The best books on our lives in public: personal stories, memoirs and biographies from the LGBTQ community

Why am I passionate about this?

I had so many questions as I grew up. Why was I so different to other boys. Then, some 20 years ago, I started to find and talk to others like me. I realised I was transgender, ‘born in the wrong body’ as the saying goes. From that point on I began to work for the LGBTQ+ community as I also negotiated the personal and difficult path of transitioning from male to female. My passion for activism continues to this day, shown in my role as Chair of Dublin LGBTQ+ Pride and delivering workshops, presentations, and lectures to multinational companies and government bodies where I encourage everyone to see the beauty in diversity.

I wrote...

My Name Is Philippa

By Philippa Ryder,

Book cover of My Name Is Philippa

What is my book about?

From an early age I felt I was different. Growing up in a middle class suburban house with a loving family I had friends, played sports, and enjoyed lots of hobbies. However despite all I had in my life I couldn’t deny my innermost feelings – feelings that I was not being true to myself, not showing everyone who I really was. For I grew up a boy and only much later in life did I come to terms with the fact that I was a girl. So come with me on my journey of discovery, the highs and lows, changing from husband to wife, from father to mother, and discover the joy and sadness of my life in my memoir, My Name is Philippa.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Trans Voices: Becoming Who You Are

Philippa Ryder Why did I love this book?

I loved this book! The author has interviewed lots of trans people and has nicely captured the diversity of the different expressions of gender which is such an important part of being transgender. It covers all aspects of transitioning such as hormones, surgeries, coming out, sex and sexuality, and other areas.

The challenges faced by the trans community are also covered, from transphobia, discrimination, and hate crime to accessing vital health care. Declan Henry has provided valuable insights and lessons for the LGBTQ+ community and all who wish to be an ally to the trans community.

By Declan Henry,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Trans Voices as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Bronze Winner for the 2017 Independent Publisher Book Awards in the category of Gay/Lesbian/Bi/Trans Non-Fiction

Foregrounding the voices of transgender and non-binary people, this honest and insightful book is a compilation of the voices of those who have decided to undergo transition - both male-to-female and female-to-male. Drawing on over one hundred interviews with individuals, the book details the diverse experiences and challenges faced by those who transition, exploring a range of topics such as hormone treatments; reassignment surgeries; coming out; sex and sexuality; physical, emotional and mental health; transphobia; discrimination; and hate crime, as well as highlighting the lives…

Book cover of Like Other Girls

Philippa Ryder Why did I love this book?

This is a lovely and well-written young adult book of a girl who explores her sexuality and faces the many challenges of being a teenager in modern Ireland.

There are no holds barred in the telling of some of the incidents, and the protagonist Lauren ends up facing every teenage girl’s worst nightmare. Acceptance of difference is a strong theme through the novel and recent Irish referendums on Equal (Same Sex) marriage and legislation to legalise abortion in Ireland are seen from a young person’s valuable point of view.

By Claire Hennessy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Like Other Girls as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

'Magnificent ... I recommend highly' Marian Keyes

Here's what Lauren knows: she's not like other girls. She also knows it's problematic to say that - what's wrong with girls? She's even fancied some in the past. But if you were stuck in St Agnes, her posh all-girls school, you'd feel like that too. Here everyone's expected to be Perfect Young Ladies, it's even a song in the painfully awful musical they're putting on this year. And obviously said musical is directed by Lauren's arch nemesis.

Under it all though, Lauren's heart is bruised. Her boyfriend thinks she's crazy and her…

Book cover of The Boys: A Biography of Michael MacLiammoir & Hilton Edwards

Philippa Ryder Why did I love this book?

This was one of my favourite books recently. I picked it up in a charity shop out of curiosity as the two boys were extremely famous Irish actors and theatre designers, albeit being born in the UK.

Their relationship was illegal for the entirety of their lives but their talent and fame allowed them the liberty to walk hand in hand down Dublin’s fashionable Grafton Street in the 1950s, receiving only smiles and acknowledgements. The brilliant telling of their story covers all aspects of life in Ireland from the early 1900s, the difficulties they faced, financial and personal, but the love they felt for each other shines through every page.

If you can get a copy and have any interest in gay Irish culture and theatre I thoroughly recommend it. 

By Christopher Fitz-Simon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Boys as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Ireland of the inter-war years was an island of remarkable contradictions. In spite of the highly moralistic attitude of Church and State, including an official censorship of publications, there existed a heady atmosphere of laissez-faire. Artistic life in Dublin possessed a piquancy never found before or since, accentuated during the war years when Ireland's neutrality resulted in intense social activity centred on the international embassies.
Two inseparable figures of genius dominated the artistic scene in Dublin during this period: Hilton Edwards and Micheal MacLiammoir. Both were actors of formidable range and power. Edwards was also one of the finest…

Book cover of The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde: An Intimate Biography

Philippa Ryder Why did I love this book?

I was taken down a rabbit hole, exploring other aspects of 19th and 20th-century Irish and British gay culture.

This very comprehensive biography of Ireland’s leading playwright whose many amusing quotes are now part of everyday language deals predominantly with his sexuality, going into considerable detail in parts. Wilde was, as per his name, pretty wild!

His life was a true roller-coaster, from the height of his fame with many books, poetry, and stage productions making him a household name worldwide. Yet he was a troubled soul and the author of the biography has researched his subject intensively and has delivered possibly the ultimate work about this notable gay icon.

By Neil McKenna,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde, Neil McKenna provides stunning new insight into the tumultuous sexual and psychological worlds of this brilliant and tormented figure. McKenna charts Wildes astonishing odyssey through Londons sexual underworld, and provides explosive new evidence of the political machinations behind Wildes trials for sodomy. Dazzlingly written and meticulously researched, The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde offers a vividly original portrait of a troubled genius who chose to martyr himself for the cause of love between men.

Book cover of Pageboy: A Memoir

Philippa Ryder Why did I love this book?

Elliot Page is a Canadian actor who was assigned female at birth and transitioned to male a few years ago.

I was very interested in getting a different perspective on a journey that was the opposite of mine and I expected Elliot’s book to give that to me. To some degree it did, insightful passages detailing his thoughts, feelings, and desires as he grew to be the man he wanted and needed to be.

The writing style is slightly odd, a lot of flashbacks and it might have worked better as a straightforward chronological narrative. By the end of the memoir I really didn’t feel that I knew Elliot much better than at the beginning. However, for trans men it really is a worthwhile read.

By Elliot Page,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Pageboy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Full of intimate stories, from chasing down secret love affairs to battling body image and struggling with familial strife, Pageboy is a love letter to the power of being seen. With this evocative and lyrical debut, Elliot Page captures the universal human experience of searching for ourselves and our place in this complicated world.

'Can I kiss you?' It was two months before the world premiere of Juno, and Elliot Page was in his first ever queer bar. The hot summer air hung heavy around him as he looked at her. And then it happened. In front of everyone. The…

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A School for Unusual Girls

By Kathleen Baldwin,

Book cover of A School for Unusual Girls

Kathleen Baldwin Author Of Sanctuary for Seers: A Stranje House Novel

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Loves God Mother to Many Wilderness Adventurer History Enthusiast

Kathleen's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

A spy school for girls amidst Jane Austen’s high society.

Daughters of the Beau Monde who don’t fit London society’s strict mold are banished to Stranje House, where the headmistress trains these unusually gifted girls to enter the dangerous world of spies in the Napoleonic wars. #1 NYT bestselling author Meg Cabot calls this exciting historical series "completely original and totally engrossing."

A School for Unusual Girls

By Kathleen Baldwin,

What is this book about?

A School for Unusual Girls is the first captivating installment in the Stranje House series for young adults by award-winning author Kathleen Baldwin. #1 New York Times bestselling author Meg Cabot calls this romantic Regency adventure "completely original and totally engrossing."

It's 1814. Napoleon is exiled on Elba. Europe is in shambles. Britain is at war on four fronts. And Stranje House, a School for Unusual Girls, has become one of Regency England's dark little secrets. The daughters of the beau monde who don't fit high society's constrictive mold are banished to Stranje House to be reformed into marriageable young…

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