An Alphabet of Queer Books: LGBTQ Book Recs from A-Z

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Rachel Brittain

Contributing Editor

Rachel is a writer from Arkansas, most at home surrounded by forests and animals much like a Disney Princess. She spends most of her time writing stories and playing around in imaginary worlds. You can follow her writing at Twitter and Instagram: @rachelsbrittain

A-Z alphabet reading tasks are a favorite of book challenges. Whether you’re trying to complete Read Harder, 52 Book Club, Popsugar’s Reading Challenge, Mount TBR, or any others (like the many hosted on Litsy), having an alphabet of books on hand can come in, well, handy. Reading through the alphabet can be a fun reading challenge in its own right, too. Put whatever twist on it you want: reading through your TBR, reading books by Black authors, reading only nonfiction. Or, take advantage of all the work I’ve already done here and enjoy an alphabet of queer books from A-Z. You could even swap out favorites and keep the trickier titles I’ve found for those letters that just don’t come up as often. Whatever you choose, you’re in for both a challenge and a treat.

This alphabet of queer books features a diverse collection of titles and genres, from niche nonfiction and SFF to popular romance and classics. Whatever your reading tastes, there are sure to be books you’ll love as well as titles to push your outside your comfort zone. And, as with any reading challenge, the best part is the DIY element. You get to choose exactly which books to read! These are just suggestions to help you out on your way to reading an entire alphabet of queer books from A-Z.

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Another Appalachia: Coming Up Queer and Indian in a Mountain Place by Neema Avashia

This memoir shares the unique childhood and upbringing of a girl raised by Indian immigrant parents in a small Appalachian town. Between being one of the few brown kids in town and being queer, Neema Avashia always felt a little different, even if her tight-knit community rarely made her feel like an outsider. As an adult, she looks back on her unusual childhood and reckons with the differences between the decisions her parents, and particularly her father — who worked as a scientist for a chemical plant — made versus her own. Avashia considers how both her parents desire to fit in and her own quest to be herself come from the same motivation to find their place in the American Dream.

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The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean

Raised in an ancient but failing family of Book Eaters, supernatural creatures who consume books and stories to survive, Devon learns at a young age that The Family will never have her or her best interests at heart. Separated from her daughter and struggling to protect her young son with an appetite for minds instead of books, Devon must team up with her enemies in order to find the freedom and safety she so desperately craves.

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Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu, edited by Carmen Maria Machado

This lesbian vampire classic gets new life with insightful and incisive commentary from author Carmen Maria Machado. Though in the original, Carmilla’s vampirism is more cautionary tale than anything else, Machado’s footnotes make this classic story’s queerness much more overt. And considering all the very, very queer retellings out there, this one is really a must-read for fans of vampire stories and LGBTQ lit alike.

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D’Vaughn & Kris Plan a Wedding by Chencia C. Higgins

I love a sweet, sappy romance, and this book is all that plus almost no angst. After signing up for a reality show in which contestants must convince all their family and friends they’re marrying a stranger in just a few short weeks, Kris and D’Vaughn are paired together. The two instantly hit it off, but Kris is looking for true love while D’Vaughn only signed up as an excuse to finally come out to her religious family. As the two grow closer and closer, though, it seems like the relationship — and the wedding — might not be so made up after all.

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Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger

Elatsoe, an asexual Lipan Apache girl, lives in an America almost, but not quite, like our own. In this version of America, stories and beliefs come to life. And skills like Elatsoe’s own ability to bring back the spirits of dead animals aren’t entirely unusual. But when her cousin is killed — seemingly in a car crash — only to reveal to Elatsoe that it was actually murder, she and her family set out to find out what really happened in a town that prefers to keep their secrets close.

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Finna by Nino Cipri

When a wormhole opens up in an Ikea-like big box store, it’s up to two new employees to follow a missing customer on an adventure through the multiverse and bring her back. Unfortunately, those two new employees also just broke up. Now Ava and Jules have to face down carnivorous furniture, multi-dimensional pirates, and their own complicated post-break-up feelings for each other. Can they do all that, find the missing customer, and still make it back to work alive?

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Girls Can Kiss Now by Jill Gutowitz

Gutowitz’s collection of personal essays explore the intersection of identity and pop culture, especially as it’s applied to her own life, from discovering her sexual identity while watching Orange is the New Black to getting a visit from the FBI for something she tweeted about Game of Thrones. At times both sharp and funny, Girls Can Kiss Now is a memoir for our times, when pop culture, social media, and personal identity seem so often to collide.

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How Much of These Hills Is Gold by C. Pam Zhang

This gorgeous, queer historical fiction novel follows two young siblings growing up in the harsh climate of the American West. After their Ba dies, leaving them alone, Lucy and Sam set off into the hills of the desert with his body, looking for suitable burial ground. But while Sam revered their father and feels no place is good enough, Lucy still isn’t sure he deserves a proper burial at all. As the story moves backward and forward in time, we see how this once-hopeful family suffered time and again, treated as outsiders by the white settlers who have taken over this land. As they grow older, Lucy and Sam will have to reckon with what it means to belong to a place and to a family, even when they’re altogether inhospitable.

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In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

In this surreal memoir, Carmen Maria Machado uses the metaphor of a haunted house to explore an abusive relationship. Couched in exquisite prose, Machado uses literary techniques, narrative tropes, and classic horror themes to express the stages of hope, love, and heartbreak that she experienced in the form of abuse in a same-sex partnership. We are so reluctant to believe that women can be abusers — of any gender. And in her memoir, Machado refuses to let us look away from the painful reality of what it’s like.

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Jawbone by Mónica Ojeda, translated by Sarah Booker

In a horror novel that explores the sometimes blurry distinction between fear and desire, a teacher on the verge of a total break from reality and two students practicing increasingly dangerous rituals to a rhinestoned god of their own invention come together to disastrous effect. At the end of it all, one of them winds up bound and held hostage by their teacher, no longer speaking to the other. But how did they get here? And what horrors still await?

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Kiss & Tell by Adib Khorram

The life of a gay teen boy band star is never easy — especially when his Label wants him to fit a certain image of what it means to be queer instead of being true to himself. And after a very public breakup, Hunter isn’t sure he knows how to be the perfect gay role model for teens anymore. The Label keeps telling him one thing, but his heart tells him another. A burgeoning relationship with Kaivan, the drummer for the band’s new opening act, could be just what Hunter needs to figure himself out again. But it could also spell disaster for the band.

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Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki

A young trans runaway with a gift for music, a family of alien refugees running a donut shop, and a renowned violin instructor paying off a deal with the devil come together in unexpected ways in this gorgeous SFF novel about family and belonging. It’s unlike anything else I’ve ever read and entirely unexpected, but Ryka Aoki brings all these disparate threads together to incredible effect. And she somehow finds the perfect line between dark realities and absurdist humor. You’ll just have to read it to see for yourself.

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Mademoiselle Revolution by Zoe Sivak

After fleeing a life of relative privilege in Haiti during the revolution, Sylvie de Rosiers, the daughter of a plantation owner and an enslaved woman, finds herself making a life amidst another burgeoning revolution in France. But she soon finds herself torn between the complicated ideals of Robespierre and the easy friendship of his mistress, Cornélie Duplay, and wonders if the ideals of the movement have gone astray. Can Sylvie survive another revolution? And will Robespierre’s ideals save them? Or condemn them all?

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Nuclear Family by Joseph Han

When their son attempts to cross the DMZ into North Korea during his time abroad, the Cho family is rocked to its core. Their delicatessen — once visited by Guy Fieri — struggles to pull in customers, and their son, detained by the South Korean government, may never be allowed to return home. But what the family doesn’t know is that Jacob is possessed by the ghost of his grandfather, determined to return to his family in the north at any cost.

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Orlando by Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf’s classic, written as something of a love letter to Woolf’s friend/lover Vita Sackville-West follows a young nobleman in Elizabethan England who one day, many years into his life, wakes up as a woman. Now a wife and mother, Orlando faces the realities of life for a woman in the 18th and 19th centuries. Full of wit and irony, Orlando explores gender and identity as well as the hope of a better future for women.

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Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee

A painter in an occupied government is blackmailed into joining the government’s top-secret program working to bring a mechanical dragon under control. Unlike their sister, Jebi has never been a fighter or a rebel. But when their sister’s life is threatened, and they’re forced to join the ranks of painters using pigments to bring the occupying government’s war machines to life, suddenly they must face the fact that remaining neutral is no longer an option. And with the help of a master swordswoman and the very machine they’re meant to be fixing, maybe they won’t have to do it on their own.

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Queerly Beloved by Susie Dumond

This sweet romcom from Book Riot’s very own Susie Dumond follows a somewhat closeted baker who’s turned her skills with cake into a gig as a professional bridesmaid and an engineer who might just help her find her happily ever after. But the same people pleasing tendencies that have so often gotten Amy into trouble haven’t completely dissipated, and if she can’t learn to be true to herself, she might just drive away all the people she loves most in life.

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Rainbow Milk by Paul Mendez

This coming-of-age story is split between the 1950s and the turn of the 21st century, following a family of Jamaican immigrants hoping to find a better future for themselves and a teenager struggling with his racial and sexual identities amidst his upbringing as a Jehovah’s Witness. Both find that it will take more than just hope or determination to survive against the discrimination they face.

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Siren Queen by Nghi Vo

In a version of 20th century Los Angeles where dark magic and deals with eldritch creatures are very much the norm, a young Chinese American actress carves out a place for herself in pre-Code Hollywood. She quickly realizes she’ll never be the ingénue, so she opts for becoming the villain instead. It’s better than being cast in some offensive role, at least. But in this world, fame comes at a high price. And Luli may have to become the very monster she plays on screen if she ever hopes to survive.

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True Biz by Sara Nović

The headmistress of River Valley School for the Deaf is desperately trying to keep the school open for another year, despite increasing pressure — and legislation — that could force them to close. The students just want to live life to the fullest without their hearing families, doctors, and politicians telling them what that should look like. But when two students go missing, one from a well regarded Deaf family and one who has only recently been given the chance to learn sign language, the choices that they all make could affect the fate of the school forever.

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Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune

A recently deceased lawyer discovers it’s never too late to start over — even in the afterlife. After dying suddenly from a heart attack, Wallace is taken to his funeral and collected by an inexperienced young reaper. What at first appears to be some sick joke soon becomes all too real when he’s taken to a tea shop that serves as a waystation for the dead. Here, Hugo helps the souls under his care come to terms with their death and cross over. But Wallace has no intention of going into that good night gently. Instead, he’s an absolute menace. Hugo and his friends don’t hate Wallace for it, though, and soon, he finds himself wanting to stay here for entirely different reasons.

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Victories Greater Than Death by Charlie Jane Anders

Charlie Jane Anders turns the chosen one trope on its head in this YA sci-fi series about a cloned intergalactic hero who has lost all memories of her previous life. Without any knowledge of how to save the universe, Tina has to figure out where she fits into a war her higher-ups now think she has no place in. It’s a story full of action and heart that reads very much like Star Trek and The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet had a beautiful YA baby.

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When the Angels Left the Old Country by Sacha Lamb

In a small shtetl in 20th century Europe, a Jewish angel and trickster demon discover a young girl from their community has gone missing. To find out what happened to her, they’ll have to travel all the way to America. But along the way, they’ll meet another Jewish girl caught up in a scheme taking advantage of desperate immigrants and discover just how important they are to one another. If you’ve ever wished Good Omens was more queer and more Jewish, this is the book for you.

Xeni by Rebekah Weatherspoon Book Cover

Xeni by Rebekah Weatherspoon

Rebekah Weatherspoon is a master of steamy queer romance, and in this novella, a late R&B singer uses her will to play matchmaker one last time with her niece and her protégé. Now, in order to claim the estate her aunt has left her, Xeni must marry. And she certainly never expected her aunt to already have the groom in mind, but then a handsome hunk of a Scotsman playing the bagpipes shows up at her aunt’s funeral. Now, she and Mason are trapped in an increasingly complicated marriage scheme that they’ll have to make the best of. But maybe that won’t be such a bad thing, if it means the chance to spend more time together and even fall in love.

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Your Driver is Waiting by Priya Guns

In this gender-bent reimagining of Taxi Driver, Damani, a ride-share driver living paycheck to paycheck, gives a ride to a seemingly perfect prospective girlfriend: Jolene. Jolene may be rich and white, but she’s also an ally who’s done the reading and goes to protests. Damani decides to let her guard down and give their romance a chance, but just as she does, Jolene does something unforgivable. And now Damani has to deal with the consequences.

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Zara Hossain Is Here by Sabina Khan

Zara Hossain has always tried to lay low in her Corpus Christi, Texas, community in spite of the rampant Islamophobia. Her family has been waiting nine years to change their dependent visa status into green cards, after all. Zara would never do anything to jeopardize that. But when the star football player goes too far, threatening Zara, and is suspended, he and his friends retaliate further by covering the Hossain house in racist graffiti that sparks a violent crime. Now, she’ll have to decide whether to fight for the place she calls home even if it’s never welcomed her or lose everyone and everything she loves.