Summer is the perfect time to finally read a book for pleasure. That concept is often lost on most of us during the rest of the year. This list contains fiction and non-fiction books that either feature LGBTQ+ main characters or central themes.
1. "The Color Purple" by Alice Walker
This book focuses on downtrodden Celie and the hardships that burden her as a black woman in the 1920s rural south. Although Celie doesn't outright state that she is queer, her relationship with Shug Avery is unquestionably romantic. This book, though heart-wrenching at times, is beautifully written and explores topics like religion, female sexuality, family, sacrifice, and self-confidence.
2. "All Out" by Sandra Mitchell
This is perfect for my historical fiction buffs out there. As someone who favors books set in the past, I was always disappointed by the lack of LGBT representation. "All Out" is a compilation of short stories by numerous writers that feature queer main characters across the centuries.
3. "The Prince and the Dressmaker" by Jen Wang
This beautifully illustrated graphic novel is a quick but touching read. This fairytale follows 16-year-old seamstress Frances and her new, high profile client, Prince Sebastian. Set in late 19th century Paris, Frances helps transform Sebastian into fashion icon Lady Crystallia.
4. "If You Could Be Mine" by Sara Farizan
This harrowing story, set in Iran, explores the love affair between two 17-year-old girls, Sahar and Nasrin. In Iran, it is illegal for two girls to be in love, and could result in imprisonment or execution. However, it is not illegal to be transgender in Iran, and the country has developed a cutting edge medical system to help people transition. When Nasrin is betrothed, Sahar takes it upon herself to transition to male so that she may be with her beloved legally.
5. "Ask the Passengers" by A.S. King
Teenager Astrid Jones wants to escape the judging looks and rumors that follow her in her small town. When she begins to develop feelings for a girl, she confesses her feelings to the airplanes that cross the sky. However, once those feelings turn into a secret relationship, people begin to pick Astrid apart. This is a powerful book that explores closeted life in small-town America.
6. "Check, Please!" by Ngozi Ukazu
Vlogger, baker, and former figure skater Eric "Bitty" Bittle has been recruited to Samwell University's hockey team. Not only is this small town Southerner unused to the world of college hockey, he also has to play alongside Jack Zimmerman, the son of a world-famous hockey star. This graphic novel, first published on Tumblr, gained internet fame for its lovable characters and adorable romance. You can buy a physical copy, or read it for free online!
7. "Summer of Salt" by Katherine Leno
This mysterious tale follows Georgia Fernweh, a young woman who comes from a magical family. Georgia, who lives on By-the-Sea Island, is about to turn eighteen and fears that her powers may never arrive. College is approaching, and Georgia has one last summer to enjoy her mystical island life. When Prue, a beautiful stranger, comes to the island, Georgia can't help but fall in love. The plot is a mix of witchy themes, family drama, and romance.
8. "The Song of Achilles" by Madeline Miller
This novel gives readers a new perspective of Homer's "Iliad," which follows the epic journey of Greek figure Achilles and his companion Patroclus. Miller's novel, which took her ten years to complete, details the love affair between the two mythological heroes. Miller was inspired to write her story based on the unspoken acceptance of Achilles and Patroclus' romance among both ancient and modern historians.
9. "Eleanor and Hick" by Susan Quinn
No — not Eleanor & Park. Eleanor and Hick! This piece of nonfiction examines the longterm relationship between First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Associated Press journalist Lorena Hickok. The relationship that these trailblazing women from drastically different backgrounds shared helped propel women's rights and honest reporting of the Great Depression.
10. "Darling Days" by iO Tillet Wright
This memoir by gender non-conforming activist iO Tillet Wright is spellbinding and powerful. Wright, who began to experiment with his gender expression at a young age, details the complicated relationship he had with his drug-addicted mother and absent father, as well as his exploration of sexuality. This tale of self-discovery takes place in the bohemian world of 1980's Manhattan, where Wright was exposed to poverty, addiction, punk music, and performance art.