100 books like Real Queer America

By Samantha Allen,

Here are 100 books that Real Queer America fans have personally recommended if you like Real Queer America. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Travels with Charley in Search of America

Eyal Halfon Author Of They Were Here Before Us: Stories from Our First Million Years

From my list on traveling the world from your armchair.

Why am I passionate about this?

Long before I became a filmmaker and many years before I knew what pre-history meant, I was a restless traveler. I was an adventurer and a hiker, fascinated by maps and mountain peaks and constantly searching for the best place for a coffee break. In my list, I have tried to combine my passion for traveling with what is really important in life: people, friends, and travel companions.

Eyal's book list on traveling the world from your armchair

Eyal Halfon Why did Eyal love this book?

I wish I could be there, in the back seat of Steinbeck’s pickup truck…with a 10-year-old French poodle named Charlie.

Steinbeck's travelogue is a farewell to the America he knew and an observation of a country that is changing before his eyes. What a joy it could have been to join this great writer (and the poodle) if only for a part of his 10,000-mile road trip across the USA at the beginning of the 60s.

By John Steinbeck,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked Travels with Charley in Search of America as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An intimate journey across America, as told by one of its most beloved writers

To hear the speech of the real America, to smell the grass and the trees, to see the colors and the light-these were John Steinbeck's goals as he set out, at the age of fifty-eight, to rediscover the country he had been writing about for so many years.

With Charley, his French poodle, Steinbeck drives the interstates and the country roads, dines with truckers, encounters bears at Yellowstone and old friends in San Francisco. Along the way he reflects on the American character, racial hostility, the…


Book cover of Blue Highways

Kayla Anderson Author Of Moon Northern California Road Trip: Drives along the Coast, Redwoods, and Mountains with the Best Stops along the Way

From my list on embarking on epic adventures from your armchair.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was born and raised in Northern California, right on the banks of the Sacramento River. While I didn’t realize it growing up, it was an epicenter for outdoor adventures. Along with skiing, snowboarding, hiking, wakeboarding, and camping, I always read a lot. My dad was worried that I would have no sense of direction because I was always in the back of our van or RV reading a book. That led to writing…and I had my first article published in a wakeboarding magazine when I was 15 years old. Traveling always took a backburner to reading, but now it’s front and center of my writing. 

Kayla's book list on embarking on epic adventures from your armchair

Kayla Anderson Why did Kayla love this book?

This is classic literature in the realm of American travel.

I had no idea that “blue highways” existed, and even though Heat-Moon went cross-country back in the 1970s in his van equipped with his igloo cooler and makeshift bed (not like the $100k fancy campers you find today), the type of people you meet and experiences you have in this amazing country are still relevant today.

In Blue Highways Revisited, I was shocked to read how long it took for this book to get published and the stacks of printed-out drafts he had of it (I think it was like four feet high). If there are any travel writing classes taught as part of a creative writing program, then Blue Highways better be on the list. 

By William Least Heat-Moon,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Blue Highways as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hailed as a masterpiece of American travel writing, Blue Highways is an unforgettable journey along our nation's backroads.
William Least Heat-Moon set out with little more than the need to put home behind him and a sense of curiosity about "those little towns that get on the map -- if they get on at all -- only because some cartographer has a blank space to fill: Remote, Oregon; Simplicity, Virginia; New Freedom, Pennsylvania; New Hope, Tennessee; Why, Arizona; Whynot, Mississippi."
His adventures, his discoveries, and his recollections of the extraordinary people he encountered along the way amount to a revelation…


Book cover of Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey into the Heart of America

Ryan Bernsten Author Of 50 States of Mind: A Journey to Rediscover American Democracy

From my list on nonfiction about the great American road trip.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Midwest-based speaker, writer, and theatre-maker. I received my Creative Writing Master's from the University of Oxford where I was given a grant to travel to all 50 states to research my first book, 50 States of Mind: A Journey to Rediscover American Democracy and started the companion podcast 50 States of Mind. I'm a contributor for The Infatuation and have been published in USA Today, The Fulcrum, and The Oxford Political Review. You may have seen me chatting with Helen Mirren as a Slytherin contestant on Harry Potter: Tournament of Houses. I’m currently the Senior Managing Editor at The Trevor Project, overseeing editorial strategy to end suicide among LGBTQ young people.

Ryan's book list on nonfiction about the great American road trip

Ryan Bernsten Why did Ryan love this book?

The most nonfiction-forward of the bunch, Our Towns presents a remarkable journey through small towns across America.
Atlantic columnists and husband and wife duo James and Deborah Fallows fly their airplane all over the United States to explore the stories of small communities experiencing a renaissance, highlighting the creativity and innovation of community leaders across America.

This insightful book offers a refreshing glimpse into the heartland; in an age of upsetting news stories, I love how this book gives us permission to be open to good news in our communities.

By James Fallows, Deborah Fallows,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • "James and Deborah Fallows have always moved to where history is being made.... They have an excellent sense of where world-shaping events are taking place at any moment" —The New York Times • The basis for the HBO documentary streaming on HBO Max

For five years, James and Deborah Fallows have travelled across America in a single-engine prop airplane. Visiting dozens of towns, the America they saw is acutely conscious of its problems—from economic dislocation to the opioid scourge—but it is also crafting solutions, with a practical-minded determination at dramatic odds with the bitter paralysis of national…


Book cover of The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America

Patrick Forsyth Author Of Smile Because It Happened: Antidotes to Melancholy in Thailand, the Land of Smiles

From my list on feeding your lust for travel.

Why am I passionate about this?

I worked for many years in business consultancy before branching into other genres, including fiction. Through working regularly in Singapore I was able to travel around the region, finding I loved that part of the world. I came to regard Thailand as the jewel of Southeast Asia. I continue to visit and aim for my light-hearted travel writing to encourage others to enjoy the area and be ambitious in their travel plans. I regard my book as an invitation to share my love of a unique place and was delighted when one reviewer described my writing of it as “Brysonish.”

Patrick's book list on feeding your lust for travel

Patrick Forsyth Why did Patrick love this book?

Any recommendation about travel writing must surely include Bill Bryson. I love his writing, and I reckon this, his first book, is still the best.

I love the idea–brought up in small-town America he revisits the tours by car his family took as holidays. I love his descriptions and especially his ability to spot absurdities in a way that can have the me laughing aloud. It is a book that had me moving on to read everything he wrote thereafter.

By Bill Bryson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to'

And, as soon as Bill Bryson was old enough, he left. Des Moines couldn't hold him, but it did lure him back. After ten years in England, he returned to the land of his youth, and drove almost 14,000 miles in search of a mythical small town called Amalgam, the kind of trim and sunny place where the films of his youth were set. Instead, his search led him to Anywhere, USA; a lookalike strip of gas stations, motels and hamburger outlets populated by lookalike people with a penchant for synthetic fibres.…


Book cover of Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl

Jennifer Savran Kelly Author Of Endpapers

From my list on queer people on the edge.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m endlessly fascinated by people’s resilience—how we hold onto life and find meaning in it when everything seems to be falling apart. As a queer and genderqueer author, I especially love to see stories about queer characters in all of their human messiness, characters who aren’t forced to be models of perfection in order to earn readers’ empathy, stories that show us queer people don’t deserve dignity because we’re perfect; we deserve it because we’re human. These five novels have affected me deeply because they don’t shy away from the complexities of grief, love, parenting, trauma, sex, social justice, gender identity, and more. 

Jennifer's book list on queer people on the edge

Jennifer Savran Kelly Why did Jennifer love this book?

Lawlor’s novel gave me the best gift a book can offer: it changed my mind halfway through.

I had been so intrigued by the premise of a shapeshifting character who can change their gender at will, that I forced myself to read on even though I wasn’t enjoying the emphasis on sex, especially as conquest, and I was sorely disappointed the story didn’t seem to go deeper.

But as I continued, I was happy to be proven wrong. By the end of the novel, I was checking my own biases and prejudices and empathizing deeply with Paul and his/her/their struggles. Reading this novel was an emotional experience unlike any I’ve had with a book.

By Andrea Lawlor,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl is quite simply one of the most exciting - and one of the most fun - novels of the decade.' Garth Greenwell

It's 1993 and Paul Polydoris tends bar at the only gay club in a university town thrumming with politics and partying. He studies queer theory, has a lesbian best friend, makes zines, and is a flaneur with a rich dating life. But Paul's also got a secret: he's a shapeshifter. Oscillating wildly from Riot Grrrl to leather cub, Women's Studies major to trade, Paul transforms his body at will in…


Book cover of A Queer History of the United States

Nicholas Blair Author Of Castro to Christopher: Gay Streets of America 1979-1986

From my list on LGBTQ history through photography and print.

Why am I passionate about this?

I became aware of the struggles of the LGBTQ community as a 22-year-old touring the Dachau concentration camp in Germany, where hundreds of gay men were imprisoned—my mother was a Holocaust survivor who survived Auschwitz. A month later, in October 1978, after I returned to San Francisco, Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone were murdered. As a hippie, San Francisco seemed extremely tolerant, but after the murders, I realized there was a monumental struggle for “unalienable rights” in the LGBTQ community. I started photographing LGBTQ political events and, for six years, documented the “gay liberation movement” as it exploded across the streets of New York and San Francisco.

Nicholas' book list on LGBTQ history through photography and print

Nicholas Blair Why did Nicholas love this book?

I learned so many things that I was not taught in school from this book. As if revealing a parallel universe, I was made aware of the history of LGBTQ life and culture hidden in American history.

I could think about Melville in a new way when he wrote, “..waking next morning I found Queequeg’s arm thrown over me in the most affectionate manner. You had almost thought I had been his wife”.

Or Emily Dickinson, who remained single but was steadfastly devoted to her close friend Sue Gilbert, who had married her brother. She wrote to Sue: “Susie, forgive me, darling, for every word I say–my heart is full of you, none other than you is in my thoughts…”

By Michael Bronski,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Queer History of the United States as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of a 2012 Stonewall Book Award in nonfiction

The first book to cover the entirety of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender history, from pre-1492 to the present.

In the 1620s, Thomas Morton broke from Plymouth Colony and founded Merrymount, which celebrated same-sex desire, atheism, and interracial marriage. Transgender evangelist Jemima Wilkinson, in the early 1800s, changed her name to “Publick Universal Friend,” refused to use pronouns, fought for gender equality, and led her own congregation in upstate New York. In the mid-nineteenth century, internationally famous Shakespearean actor Charlotte Cushman led an openly lesbian life, including a well-publicized “female marriage.”…


Book cover of No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics

Meg-John Barker Author Of Sexuality: A Graphic Guide

From my list on comic books about sexuality.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a queer writer who is passionate about getting good awareness of gender, sexuality, relationships and mental health out there into the world. I create comics, zines, blog posts, and self-help style books to try to reach as wide an audience as possible, bringing together the work of activists, scholars, therapists, and creators - and drawing on a diverse range of knowledge and experiences - in the hope of helping us all understand ourselves and our world better.

Meg-John's book list on comic books about sexuality

Meg-John Barker Why did Meg-John love this book?

No Straight Lines brings together multiple comic creators from four decades of comics by and about LGBTQ+ people. If you want to get a sense of how the queer community has developed and changed over time, and how comics have reflected - and impacted - that, then this anthology is definitely the place to go. 

From early underground gay and lesbian comics, through responses to the AIDS crisis, to more recent webcomics and trans memoirs, this book takes the reader on a historical journey and introduces them to many creators of fictional and non-fictional comics who they may well want to read more from.

By Justin Hall,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked No Straight Lines as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Collecting the world's greatest LGBT comics under one cover.

Queer cartooning encompasses some of the best and most interesting comics of the last four decades, with creators tackling complex issues of identity and a changing society with intelligence, humor, and imagination. This book celebrates this vibrant artistic underground by gathering together a collection of excellent stories that can be enjoyed by all.

No Straight Lines showcases major names such as Alison Bechdel (whose book Fun Home was named Time Magazine’s 2006 Book of the Year), Howard Cruse (whose groundbreaking Stuck Rubber Baby is now back in print), and Ralf Koenig…


Book cover of A Queer History of the United States for Young People

Robin Stevenson Author Of When You Get the Chance

From my list on queer communities throughout history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love reading about queer history: It’s the story of a diverse, courageous, and creative community, and it’s filled with inspiring actions and fascinating people. It’s also a history I had to seek out for myself because it was never taught at school—and although there has been progress since I came out as queer three decades ago, this is still true for most teens today. Over the last few years, I have written LGBTQIA+ books for all ages, and spoken to thousands of students. The books on this list explore queer history in ways that I think many teens will find highly enjoyable as well as informative.

Robin's book list on queer communities throughout history

Robin Stevenson Why did Robin love this book?

After reading all that historical fiction, you might be ready to learn more about the time periods and events that you’ve been introduced to. This non-fiction book is based on the author’s 2012 Stonewall Award-winning A Queer History of the United States and is adapted for teen readers. It includes some well-known figures, alongside profiles of many people that readers may never have heard of. Engaging and easy to read, this is a fascinating and richly detailed telling of queer American history, particularly in the years before the Stonewall Riots.

By Michael Bronski,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Queer History of the United States for Young People as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Named one of the Best Nonfiction Books of 2019 by School Library Journal

Queer history didn’t start with Stonewall. This book explores how LGBTQ people have always been a part of our national identity, contributing to the country and culture for over 400 years.

It is crucial for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth to know their history. But this history is not easy to find since it’s rarely taught in schools or commemorated in other ways. A Queer History of the United States for Young People corrects this and demonstrates that LGBTQ people have long been vital to…


Book cover of In the Spider's Room: A Novel

Saleem Haddad Author Of Guapa

From my list on novels that capture modern global queer experiences.

Why am I passionate about this?

Saleem Haddad was born in Kuwait City to an Iraqi-German mother and a Palestinian-Lebanese father. He has worked with Médecins Sans Frontières and other international organisations in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Lebanon, and Egypt. His first novel, Guapa, is a political and personal coming-of-age story of a young gay man living through the 2011 Arab revolutions. The novel received critical acclaim from the New Yorker, The Guardian, and others. It was awarded a Stonewall Honour and won the 2017 Polari First Book Prize. His directorial debut, Marco, premiered in March 2019 and was nominated for the 2019 Iris Prize for ‘Best British Short Film’.

Saleem's book list on novels that capture modern global queer experiences

Saleem Haddad Why did Saleem love this book?

Written from the perspective of one of the victims of the infamous 2001 Queen Boat scandal, when 52 men were arrested and put on trial in Egypt during a raid on a gay party, In the Spider’s Room is an intense depiction of living in a society that fears and rejects any form of queerness. Unflinching, claustrophobic, and suffocating, Abdelnaby does not shy away from exploring what happens when one is presented with no avenues for expressing their desires and sense of self.

By Muhammad Abdelnabi, Jonathan Wright (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In the Spider's Room as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A sensitive and courageous account of life as a gay man in Egypt and Winner of the 2019 Prix de la Littérature Arabe

Hani was out for an evening stroll near Cairo’s Tahrir Square when a heavy hand landed on his shoulder. An informant had identified him, and he was thrown into the back of a police truck. There began a seven-month nightmare as he was swept up, along with fifty other men, in the infamous Queen Boat affair that targeted Egypt’s gay community.

Finally free, but traumatized into speechlessness, Hani writes down the events of his life―his first sexual…


Book cover of Out of the Blue

Jen Desmarais Author Of Crushing It

From my list on queer cozy YA romances that make you want to fall in love.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was a teenager, I didn’t have romance in my life. I was so extremely shy that I could barely look at people I thought were cute, let alone talk to them. I lived vicariously through books. Now that I’m older (and way less shy), I still love reliving that time of my life through books. How would I have reacted differently in the same situation? How would things have been different if I had been more outgoing? Only recently, I realized that I was queer, and I’ve been slowly dipping my toes into that world as well.

Jen's book list on queer cozy YA romances that make you want to fall in love

Jen Desmarais Why did Jen love this book?

This was my first read of Jason’s work, and I was pleasantly surprised by just how much I loved it.

The mythology of the world was incredibly well-built, and I loved it when the humans got involved, too. The fat rep was incredible. It’s amazing to read about characters described like myself. The non-binary rep was excellent.

Overall, this was a fun read that I borrowed from the library and then bought because I loved it.

By Jason June,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Out of the Blue as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER!

From Jason June, author of the breakout teen debut novel Jay's Gay Agenda, comes Out of the Blue, a stand-alone dual POV queer rom-com that asks if love is enough to change everything you've grown up believing. Perfect for fans of Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas and Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly.

Crest is not excited to be on their Journey: the month-long sojourn on land all teen merfolk must undergo. The rules are simple: Help a human within one moon cycle and return to Pacifica to become an Elder-or fail and remain stuck…


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