100 Best Lesbian Fiction & Memoir Books Of All Time

80. Stir-Fry, by Emma Donoghue (1994)

“It is a smart, genuine, endearing coming-of-age novel that turns a lot of the typical coming-of-age cliches on their head.”
– Kat, Goodreads

79. The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, by Gertrude Stein (1933)

“Her writing, in this piece, is as everyone has stated: conversational. It’s in tribute to her partner, Toklas. She recounts her life among the biggest, and some of the smallest, contributors to the art (literature, painting, journalism) scene of the the early 20th century.”
– Alex, Goodreads

78. The Warrior’s Path (When Women Were Warriors, #1), by Catherine M. Wilson (2008)

“This book is a unique treasure about growing up, learning to find inner strength when all odds are stacked against you and those you love and not being afraid to voice your beliefs when others deem them silly. It teaches bravery, courage, humility, loyalty and honesty.”
– Samantha, Goodreads

77. The Gilda Stories: A Novel, by Jewelle L. Gomez (1991)

[read our interview with jewelle gomez here]

“The Gilda Stories, a novel about vampires, but much more….it is a story about longing, living in the past, trying to define oneself by criteria that is inconsistent with the reality of one’s existence.”
– Lily, Goodreads

76. Curious Wine, by Katherine V. Forrest (1983)

“Delicious and seductive lesbian love story.”
– Gina Barnett

75. Among Other Things, I’ve Taken Up Smoking: A Novel, by Aoibheann Sweeny (2007)

“This book is soft and understated and quiet and delicate.  It is one of those novels where you want to curl up and live for a few moments…”
– Mallory, Goodreads

74. Loose End, by Ivan E. Coyote (2005)

“The book is autobiographical…short stories and columns, written in an incredibly engaging and enjoyable style, about life on the east end of Vancouver. I could see the characters and really began to be invested in them.”
– Joe, Goodreads

73. Aimee & Jaguar: A Love Story, Berlin 1943, by Erica Fischer (1994)

“This was truly a sad and beautiful story. It contains a lot of letters and first person accounts of the lives of Felice, a young Jewish woman in Nazi Germany, and Elizabeth, her Aryan lover who hid her from the Gestapo. Aside from the tragic love story, I also found it to be an interesting perspective on World War II.”
– Alice Urchin

72. Patience & Sarah, by Isabel Miller (1969)

“Its a sweet, sometimes funny book written in piquant language that is occasionally cloying but also occasionally sexy.”
– Bren, Goodreads

71. Hood, by Emma Donoghue (1995)

“The book reads beautifully – often feeling more like poetry than prose – and yet maintains a gritty, rough-around-the-edges feel. Amidst fleeting memories and awkward moments it captures the bittersweetness of loss.”
– alicia, Goodreads

70. The Blue Place (Aud Torvingen, #1), by Nicola Griffith (1998)

“But it’s not all about kicks and asses and ass-kicking, Aud is a character who grows, learns, develops, who eventually becomes a different person from the one you first imagine her to be.”
– Olduvai, Goodreads

69. Jericho, by Ann McMan (2010)

“This is a pretty straightforward, well-written romance. The characters are fully developed and the author takes her time building a believable, solid romance without resorting to the usual romance cliches.”
– Leavethesky, Goodreads

68. Girl Meets Boy: The Myth of Iphis (Canongate Myths), by Ali Smith (2007)

“‘Girl Meets Boy’ is part of a collection of myths re-told for modern day…Ali Smith tells the traditional story with a light hand and easily makes it relevant for modern audiences.”
– Amy, Goodreads

67. Deliver us from Evie, by M.E. Kerr (1994)

[read our review of deliver us from evie here]

“While the characters were stock, the story was well-developed.  I found the way the parents dealt with the slow revealings of Evie’s sexuality especially engrossing.”
– Lisa, Goodreads

66.  Affinity, by Sarah Waters (2000)

“As always, with this author’s work comes a thoroughly researched story and a compelling look at women in oppressive circumstances, as well as how their limited choices often lead to desperate attempts to control their own destinies.”
– Wendy Darling, Goodreads

65. The Corrections, by Jonathan Frazen (2001)

“The main thing I love about this novel…is the author’s mastery of psychic distance and perspective.  Using third person, Franzen manages to craft the interior drives, passions, and thoughts of Chip, Denise, and Gary with complete distinction.”
– Emily, Goodreads

64. Foxfire, by Joyce Carol Oates (1993)

“What makes Foxfire is amazing is that the reader feels the constant tug between the lack of moral validity of Foxfire’s actions and the intense desire for revenge. An excellent book full of human conflicts.”
– Serena Tardioli

63. And Playing the Role of Herself, by K.E. Lane (2006)

“The romance proceeds slowly, there are twists and turns, but none of them seem forced or contrived, the whole thing reads very smoothly… Very satisfying escape.”
– Alena, Goodreads

62. To the Lighthouse, by Virigina Woolf (1927)

“At the heart of To the Lighthouse lie the dueling extremes of masculinity and femininity, and the question of whether they can be successfully joined in romantic pairings or, in Lily’s case, within the individual soul.”
– Bram, Goodreads

61. The World Unseen, by Shamim Sarif (2001)

“This book was an enjoyable read.  One of those fabulous stories that can relay the difficulty of being a woman and a lesbian, especially in cultures where women are less than men.”
– Jill, Goodreads


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56 Comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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. 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.)

    • 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!

    • 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!

  5. 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?

    • 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!)

  6. 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.

    • 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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  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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?

    • 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.

    • 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.

  11. 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.

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  13. 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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  15. 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!

  16. Hey there! I just wanted to say that I love this list, but I´d also add Gladiatrix by Russel Whitfield, it´s an AMAZING novel! I would say it is my favorite, and I´ve read quite a lot of books (I believe it will be a trilogy, but there are just 2 books right now, both of them are great and beautifully written)…anyway you should give it a try (just keep in mind it´s very real and it has some raw bits)

  17. Hey so I’m new to this, but I absolutely love fiction. I’ve probably read about 10 of that books on this list. Some of them seem a little dark though. My favourite by far is playing one role of herself. The author had only that one book though I really wish she had more. I re read it a million times. But I’m a sucker for those mushy happy endings. Lol. I would love to hear from anyone on suggestions for books I must read on this category. I think I’m addicted.

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