The 19 Best LGBTQ+ Books Of 2021 And That Definitely Deserve A Place In Your Bookshelf

·13 min read

In a time when we were more isolated than ever, reading helped me feel connected to the queer community even when it wasn't possible to gather in public. Here are 19 of my favorites (in no particular order):

1.The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr.

What it's about: The Prophets is my absolute must-read of 2021. In his debut novel, Robert Jones, Jr. tells the queer love story between Isaiah and Samuel, two enslaved men, and how their relationship affects the community when it becomes a source of tension. Told from multiple perspectives and reminiscent of the writing of Toni Morrison, this novel serves as a reminder that queer love has always existed, even in the darkest circumstances. It’s a book that deserves to be read again and again. Get it from Bookshop or your local bookstore via Indiebound here. 

What it's about: The Prophets is my absolute must-read of 2021. In his debut novel, Robert Jones, Jr. tells the queer love story between Isaiah and Samuel, two enslaved men, and how their relationship affects the community when it becomes a source of tension. Told from multiple perspectives and reminiscent of the writing of Toni Morrison, this novel serves as a reminder that queer love has always existed, even in the darkest circumstances. It’s a book that deserves to be read again and again.

Get it from Bookshop or your local bookstore via Indiebound here.

Penguin Random House / Via images4.penguinrandomhouse.com

2.Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters

What it's about: This book is unlike anything else I’ve read. Torrey Peters’ writing is by turns funny and profound, and the characters are relatable not in spite of their flaws, but because of them. In directly addressing questions about gender, sexuality, and parenthood, Detransition, Baby is a completely new kind of queer fiction. Not concerned with making anyone feel comfortable, this is a novel that dares to be provocative, and it pays off in a huge way. I’ve been recommending it to friends since its release in January, and I’m not stopping now!Get it from Bookshop or your local bookstore via Indiebound here. 

What it's about: This book is unlike anything else I’ve read. Torrey Peters’ writing is by turns funny and profound, and the characters are relatable not in spite of their flaws, but because of them. In directly addressing questions about gender, sexuality, and parenthood, Detransition, Baby is a completely new kind of queer fiction. Not concerned with making anyone feel comfortable, this is a novel that dares to be provocative, and it pays off in a huge way. I’ve been recommending it to friends since its release in January, and I’m not stopping now!

Get it from Bookshop or your local bookstore via Indiebound here.

Penguin Random House / Via images1.penguinrandomhouse.com

3.Kink: Stories, Edited by R.O. Kwon and Garth Greenwell

What it's about: An anthology of short fiction by some of the best queer writers working today, including Alexander Chee, Roxane Gay, and Brandon Taylor? Sign me up!This collection explores kink in all its many forms, from the intensely physical, to the subtler emotional forms present in many interpersonal relationships. Sexy and introspective, these stories expanded my idea of what kink can be.Get it from Bookshop or your local bookstore via Indiebound here. 

What it's about: An anthology of short fiction by some of the best queer writers working today, including Alexander Chee, Roxane Gay, and Brandon Taylor? Sign me up!

This collection explores kink in all its many forms, from the intensely physical, to the subtler emotional forms present in many interpersonal relationships. Sexy and introspective, these stories expanded my idea of what kink can be.

Get it from Bookshop or your local bookstore via Indiebound here.

Simon & Schuster / Via d28hgpri8am2if.cloudfront.net

4.Let the Record Show: A Political History of ACT UP New York 19871993 by Sarah Schulman

What it's about: Looking to brush up on queer history? Start here. Using the author’s own experience, as well as interviews with fellow activists, this is a comprehensive history of ACT UP and the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In a time when activism is more necessary than ever and politicians continue to make false claims about the AIDS epidemic, let Schulman, in her distinctively gripping voice, tell you how it really went down. Get it from Bookshop or your local bookstore via Indiebound here. 

What it's about: Looking to brush up on queer history? Start here. Using the author’s own experience, as well as interviews with fellow activists, this is a comprehensive history of ACT UP and the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In a time when activism is more necessary than ever and politicians continue to make false claims about the AIDS epidemic, let Schulman, in her distinctively gripping voice, tell you how it really went down.

Get it from Bookshop or your local bookstore via Indiebound here.

Macmillan Publishers / Via mpd-biblio-covers.imgix.net

5.¡Hola Papi!: How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons by John Paul Brammer

What it's about: This uplifting, affirming collection of essays by John Paul Brammer was a comfort read for me this summer when it was released. Along with tongue-in-cheek advice about dating — “No one needs your affirmative action, mija. You were with them because you liked them, and they were with you because they liked you back” — Brammer tells stories about his identity as a Mexican American, love lost and found, and how he built a life as a queer person. Hilarious and heartfelt, I couldn’t ask for a better advice columnist for the LGBTQ+ community.Get it from Bookshop or your local bookstore via Indiebound here. 

What it's about: This uplifting, affirming collection of essays by John Paul Brammer was a comfort read for me this summer when it was released. Along with tongue-in-cheek advice about dating — “No one needs your affirmative action, mija. You were with them because you liked them, and they were with you because they liked you back” — Brammer tells stories about his identity as a Mexican American, love lost and found, and how he built a life as a queer person. Hilarious and heartfelt, I couldn’t ask for a better advice columnist for the LGBTQ+ community.

Get it from Bookshop or your local bookstore via Indiebound here.

Simon & Schuster / Via d28hgpri8am2if.cloudfront.net

6.Everybody (Else) Is Perfect: How I Survived Hypocrisy, Beauty, Clicks, and Likes by Gabrielle Korn

What it's about: When Gabrielle Korn was promoted to Editor-in-Chief of Nylon, she was the youngest person to hold the position, and the first lesbian. Her memoir in essays details her time there, through the lens of someone who was passionate about her industry but faced constant hurdles being an “other” in a field that was chauvinistic and obsessed with the

What it's about: When Gabrielle Korn was promoted to Editor-in-Chief of Nylon, she was the youngest person to hold the position, and the first lesbian. Her memoir in essays details her time there, through the lens of someone who was passionate about her industry but faced constant hurdles being an “other” in a field that was chauvinistic and obsessed with the "feminine ideal." Clear, concise writing and unflinching honesty make this collection stand out and make it instantly relatable to anyone who’s ever been “the first” in their industry.

Get it from Bookshop or your local bookstore via Indiebound here.

Simon & Schuster / Via simonandschuster.com

7.We Play Ourselves by Jen Silverman

What it's about: What happens when your career as you knew it blows up in your face and you’re left to pick up the pieces? For Cass, you move to a new city and start working on a documentary about a fight club featuring teenage girls. But what is the true cost of making art? There are many novels about the creative process, but We Play Ourselves stands out because it's hilarious, biting, and refreshingly honest about what it's like to pursue an artistic career with no roadmap. Already known as a successful playwright, Silverman proves to be a wonderful fiction writer as well.Get it from Bookshop or your local bookstore via Indiebound here. 

What it's about: What happens when your career as you knew it blows up in your face and you’re left to pick up the pieces? For Cass, you move to a new city and start working on a documentary about a fight club featuring teenage girls. But what is the true cost of making art?

There are many novels about the creative process, but We Play Ourselves stands out because it's hilarious, biting, and refreshingly honest about what it's like to pursue an artistic career with no roadmap. Already known as a successful playwright, Silverman proves to be a wonderful fiction writer as well.

Get it from Bookshop or your local bookstore via Indiebound here.

Penguin Random House / Via penguinrandomhouse.com

8.Last Call by Elon Green

What it's about: If you’re a true crime fan like myself, this is a must-read. Elon Green tells the story of the

What it's about: If you’re a true crime fan like myself, this is a must-read. Elon Green tells the story of the "Last Call Killer," a serial murderer who targeted gay men in New York City in the '90s, and the search to bring him to justice. Homophobia fueled by the HIV/AIDS epidemic led to a much slower investigation than was given to other crimes of the era, but Green makes sure to center the victims as fully realized people. A true crime thriller and lovingly detailed portrait of the gay community in New York during the 1990s, Last Call is a gripping read.

Get it from Bookshop or your local bookstore via Indiebound here.

Macmillan Publishers / Via us.macmillan.com

9.The Secret to Superhuman Strength by Alison Bechdel

What it's about: I was thrilled that 2021 gave us a new Alison Bechdel book. And it did not disappoint. She uses her trademark wit and introspection to consider her lifelong obsession with physical activity. A personal and cultural history of exercise, as well as a discussion of the mind-body connection necessary to create a fitness practice, The Secret to Superhuman Strength is a perfect antidote to how dreadfully serious the fitness industry has become. It's a perfect pandemic read, because Bechdel never takes herself too seriously.Get it from Bookshop or your local bookstore via Indiebound here. 

What it's about: I was thrilled that 2021 gave us a new Alison Bechdel book. And it did not disappoint. She uses her trademark wit and introspection to consider her lifelong obsession with physical activity. A personal and cultural history of exercise, as well as a discussion of the mind-body connection necessary to create a fitness practice, The Secret to Superhuman Strength is a perfect antidote to how dreadfully serious the fitness industry has become. It's a perfect pandemic read, because Bechdel never takes herself too seriously.

Get it from Bookshop or your local bookstore via Indiebound here.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt / Via hmhbooks.com

10.100 Boyfriends by Brontez Purnell

What it's about: This short story collection is hard to define accurately, and that's why I loved it. It’s sexy, hilarious, profane, and profound. I can’t think of a work of fiction that comes closer to describing what it’s like to be gay and single at this moment in time. These stories describe the journey queer people go through in the quest to create a chosen family. Sex is a big part of it, but it isn’t always the end goal. A couple of characters in 100 Boyfriends continue to be part of the narrator’s life after their physical relationship ends, and that's one of the things I love the most about being queer. We get to create our own reality. Yeah, it can be messy, but it's also a whole lot of fun. Get it from Bookshop or your local bookstore via Indiebound here. 

What it's about: This short story collection is hard to define accurately, and that's why I loved it. It’s sexy, hilarious, profane, and profound. I can’t think of a work of fiction that comes closer to describing what it’s like to be gay and single at this moment in time. These stories describe the journey queer people go through in the quest to create a chosen family. Sex is a big part of it, but it isn’t always the end goal. A couple of characters in 100 Boyfriends continue to be part of the narrator’s life after their physical relationship ends, and that's one of the things I love the most about being queer. We get to create our own reality. Yeah, it can be messy, but it's also a whole lot of fun.

Get it from Bookshop or your local bookstore via Indiebound here.

Macmillan Publishers / Via us.macmillan.com

11.The King of Infinite Space by Lyndsay Faye

What it's about: A “lush, magical, queer feminist take on Hamlet” is what I was promised by the book jacket, and it’s exactly what I got. Lyndsay Faye clearly knows the works of Shakespeare intimately and isn’t hesitant to play with form in ways that will delight both theater fans and anyone who loves a well-written fantasy novel. As Ben enlists his friend, Horatio, and ex-fiancé, Lia, to solve the mystery of his father’s death, we encounter many Shakespearean archetypes along the way, but nothing is as straightforward as it seems. It’s a whimsical and suspenseful ride with compellingly written characters, and one I was sad to see end. Get it from Bookshop or your local bookstore via Indiebound here. 

What it's about: A “lush, magical, queer feminist take on Hamlet” is what I was promised by the book jacket, and it’s exactly what I got. Lyndsay Faye clearly knows the works of Shakespeare intimately and isn’t hesitant to play with form in ways that will delight both theater fans and anyone who loves a well-written fantasy novel. As Ben enlists his friend, Horatio, and ex-fiancé, Lia, to solve the mystery of his father’s death, we encounter many Shakespearean archetypes along the way, but nothing is as straightforward as it seems. It’s a whimsical and suspenseful ride with compellingly written characters, and one I was sad to see end.

Get it from Bookshop or your local bookstore via Indiebound here.

Penguin Random House / Via penguinrandomhouse.com

12.Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers

What it's about: What would you do if you were a driven type-A personality who got married to a stranger while drunk in Vegas? Honey Girl starts with a wedding that no one can remember. In this reverse engineered rom-com, Grace Porter is left to find out if she wants to stay married to a stranger while trying to figure out what she wants to do post graduation. This heartfelt novel tackles subjects like the search to find identity, the weight of cultural and generational expectations, and the immense pressure to be perfect. A strong and heartwarming debut, I can't wait to see what Morgan Rogers writes next. Get it from Bookshop or your local bookstore via Indiebound here. 

What it's about: What would you do if you were a driven type-A personality who got married to a stranger while drunk in Vegas? Honey Girl starts with a wedding that no one can remember. In this reverse engineered rom-com, Grace Porter is left to find out if she wants to stay married to a stranger while trying to figure out what she wants to do post graduation. This heartfelt novel tackles subjects like the search to find identity, the weight of cultural and generational expectations, and the immense pressure to be perfect. A strong and heartwarming debut, I can't wait to see what Morgan Rogers writes next.

Get it from Bookshop or your local bookstore via Indiebound here.

Harper Collins / Via harpercollins.com

13.The Passing Playbook by Isaac Fitzsimons

What it's about: A coming-of-age story about soccer is not normally something I'd be drawn to. But positive reviews online led me to The Passing Playbook, and I'm so glad I found it.Spencer starts the year at a new high school and is immediately recruited to the soccer team. The only issue is no one at his new school knows he’s trans, and if they did, he might not be able to play on the team. This young adult novel is a testament to the power of community. While legislators continue spreading misinformation about trans athletes, this story will give you hope that one day all our trans siblings will receive the support they deserve.Get it from Bookshop or your local bookstore via Indiebound here. 

What it's about: A coming-of-age story about soccer is not normally something I'd be drawn to. But positive reviews online led me to The Passing Playbook, and I'm so glad I found it.

Spencer starts the year at a new high school and is immediately recruited to the soccer team. The only issue is no one at his new school knows he’s trans, and if they did, he might not be able to play on the team. This young adult novel is a testament to the power of community. While legislators continue spreading misinformation about trans athletes, this story will give you hope that one day all our trans siblings will receive the support they deserve.

Get it from Bookshop or your local bookstore via Indiebound here.

Penguin Random House / Via penguinrandomhouse.com

14.Greedy: Notes From a Bisexual Who Wants Too Much by Jen Winston

What it's about: Many of my bi friends express frustration with the stigma they face from both inside and outside the LGBTQ+ community. Jen Winston is here to let you know you're far from alone. Greedy is a collection of essays that had me laughing from the dedication (“There are no closer shelves in the bookstore than Dating and Horror”) all the way to the end. Frank, provocative, never precious, and more insightful about identity than any book I read this year, this is a book for anyone who's sick of stupid bi jokes and ignorant comments. There’s no “right” way to be queer, and this book is proof that we're ALL on a journey to figure it out. If we used a little more humor and a little less judgment, we'd get there faster.  Get it from Bookshop or your local bookstore via Indiebound here. 

What it's about: Many of my bi friends express frustration with the stigma they face from both inside and outside the LGBTQ+ community. Jen Winston is here to let you know you're far from alone. Greedy is a collection of essays that had me laughing from the dedication (“There are no closer shelves in the bookstore than Dating and Horror”) all the way to the end. Frank, provocative, never precious, and more insightful about identity than any book I read this year, this is a book for anyone who's sick of stupid bi jokes and ignorant comments. There’s no “right” way to be queer, and this book is proof that we're ALL on a journey to figure it out. If we used a little more humor and a little less judgment, we'd get there faster.

Get it from Bookshop or your local bookstore via Indiebound here.

Simon & Schuster / Via simonandschuster.com

15.Sarahland by Sam Cohen

What it's about: Admittedly, I was skeptical about a short story collection revolving around one name: Sarah. But I was immediately hooked. Exploring everything from Buffy fanfic, to a reexamination of the Biblical wife of Abraham as a trans woman, to a post-humanoid plastic creature named Sah-Wah, Sarahland is unpredictable and compulsively readable. Cohen uses these disparate, seemingly disconnected characters to examine how we live now, reexamine history, and speculate about implications for the future. I highly recommend a trip to Sarahland, but be prepared for a wild ride. Get it from Bookshop or your local bookstore via Indiebound here. 

What it's about: Admittedly, I was skeptical about a short story collection revolving around one name: Sarah. But I was immediately hooked. Exploring everything from Buffy fanfic, to a reexamination of the Biblical wife of Abraham as a trans woman, to a post-humanoid plastic creature named Sah-Wah, Sarahland is unpredictable and compulsively readable. Cohen uses these disparate, seemingly disconnected characters to examine how we live now, reexamine history, and speculate about implications for the future. I highly recommend a trip to Sarahland, but be prepared for a wild ride.

Get it from Bookshop or your local bookstore via Indiebound here.

Hachette Book Group / Via grandcentralpublishing.com

16.Love in the Big City by Sang Young Park (translated by Anton Hur)

What it's about: Already a bestseller in Korea, I'm glad Love in the Big City was translated into English. It follows the story of Young, a gay millennial trying to find himself amidst nights of wild partying, failed relationships, and the responsibility of taking care of his ailing mother. The characters throughout are flawed, funny, and relatable. The writing dares to be frank about the aching loneliness and intense joy that go hand in hand in the queer millennial experience. This novel was such a unique pleasure, and I can't wait for more people to read it. Get it from Bookshop or your local bookstore via Indiebound here. 

What it's about: Already a bestseller in Korea, I'm glad Love in the Big City was translated into English. It follows the story of Young, a gay millennial trying to find himself amidst nights of wild partying, failed relationships, and the responsibility of taking care of his ailing mother. The characters throughout are flawed, funny, and relatable. The writing dares to be frank about the aching loneliness and intense joy that go hand in hand in the queer millennial experience. This novel was such a unique pleasure, and I can't wait for more people to read it.

Get it from Bookshop or your local bookstore via Indiebound here.

Grove Atlantic / Via groveatlantic.com

17.Milk Fed by Melissa Broder

What it's about: Milk Fed takes a coming-of-age story of a young adult with an eating disorder and mommy issues, and turns it on its head. Things heat up when Rachel falls in love with Miriam, an orthodox Jewish woman who works at her favorite yogurt shop. They bond over food, Audrey Hepburn, and a mutual physical attraction. But this being no fairy tale, factors like religion and heteronormative cultural expectations interfere. Broder perfectly captures what it’s like to be a young queer person adrift in a big city, caught between how you’ve been raised and who you’re striving to be.Get it from Bookshop or your local bookstore via Indiebound here. 

What it's about: Milk Fed takes a coming-of-age story of a young adult with an eating disorder and mommy issues, and turns it on its head. Things heat up when Rachel falls in love with Miriam, an orthodox Jewish woman who works at her favorite yogurt shop. They bond over food, Audrey Hepburn, and a mutual physical attraction. But this being no fairy tale, factors like religion and heteronormative cultural expectations interfere. Broder perfectly captures what it’s like to be a young queer person adrift in a big city, caught between how you’ve been raised and who you’re striving to be.

Get it from Bookshop or your local bookstore via Indiebound here.

Simon & Schuster / Via simonandschuster.com

18.Darryl by Jackie Ess

What it's about: This book didn't come on my radar until a few weeks ago, and I'm so glad it did. Once I started reading Darryl, a novel in the form of blog posts, I couldn't stop. It's about a man named Darryl Cook who is exploring the cuckolding lifestyle, and his journey to self-acceptance. It becomes a darkly comic look at fetish, internet culture, and what happens when you start to question your long-held idea of yourself. The search for truth in identity is one of the queerest stories I can think of, and I'm so grateful to Jackie Ess for giving us Darryl.Get it from Bookshop or your local bookstore via Indiebound here. 

What it's about: This book didn't come on my radar until a few weeks ago, and I'm so glad it did. Once I started reading Darryl, a novel in the form of blog posts, I couldn't stop. It's about a man named Darryl Cook who is exploring the cuckolding lifestyle, and his journey to self-acceptance. It becomes a darkly comic look at fetish, internet culture, and what happens when you start to question your long-held idea of yourself. The search for truth in identity is one of the queerest stories I can think of, and I'm so grateful to Jackie Ess for giving us Darryl.

Get it from Bookshop or your local bookstore via Indiebound here.

Clash Books / Via clashbooks.com

19.The 2000s Made Me Gay: Essays on Pop Culture by Grace Perry

What it's about: This humorous essay collection from Grace Perry is the exploration of queer-coded pop culture in the early '00s. There weren't many overtly queer role models in popular culture, so we turned to things like Gossip Girl, Katy Perry, and the patron saint of Mean Girls, Lindsay Lohan, because they were subversive but still popular enough that it made us look “normal.” Perry’s pitch-perfect essays reminded me how hilarious this was, while making me glad we finally have authentic queer representation in mainstream culture. If you’re too young to know what I’m talking about, come take a walk down memory lane, and be glad you didn’t have to grow up during this truly demented moment in pop culture. Get it from Bookshop or your local bookstore via Indiebound here. 

What it's about: This humorous essay collection from Grace Perry is the exploration of queer-coded pop culture in the early '00s. There weren't many overtly queer role models in popular culture, so we turned to things like Gossip Girl, Katy Perry, and the patron saint of Mean Girls, Lindsay Lohan, because they were subversive but still popular enough that it made us look “normal.” Perry’s pitch-perfect essays reminded me how hilarious this was, while making me glad we finally have authentic queer representation in mainstream culture. If you’re too young to know what I’m talking about, come take a walk down memory lane, and be glad you didn’t have to grow up during this truly demented moment in pop culture.

Get it from Bookshop or your local bookstore via Indiebound here.

Macmillan Publishers / Via us.macmillan.com
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