Asking a book nerd about their favorite book is always a dangerous question. You’re more likely to get an impromptu monologue than a simple answer. So unsurprisingly asking Rioters to share their favorite books of any genre leads to some pretty lengthy recommendation lists. But, hey, if you ask me that’s a good thing. Who doesn’t want to hear about all the best books a reader has read lately? If that describes you, too, you’re in luck because 12 Rioters have come together to share 21 of our favorite new LGBTQ books. These 2020 and 2021 releases are our favorites and soon they might be some of yours too.
This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron
This gorgeous modern take on The Secret Garden from the author of Cinderella is Dead (another spectacular new LGBTQ book you should definitely check out) is everything I could’ve wanted. It’s got a creepy old mansion in a small town, magical heritage tracing back to the Greek gods, a poisonous garden, mysterious love interest, and honestly the best parents I’ve ever seen in a YA novel (they actually know about the weird magical things going on in their daughter’s life — amazing).
Release date: June 29, 2021 from Bloomsbury YA
How To Find a Princess by Alyssa Cole
I’m a big Alyssa Cole fan so you can imagine my joy at getting a full novel-length F/F royal romance from her. Once Ghosted, Twice Shy was great, and I loved the bi rep in A Prince on Paper, but still. A long lost princess falling for the World Federation of Monarchies investigator tasked with tracking her down? You can understand my excitement here. And it fully 100% lived up to my expectations. What can I say? I’m a sucker for a good royal romance, it seems. And when it comes to writing royal romance, Alyssa Cole is queen.
The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen
I’m never getting over this stunning graphic novel about a boy and his mother finding ways to communicate their love and struggles to each other through fairy tales. I want more heartwarming queer stories like this, of love and acceptance. I know that’s not always how things go, but gosh does it feel good to read about. And Nguyen’s artwork is worthy of the every fairytale being retold and then some. In a word: unforgettable.
One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston
I’ve been anxiously awaiting Casey McQuiston’s next book ever since I feel head-over-heels for Red, White & Royal Blue. So what does their new book have? Well, let me tell you. A time slip, a messy bi girl falling for a punk lesbian displaced in time on a subway since the 1970s, a 24-hour diner full of lovable characters and a whole lot of heart, plus a drag queen next door. And don’t even get me started on August’s new roommates. This book epitomizes queer found family in all the best ways and I want more, more, more. Casey McQuiston, please continue writing whatever it is you want to write because I will be here waiting to devour every single word of it — probably in one sitting.
I’m a Gay Wizard in the City of the Nightmare King by V.S. Santoni
Even if you didn’t read the debut of I’m A Gay Wizard, you can still enjoy this book as a standalone. Imagine a world where rambunctious, queer teens can wield magic without a care in the world only to be find themselves in a magical school. Only this time around, the magical friends find themselves in a dark underground world that is ruled by magic and death! Johnny, who is in love with Hunter, understands that his purest power is love. Destined to never part, the young wizards use their love to fight dark magic and evil.
How to Be Ace: A Memoir of Growing Up Asexual by Rebecca Burgess
This groundbreaking graphic memoir goes in depth about the author’s journey towards the personal awakening that she is asexual. Written with candor and, often, humor, this memoir makes an important contribution to ace literature and representation. No doubt many on the ace spectrum and their allies will view this as an uplifting and positive ace story.
Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune
We need more gentle — dare I even say cozy — fantasy books, and this was one of the gentlest I have read. When uptight lawyer Wallace Price dies, a reaper takes him to a tea shop owner who ferries souls from this world to the next. But in death, Wallace meets someone who makes him feel alive. How can he move on to the afterlife when he’s finally found a home on Earth?
Release date: September 21, 2021 from Tor Books
Several People Are Typing by Calvin Kasulke
This one will be cathartic and hilarious to anyone who’s found themselves working remotely over the past year. Set in a series of Slack chats, a group of colleagues find that workplace drama can only amplify when paired with supposedly private online messages. Things take a turn for the absurd when one employee finds his consciousness somehow trapped in Slack with no apparent means of escape. Yes, Slackbot is an actual character in this. Yes, the whole book is a work of art. Hang it up and frame it next to the Mona Lisa.
Release date: September 7, 2021 from Doubleday
Some Girls Do by Jennifer Dugan
In this adorable novel Morgan, an elite track athlete, is forced to transfer high schools late in her senior year after it turns out being queer is against her private Catholic school’s code of conduct. There, she meets Ruby, a girl with two diverse hobbies: playing around with her baby blue 1970 Ford Torino and competing in local beauty pageants, one activity that she pursues to please her mom. Once meeting, the two are drawn to each other and can’t deny their growing feelings. But while Morgan is ready to shout out off the rooftops about their relationship, Ruby is not. This novel will touch your heart as it explores a queer relationship and all its ups and downs when society sometimes can be simply unfair.
Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell
Winter’s Orbit is a great sci-fi space opera full of palace intrigue with a tender slow-burn queer romance at its center. When an imperial prince’s sudden death threatens to weaken already fraying alliances with several planets, the prince’s cousin and his widower, a noble from one of the discontented vassal planets, are rushed into an arranged marriage to keep the peace and preserve the political status quo. The story is surprisingly romantic — a Millennial Star Wars meets Red, White & Royal Blue. It also (strangely) reminded me a bit of The Flatshare: two sweet, diffident people have trouble connecting despite compatibility because of their difficult pasts. Maxwell seamlessly blends science fiction and high stakes politics with some of the most popular romantic tropes: marriage of convenience, forced proximity, and the fake relationship which soon feels all too real. An excellent, page turning, and thoughtful read.
Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon
This gorgeously written and harrowing novel is one of my favorite books of the year. It opens with 15-year-old Vern — a queer, albino Black girl — escaping into a forest from a dangerous Black pride cult and an abusive husband, the leader of the cult. Pregnant with twins, Vern gives birth and raises her sons in the forest alone until they’re 4. Away from the cult, Vern begins hallucinating, and slowly her body transforms into something else, something monstrous. This novel vividly portrays how Black bodies have been used for unethical experiments while also celebrating queer love and motherhood.
Victories Greater Than Death by Charlie Jane Anders
This super fun and action-packed young adult sci-fi presents an intergalactic world where being queer is normalized. Tina is a cloned alien war hero disguised as a human and brought as an infant to her human mother. She’s waited all her life to become her destiny and remember who she truly is, but when the time comes, everything turns out differently than she thought. But the stakes are high, and she has a whole galaxy to save, with the help of some other Earth teens. I listened to the audiobook read by Hynden Walch and quite enjoyed it.
The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe
I’ve heard that you need to read or hear a new word 17 times before you learn it. I assume the same is true of hearing about new books — I saw this one recommended about that many times before I borrowed it from my library and read it all in one breathless sitting. (Okay, maybe two sittings. I am very tired.) Sort of an anti-heist book, we follow Nora into a bank with her new, secret girlfriend Iris, who isn’t yet out to her mom, and her ex-boyfriend Wes, who is her best friend but only very recently found out about her and Iris — by walking in on them kissing. Awkward, but not quite as much as the fact that the bank is robbed immediately after they walk in. What Nora hasn’t told Iris yet is that her mom, who is in prison, is a con artist who taught Nora everything she knows. The book takes us through Nora’s high-stakes and high-paced attempts to keep her loved ones safe during the robbery, while introducing us to the girls Nora played as roles in her mother’s cons over the years.
When Tara Met Farah by Tara Pammi
The first in what I’m hoping will be a pretty lengthy series of interconnected standalone romances, When Tara Met Farah is the New Adult romance of my heart. Tara is a food vlogger who has a complicated relationship with her math genius mother. When Farah (another math genius) moves into their home, she and Tara do not hit it off. But when they make an arrangement that will benefit both of them, and they slowly learn more about each other, those stupid feeling things start to happen. I have been having a lot of trouble finishing books over the past year, and this was one of the ones that sucked me in immediately and kept me reading until it was done. Opposites attract, meet disaster, incredible emotional growth, sexy pining, slowly falling, South Asian food, AND Bollywood style dancing? How can it not be incredible. Also, that cover, amirite?
Patience and Esther by S.W. Searle
Everyone loves a Victorian (Edwardian?) “below stairs” drama, right? Well. Actually. This isn’t that. Patience and Esther are introduced when Patience comes to work as a maid at the grand home where Esther is a housekeeper, yes. But this is a much quieter story than Downton Abbey would have you expect. The two women share a room, work together, and slowly bring down the walls each has erected in order to survive. Their friendship is so easy, it doesn’t even matter that we don’t see the particulars of their friendship evolving into a courtship. It’s just a darling story of two women who love each other figuring life out.
The Queer Principles of Kit Webb by Cat Sebastian
A retired legendary highwayman, Kit is just fine running his coffeehouse until a young lord shows up with an offer to rob his greatest enemy. Percy, the young lord in question, needs a man who can rob his father to save a childhood friend, but is unacquainted with hiring thieves. Although Kit refuses to participate in the robbery, he is willing to teach the young lord how to pull it off. From lessons on how to throw a punch to when to stop a carriage on the road, Percy is shaping up to be a fine student (in between bouts of shameless flirting). But will they be able to pull it off together as new revelations threaten their tenuous relationship? If you are looking for brutal honesty about the cost of ducal estates on the working class this is the book for you. But seriously, you come for the highway robbery and stay for the comfort of found family.
The 2000s Made Me Gay by Grace Perry
I’m reading this one right now and I have to stop every couple of paragraphs to ask if I’m certain I am not the one who wrote this! It feels like it was poured directly out of my brain and onto my ereader. This cultural commentary is so quintessentially Gen Y, with all the love for (problematic) pop culture that made us who we are today and all of the incisive criticism we are so good at — it is the ultimate “your fave is problematic, but you can love it so long as you can articulate why it’s problematic” text, and it’s also witty and sharp and fangirly and absolutely marvelous. I’m obsessed.
The Language We Were Never Taught to Speak by Grace Lau
This debut poetry collection had me all-in from page one with a poem about RuPaul’s Drag Race, and by the time I reached a poem about Killing Eve I was an eternal fan. It’s wonderfully queer, fresh, rebellious collection infused with pop culture, politics, and family history. Lau’s poetry is so smart and full of life, and I truly can’t wait to read her next collection.
Hola Papi: How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons by John Paul Brammer
LGBTQ advice columnist John Paul Brammer is accustomed to mixing his personal life, sense of humor, and heartfelt thoughts into his writing. In this memoir, his ability to laugh at what once made him cry really shines. From growing up as a gay biracial kid in rural Oklahoma to career woes to learning to use his writing to help people, Hola Papi is an earnest and uplifting book about finding your place in the world.
Dead Dead Girls by Nekesa Afia
As a teenager, Louise Lloyd made headlines for escaping her kidnapper — and freeing his other victims along the way. Now, in 1926, she works at a Maggie’s Café by day and at Harlem’s coolest speakeasy by night. When dead girls from the club start turning up, Louise can’t trust the police to find the murderer. Instead, she takes matters into her own hands. Louise Lloyd is the perfect combination of smart, fun, and irreverent, and the historical setting makes this a mystery you won’t soon forget.
Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters
Reese and Amy were once a power couple in the trans community, almost happy in every way. But one thing was missing: a baby. Their relationship unraveled when Amy detransitioned and returned to living as a man, Ames. But when Ames’s new girlfriend Katrina gets pregnant, he wonders if he can repair things with Reese and create a new, queer family formation. This is exactly the kind of queer lit I want to read more of: messy, honest, real, and not written for straight audience’s consumption.
If you’re looking for more great LGBTQ books to celebrate this Pride month, you might also like these 20 must-read queer books out in June to preorder, 40 of the best queer books, must-read contemporary sapphic novels, and 20 must-read happy queer books for Pride.