While Pride/LGBTQIA+ book recommendation lists are nothing new, I haven’t done one of my own, and I’ve read some queer romances that I’ve never seen make it on any list.
So, these are all books I have personally read and would recommend; it’s going to be a mix of things you’ve seen on other lists and some stuff you’ve probably never heard of.
In no particular order other than me scanning the five-star books on my “read” shelf on Goodreads:
- Red, White, & Royal Blue, by Casey McQuiston. This one’s the current hyped book everywhere, but let me tell you, it deserves every ounce of praise. (mlm romance, bisexual and gay characters)
- Save the Date, by Annabeth Albert and Wendy Qualls. An adorable novella about an accidental wedding-party hookup turning into a relationship. (mlm romance, gay characters)
- The Kushiel’s Universe series by Jacqueline Carey. The first trilogy follows a bisexual courtesan through love, loss, political intrigue, adventure, and lots and lots of sex, just to be up front about it. The second trilogy follows her adopted son (who reads as mostly straight, but there’s an argument to be made eventually for bisexual but mostly attracted to women.) His love interest, however, is unabashedly bi. The third trilogy also has a bi leading lady, but I’ll be honest, it’s by far the weakest. If you try Kushiel’s Dart and like it, read the next five books and don’t necessarily bother with the last three.
- The Beyond series by Kit Rocha. Okay, the whole thing is a big commitment; there’s nine full-length novels plus a few novellas and a handful of awesome bonus/deleted scenes. I’ve read all of them and the quality dips here and there, plot-wise. However, nearly everyone in the whole damn series is some version of queer, and every book is a romance carrying a story thread for the over-arching plot. Some of the best ones are in the middle, but they’re quick reads. I actually found this series originally not because of the queerness, but because of an article written about how it makes consent sexy, so if you’re sick of romances relying on questionable consent, this might be for you.
- The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, by Mackenzi Lee. Historical YA that’s a lot of fun and has one of the most disaster-bisexual leads I’ve ever seen. (mlm romance, gay and bi characters, bonus ace representation)
- You Know Me Well, by Nina LaCour and David Levithan. I shouted this one from the rooftops when I first read it, because it’s contemporary YA queer lit that doesn’t rely on typical gay tragedy tropes. These are queer kids dealing with the exact same problems straight kids do, and they’re adorable, and there’s both mlm and wlw relationships. And it’s set during Pride.
- The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, by Taylor Jenkins Reid. An aging Hollywood starlet recounts the tale of her life to an unlikely biographer, revealing her bisexuality and how she tried to live true to herself while navigating pressure and prejudice from her career and the world at large.
- Fire, by Kristin Cashore. It’s awkward to recommend the middle book of a trilogy on its own, so I guess you’ll have to read Graceling first, and you’ll probably want to read Bitterblue afterward, for other reasons. But Fire surprised me with unexpected bisexual rep as well as some healthy attitudes towards sex and relationships that I wished were more prevalent in all books, especially YA.
- Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Okay, most of the books I’ve recommended so far have been romances, or works with strong romantic subplots. This…isn’t, not exactly. But since the fandom’s in an uproar right now because of the show and how some fans think it depicts Crowley and Aziraphale in queerbaiting ways, I’ll go ahead and recommend this as a stunning example of queer-platonic love that just happens to have a hilarious and satirical Apocalypse story underpinning it.
- Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. One of the standbys of these lists, but for excellent reason. Two teenage boys struggling with their queerness and their Mexican heritage and what it means to be young and in love when you don’t understand yourself or what you feel, but you know you feel it. Man, I haven’t read this in a while. I should reread soon.
- The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater. It’s about far more than sexuality and romance, but one of the primary romance subplots is between a gay boy and a bi one, and we get to see the journey that takes him from straight to bisexual. Also, it’s great for a thousand other reasons, like ghosts and talking trees and magical dreams and absurd levels of sass.
- The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. Le Guin. This one’s different enough from the others on this list, it’s hard to boil down to a simple blurb. Classic sci-fi with an anthropological bent (Le Guin’s signature style across the bulk of her work) that examines human interaction with an alien society where everyone is socially agender but biologically genderfluid for a short time each cycle (think menstruation, but with far greater changes) for reproductive purposes. Le Guin digs deep into gender politics and how a human viewpoint clashes with a largely genderless society.
- Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli. Cute but not overly fluffy, angsty but not tragic, Simon’s got to figure himself out and see if he can discover the identity of his mystery pen pal, who he’s rapidly falling for. It doesn’t do as much to leave some of the typical YA tropes of queerness behind, but it’s a strong, well-executed story nonetheless, with an incredibly likeable cast of characters.
- The Boss series, by Abigail Barnette. It doesn’t happen right away, but the lead and narrator of these books, Sophie Scaife, starts her journey as single, lonely, and straight, and eventually realizes her bisexuality through her relationships with her (eventual) husband and others. If I say more, it gets more spoilery than I just was (yeah, she does get married before the series is over, but that doesn’t stop the sexy fun times!) so I’ll leave some further revelations out, but despite the straight beginnings, these books get queer as hell.