This just in: you don’t have to be queer to read queer books! Why not celebrate Pride month by reading some of the best LGBTQ+ literature ever written? To be accepted starts with being seen, and for centuries, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans authors have played a vital part in making strides towards this acceptance. These are the 40 top-rated LGBTQ+ books of all time* , including everything from moving memoirs and subversive graphic novels to beautiful coming-of-age stories.
*our list ranks books according to their Goodreads rating.
40. Boy Meets Boy
Imagine a world in which homophobia just doesn’t exist. When Boy Meets Boy came out in 2003, it was hailed by many for its fantastical depiction of a pro-gay high school, as seen through the eyes of teenager Paul. Though he lives an idyllic existence for a gay teen, Paul’s life isn’t without drama: he struggles with his quest for Noah’s heart, while his friend Tony deals with super-religious parents. Author David Levithan brought an almost utopian perspective to the gay experience in his book, attempting to throw out clichés and deliver an unashamedly pro-gay narrative.
39. Rainbow Boys
In Alex Sanchez’s Rainbow Boys (2001), the three main protagonists are high schoolers Jason, Kyle, and Nelson, who are wrestling with their queer identities. The first mentioned teen is a bisexual jock with a girlfriend, the second is gay and living in fear of his family finding out, and the third is an openly gay teen struggling to find the courage to tell the boy he loves the truth. There’s plenty here on queerness, toxic masculinity, and violent homophobia, in an engrossing coming-of-age book that makes for a perfect summer vacation read.
38. The City and the Pillar
Gore Vidal’s seminal 1948 novel The City and the Pillar follows the life of Jim, an athletic all-American type who goes against the grain to begin a relationship with a man named Bob. But things turn sour when Bob leaves to join the Merchant Marines. Vidal’s work is often hailed as the first post-war novel to portray a gay protagonist compassionately. The author also consciously created a masculine gay character to defy common stereotypes. The City and the Pillar was controversial at the time, and Vidal was blacklisted, forced to write under pen-names for several years after.
Gothic fantasy novel Carmilla was first published way back in 1872. It follows Laura, who lives in an Austrian castle in the forest with her aging dad. But then one strange night, when the moon is shining bright, she is approached by a horse-drawn carriage carrying the mysterious and alluring Carmilla. They become close companions — until things start to turn sinister, and Laura becomes weaker and tormented by nightmares. J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s acclaimed thriller explores sexual tensions between two women and was based on real lesbian love letters. The original vampire story, it was well ahead of its time.