The best LGBTQI books that will steal your heart

Eileen Merriman Author Of Invisibly Breathing
By Eileen Merriman

Who am I?

It may sound odd, but I am a straight female and not LGBTQI at all! However I read widely, and this includes stories of love of all kinds, both gay and straight. I particularly enjoy stories of human connection, especially if they contain romance, but that also grips me with stunning prose, dialogue, and strong characterisation.  At first, I wasn’t sure if I was qualified to write this, but then I decided that love was universal and I knew how to write about that. I chose male characters for Invisibly Breathing because I know what it’s like to be attracted to a male, and sought advice from gay friends. 

I wrote...

Invisibly Breathing

By Eileen Merriman,

Book cover of Invisibly Breathing

What is my book about?

A moving story about unconventional love, bullying, and being true to yourself. "I wish I wasn’t the weirdest sixteen-year-old guy in the universe." Felix would love to have been a number. Numbers have superpowers and they’re safe – any problem they might throw up can be solved. People are so much harder to cope with. At least that’s how it seems until Bailey Hunter arrives at school. Bailey has a stutter, but he can make friends and he’s good at judo. And Bailey seems to have noticed Felix: "there’s something about him that keeps drawing me in." Both boys find they’re living in a world where they can’t trust anyone, but might they be able to trust each other, with their secrets, their differences, themselves?

The books I picked & why

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A Little Life

By Hanya Yanagihara,

Book cover of A Little Life

Why this book?

This book will have you falling in love with, empathising, and aching for the main protagonist, Jude, who goes through more in his life than anyone should – and yet it is one of the most beautiful love stories I’ve ever read. One of my favourite parts of this book is when one of the characters, Willem, says that he’s not gay, he’s merely in love with Jude. The character portrayals in this book are some of the best I’ve ever come across. It’s a hardened person who won’t feel socked in the chest after reading this book. I read it twice, even though it ripped my heart out and tore it in two.

Every Day

By David Levithan,

Book cover of Every Day

Why this book?

This is a book I’ve also read twice. Imagine if, every day, you ended up in a different teenager’s life, but you only get to live it for one day? Imagine if, one day, you met the love of your life and have to try and conduct a romance with them when you are in a different person’s body every day, sometimes male, sometimes female, sometimes tall, sometimes short, sometimes a person of colour, sometimes not... I love the unique take the author has taken on the theme of it being the person inside that matters the most.


By Jeffrey Eugenides,

Book cover of Middlesex

Why this book?

This is the compelling story of an intersex individual (technically, a true haemophrodite i.e. with both male and female genitalia). Calliope is, to all appearances, a girl at birth but due to a rare recessive genetic disorder, begins to grow male genitalia when they reach puberty, thus transitioning to Cal. A fascinating tale that spans generations.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

By Oscar Wilde,

Book cover of The Picture of Dorian Gray

Why this book?

This is the story of a fashionable, attractive young man who sells his soul for eternal youth. This book was banned immediately after publication (1890) in almost every English-speaking country because of its homoerotic undertones and ‘suggestion’; Oscar Wilde was subsequently incarcerated for eighteen months because of his homosexuality, a sobering reminder of our not-so-distant past. Oscar Wilde’s gift for prose and dialogue, along with his acerbic wit, keep me coming back to his writing time and time again.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

By Benjamin Alire Sáenz,

Book cover of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Why this book?

This is a book that is brutal and tender by turns; a beautiful love story and one of the best LGBTQI coming-of-age novels that I’ve come across. I fell in love with the characters, Ari and Dante, and by the end felt as though I knew them. The prose is lyrical and poetic; the story one of fortitude, hope, and the power of human connection – because really, isn’t that what life is all about?

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