The best books on bisexuality to dive deep into our research, history, and culture

Julia Shaw Author Of Bi: The Hidden Culture, History, and Science of Bisexuality
By Julia Shaw

Who am I?

I am a psychological scientist, BBC science communicator, and best-selling author. I am also bisexual. As an academic, my tendency is to immediately look for research and scholarly writing about topics that interest me. But for bisexuality, I found that this was incredibly hard to do. So, I dug into archives and journals, connected with hundreds of bisexuality researchers and activists, and after much searching, I finally found the answers to questions I had had my entire life. I wrote them all down in my new book Bi.

I wrote...

Bi: The Hidden Culture, History, and Science of Bisexuality

By Julia Shaw,

Book cover of Bi: The Hidden Culture, History, and Science of Bisexuality

What is my book about?

Bi challenges us to think deeper about who we are and how we love. I found a colourful and fascinating world that I am bringing out of the shadows. 

In Bi, I explore how people have defined and measured bisexuality, and uncover its surprisingly long history. I examine behaviourally bisexual animals, and to try to understand whether there is a bi gene. I look into the big bi closet and come to understand the devastating reality of criminalization that so many bisexual people around the world face. I also explore the world of bisexual communities and look at research on the fun and thorny topic of consensual non-monogamy. Bi is a fun, informative, and wild ride through human sexuality.

The books I picked & why

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Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution

By Shiri Eisner,

Book cover of Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution

Why this book?

If you’re interested in bisexual activism, and how to mobilise people to fight for Bi+ rights, this book is for you. 

It is a dive into bisexual politics written by one of the world’s most prominent bisexual activists. It is also one of the most mentioned books within the bi community, helping a generation of people to feel empowered to deconstruct monosexuality. Inspiring best-selling authors, journalists, and many of the bisexual researchers I have worked with over the years, this book has become an important part of bi culture.

Bisexuality in Europe: Sexual Citizenship, Romantic Relationships, and Bi+ Identities

By Emiel Maliepaard (editor), Renate Baumgartner (editor),

Book cover of Bisexuality in Europe: Sexual Citizenship, Romantic Relationships, and Bi+ Identities

Why this book?

For academic perspectives on bisexuality, this book is a great resource. Because many books on bisexuality are centred in or around North America this is a welcome addition. It is the first to bring together academic research on bisexual people from around Europe. It also won the Bisexual Book Award for Best Non-Fiction Book of 2020 (if you’re looking for more bi books the annual Bi book awards by the Bi Writers Association is always a good place to search!). 

The book includes research from different disciplines, showcasing the many ways that scholars have approached bi+ issues. It provides fascinating insights that are a great stepping stone for venturing deeper into the topic. 

Textbooks can be expensive, and many academic articles are locked behind pay-walls, so the authors made sure that there’s an open access version of the textbook (click the direct link below).

Studies in the Psychology of Sex: Volume 2 Sexual Inversion

By Havelock Ellis,

Book cover of Studies in the Psychology of Sex: Volume 2 Sexual Inversion

Why this book?

If you’re a bi history nerd like me, you’re going to love this insight into some of the early thoughts on bisexuality by sex researcher Havelock Ellis. Already in the late 1800s, Ellis - who was in an open relationship, and whose wife was bisexual - did research with bisexual people. 

His writing shows us that bisexuality isn’t trendy or new, that the stereotypes we battle today were already being criticised over a century ago, and that some people had positive ideas about bisexuality. For example, Ellis attributed the success of great leaders and artists to their bisexuality. He credits this to the “innately democratic attitude” of bisexual people to see beyond social class. Ellis a key figure in bi history who often gets missed, but his work can give a real sense of connectedness with our past. 

His books can be hard to find in print, but Project Gutenberg has made the 1927 edition freely available, just click the direct link. 

The Bi-ble: Volume Two

By Lauren Nickodemus (editor), Ellen Desmond (editor),

Book cover of The Bi-ble: Volume Two

Why this book?

If it’s personal accounts and many different voices you are looking for, The Bi-ble: Vol. 2 is perfect. It includes essays by various bisexual people, giving brief and poignant insights into their lives. 

This easy-to-read collection is a good example of the long tradition of anthologies in bi+ literature. Some stories are deeply relatable, others challenge you to look beyond your own experiences. It helped me to realise that while there is a commonality between the experiences of bisexual people, there are important individual differences that we need to keep in mind. No one person can speak for the entire bi community, so this book lets many people have their own voice.

Giovanni's Room

By James Baldwin,

Book cover of Giovanni's Room

Why this book?

If you are looking for fiction, this classic book is an incredibly well-written and compelling story about a bisexual man. Most of the book takes place in Paris, where wandering the gritty streets of the city of love the reader gets to explore the depths of the protagonist’s mind.

Actively challenging social taboos, Baldwin explores what it is like for two men to fall in love. Strong feelings of confusion within the protagonist come not just from his sexuality, but from being stuck between two cultures (American and French). Because of this the story arc itself cleverly plays with the idea of the liminality and self-doubt that many bisexual people are familiar with. While some of the book is quite dark, it’s the exhilarating love story and passionate moments that carry the story. Seeing the world through the eyes of a bisexual male protagonist was eye-opening for me, and it’s a book I often think back to.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in bisexuality, gay men, and Europe?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about bisexuality, gay men, and Europe.

Bisexuality Explore 21 books about bisexuality
Gay Men Explore 38 books about gay men
Europe Explore 413 books about Europe

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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