Best gay books 2017

Table of Contents

Am I gay, lesbian or bisexual?

Sexual health

How to cope if you’re bullied for being gay

Some people don’t understand that being gay, lesbian or bisexual is normal. Nobody has the right to tell someone else how to live their life or pick on them because of who they’re attracted to.

If someone bullies you because you’re gay, lesbian or bisexual, it’s their problem, not yours, and they shouldn’t get away with it. This is called homophobic bullying.

Bullying can take many forms, including stares, looks, whispers, threats and violence. If you’re being bullied because you’re gay, lesbian or bisexual, tell someone you trust. This could be a teacher, friend, your parents, or a helpline.

Schools have a legal duty to ensure homophobic bullying is dealt with. Read about where to find help if you’ve been bullied for advice.

You’ll find information about talking to teachers and parents, and the contact details of anti-bullying organisations and helplines. Talking to someone who is understanding will always help if you have worries or questions as you’ll feel supported and more confident.

You can find out more about dealing with homophobic bullying on these websites:

EACH: Educational Action Challenging Homophobia

This is a charity for young people and adults affected by homophobia. It has a helpline for young people, parents or teachers who want to report homophobic bullying. Call the EACH actionline on 0808 1000 143 on weekdays, 9am to 5pm. Calls are free from landlines and most mobiles.

Stonewall: Education for All

Stonewall is a charity that campaigns for equal rights for lesbians, gay men and bisexual people. Its Education for All campaign tackles homophobia and homophobic bullying in schools across the UK. You can find case studies, facts and figures about homophobic bullying in schools, and advice for young people and teachers on the charity’s website.


The LGBT+ anti-violence charity can help if you experience homophobia, transphobia or biphobia wherever it occurs. Call their national helpline on 0800 999 5428 or contact them online.


The charity offers a safe and confidential place for you to talk about anything. No problem is too big or too small. Call one of their counsellors free on 0800 111, chat to them online or send an email.

What kind of reader were you as a child? Which childhood books and authors stick with you most?

As a kid I was a voracious visitor to Washington’s main public library. I loved reading plays that Arena Stage performed across the street. Plays were more fun to read then. I also loved the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series. Nancy was more fun.

How have your reading tastes changed over time?

What I like today is much wider in scope and quality. I appreciate good writing and know what it is. This also applies to plays and spy thrillers. I love Michael Connelly and Patricia Highsmith.

Have you ever gotten in trouble for reading a book?

Not for reading one but plenty of times for writing one. Gay writers writing about other gays is not exactly a winning audience. And gays are not the best buyers or readers of their own. In “Faggots,” I used my best friend for one of the leading characters because he told such good jokes that I used. He never spoke to me again after the book came out.

What book would you elevate to the canon, and what book would you remove?

I have never been able to get through “Don Quixote” or “Moby-Dick” (even though Melville was gay).

What book would you recommend for America’s current political moment?

“It Can’t Happen Here,” by Sinclair Lewis. It was published in 1935 during the heyday of fascism. It could indeed be today. Very frightening. Lewis’s wife by the way was the great journalist Dorothy Thompson. My brother was a volunteer helping her.

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?

P. G. Wodehouse, Edmund Wilson, Dostoyevsky.

What do you plan to read next?

“Jerome Robbins, by Himself”; “The Contender: The Story of Marlon Brando,” by William J. Mann; “Ecstasy and Terror,” by Daniel Mendelsohn.

What does it all mean?

People usually describe themselves as ‘gay’ or ‘homosexual’ when they find themselves emotionally and sexually attracted exclusively to people of their own gender. Some women who are gay call themselves ‘lesbians’. People who are sexually attracted to two or more gender often describe themselves as ‘bi’/‘bisexual’, or ‘pan’/’pansexual’.

Is it natural to be same-sex attracted?

Yes, absolutely. The Australian Psychological Society states that being same-sex attracted is as natural as being opposite-sex attracted, and that it’s not possible to force someone to change their sexuality through any psychological or medical means.

Lots of people identify themselves as same-sex attracted – in fact, about one in ten. You’re not the only one. Welcome!

I think I might be gay or bisexual – how do I know?

Some people who are same-sex attracted say that from the time they were very young they “felt different”. Some even remember having crushes on friends of their own sex when they were little.

Putting a name to your feelings

Often it takes a while to begin thinking of yourself as gay, lesbian or bisexual, or another sexual identity. Many people don’t begin to discover their sexuality until much later into adulthood and it can be just as confusing then. So, relax, take your time and don’t rush it.

A few experiences or feelings don’t mean you’re gay

Many people, gay or straight, develop crushes on a favourite teacher or a friend’s older sibling. Your closest relationship might be your best friend. It doesn’t mean you’re gay. Similarly, when exploring your sexuality, an experience with someone of the same sex doesn’t mean you’re gay, lesbian or bisexual. Sometimes it’s not always clear who you’re attracted to sexually and who you’re just attracted to as a person.

You don’t have to label yourself as gay

Some people prefer not to label themselves, and for many people their sexual preference and identification changes over time. There are a number of other labels people choose for their sexual identity, too, such as ‘queer’ or ‘pansexual’, and you may find that one of these other labels feels more comfortable to you.

Dealing with bullying or discrimination

Some people have difficulty accepting others who are different, whether it’s because of their race, sex, sexuality, religion… the list goes on.

It’s not you, it’s them

If you’re being harassed, judged or made to feel bad about yourself by someone else because of your sexuality, remember that there’s nothing wrong with you; the problem is the other person’s ignorance and intolerance.

Don’t hang around abusive people

If someone’s attitude towards you is abusive, leave as soon as possible and talk to someone you trust who is supportive about what’s going on with you.

If you’re struggling with your sexuality

If you’re having a tough time coming to terms with your sexuality, you have options.

Get support

If you feel comfortable, try talking to someone you trust about how you’re feeling. If you don’t want to talk about it with someone you know, contact a support service or helpline where you can remain anonymous.

You don’t have to come out

If you think you’re gay, it’s completely okay not to want to come out. If you’re interested, learn more about coming out, what it means and why people do it. There’s no rush with these things, so take your time. Don’t feel pressured to figure out your sexuality straight away or to put a label on it.

Learn about other people’s experiences

Watch this video made by QLife Australia and hear other people talk about their experiences of being attracted to the same sex and of coming out.

10 Gay Novels You Should Read

Daryl BruceFollow Apr 8, 2019 · 13 min read

It may not come as a surprise to you since I write for a living, but I love to read! If I’m being honest, there are days when I prefer books to people. For me, reading isn’t just a hobby or a way to kill a rainy Sunday afternoon, it’s something far more personal.

Growing up in a fairly small, conservative and economically depressed town, reading offered me an escape to places I otherwise could not go. With the flip of a page I could be whisked away to the Court of Versailles, attend classes at Hogwarts, visit Middle Earth, or travel to the far reaches of the galaxy to worlds I had never heard of.

As a teenager, books took on even greater meaning as I questioned my sexuality. I came of age in an era when there were no drag queen reality shows, before Will and Jack were making us laugh, and before playing LGBTQ roles became Oscar bait for straight actors.

Books provided representation that was sorely lacking in the media. The less stringent censorship found in the publishing sphere allowed writers to explore a multitude of LGBTQ characters and themes through the lens of diversity.

For me, as for many LGBTQ folks, books were a source of validation and connection. They were founts of knowledge where I could learn more about LGBTQ experiences and the history of the rights movement. They provided characters I could relate to since their experiences were so much like my own.

Throughout the years, I have amassed a large collection of gay fiction from obscure to mainstream bestsellers. I have compiled a list of my 10 personal favorites which I return to time and time again. I do not argue that these novels represent the absolute best in the genre, but I believe they are novels that every gay man can connect with on a deeply emotional level.

Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda

By Becky Albertalli

First published in 2016, Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda centers on Simon Spier a 16-year-old closeted gay teen growing up in Atlanta, Georgia. Using the pseudonym of ‘Jacques,’ Simon begins an email romance with a fellow student he only knows as “Blue.” When Simon’s emails are discovered, he is blackmailed into helping a classmate or risk being exposed to the entire school, and lose Blue forever.

When I first read this novel, I’m not ashamed to say I was in tears by the end. While not being the most ground-breaking piece of fiction available, this novel represents a major step forward in teen genre fiction. Frankly, it is the novel I wish I had access to when I was a closeted teenager. Albertalli, a former child psychologist, has an uncanny ability to tap into the angst and fear of a closeted teenager. Simon’s parents are very liberal and progressive, yet he is terrified by the prospect of coming out to them. Simon’s struggles highlight the emotional impact and insecurities of many LGBTQ youth who fear rejection. Albertalli deserves a massive amount of credit for countering the notion that coming out is no longer a big issue.

Trivia: The novel was successfully adapted into the 2018 film Love, Simon. The film marked the first widely released teen film to feature a gay character in the starring role.

A Place Called Winter

By Patrick Gale

First published in 2015, A Place Called Winter follows the story of Henry Cane, a shy and stammering young man, at the dawn of the 20th century. Henry is forced by his wife’s family to flee England to avoid scandal after they discover him engaging in a sexual relationship with another man. He immigrates to Canada and is allocated a homestead in the rural village of Winter, Saskatchewan. It is in this harsh setting, a world away from his gilded life in Edwardian England, that he undertakes a stunning, violent, maddening, and moving journey of self-discovery and validation.

Gale’s meticulously researched novel is based on the mystery of his own grandfather also named Henry Cane. The real Cane, like his fictional counterpart, fled England and moved to Canada to set up a homestead. While researching his grandfather’s story, Gale discovered that the Canadian prairies were something of a gay underground railroad during the early twentieth century. Many upper-class English families cast their ‘gay’ sons out to the remote Prairies — I put gay in quotes because our connotation of gay as a sexual identity didn’t exist in this era. Ironically, many men found freedom in a homoerotic environment where there were very few women. Indeed, the all-male dances depicted in the novel were common in the prairies during this time. This novel not only contains forgotten gay history, it is also a beautifully crafted and highly emotional read — a definite page-turner.

Funny Boy

By Shyam Selvadurai

First published in 1994, Funny Boy is the coming-of-age story of Arjun Chelvaratnam a Tamil boy struggling with his sexuality and gender identity in Sri Lanka. The story is set in the years leading up to the 1983 Sinhala-Tamil riots. The novel is divided into six interconnected stories that follow Arjun from childhood to his teenage years.

I first discovered this novel in a Canadian literature course I took in university. On the surface, it seems like a book that shouldn’t resonate with me as deeply as it does. Culturally, Arjun and I come from different worlds, yet there is a universality to Arjun’s experiences. His childhood and his sense of difference is something most gay men can connect to. He is different from the other boys and often blurs gender lines. He easily forms deep friendships with women but feels disconnected from the men around him. He also enjoys wearing his aunt’s jewellery, and wearing his mother’s makeup. These are experiences familiar to many gay men when they look back on their childhood. The central theme of the novel is the loss of innocence experienced by many LGBTQ children. Arjun’s view of the world is drastically altered as adult constructions of gender and sexuality are imposed on him. Selvadurai does a remarkable job of making Arjun such a fascinating and resilient character. He perfectly portrays the confusion, anguish, and even excitement indicative of the coming out process.

Tales of the City

By Armistead Maupin

First published in 1978, Tales of the City has become a seminal piece of LGBTQ American fiction. It has inspired numerous sequels and three (soon to be four) TV mini-series. The novel, set in 1976, follows twenty-something Mary Ann Singleton who moves to San Francisco on a whim. She finds an apartment at 28 Barbary Lane owned by the eccentric, mysterious and pot growing Mrs. Anna Madrigal. Mary Ann leads a life she never expected, making friends with her fellow tenants: the bisexual Mona, the sexy and woman loving Brian, Michael “Mouse” a sweet and loving gay man, and Norman an odd and socially awkward man living in the rooftop shed. Along the way she conducts an affair with her boss, learns the shocking secret of Madrigal’s past, and finds her life changed forever.

I’ve discovered that Tales of the City is one of those novels that people either love or hate despite its frequent appearances on gay fiction lists like this one. Maupin creates a group of quirky characters that are instantaneously memorable — who wouldn’t want Anna Madrigal to be their landlord? This is a quick read with Maupin focusing on dialogue over exposition, setting a fast pace. After reading the novel for the first time, a friend of mine summed it up by calling it silly, shameless, and downright gaudy — naturally he loved it. Where Maupin really knocks it out of the park is his incorporation of San Francisco. The city is a key character and the novel beautifully captures the eccentricities of both the city and its inhabitants in the years just prior to the AIDS crisis.

Giovanni’s Room

By James Baldwin

First published in 1956, Giovanni’s Room was a game changer as one of the first mainstream novels in America to deal directly with queer themes. The story centers on the life of David, a young American man living in Paris who begins an affair with an Italian man, Giovanni. David, who has a girlfriend living in Spain, is struggling with his desire to lead a conventional American life — e.g. marry his girlfriend and start a family — and his sexual attraction to men. His struggle ultimately leads him down an unexpected path with tragic consequences.

Giovanni’s Room is regarded as a masterpiece within the gay genre and appears on virtually every list of must-read LGBTQ books. The novel is generally required reading in any university course dealing with queer literature. As you can imagine with its frank portrayal of same-sex love, the novel was highly controversial when it was first published. Late in his life, Baldwin describes that his publisher, Doubleday, refused to publish the novel arguing it would destroy his career. As a black writer in the pre-civil rights era, Baldwin’s management was fearful a novel about homosexual romance would ostracize both black and white communities. Baldwin, determined to get his work published, went to England and personally sold the book to Michael Joseph before Dial Press took a risk and published the book in America. Despite being over sixty years old, one thing that has always struck me about the novel is its timeless themes. Regardless of the social changes between the 50s and today, the novel is one of the most accurate portrayals of being gay in a hetero-normative world. David’s social isolation, self-loathing and ideas of masculinity are as much part of the gay experience in 2019 as they were in 1956.

Trivia: Since the 1970s, there have been frequent attempts to bring Giovanni’s Room to the big screen. Baldwin wrote a screenplay based on the novel in 1978 which has only recently been unearthed. With the recent critical success of the film If Beale Street Could Talk based on Baldwin’s novel of the same name, there is renewed talked of bringing Giovanni’s Room to the big screen.

The Lost Language of Cranes

By David Leavitt

First published in 1986, The Lost Language of Cranes centers on the lives of a father and son who are both coming to terms with their sexuality. Philip comes out to his parents after falling in love with a man for the first time. Unbeknownst to Philip, his father Owen is struggling with his own suppressed homosexuality. Philip’s coming out leads to a breaking point in his parents’ marriage and changes the direction of all of their lives forever.

I’ll admit that when I first read the novel in my early twenties, I wasn’t all that impressed by it. Yes, it was a good book but something about it failed to ‘wow’ me. It was only on a recent revisit that I really came to understand and appreciate the story Leavitt crafts. The novel is really an allegory for the history of the LGBTQ experience in the twentieth century. Philip, the young 25-year-old gay man, is more comfortable and open about his sexuality representing the newer more self-confident gay identity of the late 20th century. Owen, on the other hand, is a man who came of age in the 1950s, an age of conservative family values. He spent much of his life denying who he was and followed the hetero-normative conventions of the American dream by marrying, having a son, and leading a respectable career. The novel is an interesting spin on the classic American father-son tale in which the father traditionally acts as the guide for his wayward son.

The Front Runner

By Patricia Nell Warren

First published in 1974, The Front Runner focuses on Harlan Brown an athletic director at Prescott College, a fictitious liberal arts college in New York City. Harlan comes to Prescott after being forced to resign from a coaching position at Pennsylvania State University, stemming from false accusations of sexual harassment made by a male student. While at Prescott, Brown is persuaded to coach three track stars who had been expelled from their home universities for being openly gay. It is during this training that Brown and one student, Billy, fall in love and start a relationship. Along the way, they must face the homophobia and hyper-masculinity found in the sports world.

The Front Runner became one of the first gay romance novels to achieve mainstream success and was a New York Times bestseller. Despite its success, the novel has become somewhat obscure, and I struggled to get a copy of it. I only became aware of this novel following the death of Patricia Nell Warren earlier this year. When I was reading the novel, I was struck by how ahead of its time it was. If it weren’t for some references to the politics of the late 60s and early 70s, its themes of same-sex parenting and gay marriage provides a very contemporary feel. Warren crafts a highly emotional story that keeps you gripped for much of the final chapters with a shocking turn of events. Like Tales of the City, Warren paints of vibrant picture of the gay community in New York City in the decade before the AIDS crisis of the 80s.

The Heart’s Invisible Furies

By John Boyne

First published in 2017, The Heart’s Invisible Furies centers on the life of Cyril Avery — but not a real Avery — from conception to the end of his life. Cyril is born out of wedlock to a teenage mother in a rural Irish community. Exiled by her family and unable to raise the child on her own, Cyril’s biological mother gives him up for adoption to the eccentric Avery family. Cyril spends a lifetime coming to terms with who he is in a life that is filled with love, tragedy and humour.

At nearly 600 pages, this book is epic and stretches across much of 20th century Irish history. Yet despite this, it is a delightful, moving, and often hysterical read. It is one of those books that is very difficult to put down. With Cyril, Boyne creates an everyday man who is highly relatable and lovable. He leads a fairly underwhelming and average life despite all the extraordinary and shocking events that take place around him. His unrequited love for his best friend, Julian, is one of the underlying stories of his life, and very relatable for any gay man who has fallen for the unobtainable straight guy. Boyne is such a talented writer that aspects of the story that should be viewed as cliched are so well written, and often hilarious, you can’t help but love his choices.

Call Me by Your Name

By Andre Aciman

First published in 2007, Call Me by Your Name centres on the romantic relationship between a seventeen-year-old Elio and his father’s twenty-four-year-old doctoral student Oliver. The novel chronicles their summer romance in Italy during the late 1980s, and briefly follows their relationship for twenty years through Elio’s first-person narration.

This novel is one of my favourites of all time. Aciman crafts such a wonderfully simple story and it is this simplicity that makes it so beautiful. At its core, it’s a story of first love with all the excitement, delight and fear that typically contains. Elio personifies many gay men’s experiences of falling in love with another man for the first time. There’s resistance, fear and exhilaration at being with someone who feels the same way you do for the first time. The novel dwells on the question of how first love defines our lives, and how we never really let that person go entirely.

Trivia: Earlier this year, Aciman confirmed a sequel to the novel will be released in October 2019 entitled Find Me.

Invisible Life

By E. Lynn Harris

Originally self-published in 1991 and later published in wide release in 1994, Invisible Life follows Raymond Tyler’s coming of age as he faces the realities of being black and gay. A successful law student, with a beautiful girlfriend, and a wide range of career options, his world changes when he engages in a sexual relationship with his best friend Kelvin. After graduation Raymond begins the challenge of living his life as a closeted black man. He engages in relationships with men and women before falling in love with Basil, a closeted football player for the Warriors.

This book holds a special place in my heart as it was the first gay themed book I read as a closeted teenager. I came upon this book purely by accident in my local library and read it in one evening alone in my bedroom. E. Lynn Harris, who sadly passed away unexpectedly in 2009, creates a gripping, emotional and sexy story that is a real page turner. Even today, LGBTQ fiction is dominated by white characters, so, this novel, and its subsequent sequels, gives a much-needed voice to the gay African American experience. Harris highlights the intersectional prejudice faced by many black gay men within both the white and black communities.


As I stated at the beginning, this is not a definitive list of the best gay genre novels in existence, but ones that have deep meaning for me. Did you agree with these choices? Are there books you think I should add? Please comment below!

The world of gay romance novels is, if not quite as vast as the world of m/f romance, still quite expansive. Are you looking for a royal-commoner romance? A fake marriage? Something dark and gritty, or something that’s the literary equivalent of a basket of puppies? Whatever it is that floats your romance boat, I guarantee there’s an m/m romance out there that will satisfy.

In making this list, I’ve highlighted as many #ownvoices authors as possible. There’s a misconception that the only people who write m/m romance are straight women, and while it’s true that some of the biggest names in gay romance are straight women, there are also dozens of queer men writing fantastic gay romance. But because of the biases and shortcomings of publishing (and a slew of other complicated factors), it’s straight women who often get the most recognition in the genre.

This is not to say that straight women can’t, or shouldn’t, write gay romance novels. You’ll find several (including some of my absolute favorites!) on this list. You’ll also find many wonderful books by queer men that deserve the same praise and recognition. I’ve tried to make this list as wide-ranging as possible, and it includes books about diverse characters written by queer men and women, queer authors of color, and trans and genderqueer writers.

Over the years, these tales of queer happily ever afters have brought me much joy and comfort. Whether you’re entirely new to gay romance novels, or whether you’ve been reading them for years, I hope they’ll bring you the same delight.

Note: Books marked with an asterisk are #ownvoices, which, in this case, means that the author is a queer man. Many of the other novels on this list are #ownvoices for different reasons. I’ve chosen only to make note of books written by queer men, but it is by no means intended to erase or ignore the many other identities held by the fabulous writers who have produced these works.

Historical Gay Romance Novels

*The Doctor’s Discretion by e.e. ottoman

MCs: a retired Navy surgeon and a gentleman doctor more comfortable around books than patients.

Setting: 1830s New York City
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: an exciting and action-packed rescue of a hospital patient about to be committed to an asylum; racism and transphobia in 1830s NYC.
Rep: black MC, trans MC

An Unseen Attraction by K.J. Charles

MCs: a quiet boarding-house keeper and one of his lodgers, a taxonomist.
Setting: Victorian London
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: a murder mystery; a beautifully depicted tight-knit queer community; some kink.
Rep: Indian, neurodivergent MC

The Soldier’s Scoundrel by Cat sebastian

MCs: a grumpy, unscrupulous, street-smart private eye (think: Olivia Pope in 1820s London) who grew up in the slums and despises nobility and a retired (and very proper) soldier who craves order and predicability.
Setting: Regency London and the English countryside
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: enemies-to-lovers; a mystery involving blackmail; interesting and complicated family dynamics; explorations of class differences and disability.
Rep: disabled MC

contemporary Gay Romance Novels

Tactical Submission by ada maria soto

MCs: a gay SWAT commander who’s mostly in the closet about being kinky and submissive and a bisexual, polyamorous kinky doctor who works for the coroner’s office.
Setting: L.A. County
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: BDSM, polyamory, characters dealing with PTSD, lots of on-the-page sex (this one is definitely erotic romance).
Rep: bisexual, polyamorous MC

Idlewild by jude sierra

MCs: a restauranteur still mourning the death of his husband and the determined college graduate he hires as part of his staff reboot.
Setting: Detroit
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: workplace romance; lots of food and cooking; friends-to-lovers; an age gap; an interracial relationship; characters dealing with grief.
Rep: black genderqueer MC

*Coffee Boy by austin chant

MCs: an intern at a political campaign, just out of college and stunned he’s landed his dream job, but also dealing with the stress of being out and trans in a not-very-supportive workplace and the somewhat prickly and uptight campaign strategist who actually ends up being super charming and kind.
Setting: the offices of a political campaign somewhere in contemporary America
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: workplace romance; the MC dealing with transphobia from coworkers (but not the love interest); some fun behind-the-scenes political campaign drama.
Rep: trans MC, bisexual MC

His Convenient Husband by Robin Covington

MCs: an NFL player, widower, and single dad raising his teenage son and a ballet dancer from Russia seeking asylum in the U.S.
Setting: LA
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: fake marriage; sports romance; characters dealing with grief; parenting; secondary characters that matter to the plot.
Rep: black MC

*Hot Head by damon suede

MCs: two lifelong best friends and Brooklyn firefighters (who may or may not have been hiding their feelings for each other for years) who decide to work as models for a gay porn website because one of them is basically broke.
Setting: Brooklyn post-9/11
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: friends to lovers; total hilarity; a satisfying and authentic secondary cast of friends and family; tasty homemade Italian food described in detail.
Rep: gay MCs

*Trouble and the Wallflower by Kade Boehme

MCs: a shy twenty-something with social anxiety who lives alone and works at a soda fountain and a loud, outgoing sort-of-hipster.
Setting: Seattle
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: opposites attract; complex family dynamics; a cast of secondary characters who are in turns lovely, annoying, endearing, and frustrating.
Rep: neurodivergent MC

*Tigers and Devils by Sean Kennedy

MCs: a famous football player who’s spent his life in the closet and a mega football fan who is also kinda lonely and runs an independent film festival.
Setting: Melbourne, Australia
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: sports romance; lots of angst; celebrity romance; characters dealing with homophobia (from the public and in their families); a wonderful and heartwarming collection of friends and chosen family surrounding both MCs.
Rep: gay MCs

Gays of Our Lives by Kris Ripper

MCs: a somewhat grumpy recluse who has MS, which sometimes means his body does not act as he wants it to, and a super cheerful, open and not-at-all grumpy artist/hipster.
Setting: Oakland/Bay Area
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: adorable opposites-attract romance; a character that deals with chronic illness on a daily basis, especially as his illness pertains to sex; BDSM; a strong sense of queer community and queer community.
Rep: disabled MC

*Second Chance by Jay Northcote

MCs: a freelance writer who returns to town where he grew up to give himself and his teenage daughter a fresh start and his childhood best friend, who has just moved back in with his parents after his alcohol addiction sent his life into a downward spiral.
Setting: a small town in the UK
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: friends-to-lovers; second-chance romance; parenting; older MCs (both men are in their forties); family dynamics; characters struggling with addiction and depression.
Rep: trans MC

*Starting from Scratch by Jay Northcote

MCs: a quiet trans college student who’s just returned to university after transitioning and the outgoing ex of one of his friends.
Setting: Plymouth, England
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: college romance; authentic and sweet depiction of friendship among young gay university students; some downright adorable and geeky board game playing.
Rep: trans MC

Shame and A Disgrace by Holley Trent

MCs: a pharmaceutical sales rep who’s just dumped his much younger boyfriend who he thinks is too young to settle down and commit, and the much younger boyfriend, who is determined to win back the love of his life.
Setting: New Orleans
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: second chance romance; age gap.
Rep: gay MCs

Hearsay by Taylor V. Donovan

MCs: two lawyers working for the same law firm who get to know each other over a series of lunch meetings and then reconnect a year later over an important case.
Setting: NYC
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: workplace romance; courtroom drama; significant angst involving a senior partner and junior associate pining for each other.
Rep: biracial MC

*For Real by Alexis Hall

MCs: a thirty-something trauma doctor and submissive who’s getting tired of the BDSM scene he’s been a part of for so long and a 19-year-old line cook who is just coming out as kinky and dominant.
Setting: London
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: age gap romance; BDSM; lots of angst surrounding the MCs emotional openness; a strong circle of friends and chosen family; a slow-burn romance; a fair bit of on-the-page sex.
Rep: gay MCs

*Glitterland by Alexis Hall

MCs: a bipolar writer, once well-regarded, who now writes crime fiction and mostly keeps to himself and a party boy and aspiring model who surrounds himself with people and lights.
Setting: London
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: character dealing with mental illness; a fair bit of angst and self-loathing; backstory that involves intense heartbreak and loss; a surprising amount of humor and levity.
Rep: MC with mental illness

*The Nothingness of Ben by Brad Boney

MCs: a rising hotshot lawyer who is forced to return home to care for his three teenage brothers after his father dies and his next-door, small-town, openhearted neighbor.
Setting: Austin, TX
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: parenting; characters dealing with grief; family dynamics.
Rep: gay MCs

Kings and Butterflies by Lina Langley

MCs: the owner of an inn on one of the most popular seaside resort boardwalks in the world and a mysterious guest who offers him $10,00 in cash to stay for a week and then disappears.
Setting: a fancy seaside resort town
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: lots of fun food-related details; a love interest who is a mysterious stranger; a very sweet section where the MCs are apart geographically and connect online; some kink.
Rep: bisexual MC

A Boy Called Cin by Cecil Wilde

MCs: a famous billionaire and a charmingly grumpy art student.
Setting: California and a cabin in Oregon
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: May/December romance; billionaire romance; wonderful cast of supporting characters (mostly trans); characters dealing with dysphoria and transphobia who hold each other and support each other in truly wonderful ways; very little angst.
Rep: trans MC, genderqueer MC, bisexual MCs

*Autumn: A Crow City Side Story by Cole McCade

MCs: a forty-something man grieving the kidnapping of his niece and the man he’s always loved, who happens to be his sister’s ex-husband and the father of his niece.
Setting: Crow City (fictional)
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: characters dealing with grief and loss; enemies-to-lovers; a lot of emotional baggage; dark themes including kidnapping.
Rep: disabled MC, bisexual MC

*his cocky valet by Cole McCade

MCs: a 23-year-old who suddenly finds himself the head of his father’s multibillion dollar corporation and the forty-something British man he hires to work as his valet (i.e. personal assistant).
Setting: NYC
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: workplace romance (boss/employee) age gap romance; storyline involving a family member with cancer; BDSM.
Rep: biracial Japanese-American MC

*Shattered Glass by Dani Alexander

MCs: a detective who’s about to get married and has dreamed his whole life of joining the FBI and a waiter he meets one day at a diner who turns out to be a whole lot more than he seems.
Setting: Denver, CO
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: age gap romance; murder mystery; lots of drama and angst and situations where characters frequently in danger; a fantastic supporting cast of friends and family.
Rep: gay MCs

*King Consort by J.R. Gray

MCs: a prince and heir to the throne of England and a paparazzi photographer with whom, against his better judgment, he shares a one-night stand.
Setting: Toronto and London
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: royal/commoner romance; a character dealing with being closeted due to his position (English royalty); fantastic supporting characters (especially the MC’s grandmother, the Queen); angsty.
Rep: gay MCs

Syncopation by Anna Zabo

MCs: the lead singer of a rock band and the man who joins them as their new drummer after a scandal
Setting: various locales in contemporary America (the band tours throughout the book)
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: musician/rock band romance; BDSM; characters dealing with trauma; complex secondary characters/bandmates that form a wonderful queer chosen family.
Rep: pansexual aromantic MC

*Almost Like Being in Love by Steve Kluger

MCs: a nerdy college student and a jock, who fall in love their senior year, drift apart, and are then reunited twenty years later.
Setting: Tarrytown, New York, in the 1970s; various locales in America in 1998
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: a unique narrative style, told in checklists, letters, and two POVs; second-chance romance.
Rep: gay MCs

*Galley Proof by Eric Arvin

MCs: a fiction writer and the editor of his latest book.
Setting: small town America and Italy
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: snarky, hilarious first-person narration; a great supporting cast including the MCs mom and best friend/roommate; engaging depictions of small town life.
Rep: gay MCs

*Home by William Neale

MCs: an ad exec who returns to his hometown after the death of his father and the man who bullied him in high school, now the deputy chief of police.
Setting: small-town Southern American
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: characters who share a past traumatic relationship (which involved one MC bullying the other); a stalker situation; a return-to-hometown romance; characters dealing with homophobia from various angles.
Rep: gay MCs

*Love Me Tomorrow by Ethan Day

MCs: an event planner and a paramedic (who also happens to be the brother of his newest, most important client).
Setting: Wilde City (fictional)
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: a man working to build up his business and the challenges he faces; a love interest in an existing relationship; a cast of endearing supporting characters.
Rep: gay MCs

*Shaking the Sugar Tree by Nick Wilgus

MCs: a single dad and failed writer struggling to make ends meet and a nurse who recently moved to Mississippi from Boston.
Setting: Mississippi
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: parenting; complicated family dynamics; lots of interesting supporting characters; a lot of emotional backstory; characters dealing with various traumas.
Rep: gay MCs, deaf secondary character (the son of one of the MCs)

Daddy, Daddy, and Me by Sean Michael

MCs: a single dad who finds himself raising his biological kids after his best friend, to whom he donated sperm, dies and a young man who just finished his degree in early childhood education and is looking for a nannying job.
Setting: Ontario
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: parenting; fantastic depiction of queer family building; an adorable meet-cute (involving screaming children); almost no angst.
Rep: gay MCs

Keeping the Cookies by Briana Lawrence

MCs: a man reeling after a recent breakup who takes a job as a holiday elf at the mall and the kind janitor he meets there.
Setting: Minneapolis
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: holiday (Christmas) romance; adorable meet-cute; lighthearted story with little angst.
Rep: black MCs

*Hearts Alight by Elliot Cooper

MCs: a young man who’s become sick of the meaninglessness and consumerism of his family’s Hanukah celebration and his long-time crush, his best friend’s uncle, who also happens to be a golem.
Setting: a city in contemporary America
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: holiday (Chanukah) romance; romance involving a long-time crush; lots of geekiness (including an amazing scene where the MCs play D&D); family dynamics and a lovely supporting cast (esp. the MC’s best friend).
Rep: bisexual MC

*Shy by John Inman

MCs: an assistant bank manager with social anxiety disorder and an Indiana farm boy.
Setting: San Diego and a farm in Indiana
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: return-to-hometown romance; a character dealing with a sick parent; lots of farm shenanigans and humor; characters that deal with both shyness and social anxiety disorder.
Rep: MC with social anxiety

*Legally Wed by Rick R. Reed

MCs: a man who’s given up on romantic love, so decides to marry a woman and (of course!) his wedding planner.
Setting: Seattle
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: marriage of convenience; forced proximity; various relationships explored besides the main love interest; an arc of self-discovery and affirmation that’s separate from the love story.
Rep: gay MCs

Fantasy & Paranormal Gay Romance Novels

*Peter Darling by Austen Chant

MCs: Peter Pan (reimagined as a trans man) and Captain Hook.
Setting: Neverland
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: a beautiful and nuanced gay, trans retelling of Peter Pan; equal parts romance and adventure.
Rep: trans MC

*Witches of London-Lars by Aleksandr Voinov

MCs: a pagan man and contractor who’s just joined a new circle of queer witches and a man who has just quit his stressful job and bought an old house in the suburbs, due to his failing health.
Setting: London
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: a character with a life-threatening illness; queer witches who practice various forms of paganism; an exploration of spirituality and faith; a lovely portrayal of queer family among the witches.
Rep: gay MCs

*Shatterproof by Xen Sanders

MCs: an immortal EMT who feeds on the souls of those he loves and an artist whom he stops from attempting suicide.
Setting: London and its suburbs
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: a dark fairytale with a satisfying ending; heavy subject matter including depression and suicide; lots of emotional heft; lyrical writing; some exploration of Haitian voodoo.
Rep: black MC, bisexual MC

*From the ashes by Xen Sanders

MCs: an aberrant (human with superpowers) villain disguised as a graduate student and the professor who becomes fascinated by him.
Setting: New York City & the UK
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: lots of fast-paced action; political intrigue; complex characters with conflicting emotions; a storyline that plays with what it means to be a villain.
Rep: Southeast Asian MC

The Alpha’s Claim by Holley Trent

MCs: the alpha of the New York coyote pack and an aspiring actor/waiter.
Setting: small town New York
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: a condensed time frame (most of this book takes place over a weekend); coyote shifter pack politics; lots of witty banter.
Rep: gay MCs

Sea Lover by J.K. Pendragon

MCs: a quiet and reclusive fisherman and a merman who washes up injured on the beach near his cabin.
Setting: a tiny and remote Canadian fishing town
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: a fairytale vibe; forced proximity romance; a tender and sweet story with little angst; one MC nursing the other back to health.
Rep: trans MC

*The Lightning Struck Heart by T.J. KLune

MCs: a wizard’s apprentice and a dreamy knight who spends altogether too much time dating other people.
Setting: a fantasy kingdom populated by beautiful queer creatures
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: a creative and unique cast of characters and creatures including gay dragons; lovely friendships; a totally fun and wacky fantasy world; dangerous quests; many moments of total laugh-out-loud humor.
Rep: gay MCs

Science Fiction & post-apocolyptic

Signal Boost by Alyssa Cole

MCs: a man who has survived the apocalypse and is living with his family in a tiny cabin and a young astrophysics university student who appears in their garden one day.
Setting: a secluded cabin in post-apocalyptic New York
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: a long road (walking trip); family dynamics; high-stakes drama/action; life in the post-apocalyptic world.
Rep: Korean MC

*Incursion by Aleksandr Voinov

MCs: a man on a mission to hunt and kill an alien spy and the captain of the spaceship he hitches a ride on.
Setting: a mercenary spaceship
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: fascinating aliens; fast-paced action; a mysterious love interest with an intriguing past; a character dealing with the aftermath of war.
Rep: disabled MC

Chaos Station by Jenn Burke and Kelly Jensen

MCs: a spaceship engineer and an ex-supersoldier, both with traumatic pasts, who are also childhood best friends (and former boyfriends), reunited after being separated for years.
Setting: a spaceship roaming the galaxy after a major interplanetary war
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: second-chance romance, friends-to-lovers, a lot of fast-paced action; a truly wonderful sense of chosen family among the spaceship crew; fascinating aliens; characters dealing with PTSD from a brutal war.
Rep: bisexual MC

YA Gay Romance Novels

*Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

MCs: two Mexican-American teenage boys coming of age in 1980s Texas.
Setting: El Paso
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: complex family dynamics; friends-to-lovers; self-discovery; exploration cultural heritage and identity.
Rep: Latinx MCs

*One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva

MCs: a high school freshman from an Armenian family and the brash, irreverent boy he meets at summer school.
Setting: NYC
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: family dynamics; a coming-out storyline that’s not the center of the book at all; first love; so many amazing food scenes; an exploration of culture and heritage and how important their Armenian identity is to the MCs family.
Rep: gay MCs

*Chulito by Charles Rice-Gonzalez

MCs: a teenage boy from the South Bronx and his childhood best friend, whom he distanced himself from when folks around the neighborhood started teasing him for being gay.
Setting: NYC (specifically the South Bronx)
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: beautiful descriptions of the neighborhood and community; characters dealing with homophobia; friends-to-lovers; nuanced supporting characters; exploration of masculinity and identity.
Rep: Latinx MCs

*Running with Lions by Julian Winters

MCs: the star goalie of the high school soccer teen and his childhood best friend, who arrives unexpectedly at summer training camp.
Setting: soccer training camp
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: sports romance; a diverse and lovable soccer team that feels more like a family; friends-to-lovers; a sweet and tender love story low on the angst.
Rep: bisexual MC, Muslim British Pakistani MC

*The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich

MCs: two boys raised as “love interests” (forced to compete for the interest of the same girl) by a secret and powerful organization that trains teenage spies.
Setting: dystopian Australia
Tropes/themes/secondary plot: fascinating world-building; lots of high-stakes action; a queer and creative twist on the spy novel; lots of angst; a creepy dystopian corporation.
Rep: gay MCs

Looking for more gay romance novels? Check out 8 of the Best M/M Romances and A (Semi) Comprehensive Guide to LGBTQ Romance. Gay romance novels also appear on this list of must-read YA romances and this list of must-read LGBT fantasy books.

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Pooja Parikh Traveled Across The World For The HS Diagnosis That Changed Her Life Forever

Co-written with Nico Lang

1. Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin (Zach’s Pick)

This was James Baldwin’s second novel, and probably one of his most well known pieces of works. Giovanni’s Room tells the story of a man who moves to Paris and his relationship with another man named Giovanni. This book is so important because it was one of the first to really show the complicated ways in which gay men had to manage their identity, self and place in a world that didn’t want them do exist. This story takes place in Paris, but one doesn’t have to have been to Paris to feel a connection to Giovanni, his bedroom, and all that happens to the protagonists, David.

2. The City and the Pillar/Myra Breckenridge by Gore Vidal (Nico’s Pick)

While not one of Vidal’s “best” works (to me, he’s an essayist first and a novelist second), The Pillar and the City is a must-read because of its place in the queer canon as one of the first recognized and reviewed gay novels. It’s an incredibly dark and misanthropic work and a bitter pill to swallow, harrowingly depicting the costs of trying to live openly in the 1950’s. The Pillar and the City is dripping with loneliness, depression and social isolation, and if it’s ending is more shocking today, it’s nothing if not brutally honest. That exact sexual frankness would become a hallmark of his later writing, when he came into his own as a storyteller with works like Lincoln and Myra Breckenridge, which is one of the strangest and most indelible novels of its decade.

3. A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood (Zach)

A Single Man came back to popularity in 2009 when famed designer Tom Ford made it into a film that is nothing short of beautiful. The book is a day in the life of George Falconer who is going through what some may deem an “existential” crisis after suddenly losing his partner in a tragic accident. The book is most importantly about staying alive when the thing you love most is gone, which makes this story so beautiful both on screen and in print.

See Also: Berlin Stories, which was later adapted into the musical Cabaret.

4. A Separate Peace by John Knowles (Nico)

The fact that A Separate Peace continually gets taught in high school English courses baffles in the best possible way, as Knowles’ best-known work is one of the most homoerotic bildungsromans ever written. A Separate Peace is an almost-love story between Gene and Finny, two students at Devon Academy who are torn between friendship and rivalry. Like Catcher in the Rye and the later Perks of Being a Wallflower, the novel perfectly captures the complicated longings of adulthood, when you’re beginning to feel things you don’t understand yet.

5. The Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis (Zach)

This is probably one of Ellis’ most famous works, especially for millennials. The novel is about a group of over-privileged liberal arts college students who like to have sex, do drugs, and get into some interesting situations. The one character many gay men find themselve connecting with is bisexual Paul Denton, who is in love with Sean Bateman, the drug dealer of the story. Their relationship is pretty ambiguous the whole story and Ellis leaves it open to one’s own interpretation, but I think that is what has so many gay readers loving Paul. I think we’ve all had that sexually ambiguous relationship with a straight guy, right?

Extra credit: Also read Glamorama and Less Than Zero or Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, also of the Brat Pack literary era and criminally overlooked in the queer canon.

6. Death In Venice by Thomas Mann (Nico)

All of Thomas Mann’s works are strange and somewhat maddening, but Death in Venice weaves a particular spell as a tale of obsession, an elderly author’s craving for a youth, beauty and the unattainable. Although it’s easy to read Mann’s work as strictly dealing with pederast desires, Death in Venice leaves it’s protagonist’s motives open to question. Does Aschenbach wish to possess with boy or what he represents? Would he ever really speak to him if he had the chance? Through our own voyeurism, we are implicated in the novel’s mysteries and Mann leaves us with no easy answers.

Extra Credit: Read Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which likewise features a sexually ambiguous protagonist. They claimed he was in love with Holly in the movie (when he got named Paul Varjak), but queer readers know: The Narrator Without a Name was totally on our team.

7. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (Zach)

The book is written in a series of letters from Charlie the main character that give it a sense of intimacy. Charlie, as you can probably tell from the title, is a loner and wallflower. Many gay men connect with Charlie within his sense of isolation in the story and other experiences that you will have to read to find out. There is a gay character who acts as one of Charlie’s closest friends So, that aids in the ‘gayness’ of the book. Also, Emma Watson is a main character, in the movie adaptation, which just makes it awesome.

8. Prayers for Bobby by Leroy Aarons (Nico)

It’s not Sylvia Plath or anything, but I read Leroy Aarons’ Prayers for Bobby when I was sixteen on a car ride to Toronto with my parents, and I found it an important step in coming to terms with my own relationship with my mother. At a time when I needed the words to start the conversation, this showed me how. The novel details a mother’s struggle to deal with her gay son’s suicide, as she wasn’t supportive of his coming out while he was alive, and how the post-mortem lessons changed her. For a movement that often makes the message the too-simple “It Gets Better” mantra, this shows us how. Through loss and hardship, we can share our stories and affect change for others.

9. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (Zach)

Oscar Wilde is one of the quintessential gay authors in history. His flamboyant lifestyle and tragic death have made him iconic beyond the impressive canon of work he created. The Picture of Dorian Gray is a story that makes one wonder: What would you do to be beautiful forever? Vanity and beauty are two things that many gay men struggle with their entire lives due to living in a gay culture in which how good one looks supersedes most other aspects in regards to social capital and success. This book attracts gay readers all over the world because Dorian, who is not gay, is dealing with an issue that eclipses many gay lives.

Extra Credit: Check out Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh’s most celebrated novel and an early work in the queer canon, and the collected works of Patricia Highsmith, all of which were really, really gay.

10. Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown (Nico)

Yes, I know this is a lesbian book, but too often the gay community self-segregates and the lack of knowledge about other segments of the community is an ongoing problem. We can start when we learn about each other’s histories, and Rubyfruit Jungle is an incendiary glimpse into lesbian coming-of-age in the 1970s. For those interested in the history of New York, Brown’s prose is a telling look at the concrete jungle fantasy of the 1970s, and the ways in which the reality of New York clashed with it’s status as a queer oasis.

Extra Credit: Check out queer works by Alice Walker (The Color Purple) and Maya Angelou (I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings). Any guy who has read Maya Angelou is instantly twenty times hotter. It’s science.

11. Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs (Zach)

Running With Scissors is the memoir of Augusten Burroughs, which focuses primarily on his adolescents. It tells the story of how Burroughs went from living in a “normal” family home, to experiencing his parents divorce, his mother deciding to explore her sexuality, and him ending up living with his psychiatrist, Dr. Finch, and his wacky family. If you thought you had an interesting childhood, Burroughs will give you a run for your money. Burroughs over the years has become one of the most widely read contemporary gay writers, and this book is evidence to why that is.

See Also: Burroughs’ follow-up, Dry, about his history of substance abuse.

12. And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts (Nico)

For fans of recent documentaries like We Were Here and How To Survive a Plague, this National Book Award-nominated bestseller was a surprise hit in the 1980s stands up well the best works of Tom Wolfe, Hunter S. Thompson and George Plimpton, great journalists and chroniclers of the era who put you into the heart of the action. And The Band Played On, like the later Devil in the White City, reads like a historical thriller, one more poignant because it’s real. In looking at the bureaucratic and governmental mismanagement of the crisis, Shilts’ work was an important wake up call and an issue that many had heard about and few truly understood.

See also: Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, a very different look at life in San Francisco throughout the 70s and 80s.

13. The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies by Vito Russo (Zach)

If you love film then you will love this book. Russo’s groundbreaking book shows how LGBTQ people have been erased from films starting in the 1920’s, played the ‘sissy,’ been the predator, and everything in between. The Celluloid Closet showed the world when it was published in the 1980’s just how film helped in the oppression of a community fighting for their rights. This book is a must read for any LGBTQ person interested in representation of sexual minorities in film.

14. Just Kids by Patti Smith (Nico)

Just Kids is a masterpiece, perfect in just about every way a book can be. The “godmother of punk” proves herself to be equally impressive with a pen, and on top of being one of the best autobiographies and books about music ever written, it’s a heartwrenching romance. Smith dishes on her on-and-off relationship with queer artist Robert Mapplethorpe, who later died of AIDS. As we see Mapplethorpe battle disease and addiction, we are forced to ask what it really means to love someone and what we have to give of ourselves in the process. Also, Just Kids is a must-read for struggling artists who want to a little less alone in their starvation.

See Also: The poetry of Arthur Rimbaud, one of Smith’s (and Bob Dylan’s) key queer inspirations.

15. Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes by Tony Kushner (Zach)

If you have a list of “Books for Gay Men” then a book that shows the struggles the LGBTQ community faced in the midst of the AIDS epidemic is needed, and this play is even more needed. Wait, I know what you just thought: Wasn’t this a list of books? Yes, it is. And yes, Kushner’s play will stay on this list. This play is widely read in bookclubs and classroom across the world, and the HBO mini-series rivals the amazingness of this text.

Just read this. Please?

16. On the Road by Jack Kerouac (Nico)

If you’ve read this book, you’re probably like, “Wait, there aren’t any gay characters? Why is this on the list? What about ?” While a great book by itself and inimitable feat of stream-of-consciousness, the story behind it is just as fascinating, pulling back the queer curtain over the Beat Generation scene. Although folks like Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs were more open about their same-sex relations (I mean, have you fucking read “Howl?”), Kerouac’s was all subtext, the parenthetical secrets of a conflicted bisexual (who intermittently slept with Gore Vidal).

That’s right, 10th Grade English students: Sal and Dean were totally doing it in real life.

17. Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity by Jose Munoz (Zach)

On any gay books list there needs to be a little queer theory. Jose Munoz is one of the most prominent queer theorist in the world. His newest work, Cruising Utopia, is a perfect example of Munoz’s intertwining high-theory with performance to support a queer theoretical framework. This book is a little dense, and if you’ve never read any theory before you may want to pace yourself with this one. But if you know what ‘anti-social theory’ means or care about ‘queer-world making’, or queer spatiality, then this book is something you should cozy up to.

See Also: Queer theory mavens like Judith Butler and Jeanette Winterson.

18. Barrel Fever by David Sedaris (Nico)

You could literally put any of Sedaris’ novels on this list and I’d be cool with it. Except for that one about squirrels, the man is flawless, and Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, Me Talk Pretty One Day, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls and When You’re Engulfed in Flames are so hilarious they should come with a warning label. However, special love will be thrown to Barrel Fever, his least-recognized collection and Sedaris’ first. One of the refreshing things about the work is that it’s one of the few times that Sedaris doesn’t just write from his own perspective. “Season’s Greetings to Our Friends and Family!!!” is a particular standout, the story of a family who adopts a 22-year-old immigrant prostitute from Vietnam. It’s a brilliant satire of American greeting card narcissism, one of the hallmarks of Sedaris’ work.

For anyone who hasn’t read everything he’s ever written, I don’t know what you’re doing with yourself. Look at your life, look at your choices.

19. Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg (Zach)

Leslie Feinberg is a well-known transgender activist whose book, Stone Butch Blues, is considered one of the iconic texts that thoroughly discusses the butch-femme culture in the 1960’s before Stonewall. If you ever take an LGBT Literature class you can expect this to be on the list. Currently, Leslie Feinberg is battling some major health problems that are interrupting the 20th anniversary edition of Stone Butch Blues to be re-released in a free edition online this year. You can stay up-to-date on Feinberg’s health status and the re-release of the book on their Tumblr.

See also: Anything by Kate Bornstein, whose 2012 memoir, A Queer and Pleasant Danger, is on shelves now.

20. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust (Nico)

You probably aren’t to read the whole thing, Proust’s seven volume series on involuntary memory and the gentle passing of time. It’s 4215 pages, and I’m not even close to getting through the whole thing. Pull an Infinite Jest, and just lie and say you’ve read it until you finally finish, twenty million years later. Fake it ‘til you make it.

Extra Credit: If you haven’t died, make your way through Michael Cunningham’s books. It’s impossible to recommend just one, but A Home at the End of the World, Specimen Days and The Hours are all stand outs. Michael Cunningham, marry me. Seriously.

21. Recommend your own books.

What queer books have spoken to you? Are you way into Jean Genet? Or are you more of a Marquis de Sade kind of girl? Upset that Boy Culture wasn’t on the list? Do you have an unrelated hummus recipe to recommend, apropos of nothing? Sound off in the comments.

Everyone needs books, particularly the newly gay. Books make us feel less alone, and there is nothing more strengthening than reflections of our own complicated selves.

Yet most of the best books that might help with coming out are simply about the private yearnings we try to hide. Bookshops’ rainbow-jacketed YA fiction displays will change young lives; thank God for that. But all over the world there are women and men to whom exposure would mean imprisonment, disaster. For them, and all those who aren’t riotously born that way, great coming out books are often those whose protagonists come out to no one at all, not even themselves, yet which have a thrilling whiff of queerness.

Simply buying our first book by an author who might be gay can feel like a tremulous act of outness. But the process can begin earlier, when a character’s moment of same-sex love discreetly blows our minds. Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway isn’t chiefly remembered for gayness, although her memory of “the most exquisite moment of her whole life” 30 years before, when she is kissed on the lips by Sally Seton, once shook me as it must shake so many sensitive proto‑gays.

Iris Murdoch’s fiction had the same effect. Her novels, unfortunately, lack the hot Sapphic-philosopher action that characterised her life. Nevertheless, her cheering kaleidoscope of straight and gay (male) love, her honesty about the pain of longing and her characters’ sexual adaptability mark all her books, but particularly my favourite, The Nice and the Good.

Vanessa Redgrave in Mrs Dalloway (1997) … ‘it once shook me as it must shake so many sensitive proto-gays’ Photograph: Allstar/BBC

Poetry is another secret weapon. Frank O’Hara’s poem “Having a Coke with You” is an intimate homage to seeing one’s beloved in public; the earlier, filthier collections of Carol Ann Duffy, particularly Standing Female Nude and Selling Manhattan, are awash with hot skin and private sounds. Memorise them; lines such as “far from the loud laughter of men / our secret life stirred” can accompany you anywhere, like tiny superpowers.

Even better, poetry inspires. Mary Oliver, one of the American greats, is less known than she should be, beyond the bleak universe of motivational social media posts. Yet, perhaps partly because of her gayness, so many of her poems can bring strength and hope to those trapped in a bad relationship, the wrong relationship, the wrong life: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?” has sustained me, as I hope it might you.

Alison Bechdel, acclaimed for her stunning books about her parents and the idea of the Bechdel test, first sidled to niche fame with the horribly titled cartoon strip Dykes to Watch Out For, now available in book form. DTWOF has all the insight and humanity of great fiction; it just happens to be a funny soap about a group of American gay people, raising families, falling in love, having sex and going on too many marches.

And, if you want to feel that there is hope, despite everything, read Andrew Solomon’s Far from the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity, a moving, riveting account of how families with children who are different do sometimes find a way through the complexity and increase the world’s sum of love, and pride.