The best lesbian books

87 authors have picked their favorite books about lesbian and why they recommend each book.

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Untamed

By Glennon Doyle,

Book cover of Untamed

Doyle is an excellent storyteller, and I found this memoir revealing and powerful as she explores the cost of striving to meet others’ expectations, something I could totally relate to. She begins the book with a metaphor, comparing the life of a caged cheetah with the lives of women who get caged into believing society’s truth about them instead of finding, and living, their own truth. I learned that I need to stop that behavior and start trusting the voice deep within me. This follows two other memoirs that she wrote: Love Warrior and Carry on, Warrior, which I also loved reading.

Untamed

By Glennon Doyle,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • OVER TWO MILLION COPIES SOLD! “Packed with incredible insight about what it means to be a woman today.”—Reese Witherspoon (Reese’s Book Club Pick)

In her most revealing and powerful memoir yet, the activist, speaker, bestselling author, and “patron saint of female empowerment” (People) explores the joy and peace we discover when we stop striving to meet others’ expectations and start trusting the voice deep within us.

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY O: The Oprah Magazine • The Washington Post • Cosmopolitan • Marie Claire • Bloomberg • Parade •…

Who am I?

I wanted to write this book to show there are many ways to lead a happy and successful life. Marriage isn’t for everyone and thank God, I never settled for any of the men I dated over the years. Simply put, I have a bad picker. I’ve tried everything to change this fact but finally decided to embrace my life instead of yearning for someone’s else's happily ever after. I hope you enjoy the books I listed here. Reading them has helped me come to accept and love the life I live.


I wrote...

I'm Not Single, I Have a Dog: Dating Tales from the Bark Side

By Susan Hartzler,

Book cover of I'm Not Single, I Have a Dog: Dating Tales from the Bark Side

What is my book about?

By age 60, Susan Hartzler learned to accept, even love, the single life, provided she had good friends and a dog or two by her side. Always attracted to bad boys, her compulsive giving and fixing behaviors went hand in hand with her disappointing and disastrous romantic relationships. She turned to the dog pound to find a dog to care for, one that would sniff out the bad guys, give her a sense of purpose, and help her find meaning in her crazy world. Thoughtful, tragic, and funny, this memoir follows Susan's life through the many ups and downs on her way to finding unconditional love. By saving a dog, she rescues herself, learning to love herself as much as her dog loves her.

Fun Home

By Alison Bechdel,

Book cover of Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic

Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir about her enigmatic father and his ambiguous death paralleled my experience in so many ways that it made me feel less alone in my grief and puzzlement. Where she grew up in a funeral home, my brother and I grew up around grass-strip airports. Where her father was closeted gay, ours was closeted trans, and where her father stepped backwards into the path of a truck, our father was found in a field. Being told in a graphic format and by a fellow lesbian with ties to the Midwest made it all the more stirring.

Fun Home

By Alison Bechdel,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Fun Home as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

DISCOVER the BESTSELLING GRAPHIC MEMOIR behind the Olivier Award nominated musical.

'A sapphic graphic treat' The Times

A moving and darkly humorous family tale, pitch-perfectly illustrated with Alison Bechdel's gothic drawings. If you liked Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis you'll love this.

Meet Alison's father, a historic preservation expert and obsessive restorer of the family's Victorian home, a third-generation funeral home director, a high-school English teacher, an icily distant parent, and a closeted homosexual who, as it turns out, is involved with his male students and the family babysitter. When Alison comes out as homosexual herself in late adolescence, the denouement is…


Who am I?

Born into a family with friction between parents, I never thought relationships could get much worse. When my parents divorced, father became estranged, then died by apparent suicide, memoirs by diverse voices opened my world and made me feel less alone. When I went through a sexual and gender identity crisis of my own, they helped me navigate the turmoil in my own life. I spent more than twenty-five years writing professionally for corporate and academic employers before writing biography and memoir became a coping skill.


I wrote...

Murder of an Uncommon Man

By A.M. Kirsch,

Book cover of Murder of an Uncommon Man

What is my book about?

Based on the story of my father’s life and death, Murder of an Uncommon Man follows Janet Berg as she investigates the life and death of Daniel, found dead in a field with a shotgun. Poring over scribbled notes and emails, police reports, and his well-worn Bible, she uncovers a life that ended in one of two ways. Janet’s memoir chronicles the life and death of her father, from his youth in 1950s Saskatchewan to unravelling the mystery of his death ten years afterwards.

Book cover of Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

Jeanette Winterson writes her upbringing as an only, adopted child with a mother who hated being a nobody and found her life in church, who used face powder, but not lipstick – too fast and loose. Written with wry prose. "My mother was a snob and she didn’t like me mixing with the dog biscuit girls from Oswaldtwistle." A child longing for love and loyalty, wrestling with a mother who parcelled out either one on ration. It is a brilliant portrayal of the mother-daughter dynamic, a memoir that captures the Lancashire spirit of family life, roll up your sleeves and get on with it. 

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

By Jeanette Winterson,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The shocking, heart-breaking - and often very funny - true story behind Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit.

In 1985 Jeanette Winterson's first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, was published. It was Jeanette's version of the story of a terraced house in Accrington, an adopted child, and the thwarted giantess Mrs Winterson. It was a cover story, a painful past written over and repainted. It was a story of survival.

This book is that story's the silent twin. It is full of hurt and humour and a fierce love of life. It is about the pursuit of happiness,…


Who am I?

I’ve been a life writer since I kept my first Mary Quant, Daisy diary in 1973. Reading and writing memoir, I’ve written thirty as a ghostwriter in the last six years and am working on my own. I’m fascinated by life stories. After an MA in Creative Writing at Birkbeck, I won the Wasafiri Life Writing Prize, which led to a novel in biographical form, based on the life of my nan in the last century, Girl in the Mirror. I write stories, short and long, for adults and children, performing nationally and in London, was Writer in Residence for Talliston House, and have been published by Walker Books and Mslexia.


I wrote...

Girl in the Mirror

By Jools Abrams,

Book cover of Girl in the Mirror

What is my book about?

A novel of historical fiction that chronicles the life of Muriel: A giddy kipper of a girl who craves the spotlight of a movie star. An ordinary girl with extraordinary dreams, growing up on either side of the war in a family who behaves as if love is on ration, her restless spirit sparks through her dancing shoes and love of art. A spirit that creates struggles with her fragile mind. Can she find a balance in her fractured life held together with love?

"A human, complex and very beautifully crafted novel." (Kerry Hudson, author of Lowborn), "Fizzing with life." (Sophie Lambert, agent)

Notes of a Crocodile

By Qiu Miaojin, Bonnie Huie (translator),

Book cover of Notes of a Crocodile

This affecting and disturbing novel about a group of queer friends in late-80s Taiwan was ahead of its time in content, form, and vision. Premised on the idea of a collection of notebooks, the text incorporates multiple literary forms, and the “otherworldly” element is in Qiu’s use of the crocodile as a literalized metaphor for queer identity. A sobering and captivating read. 

Notes of a Crocodile

By Qiu Miaojin, Bonnie Huie (translator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Notes of a Crocodile as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize Longlisted for the PEN Translation Prize A New York Times Editors' Choice
The English-language premiere of Qiu Miaojin's coming-of-age novel about queer teenagers in Taiwan, a cult classic in China and winner of the 1995 China Times Literature Award.

An NYRB Classics Original

Set in the post-martial-law era of late-1980s Taipei, Notes of a Crocodile is a coming-of-age story of queer misfits discovering love, friendship, and artistic affinity while hardly studying at Taiwan's most prestigious university. Told through the eyes of an anonymous lesbian narrator nicknamed Lazi, this cult classic is a…

Who am I?

The ghostly/magical and Taiwan are two of my major interests—I have written about both in my fiction. After living in Taiwan for a few years and getting to know my mother’s side of the family, I gained an appreciation for its complicated history, riveting politics, and the energy of daily life there. Its confluence of people and histories has made it a unique cultural amalgam and these books capture the way folk religion and the spiritual/magical are wedded into the bustling contemporary urban life of Taiwan. I hope you find yourself as enchanted and intrigued by these stories as I have been!


I wrote...

Green Island

By Shawna Yang Ryan,

Book cover of Green Island

What is my book about?

February 28, 1947: Trapped inside the family home amid an uprising that has rocked Taipei, Dr. Tsai delivers his youngest daughter, the unnamed narrator of Green Island, as the city is plunged into martial law. In the following weeks, Dr. Tsai becomes one of the many thousands of people dragged away from their families and thrown into prison. His return, after eleven years, is marked by alienation from his loved ones and conflicts that loom over the growing bond he forms with his youngest daughter. Years later, this troubled past follows her to the United States, where she too is forced to decide between what is right and what might save her family—the same choice she witnessed her father make years before. 

Gideon the Ninth

By Tamsin Muir,

Book cover of Gideon the Ninth

If you prefer your mysteries with a side of sci-fi, you can’t go wrong with Gideon the Ninth. There’s a lot going on here— deadly trials, spooky settings, competing necromancers, and secrets upon secrets—but in this dark, imaginative world, the characters are what make this book amazing. Gideon Nav (sarcastic swordswoman and reader of dirty magazines) is cool, funny, and somehow very relatable, and her relationship with her nemesis, Harrowhark (horrible little bone witch) is the heart of the story. This isn’t an easy read, and the book is one people either love or hate, but it’s unique, original, and the mystery kept me guessing until the very end. There are few books I’ve become totally obsessed with, but this is one of them.

Gideon the Ninth

By Tamsin Muir,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked Gideon the Ninth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

15+ pages of new, original content, including a glossary of terms, in-universe writings, and more!

A USA Today Best-Selling Novel!

"Unlike anything I've ever read. " --V.E. Schwab

"Lesbian necromancers explore a haunted gothic palace in space!" --Charles Stross

"Brilliantly original, messy and weird straight through." --NPR

The Emperor needs necromancers.

The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.

Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead nonsense.

Tamsyn Muir's Gideon the Ninth, first in The Locked Tomb Trilogy, unveils a solar system of swordplay, cut-throat politics, and lesbian necromancers. Her characters leap off the page, as…

Who am I?

I’ve been addicted to books since I was young, and as a person with a disability that keeps me largely housebound, most of my time is filled with reading and writing. I love stories where I can’t predict the ending—because the plot takes an unexpected twist, or because the mystery unravels in an unanticipated way, and since I’m a fantasy fan, I’m thrilled when those stories include unique monsters and magic. As an author who combines fantasy and mystery, it’s uncommon for me to be truly surprised by a book, but the ones on this list left me delighted, surprised, or unravelling the mystery until the very end.


I wrote...

Lovely, Dark and Deep

By Claudia Cain,

Book cover of Lovely, Dark and Deep

What is my book about?

It’s a beautiful day in autumn, and a little girl has gone missing… she’s not the first. Hannah Hendricks is the fourth child to disappear from the town of Fallow Creek. Search parties comb the woods, but there’s no trace of the missing children, as if they’ve vanished off the face of the earth.

Cassandra Reilly is certain magic is involved, but few people trust the word of a witch, and fewer still want her help. It seems there’s little she can do—until Hannah’s parents arrive on her doorstep, begging for magical aid. But agreeing to help is more dangerous than Cass knows. Something evil is at work in Fallow Creek, and if she’s not careful, she’ll lead it back to her own door.

Her Neighbor's Wife

By Lauren Jae Gutterman,

Book cover of Her Neighbor's Wife: A History of Lesbian Desire Within Marriage

In contrast to stereotypes about lesbians that framed them as bra-burning, men-hating, hairy-legged feminists, Lauren Gutterman evocatively shows how the emergence of post-World War II lesbian desire took place at the center of American life, in the suburbs, often in marriages to men and heterosexual families with children. Married women rejected divorce or labelling themselves as lesbians even while they had affairs with their female neighbors. Her Neighbor’s Wife offers an extraordinary new interpretation of how post-World War II American marriages could accommodate women’s relationships with other women.

Her Neighbor's Wife

By Lauren Jae Gutterman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Her Neighbor's Wife as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

At first glance, Barbara Kalish fit the stereotype of a 1950s wife and mother. Married at eighteen, Barbara lived with her husband and two daughters in a California suburb, where she was president of the Parent-Teacher Association. At a PTA training conference in San Francisco, Barbara met Pearl, another PTA president who also had two children and happened to live only a few blocks away from her. To Barbara, Pearl was "the most gorgeous woman in the world," and the two began an affair that lasted over a decade.
Through interviews, diaries, memoirs, and letters, Her Neighbor's Wife traces the…


Who am I?

Like most people, I find the history of sex and everything associated with it fascinating! It’s often been difficult to document and interpret the complexities about heterosexuality, gender identity, and same-sex desire as well as women’s reproductive health which is intimately (although not exclusively of course) linked to sex. We are in a golden age of fantastic work on so many aspects of the history of sex. Apart from the intrinsic interest of these books, I think they provide such an important context for our very lively and often very intense contemporary legal, political, and cultural debates over sex in all its forms.


I wrote...

Book cover of Sex in an Old Regime City: Young Workers and Intimacy in France, 1660-1789

What is my book about?

Our ideas about the long histories of young couples' relationships and women's efforts to manage their reproductive health are often premised on the notion of a powerful sexual double standard. Yet in seventeenth and eighteenth-century France, young workers had the freedom to experiment with intimacy as part of courtships, they routinely had sex before marriage, and their communities were quick to support young women whose beaus refused to marry them when they became pregnant. Young couples were sometimes not ready to get married when they became pregnant. They tried a wide variety of ways to interrupt reproduction, or in our terms to get an abortion, or to move the baby off the scene after its birth.

The voices, pleasures, perils, and reproductive challenges of young couples are vividly captured. Local courts, Catholic clergy, and neighbors, kin, and co-workers all pragmatically supported young couples in these relationship and reproductive struggles.

Maiden & Princess

By Daniel Haack, Isabel Galupo, Becca Human (illustrator)

Book cover of Maiden & Princess

This sweet story told in rhyme begins with the usual trope of a royal family holding a ball to find a bride for the prince. One maiden, the bravest in the land, is not thrilled. The racially diverse cast of characters, illustrated in bright colors, find an ending satisfying to all when the maiden falls in love with the prince’s sister.

Maiden & Princess

By Daniel Haack, Isabel Galupo, Becca Human (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Maiden & Princess as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this modern fairy tale, a strong, brave maiden is invited to attend the prince's royal ball, but at the dance, she ends up finding true love in a most surprising place.

"The prince is smart and strong,"

she confided in her mother.

"But if I'm being honest,

I see him as a brother."

Her mother said, "Just go!

And have a bit of fun.

The prince might not be right,

but you could meet the one."

Once in a faraway kingdom, a strong, brave maiden is invited to attend the prince's royal ball, but she's not as excited to…

Who am I?

I wrote Uncle Bobby’s Wedding in 2005, just after same-sex marriage became legal in Massachusetts. It was published in 2008 and immediately became the target of anti-LGBT attacks. Many people attempted to ban it. Some went so far as to burn it – and then they wrote to tell me they had. It was one of the most challenged books in the country that year, and it was one of the 100 most-challenged books of the decade. I have been deeply involved with LGBTQ+ picture books ever since. 


I wrote...

Uncle Bobby's Wedding

By Sarah S. Brannen, Lucia Soto (illustrator),

Book cover of Uncle Bobby's Wedding

What is my book about?

Chloe’s favorite uncle is getting married, and she’s not happy about it. But after a magical day with Uncle Bobby and his boyfriend, Jamie, Chloe realizes she’s not losing an uncle, but gaining one.

​Produced in coordination with GLAAD, this adorable picture book is a positive example of same-sex marriage and a celebration of family.

In the Dream House

By Carmen Maria Machado,

Book cover of In the Dream House: A Memoir

This raw and heartbreaking memoir is told in prose that is sometimes stark, sometimes lush, and always riveting. It is a story of domestic abuse that especially highlights the way an abuser can affect so much more than your physical health. The dream house Machado speaks of is a haunted house in and of itself, a metaphorical place that the abuser has infiltrated, its unwelcome and ever-present guest. This is not an easy read, but it has stayed with me long after I finished its last page. 

In the Dream House

By Carmen Maria Machado,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked In the Dream House as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Ravishingly beautiful' Observer
'Excruciatingly honest and yet vibrantly creative' Irish Times
'Provocative and rich' Economist
'Daring, chilling, and unlike anything else you've ever read' Esquire
'An absolute must-read' Stylist

WINNER OF THE RATHBONES FOLIO PRIZE 2021

In the Dream House is Carmen Maria Machado's engrossing and wildly innovative account of a relationship gone bad. Tracing the full arc of a harrowing experience with a charismatic but volatile woman, this is a bold dissection of the mechanisms and cultural representations of psychological abuse.

Each chapter views the relationship through a different lens, as Machado holds events up to the light and…

Who am I?

Mental health has always been at the forefront of my writing because it has always been at the forefront of my life. My own experience with mental health is something I talk about openly and often, doing whatever I can to contribute to ending its stigma. My own mind has been haunted just as the minds of the characters in these novels are haunted, and that is why I have always been drawn to these stories. Just as I have felt less alone in reading these novels, it is my hope that someone out there will feel equally less alone, equally seen, and equally safe within the pages of my own novels.


I wrote...

Horrid

By Katrina Leno,

Book cover of Horrid

What is my book about?

Following her father's sudden death, Jane and her mom, Ruth, move from California to the dreary, dilapidated old house in Maine where Ruth grew up. All they want is a fresh start, but North Manor seems to hide secrets behind each of its locked doors…As the cold New England autumn arrives, Jane tries to find solace in old books and memories of her dad. But then she discovers that the "storage room" Ruth has kept locked is actually a little girl's bedroom, left untouched for years and not quite as empty of inhabitants as it appears . . .

Are all the creepy things happening at North Manor due to grief? Mental illness? Or something more . . . horrid?

Book cover of Last Night at the Telegraph Club

I really enjoyed Lo’s writing and how she intersected the love and passion between two teenage girls (Lily, who is Chinese American and Kath, who is Caucasian), and the risks they take to be together. This is a historical novel set in 1954 and Lo artfully juxtaposes their growing desire alongside the oppression and harassment of queer people at the time. I found it captivating how Lily’s family and Chinese tradition impact the story, along with the constraints of living in San Francisco’s Chinatown and the ongoing red-baiting at the time. The illicit nature of same-sex desire added to the tension and heightened the girls’ quest to remain together. Lo didn’t shirk from addressing the impact of racism, sexism, and repression of Chinese and Chinese American people by the US government.

Also interesting was how she brought to light the clubs in SF’s North Beach where male impersonators performed and…

Last Night at the Telegraph Club

By Malinda Lo,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Last Night at the Telegraph Club as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"That book. It was about two women, and they fell in love with each other." And then Lily asked the question that had taken root in her, that was even now unfurling its leaves and demanding to be shown the sun: "Have you ever heard of such a thing?"

Seventeen-year-old Lily Hu can't remember exactly when the question took root, but the answer was in full bloom the moment she and Kathleen Miller walked under the flashing neon sign of a lesbian bar called the Telegraph Club.

America in 1954 is not a safe place for two girls to fall…

Who am I?

I wrote my first novel in a quest to create a story about a girl who loves girls surviving a violent, repressive world. Reading novels pertinent to the life I’ve lived was both affirming and life-saving. After graduate school, I developed a class at UC Berkeley where I focused on novels written by and about women of color, knowing compelling stories gave the students a chance to live in someone else’s universe. I still believe books can change hearts and minds, and reading them propels me to continue seeking well-told stories by authors—particularly writers of color—who have the courage to put their words on the page. 


I wrote...

What Night Brings

By Carla Trujillo,

Book cover of What Night Brings

What is my book about?

Marci Cruz wants two things from God: change her into a boy, and rid her of her father. What Night Brings is the unforgettable story of Marci’s struggle to find and maintain her identity against all odds—a perilous home life, an incomprehensible Church, and a largely indifferent world. Smart, feisty, and funny, 13-year-old Marci prays to become a boy so that she can capture the attention of Raquel, the teenage beauty next door. Marci's fighting spirit, her sense of justice, and her power of observation enable her to find her identity and her freedom.

Pulp

By Robin Talley,

Book cover of Pulp

This historical novel also explores the lives of lesbians in the 1950s, but in a very different way: it is told in dual narratives, from the point of view of two teen girls growing up and coming out six decades apart. In 1955, eighteen-year-old Janet finds a series of books about women who love other women: lesbian pulp novels. Sixty-two years later, Abby is studying classic 1950s lesbian pulp fiction. It’s a cleverly constructed story and I love how the two stories are woven together.

From a queer history perspective, the book is well-researched and illuminates the danger and fear faced by so many queer people during the Lavender Scare, and the important role played by lesbian pulp novels in a time when young queer girls rarely saw others like themselves. 

Pulp

By Robin Talley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the award-winning author Robin Talley comes an inspiring new novel about the power of love to fight prejudice and hate.

Two women connected across generations through the power of words.

In 1955 eighteen-year-old Janet Jones must keep the love she shares with her best friend a secret. As in the age of McCarthyism to be gay is to sin. But when Janet discovers a series of books about women falling in love with other women, it awakens something in her. As she juggles a romance she must keep hidden and a new-found ambition to write and publish her own…


Who am I?

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.


I wrote...

When You Get the Chance

By Robin Stevenson, Tom Ryan,

Book cover of When You Get the Chance

What is my book about?

When You Get the Chance is a YA novel that explores friendship, family, and queer community through the eyes of two teens. Living on opposite coasts, Mark and Talia haven’t seen each other in years. When their grandfather dies unexpectedly, they find themselves reunited at the cottage, cleaning it out while the family decides what to do with it. The cousins are both queer, but they soon realize that’s about all they have in common—well, that and the fact that they’d both prefer to be in Toronto for Pride Weekend. Talia is desperate to see her high school sweetheart Erin. Mark is just looking for some fun.

So, with Mark’s little sister Paige in tow, they decide to hit the road. With a bit of luck and some help from a series of unexpected new friends, they might just make it to the big city and find what they’re looking for. That is if they can figure out how to start seeing things through each other’s eyes.

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