100 Best Lesbian Fiction & Memoir Books Of All Time

Last month, we invited you to pick the best queer-lady fiction and memoir books of all time via goodreads, and boy did you ever! So, without any further ado, we present the top 100, accompanied by our favorite goodreads endorsements.

100 Best Lesbian Fiction & Memoir Books Of All Time 

[according to you]

100. Gut Symmetries, by Jeanette Winterson (1998)

“Gut Symmetries” is about love. And physics. And geometry. And the infinite and the finite, and matter and what matters, and particles and monstrosities and life and time and death and the grinning skull in the mirror.”
– Sam, Goodreads

 

99. All That Matters, by Susan X. Meagher (2007)

“I loved this book, from the beginning to the end! The discussions between Kylie and Blair cover everthing important in human life and relationships!”
-Ulla, Goodreads

 

98. Map of Ireland, by Stephanie Grant (2009)

“Painful, cleanly written story of a 16-year-old Irish-American kid from Southie…She smacks into the discomfort of deeply inculturated racism as it seeps into her home life and her attempts to understand and realize her own unspooling sexuality.”
-Mary, Goodreads

 

97. Say Please: Lesbian BDSM Erotica, by Sinclair Sexsmith (2012)

[read our post on say please here]

“This is a great collection of erotic, hands down one of the best collections I’ve read. Sinclar Sexsmith has curated a wonderful collection of stories that are sure to titillate and make a good girl blush.”
– Erin, Goodreads

96. Far from Xanadu, by Julie Anne Peters (2005)

“Peters deals with not just the issues of being a gay teenager in this book, but also the emotional turmoil of feeling abandoned.”
– Jill, Goodreads

 

95. Happy Accidents, by Jane Lynch (2011)

“This is a breezy read that won’t take up much of your time, but it will surprise you with its candour.”
– Sean Kennedy, Goodreads

94.  Stay, by Nicola Griffith (2003)

“STAY is less of a mystery or a thriller than a grief-and-recovery story — but I don’t at all mean to warn you off; there’s a good amount of mystery and action.  But what’s going on with Aud’s personal development is central and the action happens around the edges, as it were.”
– Rachel Neumeier, Goodreads

 

93. Drag King Dreams, by Leslie Feinberg (2006)

“This book was so inspiring and heartbreaking.  The story lines are complex but easy to follow.”
– Kit, Goodreads

 

92. Art & Lies, by Jeanette Winterson (1996)

“In Art and Lies, Jeanette Winterson is crusading against a predictable and unimaginative reality that denies that there is more than meets the eye.”
-Twiggy, Goodreads

 

91. Babyji, by Abha Dawesar (2005)

“This is a very honest and true account of the 16-year-old mind, but it goes beyond that to the complexities of self discovery amidst the search for meaning in a world filed with inequalities.”
-Mandi, Goodreads

 

90. Seriously…I’m Kidding, by Ellen Degeneres (2012)

“Ellen’s book was the perfect balance of advice and jokes. It’s an extremely light and easy read.”
-Kristyn, Goodreads

 

89. Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1: Unmanned, by Brian K. Vaughan (2003)

” This book was interesting and intricate. The multi-character perspective never got confusing and worked very well to add suspense into the plot.”
– Stella FAYZ Chen, Goodreads

 

88. Southland Auto Acres, by Lisa Jones (2010)

“A fun, breezy read. A nice, tight story that moves. More than just a coming out book. The backdrop of the car lot was well drawn.”
– Brook St., Goodreads

 

87. The Pyramid Waltz, by Barbara Ann Wright (2012)

“I can only say that this book was incredible. The characters were complex and well-written. The dialogue was fantastic and often humorous. Each character brought something new to the book and was very distinct.”
– Jennifer Lavoie, Goodreads

 

86.  The Slow Fix, by Ivan E. Coyote (2009)

“These autobiographical short stories are phenomenal. Most are fewer than 5 pages long, many are about perceptions of gender, but all are about finding one’s place in the world. In the end, they are about the folds of community, the weave of the fabric, and I was really impressed with the depth and feeling that Coyote conveys in such little space.”
– Emily, Goodreads

85. The Complete Strangers in Paradise, Volume 1, by Terry Moore (1998)

“Very well written, wonderfully illustrated and tons of heart.”
– Autumn Eden

 

84. Close to Spider Man, by Ivan E. Coyote (2000)

“A very heartfelt bunch of stories about growing up knowing that you just don’t fit in. An excellent read for oddballs everywhere.”
– Vanessa, Goodreads

83. Complete Hothead Paisan, by Diane DiMassa (1999)

“It’s wonderfully cathartic at times, deeply meaningful at others, and maintains a very dark gallows humor.  Yes, Hothead does relentlessly hate on men and het women, but you’d be missing the point to dismiss it for that.”
– Ellie, Goodreads

82. Rage: A Love Story, by Julie Anne Peters (2009)

“I thought that the dychotomy between the protagonist’s fantasy life and reality was very well portrayed, and Ms. Peters did an excellent job portraying an abusive (high school, lesbian) relationship.”
– Liz, Goodreads

 

81. A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend, by Emily Horner (2010)

“Horner’s first novel is ably plotted and well-done. There were more than a few laugh-out-loud moments, and I liked the narrator very well. She was achingly believable and so adolescently stupid she could have stepped right off the page. ”
– Melody, Goodreads

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52 Comments

  1. Thumb up 4

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    Wow, I just added a lot of books to my to-read list on goodreads. The Creamsickle looks especially cool.

    It’s so exciting to see so much of Ivan E Coyote, and to see other great Canadian authors like Mariko Tamaki and Emma Donoghue mentioned!!

    And Harriet the Spy!!

    One thing I’m confused about is the inclusion of Middlesex. It’s a great book but the character is intersex and at the end of the novel presents and identifies as a man, right? (It’s been quite a few years since I read it). Doesn’t seem to quite fit the criteria.

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    No love story has affected me more than the tragic true story of Aimee and Jaguar. I hadn’t heard of them until I saw the movie on Logo years ago. I was so in love with that movie that I bought it on DVD. It’s my favorite lesbian-themed movie to this day. I didn’t know there was also a book about this couple. I’m definitely going to have to pick that up.

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    Sputnik Sweetheart! Finding that was a ‘the universe has the worst sense of humour’ moment. The straight girl I had a crush on was super into Murakami, so obviously I had to check out his books. First one I picked off the shelf, and it was about lesbians and pining and unrequited love. GODDAMN IT UNIVERSE.

    Also, reading Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit when I was thirteen basically made me a homo, so…

  4. Thumb up 1

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    I can’t begin to explain how lame this list is. I’ll start with the missing names Gale Wilhelm, Vin Packer, Ann Aldrich and Valerie Taylor.

  5. Thumb up 1

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    Oh man oh man I hate that I’m going to be the one to make a buzzkill comment BUT

    This list is just book titles and reviews from seemingly random GoodReads members? What? If you’re going to publish a piece like this, why not employ your writers to contribute thoughts, discuss their favorite lesbian books, or really anything but this. The list feels really impersonal and doesn’t offer anything different than every other top lesbian book list that’s ever been published on the internet- two things that I wouldn’t expect from Autostraddle. Maybe having a hundred books was a little too much?

    (And this is ignoring the fact that most of these little blurbs don’t even address what the books are about at all.)

    • Thumb up 4

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      autostraddle readers voted on these books, so it’s not just a list — it’s a countdown of the top 100 lesbian books as voted on by the readers. hopefully that includes you! you can find posts full of our writers discussing their favorite lesbian books by perusing our favorite vault: read a f*cking book

      happy reading!

    • Thumb up 3

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      honestly every book on this list falls into one of two categories:
      a) books none of us have read
      b) books we’ve already written about

      so when looking at how to conquer this without saying the same thing about Rubyfruit Jungle that we’ve already said 36 times, it seemed like since this was a reader-voted list and not about what we liked or what we wanted to talk about, it’d be more fitting to have commentary from actual readers. also yeah, 100 books was a lot to tackle, but this list was definitively about what you guys liked for once, instead of us!

      i wouldn’t know what i’d say about a lot of these high-ranking books because I didn’t pick them myself… like I can’t comment on why Fingersmith belongs in the top ten when i’ve never read it, nor did i vote it into the top ten, if that makes sense.

      but it’s nice to know somebody actually reads the blurbs we do write!

  6. Thumb up 0

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    I apologize for being a downer right now (I love this list too!), but I prefer to read lesbian-themed novels where there isn’t any abuse or endings like Kissing Jessica Stein, which is supposedly a stereotype in lesbian books and movies.

    There aren’t enough happy, or even semi-happy, lesbian books in my life! Are there any books in this list that I should avoid due to those themes?

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      I haven’t read any of the bad stereotypical ones but I’ll recommend a happy and romantical story that I LOVED from this list: Landing by Emma Donoghue.

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      If you want uplifting stories, I’d recommend Ivan Coyote. Always hopeful. Also, Tipping the Velvet, Truth, Dare or Promise, and Annie on my Mind have lovely happy endings.

      And Landing is pretty much the best lesbian love story ever, I agree!

      From what I’ve read I don’t think there are any on this list that feature the ‘woman leaves woman for a man’ trope except old titles, like The Well of Loneliness and Odd Woman Out. But there’s definitely some that deal with abuse: Leslie Feinberg and Ann-Marie MacDonald come to mind (although both Stone Butch Blues and Fall on Your Knees are really beautiful important books!)

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    I’m happy to find a number of books I’ve read on this list, and even happier to find a bunch I have not! Time and time again people continue to reccomend Jodi Piccoult books to me. I keep trying, but am I really the only one to find her writing style…annoying? I just can’t read her. I try. Truly. But never manage to finish her books. Maybe it’s me.

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      I think all the novels by Virginia Woolf are a bit gay but sometimes it’s not easy to recognize it. In To the Lighthouse, there are those peculiar feelings Lily Briscoe has for Mrs. Ramsay.

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    The only book I have read on this list is “Drag King Dreams” and I have to say…this was one of the worst books that I’ve ever read. It reads like an angsty 13 year old with bad acne and a very “us-against-them” self-centered view of the world. Also, the author has an annoying habit of trying to write about tech-stuff when it is clear the have the technical background of my grandmother. I had to put the book down for a week when the author referred to a computer part as a “heat sync”. No.

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    I’m getting a Kindle for Christmas almost solely to put lesbian novels on it, that I can’t really have lying around the house in physical form.

    Also, I was surprised that “Flaming Iguanas” by Erika Lopez didn’t make it. It’s a novel about a sexually fluid chick on a motorcycle road trip, it has cool stamp-like illustrations, is hilarious and fun and heartfelt, and it’s been a while since I read it in a fiction writing class in college, but it was one of the best book finds of my collegiate career, I do remember that.

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    Okay, I stopped reading Fingersmith at the end of part 2 because the plot development made me so angry I literally flung it at a wall, and have never gone back.

    Its inclusion in this list makes me think it ends differently than I thought it did? Should I reread it?

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      Also (I should have included this above but oh well, no edit function), of the books in this list, Tipping the Velvet is one I have read that stands out as a genuinely great book. Like, most queer books I read because I want to read books about queers, not because they are particularly good (see also: queer films). But Tipping the Velvet is actually a great, multilayered, wonderful novel that I want all books to be. It does what books can and should do. So that’s my recommendation.

      I also love love love Fried Green Tomatoes (the book of Ruth oh my god), but that quote about looking up at people going on with their lives as if you didn’t just experience emotional trauma at the hands of a paperback definitely applies. I have fully cried at busstops. It is beautiful, but so sad sometimes in a way that can’t be fixed.

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      OMG!!!!!!!
      YOU HAVE TO READ THE END!!!!!!!

      Seriously – you’ll be like “how is this so cleverly written??!!”

      It’s worth it, honestly, I know cos I watched the BBC dramatization a couple of years ago. And I was yelling at the screen and VERY upset at Waters for the plot development.. but.. worth the end.

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    Have completed a shocking percentage of this list, an equally shocking percentage of which has dented various walls. Lookin’ at you, Strangers In Paradise Later Volumes.

  13. Pingback: In the top 100? | Verbal Construction

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    Saw Sarah Waters at my girlfriend’s graduation on Tuesday. She was being made a fellow of my university. Then I skipped my lecture and snuck in for free champagne and lemony cakes. It was pretty crowded, and I couldn’t get to the lemony cakes, so I asked the woman in front of me if she could pass me one.

    She did so and turned around. It was Sarah Waters. As she plopped it on my napkin she said ‘Scuse fingers’. It was Sarah Waters and the best moment of my life.

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  16. Thumb up 0

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    This is probably the most ridiculous list of great lesbian novels I’ve ever seen, and I certainly won’t be basing any buying decisions on it! The nicest thing I can say is that it does include three or four great lesbian novels and a dozen or so more good ones. Honestly, did more than a couple of dozen people vote for these absurd choices?

    What tosh!

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