100 Best Lesbian Fiction & Memoir Books Of All Time

10. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, by Jeanette Winterson (1985)

“Winterson beautifully mixes religious theology with budding sexuality, curiosity and identity.”
– Ariana, Goodreads

9. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, by Fannie Flagg (1987)

“If ever there was a book that feels like coming home, Fried Green Tomatoes is it. Full of laughs and “aww” moments, it’s folksy, endearing and heartwarming. It can be a little melodramatic at times but Flagg knows how to bring realism out of the sentimental moments in life and she does it with precision.”
– Joanna, GoodReads

8. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker (1982)

“This novel explicitly explored such incredibly complex and distressing issues that I remain in awe of how Alice Walker so skilfully managed to blend portrayals of oppression – male brutality, slavery, poverty, racism and sexism, with a narrative infused with such tenderness.”
– Fiona, Goodreads

7. Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides (2002)

“There’s a very frank beauty about this book – he doesn’t gloss over anything, but despite the many struggles of the three generations, he doesn’t feel it necessary to make his reality very bleak, either. Even when the book is at its darkest, most depressing, you’re filled with sadness, but also with hope.”
– Taylor, Goodreads

6. The Miseducation of Cameron Post, by Emily M. Danforth (2012)

[read our book club interview with emily m. danforth here]

“The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a fierce book that boldly explores identity, sexuality, and human responsibility in a relatable way, even as it demands attention from your social conscience and reaches out for your empathy.”
– Wendy Darling, Goodreads

5. Rubyfruit Jungle, by Rita Mae Brown (1973)

“Intelligently written, coming of age story with a very likeable main character, Molly, who never accepts an answer or will be told what to do, and kicks against all her disadvantages and the bigotry facing her.”
– Sophie, Goodreads

4. Fingersmith, by Sarah Waters (2002)

“Essentially, Fingersmith is everything I could possibly want in a novel. The narrators of the novel are wonderfully entertaining; plot twists abound that I could never have imagined the first time I read this book; the descriptions are beautiful but not overly-done.”
– Tara, Goodreads

3. Annie on My Mind, by Nancy Garden (1982)

“The treatment of two gay teenagers is astounding, considering the time period, and the affirmative, inspiring message is something gay teens everywhere had to hear back then.”
– Matthew, Goodreads

2. Tipping the Velvet, by Sarah Waters (1998)

“My first experience with historical lit that subtly invokes moments which remind me of an artistic erotic painting – sensual, moving, yet not completely garish.”
– Stacia (Ace of Skates), Goodreads

1. Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel (2006)

[read our book club post on fun home here]

“As a memoir, Fun Home is beautifully arranged and as honest and unapologetic as they come. Alison writes and draws as if she is still putting together the pieces as she does so, and closes the book with the impression that the story is not over.” – Emily, Goodreads

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61 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.

    • Yes, Fingersmith does end differently than you might think. That plot twist at the end of part 2 was truly brilliant though. I was shocked. Things take a turn in the right direction I promise. I won’t spoil it for you.

    • 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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  12. 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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  14. 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!

  15. 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)

  16. 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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