Ever since its inception, the rainbow flag has been a ubiquitous symbol of LGBTQ+ pride and solidarity. From its first appearance in the Gay Freedom Day Parade in 1978 San Francisco to today, the pride flag has become a positive self-identifier and sign of allyship for many LGBTQ+ people. So much so that rainbows themselves have become symbolic of the LGBTQ+ community. And as more and more queer books are making their way into the world, we’re seeing cover designers take a cue from the rainbow flag with vibrantly rainbow-inspired covers. And what better way to celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride than with a huge round-up of rainbow books for Pride Day?
Some of these covers depict literal rainbow flags or images of the original flag design while others feature rainbow typography or vibrant hues, but each of them pays homage to the rainbow symbolism we’ve come to know and love. Soak them up and let these rainbow books brighten your day—and your bookshelves.
Rainbow Books For Pride
I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
Starting this list off right with a rainbow explosion. The book behind this beautiful cover tells the story of twins Noah and Jude, who begin to grow apart after their inseparable teen years. Those early years are Noah’s to tell as he falls for the boy next door, while Jude looks back on their fractured sibling relationship after meeting a mysterious (and charming) new guy.
I’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee
Pure joy in a vibrant, neon-hued rainbow cover. And it perfectly show off the personality of plus-size K-pop star–to-be, Skye Shin. Landing a role on an international TV competition for the next K-pop star isn’t easy though. Neither is nailing the audition and finding out just how fatphobic the Korean entertainment industry’s beauty standards can be. Still, she’s determined not to let anything get in her way—even an inconvenient crush on her cute competitor, Henry Cho.
The ABC’s of LGBT+ by Ash Hardell
An inclusive look at the LGBT+ community by YouTuber Ash Hardell. From in-depth definitions to useful infographics, The ABC’s of LGBT+ is perfect for anyone looking to better understand what it means to be LGBT+, whether for themselves or others. And Hardell’s personal anecdotes make it all the more relatable.
Girl Hearts Girl by Lucy Sutcliffe
Color blocking in ticket stubs makes for the perfect cover to this heartfelt memoir about a long-distance relationship and Sutcliffe’s journey of discovering her sexuality, coming out to her friends and family, and meeting her American girlfriend in person for the first time.
The Paths of Marriage by Mala Kumar
Three generations of Indian and Indian American women navigate life, love, and arranged marriage in this book about generational change and clashes. For Lakshmi, marrying and immigrating to the U.S. is a chance for a better future for her family. For Pooja, Lakshmi’s daughter, arranged marriage is a way to cling to her culture. But for Deepa, Pooja’s daughter and a lesbian out to everyone but her family, her fear of coming out to her mother could cost her the love of her life. And the rainbow henna on the cover is just too perfect for words.
Proud, edited by Juno Dawson
This rainbow-fisted anthology features writing from LGBTQ+ YA authors is a true celebration of what it means to be loud and proud.
All the Invisible Things by Orlagh Collins
When Vetty’s family moves back to London, she’s excited to be reunited with her childhood friend, Pez. Despite everyone telling her a boy and a girl can’t really be friends without feelings getting in the way, she’s determined things will be the same. But then Pez tells her she’s “not like other girls,” and suddenly Vetty isn’t so sure she could measure up to the glamorous girls he seems enchanted even if she wanted to. But who says there’s one way girls are supposed to be anyway?
Fresh Ink: An Anthology, Edited by Lamar Giles
This collection, created in partnership with We Need Diverse Books, features 13 short stories from a diverse collection of incredible authors like Malinda Lo, Sara Farizan, and Aminah Mae Safi. It doesn’t get much fresher than that.
Open: A Memoir of Faith, Family, and Sexuality in the Heartland by E. Scott Jones
Hi, yes, hello this wholeheartedly gay rainbow stole is my new favorite thing ever. It’s such a beautiful representation of queerness and faith, which is appropriate for a memoir about a man from an evangelical family coming out as gay while working as a youth minister in Texas.
Life Isn’t Binary: On Being Both, Beyond, and In-Between by Alex Iantaffi and Meg-John Barker
Moving beyond society’s rigid binary, this book explores the limitations of binary thinking and life beyond the binary—whether gender, sexuality, or relationships.
Rick by Alex Gino
The bright, clean rainbow cover of this middle grade novel from the author of George is so eye-catchingly perfect. The jokes his father makes about which girls he’ll date and his jerk of a best friend have always made Rick uncomfortable, but he’s never really questioned it. But then he discovers the Rainbow Spectrum club in middle school, a place where kids of all genders and identities are welcome. For the first time, Rick begins to question everything—and maybe that’s okay.
The Stonewall Riots: Coming Out in the Streets by Gayle E. Pitman
A sky full of rainbow waves permeates the air over the Stonewall Riots, a crucial moment in LGBTQ+ history in the United States. Full of illustrations, photographs, and interviews from those involved, The Stonewall Riots provides great context for a pivotal event in American history.
LGBTQ Social Movements by Lisa M. Stulberg
A cover full of flags and a compendium of LGBTQ+ activism and movements throughout the 20th century in the U.S. From Stonewall to marriage equality, this book provides a foundation for understanding the recent history of LGBTQ+ social movements.
The Full Spectrum: A New Generation of Writing About Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, and Other Identities Edited by David Levithan and Billy Merrell
YA authors David Levithan and Billy Merrell teamed up to put together this collection of poems, essays, and stories by LGBTQ+ youth. The rainbow spectrum on the cover reflects the wide range of experiences featured within.
Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag by Rob Sanders and Steven Salerno
The first picture book on the history of the rainbow Pride Flag, from its inception by Gilbert Baker and Harvey Milk to its use as a symbol of queer pride and solidarity today.
Keep Faith, Edited by Gabriela Martins
A wonderfully queer anthology of 14 LGBTQ+ stories from LGBTQ+ writers on keeping faith, whether faith in religion or just faith in yourself. The beautiful rainbow painted cover is designed by my friend Kess Costales, edited by my friend Gabriela Martins, and includes contributions from many excellent writers including fellow Rioter Adiba Jaigirdar (author of The Henna Wars). So I may be biased, but this anthology is wonderfully and wholeheartedly queer.
More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
A memory alteration procedure might be just what 16-year-old Aaron Soto needs to live a normal life. Because it would be so much easier than being gay, right? But would forgetting who he truly is really be the answer? And would changing himself solve anything at all?
TW for mentions of suicide and suicide attempt.
The Summer of Jordi Pérez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding
Body positive F/F romance about fashion, friendship, self-acceptance, and following your dreams. An adorable romcom of a book with such a fun, vibrant cover.
We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia
The subtle ombre rainbow on this papel picado–inspired cover brings me almost as much joy as the book itself, a dystopian YA novel about a highly gender stratified society where the most prestigious women are married off as first and second wives, depending on their skill set. For Dani, whose parents sacrificed everything to obtain falsified identity papers so she could live a better life, fighting back against the status quo could cost her everything. But the chance of forbidden love—and true change—could be worth risking it all.
Bright Lines by Tanwi Nandini Islam
The contrast between the black and rainbow prism of the background makes for a distinctive cover for this novel about family and identity set in Bangladesh and Brooklyn. After losing her parents, Ella moves to Brooklyn to live with her aunt and uncle. But even as Ella begins to find self-acceptance and belonging amidst a sexual awakening with her cousin’s friend Maya, her Uncle Anwar’s own secrets threaten his marriage and tragedy forces them on a trip back to Bangladesh to reckon with the past.
Awakening: How Gays and Lesbians Brought Marriage Equality to America by Nathaniel Frank
Beginning in the 1950s, when many LGBTQ+ people feared coming out much less fighting for equality to the fight for legal rights of same sex couples, Awakening tells the story of how activists fought to gain marriage equality—and won.
Queer X Design: 50 Years of Signs, Symbols, Banners, Logos, and Graphic Art of LGBTQ by Andy Campbell
The original Pride Flag graces the cover of this illustrated history of queer design, symbolism, and graphic art from the original “The Future is Female” T-shirt to Gilbert Baker’s iconic Gay Pride flag design.
Here for It: Or, How to Save Your Soul in America by R. Eric Thomas
Toss up some rainbow confetti for this memoir-in-essays about growing up black and queer. From his mostly white school to his conservative Black church, Eric Thomas found himself othered. But in Here For It, Thomas redefines what it means to be “other” in America through the lens of his own life.
Good Boy: My Life in Seven Dogs by Jennifer Finney Boylan
Inspired by Jennifer Finney Boylan hit New York Times Opinion column about her beloved dog Indigo, Good Boy recounts life as a trans woman from the seven dogs who taught her “everything…about love.”
Queer Africa 2: New Stories, Edited by Makhosazana Xaba and Karen Martin
LGBTQ+ writers from Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Uganda, and the USA share 26 stories of what it means to be African (or part of the African diaspora) and queer.
Noteworthy by Riley Redgate
When Jordan Sun discovers her low Alto 2 voice might land her a spot on her boarding school’s prestigious a capella group—just the thing that might make her college applications noteworthy—she finally has a chance to make her voice heard. There’s just one problem. The Sharpshooters are an all-male a capella group. Can Jordan navigate complicated high school friendships, a crush on a guy—and a girl—and an increasingly complicated secret identity even as she struggles with what it means to be a girl—and herself—in a male dominated society? Only time will tell.
Unicorn: The Memoir of a Muslim Drag Queen by Amrou Al-Kadhi
In seven-inch heels, performing as Glamrou, Amrou Al-Kadhi feels empowered and fearless, able to be fully themself. But it wasn’t always easy growing up in an Iraqi Muslim family. In Unicorn, Al-Kadhi tells the story of how finding themself—and drag—eventually helped them find hope, forgiveness, and a newfound relationship with their mother.
Sensible Footwear: A Girl’s Guide by Kate Charlesworth
Cartoonist Kate Charlesworth traces LGBTQ+ history of the UK from the 1950s (when she was born and being a gay man was still a crime) to the activism and political movements that led up to today. Amidst that backdrop, Charlesworth shares her personal experiences coming to terms with her sexuality and navigating coming out, embracing gay and lesbian culture, and losing friends during the AIDS crisis.
We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir by Samra Habib
Under threat from Islamic extremists, Samra Habib learned from an early age to hide her identity as an Ahmadi Muslim. That didn’t change much when her family finally arrived in Canada as refugees, where the threat of bullies, poverty, racism, and arranged marriage constantly hangs over head. Instead, she embarks on a journey of self-discovery as she explores faith, art, queer sexuality, love, and family—both given and found.
We Are Everywhere: Protest, Power, and Pride In The History of Queer Liberation by Leighton Brown and Matthew Riemer
A photographic history of the queer liberation movement from its 19th century roots through Stonewall and up to today.
Kindred: 12 Queer #LoveOzYA Stories, Edited by Michael Earp
A collection of 12 established voices and newcomers come together in this anthology to explore what it means to be queer in Australia, from the families, friends, and loves that make us what we are.
When You Get the Chance by Tom Ryan and Robin Stevenson (May 4, 2021)
A highway painted rainbow and a road trip to Pride—doesn’t get much gayer than that! Other than their queerness, cousins Mark and Talia have very little in common. But the two somehow find themselves in a car on the way to Toronto, each for their own reasons—Talia to reunite with the girlfriend she hasn’t heard from in weeks and Mark to attend Toronto Pride. Maybe they’ll even find themselves—and begin to understand each other—along the way.
The Melting Queen by Bruce Cinnamon
Every year as the Saskatchewan River begins to thaw, Edmonton crowns a Melting Queen. But this year it isn’t the usual pick. Genderfluid River Runson is named Melting Queen and the the town is suddenly divided over a century-old tradition as progressive and reactionary factions fight for the fate of the town. Amidst it all, River must dig deep into the history of Melting Day, uncovering the celebrations dark origins and forcing the town to confront its past and look to its future.
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
An exquisite exploration of girlhood, grief, and adolescence friendship from Jacqueline Woodson. Its touching and heartbreaking in all the right places, and packs a punch with a small page count. And the rainbow typography on the cover is maybe one of my favorite designs ever.
Winning Marriage: The Inside Story of How Same-Sex Couples Took on the Politicians and Pundits—And Won by Marc Solomon
Marc Solomon, a veteran leader in the fight for marriage equality, recounts how LGBTQ+ couples took on the fight to allow same-sex couples the right to marry and eventually won. Revealing inner workings of the advocacy movement, Solomon brings us inside the fight right alongside him.
The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk
This beautiful fractured rainbow cover contains three interlocking narratives about grief, music, and life after loss. Music used to be the thing that defined Logan, Shay, and Autumn. But now Logan can’t stop watching vlogs of his dead ex-boyfriend, Shay can barely find the words to run her music blog, and Autumn is stuck sending messages to someone who will never again be able to answer. But as they find their way back to music, maybe they can find some healing too.
Growing Up Queer in Australia, Edited by Benjamin Law
Australian writers from all across the LGBTQ+ spectrum explore what it means to grow up queer in Australia in a series of moving stories and essays.
Love Falls On Us: A Story of American Ideas and African LGBT Lives by Robbie Corey-Boulet
Award-winning journalist Robbie Corey-Boulet explores the divide between American ideas about LGBT+ equality and the reality of queer people living in Africa. The international push for LGBT+ activism has left winners and losers—especially for those who don’t fall into neat categories as they’ve been defined. Is there a right way to engage on these issues? Corey-Boulet explores that possibility in explorations of the history and failures of LGBT+ activism and the scars it has left behind.
Birthday by Meredith Russo
Morgan and Eric have been bonded for life ever since being born on the same day at exactly the same time. Over the years they’ve shared birthdays, drifted apart, come back together, broken up, made up, and throughout it all discovered who they truly are and how, not matter what, the two of them are inextricably linked.
The Book of Queer Prophets: 21 Writers on Sexuality and Religion Edited by Ruth Hunt
The stained glass effect of this cover is so perfect for a book on the intersection of sexuality and religion. The Book of Queer Prophets is a collection of modern-day epistles from writers and activists covering everything from religious dogma to trying to make it as a Muslim drag queen. Simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting. A raw and honest look at religion, gender, and sexuality.
Be Gay, Do Comics by Matt Bors (August 11, 2020)
Gotta love a cover filled with rainbow panels breaking the fourth wall! Not to mention a title homage to the popular phrase: “Be gay, do crime.” And the anthology from queer comic creators fully lives up to the fun title with a vast collection of funny, informative, and heartwrenching comics.
Not enough rainbow books for you this Pride Day? Make sure to check out these rainbow book spines, some of our most anticipated queer reads this year, 50 YA books starring queer girls hitting shelves in 2020, and 31 LGBTQ books with happy endings.
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