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Read the best LGBTQ books for adults to celebrate Pride month, Banned Book Week, and beyond. I share my top ten picks below, followed by even more of the most popular adult (and young adult) books to choose from.

You’ll truly walk a mile in someone else’s shoes with these fiction and non-fiction picks, which showcase characters often silenced in books. Let’s get literary!

person holding the hearts invisible furies by john boyne in front of rainbow umbrellas.

Top 10 LGBTQ+ Books for Adults to Read

top 10 lgbtq+ books
  1. Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx
  2. The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
  3. The Guncle by Steven Rowley
  4. The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne
  5. The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
  6. The Knockout Queen by Rufi Thorpe
  7. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
  8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  9. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  10. This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

Reviews of the Best LGBTQ+ Books for Adults

METHODOLOGY

The best LGBTQ+ books on this list are masterful literary works that thoughtfully explore themes related to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender experiences, identities, and relationships. They foster empathy, understanding, and representation with maximum impact. Nearly all were five-star reads for me, and they all remain very memorable to me to date.

Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx

  • Prize Stories 1998: The O. Henry Awards

My Review: ★★★★★

You may have seen the popular movie, but have you read the book?! Technically, Brokeback Mountain is a short story, but its impact is that of an epic saga. I read it after seeing the movie, which also made a huge impact on me.

It’s the story of two male ranch hands who come together in romance one lonely summer. They continue to meet each year as they otherwise live their lives as if they are heterosexual.

It’s my favorite short story of all-time, and it’s well worth reading even if you saw the movie. It’s beautifully told and is bound to haunt you for years to come.


The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

  • Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award Finalist
  • Los Angeles Times Book Prize, ALA Carnegie Medal, and The Stonewall Book Award Winner
  • Named a Best Book of the year by The New York Times Book ReviewThe Washington Post, NPRKirkus Reviews, and many more

My Review: ★★★★☆

The Great Believers is another book that made a huge impact on me. It hasn’t left my mind since I read it a few years ago.

Set amidst the AIDS pandemic of the 1980s and 1990s, it exquisitely weaves the beauty of art and what remains together with the tragedies of friends and lovers dying off one by one.

One chapter, in particular, is one of the most poetic works of fiction I have read. (You’ll know which one it is when you read it — trust me.)

I recommend it to fans of the Broadway musical Rent.


The Guncle by Steven Rowley

  • A national bestseller
  • An NPR Book of the Year
  • Finalist for the 2021 Goodreads Choice Awards

My Review: ★★★★☆

The Guncle was a book I picked up because everyone on social media was raving about it. I’m happy to report that it did not disappoint!

It’s the story of a formerly famous Hollywood actor who takes on the care of his young niece and nephew after a family tragedy. At the same time, he’s coping with another tragic loss of his one great love.

In ways both comical and heartwarming, the summer brings together this unlikely trio as they begin to heal. This is the kind of book that makes your heart swell, and the sequel is also not to be missed by fans who want the same “feels” all over again!

Related Post: The Guncle Reviews


The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

  • Named Book of the Month Club’s Book of the Year
  • One of New York Times Readers’ Favorite Books
  • Winner of the 2018 Goldsboro Books Glass Bell Award 

My Review: ★★★★★

The Heart’s Invisible Furies is one book that tops many avid readers’ lists of favorite books of all time. It’s a character-driven novel that follows a gay man in Ireland from the 1940s to the present day, as he copes with his sexuality during turbulent times and places in history.

At the same time, it tracks his estrangement from his unwed Catholic teen mother throughout the decades.

The story itself is nothing short of epic, and the dialogue, in particular, is some of the most perfectly written you will ever read. I passed my copy to my mother-in-law, and she absolutely raved about it too.


The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

  • Instant New York Times bestseller
  • A best book of the year by The Washington Post, NPR, and many more

My Review: ★★★★★

The Immortalists is one of my all-time favorite books about dying. (Yes, I know this is a depressing subject, but it’s a very real subject too.)

It’s the story of four adult siblings whose dates of death were predicted when they were children. It tackles the ultimate question of how knowing your date of death changes your life, and it does so particularly through one sibling’s storyline as a gay man in 1980s San Francisco amidst the AIDS pandemic.

While I loved each of the sibling’s storylines, the LGBTQ+ one felt the most emotional and impactful to me. This family drama novel takes you on a decades-long journey and makes you think about the most pressing of all life questions at the same time.

Related Post: The Immortalists Summary


The Knockout Queen by Rufi Thorpe

My Review: ★★★★★

The Knockout Queen is probably the most underrated book I’ve ever read. I don’t often hear readers talking about it, yet it is one of the best-written books I’ve read.

It follows the unlikely friendship between Bunny, a tall and strong volleyball player with a violent streak, and Michael, her gay, self-destructive neighbor. Both have complicated families and feel alienated.

Set in a Californian suburb and high school, this coming-of-age novel dives deep into an unlikely friendship, particularly after Michael falls in love and the friendship is tested by an act of violence.

It explores themes of identity, violence, and loyalty in a very literary way for fans of character-driven novels.


A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara 

  • National bestseller
  • Winner of the Kirkus Prize
  • National Book Award and Man Booker Prize finalist

A Little Life is one book that’s consistently earned rave reviews by readers.

It’s a very long and very emotional novel about four college friends who are broke in New York City. Central to the story is Jude, whose traumatic past and struggles with identity, abuse, and self-worth unfold throughout the book.

The novel explores intense themes of friendship, love, and survival, with significant LGBTQ+ plots, including Jude’s relationships with his friends and his complex romantic involvement with another one of the four friends, Willem.

It shows the profound impacts of trauma through the enduring bonds between the characters.


The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

My Review: ★★★★★

When I picked up The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I expected just another stereotypically angsty coming-of-age novel about alienated teens in high school. What I got was one of the best books I’ve ever read.

Observant Charlie is a quiet high school freshman who navigates his new experiences through letters to an anonymous friend. He shares about the love and personal growth he experiences after being included by a group of unique friends. This is especially impactful, as Charlie has experienced dark trauma that he carries with him.

There are fairly significant LGBTQ+ plots, including Charlie’s friendship with Patrick, who is openly gay and dealing with a secret relationship with a popular athlete.

This novel exquisitely explores themes of identity, acceptance, and the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ persons in a high school setting. It memorably conveys the message that “We accept the love we think we deserve.”

Related Post: The Perks of Being a Wallflower Summary


The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

  • New York Times bestseller

My Review: ★★★★★

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is my favorite book by the bestselling author Taylor Jenkins Reid (and I have read them all). It’s also the one book I most often recommend because virtually everyone loves it. It’s been a bestseller for several years now.

It’s the story of an aged, glamorous Hollywood actress recounting her life story and the truth behind each of her seven husbands.

So, what’s LGBTQ+ about that? Well, I hate to be vague, but I really think you need to read the book to learn that. Trust me, it’s worth it. You’re just about guaranteed to love it as much as everyone else.

Related Post: Taylor Jenkins Reid Books Ranked


This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

  • Reese’s Book Club pick
  • New York Times bestseller
  • Pacific Northwest Book Awards Finalist
  • Longlisted for the 2019 International DUBLIN Literary Award

My Review: ★★★★★

This Is How It Always Is is another book that everyone loves. I honestly don’t think I have ever heard anyone dislike it or even give it a mediocre review.

At its core, it’s about the process of parenting a very young transgender child. The reader goes along for the journey and steps right in this family’s shoes while they try to figure it all out as they live it.

What makes this book extra special is how intimate and tender the writing feels. Indeed, it’s written from the personal experience of the author, and the beauty of it shows in abundance.

More Great LGBTQ+ Fiction and Non-Fiction Books

There are so many great LGBTQ+ books out there that I wanted to include even more than my top 10 for you to consider. Some of these I’ve read, but they didn’t quite make my top 10, whereas others are celebrity book club picks and/or books I know to be very popular with readers.

I included Young Adult books in this section because they are also great for adults, especially if you want to read alongside a teen. I also focused on some of the books most often banned for LGBTQ+ content in an attempt to silence these authors’ diverse voices.

Young Adult and Teen Reading Level Recommendations

SHOP YA BOOKS

Adult Reading Level Recommendations

SHOP ADULTS BOOKS

Frequently Asked Questions

What are LGBT books?

LGBT books are literary works that explore themes related to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender experiences, identities, and relationships. These books often highlight diverse perspectives and contribute to representation in literature.

What is the LGBT fiction genre?

The LGBT fiction genre encompasses stories featuring lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender characters and themes. It explores their experiences, relationships, and identities, promoting diversity and understanding.

What to read for pride month?

For Pride Month, read books celebrating LGBTQ+ experiences and voices. Consider popular titles like The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid, and This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel for diverse and impactful stories.

Why read queer books?

Reading queer books fosters empathy, understanding, and representation. They offer diverse perspectives, highlight LGBTQ+ experiences, and promote inclusivity. These stories enrich literature and provide valuable insights into different identities and journeys.

Conclusion

The best LGBTQ+ books for adults thoughtfully and memorably explore their experiences, relationships, and identities, promoting diversity and understanding. To recap and help you decide what to read first or next, check out my top 3 picks.

TOP 3 LGBTQ+ BOOKS

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