Pride deserves to be celebrated and one of the best ways, in my opinion, to celebrate is with books, especially with all the wonderfully creative, diverse queer books out there. In our latest edition of our Booksellers Recommend column we asked queer booksellers from around the country to recommend their favorite LGBTQ+ reads for Pride and beyond.
Maggie, All She Wrote Books (Somerville, MA) recommends:
Chef’s Choice by TJ Alexander: I freaking LOVE this book! Here I am yet again enthralled with a rom com taking place in foodie heaven. Existing in the same world as Chefs’ Kiss, Chef’s Choice brings the reader into the world of truly famous celebratory chef status, which is sad, hilarious, thrilling and lavish – much like the personalities of our leads.
Chef’s Kiss (1) and Chef’s Choice (2) can be read in any order, with Kiss being released first. We follow the love lives of two roommates and their LGBTQ+ lives/relationships.
The recipe for these books: a pinch of sass + a touch of therapy + “when will they kiss???” craze. Made with love 😉
Nico, Books With Pictures (Portland, OR) recommends:
Crowded, by Christopher Sebela, Ro Stein, Ted Brandt, and Triona Farrell: What happens when you take a girl who has made enemies out of everyone she’s ever met, a former CIA agent, and an app that lets you crowdfund assassinations? Crowded, the absolute funniest dystopia sci fi comic I have ever seen in my life. And it’s SO GAY. Charlie has become “The million dollar girl” as a crowdfunded campaign puts a target on her back, leaving her only hope to survive in Vita, a random woman she’s hired off a body guard app. VIta has a 1 star rating, a mysterious past, and was the only one willing to take the job. Will they make it out alive together or just end up making out?
Ash, The Lucky Fox Bookshop (Portland, ME):
Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon: Come for the dragons, stay for the heart-wrenching queer love story. It’s rare to find high fantasy that balances strong, complex women protagonists with epic magical battles and a cast of racially and sexually diverse, fully developed characters. But if anyone can do it, it’s Samantha Shannon. While her whole canon of books is incredible, Shannon’s done something special in this novel of politics, rich cultural histories, and complicated relationships. She’s developed a world in which characters fight against blood-thirsty flying serpents and share tender connections with each other. Is it the perfect queer fantasy novel? I think so!
Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, intro by Carmen Maria Machado: Carmilla is the story of one of the world’s first vampires…a lesbian vampire at that. Carmilla is a complex character, seducing young women and terrorizing towns for her own benefit. The 1872 story, which even predates Dracula, would be enough to make this list of LGBTQIA+ recommendations, but the real kicker is the 2019 version in which the stunning Carmen Maria Machado writes the introduction. Though only a few pages long, this intro is one of the best, queerest, most well-researched, and wittiest pieces of writing I’ve ever read. Machado praises Carmilla for its groundbreaking queerness, while calling out some of the more problematic tropes. It’s perfection.
The Founders Trilogy by Robert Jackson Bennett (Foundryside, Shorefall, and Locklands): This trilogy hooked me from its very first page. Set in an Italy-inspired civilization, these novels follow a group of engineers (and one thief!) who can convince the objects around them of new realities. That wagon over there? It’s convinced it’s going downhill, which makes it move forward. That door? It believes its lock is 10 times its current strength, making it virtually unbreakable. The group battles gods who want to blink the world out of existence, which is cool enough, but the best part is the undercurrent of queer love that provides a throughline through all three novels. This love story is the beating heart of an already-amazing trilogy.
Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt: This 1980s-set novel is equal parts heartwarming and heartbreaking. It follows June, a young queer woman just discovering who she is, as she engages with her uncle and best friend, Finn. When Finn dies of AIDS, June’s left with questions, longing, and Toby, Finn’s lifelong partner. Through their interactions, June and Toby grieve together and learn about themselves, their identities, and each other. Examining queer legacy, queer elders, and queer kinship, this novel is a staple for any LGBTQIA+ list.
The Space Between Worlds by Michaiah Johnson: In this science-fiction multiverse, no one can travel to another world if their self exists on that world. But Cara has a knack for dying, making her the perfect cross-dimensional traveler. She uncovers secrets and plots, which are exciting to follow, but her queer relationship with Dell is truly captivating. It’s tragic and hopeful, wounded and loving, dark and beautiful. This book is a must-read for any queer sci-fi lover!
Michelle, Womencrafts (Provincetown, MA) recommends:
Hijabi Butch Blues by Lamya H.: This memoir expands our understanding of intersectional identities. Like Leslie Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues it is revelatory about one specific experience that is highly relatable. We are looking for community, love, and family. Lamya is a hijabi, Muslim who is not safe enough to use her real name yet her connection to her faith is what comforts her in the process of coming out to self and others. The book weaves in lyrical selections from the Quran that help Lamya understand her queerness, and lets the reader better understand an oft maligned text and faith.
Cass, McNally Jackson (New York City, NY) recommends:
The Beautiful Something Else by Ash Van Otterloo: When you’re young, there are so many ways you know yourself, but it is almost always in the frame of someone else. Someone’s child, someone’s friend, someone’s first crush. Sparrow feels this deeply. When who she thought she was falls away she’s left with a lot of questions. In this gorgeous exploration of identity and home, Sparrow figures out how “being yourself” works when you’re not one thing or another, but a beautiful something else.
Featured Image Courtesy of Penguin Random House, Scholastic Inc, Crown Publishing, Image Comics, Random House