The best books on sexual orientation

4 authors have picked their favorite books about sexual orientation and why they recommend each book.

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Never-Contented Things

By Sarah Porter,

Book cover of Never-Contented Things

One thing you’ll discover as you read YA tales about the fae is that bored faeries are always causing trouble. In Porter’s novel, they tempt Ksenia’s foster brother and best friend away from her and then put her through a progression of nightmares as she tries to wrest him out of their clutches. There’s so much darkness in this book but it never quite tips into horror. It’s more of that incessant creepiness of the Twilight Zone, with scenes that keep ratcheting up the tension and impossible situations. This isn’t your average faerie tale with romance and hijinks—not by a long shot. But because of all that, it’s an absolute delight to read.

Who am I?

Tales of magic have captivated me since I was a small child, and I started writing fantasy stories in high school. But it was only when I discovered the YA faerie subgenre several years ago that I truly found my niche. As my book recommendations will demonstrate, there’s a delicious connection between faerie magic and teenage angst, and it’s the tension that arises that makes for fantastic worldbuilding and storytelling. I hope that you enjoy my top books in the genre and find a new favorite for yourself!

I wrote...

The Favor Faeries

By Jackie Dana,

Book cover of The Favor Faeries

What is my book about?

The Favor Faeries is my YA fantasy novel series. Everyone knows about the Favor Faeries, mysterious beings that grant small wishes in exchange for trinkets and snacks. But most people claim the faeries are a hoax or a fraud, and the authorities even passed laws making it illegal to seek them out. Teenagers, however, are never particularly good at following the rules, especially when they want something only magic can make happen.

Rather than traditional book publication platforms, I’m serializing the novels on my Substack newsletter Story Cauldron. Each week my paid subscribers receive new chapters as well as related photos, artwork, and behind-the-scenes details sent directly to their email, and they can also be read on the website. As the books conclude, paid members also have the option to download the text in full before it gets published elsewhere.

Lilla the Accidental Witch

By Eleanor Crewes,

Book cover of Lilla the Accidental Witch

While staying with her aunt in Italy, Lilla comes across a book that reveals she’s a witch. But the Stregamama, an ancient witch, wants to use Lilla for her own means. Meanwhile, Lilla’s crushing on her aunt’s assistant and trying to avoid the local boy her family is trying to set her up with. As a bookish introvert who wanted space to read, draw, and grow on my own terms, I couldn’t help but see myself in Lilla. Slightly artwork brings movement to the story while the palette adds spots of spookiness. A cute, queer graphic novel of realizing and voicing one’s identities, this book charms. 

Who am I?

I write for middle grade readers because they still dwell in a place of possibility. They know flashy magic doesn’t exist but they’ll still check the back of a wardrobe to see if it leads to Narnia. Middle grade is a period where readers explore their identity, trying to figure out who they are as well as who they’ll become. In these witchy books, the protagonists are exploring their identities, trying to reconcile expectations and the broadening world around them with who they truly are. The resulting books are adventures both external and internal and the start of exciting journeys. 

I wrote...

Baba Yaga's Assistant

By Marika McCoola, Emily Carroll (illustrator),

Book cover of Baba Yaga's Assistant

What is my book about?

Most children think twice before braving a haunted wood filled with terrifying beasties to match wits with a witch, but not Masha. Her beloved grandma taught her many things: that stories are useful, that magic is fickle, that nothing is too difficult or too dirty to clean. The fearsome witch of folklore needs an assistant, and Masha needs an adventure. She may be clever enough to enter Baba Yaga’s house-on-chicken-legs, but within its walls, deceit is the rule. To earn her place, Masha must pass a series of tests, outfox a territorial bear, and make dinner for her host. No easy task, with children on the menu!

Spooky and poignant, my stunning debut—with richly layered art by acclaimed graphic artist Emily Carroll—is a storytelling feat and a visual feast.

A Long Way from Douala

By Max Lobe, Ros Schwartz (translator),

Book cover of A Long Way from Douala

Jean is an accomplished student at the University of Douala who sets off with his best friend, Simon, to find Jean’s older brother, who has run away to pursue his dream of becoming a soccer star in Europe. Their trip is paved with danger but Jean is willing to face any perils in order to spend time with Simon, on whom he has a secret, unrequited crush. Despite the novel’s heavy themes of terrorism, child abuse, authoritarianism, homophobia, and the plight of undocumented immigrants, Lobe pulls off an entertaining, rollicking story that provides a wonderful snapshot of his country.

Who am I?

I’m a public health professional, author, and reader. During part of my childhood and my subsequent career in international public health, I lived in Côte d’Ivoire and the Central African Republic; I’ve also worked throughout West and Central Africa, primarily in Francophone African countries. My experiences in these parts of the continent have not only influenced my fiction writing, but also what I read. While there are plenty of books by Anglophone African authors, few of their Francophone counterparts see their work translated into English. As a result, stories from French-speaking Africa are underrepresented in the literature available to English-speaking audiences. This list is an attempt to make a dent in this disparity.

I wrote...

The Civilized World

By Susi Wyss,

Book cover of The Civilized World

What is my book about?

Set across five African countries and the U.S., The Civilized World follows five unforgettable women whose lives intersect across Africa in unexpected and sometimes explosive ways. Adjoa struggles to earn enough money in Côte d’Ivoire to return to Ghana to open a beauty parlor. Janice, an American aid worker, is haunted by a tragedy that also impacts Adjoa. Comfort, an imperious busybody, complains about her American daughter-in-law, Linda, while Ophelia contemplates how to save her marriage. Named “A Book to Pick Up Now” by O, the Oprah Magazine, the book explores what it means to need forgiveness—and what it means to forgive.

Like Other Girls

By Britta Lundin,

Book cover of Like Other Girls

Lundin writes one of the best explorations of internalized and externalized misogyny I’ve ever read in this contemporary YA about Mara, a lesbian who needs a new sport when she’s bounced off of basketball for a fight and finds herself fighting to join football. She’s soon joined by four other girls (including both her crush and her enemy) aiming to join with her, which pisses her off—why do they have to turn it into some girl power thing when she just genuinely loves the sport? But the way things play out teaches Mara a lot about who’s really on her team. 

Who am I?

My newest YA novel, Home Field Advantage, is your typical cliché sports romance between a high school quarterback and aspiring cheer captain…except that they’re both girls. Sports is such a fascinating setting for queer YA to me, because it adds a whole extra social dynamic of being teammates and how that can work for or against you, depending on the culture and who you are. It’s also a great venue for subversion of gender norms, which is always welcome to me! And in general, I really just love protagonists who are really passionate about what they do. If they happen to be queer as well, that’s just a nice bonus!

I wrote...

Home Field Advantage

By Dahlia Adler,

Book cover of Home Field Advantage

What is my book about?

Amber McCloud’s dream is to become cheer captain, but it’s an extra-tall order to be spirited when the quarterback of your team has been killed in a car accident. Watching Robbie get replaced by newcomer Jack Walsh is brutal. And when it turns out Jack is actually short for Jaclyn, all hell breaks loose.

The players refuse to be led by a girl, the cheerleaders are mad about changes to their traditions, and the fact that Robbie’s been replaced by a QB who wears a sports bra has more than a few Atherton Alligators in a rage. It quickly becomes clear that Amber only has a future on the squad if she helps them take Jack down. Just one problem: Amber and Jack are falling for each other.


By Anthony McDonald,

Book cover of Adam

A beautifully written coming-of-age tale. And another book I have read many times. The descriptions are so sensuous and evocative of a hot summer in the French countryside that it’s easy to lose yourself in them. This story isn’t a straightforward romance and reading about deeply flawed but very human characters are ultimately what gives me comfort with this one.

Who am I?

I’m a reader and an author who loves stories that are so beautifully written they wrap you up tight in comfort, ensuring no matter what hurt the characters go through, you know it will all be okay in the end. And in stressful times—even in times that aren’t so stressful!—I think we all need that little bit of fictional certainty, that knowing that everything is going to be okay in the end. I started writing to give queer characters suffering from problems like loneliness, anxiety, and homelessness, as many happy endings as I could. Because no matter the difficulties you may be going through, everyone deserves a happy ending. 😊

I wrote...


By Suki Fleet,

Book cover of Foxes

What is my book about?

Danny finds interaction difficult and must keep his world small in order to survive. By day he lives in an abandoned swimming pool and fixes electrical devices to trade for supplies, but by night, alone, he hunts sharks—a reckless search for the dangerous men who prey on the vulnerable. A search for his best friend’s killer.

A chance meeting with an American boy selling himself on the streets throws Danny’s lonely existence into disarray. Micky is troubled and fragile, and Danny feels a desperate need to protect him. Though from what, he doesn't know. As Danny discovers more about Micky, he realises that what Micky needs saving from is the one thing Danny has no idea how to fight.


By Ann McMan,

Book cover of Jericho

This book is the epitome of a slow-burn romance, so as a reader, you get to know both main characters—small-town doctor Maddie and new-in-town librarian Syd—really well and fall in love with them as you watch them slowly fall in love with each other. The author has a unique sense of humor, and the witty banter between Maddie and Syd made me laugh out loud several times. 

Who am I?

I’m a full-time writer, part-time editor, and avid reader of romances between queer women. I’ve just published my twenty-third novel, and I’m still amazed and humbled at getting to live my dream: writing sapphic romances for a living. Discovering sapphic books was a life-saver for me since I grew up in a tiny little village, with no openly LGBT+ people around, and I love knowing that my books are now doing the same for my readers. 

I wrote...

Just a Touch Away

By Jae,

Book cover of Just a Touch Away

What is my book about?

Hannah, a professional cuddler, inherits half of a building, but there’s a catch: To inherit, she’ll have to share an apartment with prickly workaholic Winter for 92 days.

Winter is determined to dislike her rival, but soon finds Hannah isn’t what she expected at all. Thanks to a hilarious doormat war, a cuddle dare, and a kiss in the most unusual of places, the frosty fortress around her heart begins to melt. Will she be able to accept that love might be just a touch away?

The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James

By Ashley Herring Blake,

Book cover of The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James

Sunny is a 12-year-old with a new heart and new plans for the summer—have amazing experiences, find a new best friend, and kiss a boy. Sunny takes readers on one heart-racing adventure after another as she navigates difficult family situations, goes on a first-kiss quest, and learns to surf. When she makes a new best friend, she discovers that maybe it’s not a boy she wants to kiss after all. Three words to describe this book: humor, heart, and hope.

Who am I?

Rob Sanders writes fierce and funny picture books. From fiction to nonfiction, Rob’s unique style and voice rings with clarity. Rob is a writer who teaches and a teacher who writes. Every school day he teaches elementary school kids about books and words and reading and writing. Rob also mentors other writers, leads writing workshops, critiques manuscripts, and spends time collaborating and learning with others who share the same passion.

I wrote...

Stitch by Stitch: Cleve Jones and the AIDS Memorial Quilt

By Rob Sanders, Jamey Christoph (illustrator),

Book cover of Stitch by Stitch: Cleve Jones and the AIDS Memorial Quilt

What is my book about?

Cleve Jones' extraordinary life was pieced together, then stitched tightly into different types of quilts. From the blanket that his great-grandmother made for him as a boy, to the friends he gathered in San Francisco as young man, it is almost as if he was destined to bring the art of quilting to a new public awareness. Mentored by Harvey Milk, Jones debuted idea for the AIDS Memorial Quilt during a candlelight memorial for Milk in 1985 and created the first panel for the quilt in 1987. The AIDS memorial quilt, one of the largest public arts projects ever and an iconic symbol of hope that remembers 94,000 lost souls, is Jones' shining achievement. It has since toured the world and been seen by millions of people.

This evocative biography is a touching tribute to Jones' life of advocacy and an inspiring message for young readers to take away. Includes a timeline of the quilt and other useful backmatter. 

Fire Song

By Adam Garnet Jones,

Book cover of Fire Song

This was one of my favourite books of 2018. This one deals with the impact of suicide on a tight-knit community, while quietly following Shane as he discovers his sexual identity and love for his best friend, David. The author, Adam Garnet Jones, is an Indigiqueer screenwriter, director, bead-worker, and novelist from Edmonton Alberta. While his Indigenous identity includes Cree, Métis, and Kahnawake

Mohawk, his traditional ancestry is complicated by the fact that his home reserve no longer exists. The land and community were forcibly enfranchised by the Canadian government in 1958.

Who am I?

Having grown up on S.E. Hinton, I love a good, gritty young adult novel that doesn’t pull any punches! In my book, Black Chuck, four misfit teens suddenly find themselves cast adrift after the very charismatic Shaun dies, leaving them to navigate their way to adulthood without their leader. All the books on this list are coming-of-age stories about kids growing up in tough circumstances, finding love, making mistakes, getting hurt, and ultimately finding joy in a world that at times seems set against them.

I wrote...

Black Chuck

By Regan McDonell,

Book cover of Black Chuck

What is my book about?

In this dark, gritty coming-of-age novel about small-town kids from the wrong side of the tracks, tough guy Réal and quiet loner Evie find strange comfort in each other in the aftermath of their closest friend’s death. 

Shaun was the king, the lynchpin that kept their small, close-knit group of friends together. He was the sun they’d all spun around. And in the days after his sudden, violent death, Réal looks to Evie to atone for his sins, and Evie looks to Ré to forget about her own. But each of them is keeping a secret—about Shaun, and the night he died—secrets that might just tear these friends apart forever.

A Church for All

By Gayle E. Pitman, Laure Fournier (illustrator),

Book cover of A Church for All

As a pastor’s kid, this light, lyrical book about a church community gathering awakens my earliest memories: the bells and banners, candles and choir, warm greetings, and toddler wiggles. This community offers something many of us lacked: “A church for all!” From the first image of a mixed-race queer family waking early for church to the assembling “Weak and healthy/ Neat and messy/ Poor and wealthy/ Plain and dressy” chatting and worshiping together—this brightly illustrated book captures a true spirit of inclusion. Like many queer people, I had to leave my first faith community. Later I was amazed to find houses of faith like this one. I even married a pastor. Young me couldn’t have imagined living out, opening a service with a book like A Church for All.

Who am I?

Hello! I’m a picture book author and former educator and bookseller. I also spent over a decade as a professor of Children’s Literature. More importantly, I’ve spent hundreds of hours of enjoying picture books with kiddos on my lap or circled up for storytime. (Is there a greater joy?) I was also a queer kid at a time when acknowledging LGBTQIAP2+ kids exist was unthinkable. But that is changing! Especially every time we buy, check out, and share diverse picture books with kids. Or treasure them for ourselves. I do!

I wrote...

Love, Violet

By Charlotte Sullivan Wild, Charlene Chua (illustrator),

Book cover of Love, Violet

What is my book about?

Only one person makes Violet’s heart skip! Of all the kids in Violet’s class, only one leaves Violet speechless: Mira, the girl with the cheery laugh, who races like the wind. If only they could adventure together! But every time Mira comes near, Violet goes shy. As Valentine’s Day approaches, Violet is determined to show Mira just how special she is!

Charlene Chua’s luminous watercolors bring to life this tender #LGBTQ+ picture book about friendship, love, and the courage it takes to share your heart–even when it’s pounding!

Giovanni's Room

By James Baldwin,

Book cover of Giovanni's Room

I was 20 and living in Missouri when I found this classic queer novel written in 1956. It was an early glimpse into deep longing, emotional connections, and dark inner conflicts that I had yet to fully explore as a young man. Baldwin’s insightful, moody, and lyrical novel set in Paris is at once romantic and painful tapping into sexual identity and masculinity struggles. Later, I found vintage photos of the author which revealed his fierce fashion flair (something we share!). 

Who am I?

Growing up gay in Missouri in the 1970s, it was LGBTQ novels that opened the door to the unraveling and discovery of my best self, my true queer identity. Initially potboilers with side gay characters (I hid my copy of Valley of the Dolls from the nuns in grade school) I soon discovered writers that unlocked worlds I did not know existed representing choices, loves, and adventures I would later make my own. As a writer, it was risk-taking, gorgeous LGBTQ novels that urged me along in my literary journey and helped me find and define my voice. 

I wrote...

The Butcher's Sons

By Scott Alexander Hess,

Book cover of The Butcher's Sons

What is my book about?

A Kirkus Reviews* Best Book, The Butcher’s Sons is a “brutal and lyrically gorgeous story” (Lambda) that “touches the heart of what it means to be human.”*

Bound by blood but separated by secrets, brothers—Dickie, Walt and Adlai—run a butcher shop for their father, whose broken spirit has isolated him from the world. When Dickie makes a rash decision involving an organized crime family a chain of events ensues that changes the brothers’ lives and forces them to come together—at first, with a sense of camaraderie, but ultimately, with something much fiercer, more brutal. A gritty, intimate portrait of three young Irish-American brothers whose lives irrevocably change during a heat wave in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen, circa 1930.

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