two friends, Cora and Julia.
Complicated, insightful, deep, and thought-provoking, this book has a lot to offer readers, and its landscape makes a change from the more standard backdrops we see in many queer fiction books. It’s definitely one to add to your reading list this year!
Book 7) The Starless Sea
Love a bit of glamor in your romance? Longing for pirates, ships, lovers, and a world beyond our own? This is the story for you. With a mystery pulling the main character, Zachary, into a new world through the pages of a mysterious book, it’s an immediately compelling story, filled with that which has been lost.
The intrigues of love follow, in the form of notes and whispers, and the reader meets with interesting new characters, bent on protecting their magical world. This is a wonderful tale, full of fascinating twists, and vibrant with rich language. It’s very high on the list of books to love, and the characters are extremely beautiful.
Enchanting, immediately engaging, and very much a book for the dedicated reader, there’s a huge amount to recommend this to everybody.
Book 8) Fingersmith
It might seem unfair to give Sarah Waters two books on this list, but Fingersmith is so good, it deserves its place. If you’re a lover of twists and unexpected endings, you’ll be bowled over by this story – and that’s all we’ll say, because we don’t want to ruin it!
Again, it’s historical fiction (you wouldn’t expect anything else from Sarah Waters), with lovely rich, believable characters, and a fantastic plot. The world feels real, gritty, and demanding of your attention, and the themes of love are soft and subtle. You could almost be lulled to sleep by this tale – but it’s very far from boring.
Fingersmith is one you will remember for a long time to come, no matter what your taste in books; Waters weaves an incredibly realistic web and invites you to step into a world that feels like you could stretch out your fingers and touch it. Perhaps even more masterful than Tipping the Velvet, Fingersmith is another must-read to be added to any list of queer literature.
Book 9) Under the Udala Trees
Written by Chinelo Okparanta, this book is set in Nigeria during the 1960s civil war, and follows the character Ijeoma. It explores the story of two outsiders: new girls at a school in a strange place. They find comfort and security in each other, but their romantic relationship is not going to be one untroubled by the outside world.
This book confronts homophobia and the discomfort of existing in a heteronormative world head-on, and is in direct discussion with Nigeria’s existing anti-homosexuality laws. It is far from an easy read and contains many heavy themes, but it nonetheless has a lot of beauty, and a great deal to say.
If you’re fascinated by the challenges the queer community frequently has to face and you want to deepen your understanding of what these look like across the world, this book is one you should consider adding to your list.
Book 10) We Are Satellites
Sarah Pinsker’s novel grapples with the difficulties that queer parents may be all too familiar with – as well as some additional ones. Julie and Val want to do their best for their children, but in a world with biotechnology far beyond most people’s wildest imaginings, they are struggling, and have some extreme ethical challenges to face.
This book gracefully explores some very complex themes, including ableism, drug addiction, gaslighting, PTSD, and more – and it does so in a way that helps readers explore and understand the world we currently exist in, as well as the fictional world of Pinsker’s imagination.
There are a great many books in the LGBTQ+ section that could attract your interest, so whether you’re just looking for a simple romance or you want to dive into something heavier and harder-hitting, you’ll find options that suit you. Check out the selection above, and explore the world of queer love in totally new ways.