Culturally Relevant

Your Curated Queer TBR for Pride & Beyond

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Laura Sackton

Senior Contributor

Laura Sackton is a queer book nerd and freelance writer, known on the internet for loving winter, despising summer, and going overboard with extravagant baking projects. In addition to her work at Book Riot, she reviews for BookPage and AudioFile, and writes a weekly newsletter, Books & Bakes, celebrating queer lit and tasty treats. You can catch her on Instagram shouting about the queer books she loves and sharing photos of the walks she takes in the hills of Western Mass (while listening to audiobooks, of course).

Welcome to Pride Month, queer book lovers! Are you ready for a month of queer lit? I am! June always arrives with a flurry of queer book lists — new releases, essential queer reads, under-the-radar queer books to pick up, and on and and on and on. And even though I read queer lit year-round, I always get overexcited and a little bit overwhelmed when Pride Month rolls around. There are just! So many! Queer books! I don’t have time to read them all, so how do I choose?

To help with this delightful problem of overabundance, I’ve created this curated queer TBR for Pride Month and beyond. I’ve included a little bit of everything: new releases you won’t want to miss, queer classics, books that dig into queer history, and queer beach reads. Are you looking for a perfect summer queer romance? Check. Excited about preordering books by queer authors coming out later in the summer? Check. Looking for a way to wish some queer artists a happy birthday? Also check.

My favorite thing about being a queer reader right now is the sheer diversity of queer books at my disposal. Yes, publishing still has a long way to go. But we have a lot to celebrate this Pride Month. This list embodies that celebration: it’s stacked with queer books of all kinds, for readers of all kinds.

Get Excited About New Releases

cover of Yerba Buena by Nina LaCour

Yerba Buena by Nina LaCour (May 31)

I read this novel last fall and have been waiting impatiently for it to be out in the world so I can shove it into the hands of everyone I know. It’s a quiet, intimate story about two queer women, Sara and Emilie, as they muddle through their twenties, finding their way to each other and themselves. At 16, Sara flees her small hometown on the Russian River after the sudden death of her girlfriend. In L.A., Emilie flits from job to job, searching for something like belonging. They meet and separate again and again, like waves crashing on the shore. It’s one of the best sapphic love stories I’ve ever read.

Cover of Brown Neon

Brown Neon by Raquel Gutiérrez (June 7)

In this collection of essays, Gutiérrez ponders home and land, queer lineage and intergenerational relationships, artistry and borders. Blending memoir, travel writing, and analysis, she delves into the landscapes of the Southwest, exploring what specific places have meant in her life, and how those places impact gender, class, queer culture, and identity.

Wrath Goddess Sing Book Cover

Wrath Goddess Sing by Maya Deane (June 7)

This is a retelling of The Iliad where Achilles is a trans woman, and that is all I need to know. She’s fled her home to live as a woman among the priestesses of Aphrodite, and when Odysseus arrives, begging her to fight as a man, she’s prepared to die instead. But everything changes when Athena intervenes (predictably, that meddling goddess!), giving Achilles the body she’s always longed for, along with promises of glory, fame, and a child of her own.

Cover of Greenland

Greenland by David Santos Donaldson (June 7)

If you’re a fan of books-within-books, you’re going to want to pick up this innovative debut. Queer writer Kip Starling is holed up in his Brooklyn apartment to finish a novel about the love affair between a young Egyptian man, Mohammed el Adl, and the writer E.M. Forster. His life bears some striking similarities to Mohammed’s: both are Black, queer, and reckoning with the violent ways they have been affected by whiteness. Things get interesting when Mohammed begins speaking to Kip — and past and present begin to blur.

The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes cover

The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes by Cat Sebastian (June 7)

It wouldn’t be Pride without some fantastic new queer romance, would it? “Be gay, do crime” is the motto of this hilarious and tender historical romp. Marian has just murdered her husband (for good reason), and, unsure of what to do next, she flees to the countryside with Rob Brooks, her would-be blackmailer. Rob is a cinnamon roll of a thief and con artist who loves puppies and flirts with everyone he meets. They are not expecting to fall for each other, but it turns out that doing crimes in the name of justice, sleeping in barns, and bantering about baby animals is actually quite romantic.

Dig Into Queer History

Every year during Pride the internet explodes with book lists about queer history. You can find some fantastic ones right here on Book Riot — like these must-read books about LGBTQ history and these queer women’s history books. There are dozens and dozens of worthy and important queer history books out there. This year, I’m focusing on reading oral histories, letters, and interviews. These three books explore queer history from the perspectives of those who were there — and there’s no better time than Pride to honor, and learn from, the legacies of our queer ancestors.

Cover of I Must Resist

I Must Resist by Bayard Rustin

Bayard Rustin, sometimes referred to as the “lost prophet,” was an instrumental civil rights activist. He was the major organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, and his work and ideas heavily influenced Martin Luther King, Jr. But because he was an openly gay man, he faced being ostracized, excluded from movement leadership, and silenced. He faced violent homophobia while he was alive, and he hasn’t received the recognition that other civil rights leaders have. Reading his letters offers us a chance to finally hear from Rustin himself. These beautifully written missives are not just an important piece of queer history, they are also an inspiring and insightful guide for contemporary activists.

Cover of Let the Record Show

Let the Record Show by Sarah Schulman

At 736 pages, this book is a commitment — but it’s one worth making. Sarah Schulman’s political history of ACT UP and the AIDS activism that grew out of it is not a dry recitation of numbers and facts. It’s a vivid, living, complicated exploration of the inner workings and revolutionary lessons of a radical organization that changed the world. The book is based on interviews with over two hundred ACT UP members, and their voices shine through loud and clear, right alongside Schulman’s rigorous analysis and insight.

Cover of Queer Brown Voices

Queer Brown Voices edited by Uriel Quesada, Letitia Gomez, and Salvador Vidal-Ortiz

This is a moving and informative collection of essays, interviews, and oral histories, written and compiled by an array of queer Latine activists in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. It sheds light on the instrumental role Latine people, movements, and organizations played in the queer activism of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s — a history that has often been left out of mainstream accounts of the era.

Relax with Some Queer Beach Reads

There’s nothing better than a fun queer book on a bright summer day, right? If you’re looking for even more books set in summer, check out these additional summer queer books!

The Guncle book cover

The Guncle by Steven Rowley

This is a hilarious, breezy, lighthearted family romp with a lot of heart. Patrick lives alone in Palm Springs, and while he loves his niece and nephew, he’s not prepared to…live with them. But after their mother dies and Patrick’s brother checks himself into rehab, it falls on Patrick to take care of them for a whole summer. A lot of challenges and obstacles and misunderstandings ensue, as Patrick and the kids slowly learn how to be a family.

Cover of Island Time

Island Time by Georgia Clark (July 12)

Two very different families whose only common trait is that their daughters are married find themselves stranded on a tropical island for six weeks after a volcano erupts. Can you think of a better setup for the perfect summer romantic comedy? This is a fun and sexy read full of queer romance, family messes, and an ensemble cast of flawed but lovable characters just trying to get through vacation.

Keep Relaxing with a Summer Queer Romance

Cover of Into the Blue

Into the Blue by Pene Henson

There’s something about the ocean that just screams summer romance to me. Tai and Ollie have been best friends since childhood and live together on Oahu with Ollie’s little brother and their best friends. It’s not a perfect life, but they have each other, their found family, and surfing. But when Ollie gets offered a chance to go on a world tour as a professional surfer, Tai finally admits what he’s always known: that he’s been in love with Ollie for years. It’s a lovely, quiet story about two men learning to navigate an old relationship in new ways.

Two Queer Caribbean Books for Caribbean American Heritage Month

There are many, many more queer Caribbean American books than I have space to include here, including the work of Marlon James, Kacen Callender, and Fiona Zedde, for starters.

Cover of Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn

Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn

Longing to be reunited with her old friend and first love, Patsy leaves her 5-year-old daughter, Tru, in Jamaica and sets out for New York. Over the next decade, as Patsy builds a life for herself in the U.S. and Tru grows up without her in Jamaica, they both grapple with what it means to leave, to stay, to lose, and be lost. It’s a powerful story about motherhood, desire, and freedom that centers the experiences of women who don’t adhere to societal norms and expectations.

Cover of Antiman

Antiman by Rajiv Mohabir

The Caribbean is home to many diverse Indigenous, diasporic, and immigrant communities. In this genre-defying memoir, Rajiv Mohabir explores his Indian family’s history in the Caribbean and shares stories from his life as an Indo-Guyanese poet, artist, and immigrant. In a dazzling blend of poetry and prose, he interrogates the intersections of geography, culture, gender, sexuality, race, and language that have shaped his life as a queer brown person in the U.S.

Throw a Fictional Party with a Book Featuring a Pride Celebration!

You Know Me Well cover

You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan

If you can’t make it to a Pride celebration this year, why not read about one instead? This joyful story about queer friendship is set during Pride Week in San Francisco. Kate and Mark go to the same school, but they’ve never spoken to each other. When their paths finally cross outside of school, an unexpected friendship blossoms between them. It’s the perfect celebratory read, steeped in queer community and Pride events.

A Complicated Queer Read for Father’s Day

Cover of Don't Cry For Me

Don’t Cry For Me by Daniel Black

This is not a celebratory read. It’s a book that bears witness to the fraught relationships that queer people so often have with their families of origin. Black approaches his subject — the relationship between a Black father and his gay son — with incredible tenderness and honesty. In an attempt to explain his actions and atone for his mistakes, Jacob, who is dying, writes a series of letters to his estranged gay son. It’s such a moving story about generational trauma, the weight of shame and silence, Black fatherhood, and the violence of system racism and toxic masculinity.

Honor the Birthdays of Two Queer Artists

Cover of Broken Horses

Broken Horses by Brandi Carlile

Brandi Carlile is a brilliant singer/songwriter, and her birthday is on June 1st! Why not celebrate the beginning of Pride and the birth of a queer icon by reading her beautiful memoir? In Broken Horses, Carlile writes about her childhood, her early music career, her marriage, motherhood, and so much more. Like her music, this book is open and warm and inviting, bursting with humor, queer joy, and wisdom.

Cover of Nightwood

Nightwood by Djuna Barnes

Djuna Barnes was born on June 12th, 1892. Her most well-known work, Nightwood, now a classic of lesbian literature, was published in 1936. A strange and surreal novel set in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s, it follows a cast of eclectic queer characters through their messy affairs and various emotional crises. Full of stylistic innovations that marked it as a radical feminist text when it was written, it’s a challenging work that’s well worth reading today.

Stack Your July TBR with Queer Preorders Right Now

If you’re looking for ways to celebrate and support queer authors during Pride, why not preorder their books? I’m especially excited about these two, but there are so many more amazing queer books coming out this summer and beyond. Book Riot’s LGBTQ+ newsletter Our Queerest Shelves is a great way to stay in the loop about new releases!

Cover of Other Names for Love

Other Names for Love by Taymour Soomro (July 12)

Soomro’s debut novel is a shimmering, sometimes hypnotic story about fathers and sons, silence and belonging, and what it means to love and leave a place. At 16, Fahad wants to spend the summer with his mother in London, not with his emotionally distant father on their family farm in rural Pakistan. But the summer he spends on the farm changes him forever when he falls in love for the first time. Years later, living with his partner in London, Fahad returns to Pakistan to help his parents, who are in financial trouble. Both Fahad and his father must finally reckon with their tangled relationship, and with the place that made them both into the men they are.

Cover of Gods of Want

Gods of Want by K-Ming Chang (July 12)

I’ve been longing for more of Chang’s gorgeous prose and dizzying blend of myth and magic ever since reading Bestiary. In her newest book, a collection of surreal and fabulist stories, Chang honors the varied lives, experiences, desires, relationships, and histories of Asian American women. Full of unruly characters and unusual situations, the collection explores themes of memory and transformation, queerness, bodily autonomy, and lineage.

Bask in Queer Joy

It’s Pride — and you deserve to bask in some queer joy! If you’re looking for more joyful reads, check out these happy queer books and these queer books with happy endings.

Mrs. Martin's Incomparable Adventure book cover

Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure by Courtney Milan

If there is a more perfect sapphic romance/feminist revenge fantasy than this one, I have yet to find it. Do you enjoy old women falling in love while also sticking it to the patriarchy? Do you like to belly laugh while you read? Are you in the mood for some fierce old ladies who know what they want, shenanigans with geese, terrible men getting what they deserve, and oodles of queer joy? This historical romp has it all.

If you enjoyed this curated queer book list, check out the one I made for spring (it’s not too late to use it)!