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13 Books About Gay Mayhem and “Bad” Queers To Read After Watching Bottoms

If you left Bottoms feeling ravenous for more stories about lesbian dirtbags, chaotic queers, and just general gay nonsense and hijinks, well, welcome to my life. I live for stories about “bad” gays, which of course I mean as a subjective and often complimentary descriptor. The books below center characters who range from flawed to unlikeable to downright devilish. Some of them aren’t necessarily mean or morally corrupt but rather just impulsive, self-destructive, and capable of very human mistakes and messes. But these books all, in some way, remind me of the playful, fiery, absurd energy of Bottoms. They’re great reads if you’re in the mood for a little gay mayhem (gayhem, if you will). Please shout out more books in the comments! I’m always looking for reads that fit this specific vibe.


Big Swiss by Jen Beagin

Big Swiss by Jen Beagin

A sex comedy in novel form, Big Swiss is raunchy, raucous, and…surprisingly deep about trauma? It’s about a 45-year-old transcriptionist of sex therapy sessions developing an obsessive crush on a much younger woman who is one of the patients whose sessions she listens in on and types up for work. Much like Bottoms, there’s deception, manipulation, and straight up lies at the foundation of this flirtation. Bad gays, indeed!


Hex by Rebecca Dinerstein Knight

Hex by Rebecca Dinerstein Knight

I will leap at any and every chance to put this book on a list, but this time it feels especially fitting, especially following the recommendation of Big Swiss. As I wrote in my review of Big Swiss, these two novels would “pair well together on a weekend where you wanna read about age gaps, obsession, and sex with an undercurrent of upheaval. Which for me is pretty much every weekend.” In it, a disgraced PhD candidate is obsessively in unrequited love with a professor, her mentor Dr. Joan Kallas. There’s a whole cast of fucked up characters, and instead of the intricate dynamics of desire and obsession within a high school fight club, we have here the intricate dynamics of desire and obsession within a toxic (literally — they study toxins) group of scientists.


Your Driver Is Waiting by Priya Guns

Your Driver Is Waiting by Priya Guns

This novel harnesses the same rip-roaring pace and taste for danger as Bottoms. It’s impressively action-packed for a work of literary fiction, and it really does read like a gay book version of Taxi Driver. The protagonist can quite literally throw punches like our Bottoms beloveds. And as I highlighted in my review: The queer sex scenes are great.


Lucky Red by Claudia Cravens

Lucky Red by Claudia Cravens

Set in 1877, Lucky Red presents a queer and feminist reimagining of frontier action-adventure tales, centered on the orphan Bridget, who falls in love with the new lady gunfighter in town, Spartan Lee. We’ve got gay romance and gay revenge afoot in this romp! What more could you want?


Patricia Wants To Cuddle by Samantha Allen

Patricia Wants to Cuddle by Samantha Allen

It’s difficult to get too far into the weeds of how exactly gays behave “badly” in this novel without spoiling it, but just trust me. It’s a delightful and devious little monster story that also satirizes reality dating shows. It opens with a literal bloodbath, violent and bruising throughout even as it’s caustically funny. As I wrote in my review: “Even as the novel throws many genres and forms into a blender, it’s all pureed to a smooth finish.” I could easily say the same about Bottoms (and pretty much did).


Exalted by Anna Dorn

Exalted by Anna Dorn

This is an equal opportunity novel in the sense that it somehow manages to portray heterosexuality as a complete farce and queerness as a complete farce. The obsessions and compulsions of its characters know no bounds, and Exalted mocks everything from mainstream astrology culture to extremely online culture to working in media and beyond. One of its central characters is a very bad gay mom.


Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth

Bad is right there in the title! Set in dual timelines of 1902 and present day, this bestselling gothic novel centers a cursed school for girls. Obsession, hauntings, and queer antics abound.


After Delores by Sarah Schulman

After Delores by Sarah Schulman

What I consider the ultimate dyke breakup novel, After Delores is a crackling tale of queer rage, grief, and love. It’s very funny. It’s emotionally complex. And hey, according to a Twitter thread she did, Schulman considers Bottoms to be in conversation with her early novels.


Wow, No Thank You.: Essays by Samantha Irby

Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby

The poet laureate of the gross and the grossly hilarious, Samantha Irby writes my favorite humor essays around. “Lesbian Bed Death” from Wow, No Thank You is an all-time favorite.

100 Boyfriends by Brontez Purnell

100 Boyfriends by Brontez Purnell

This book contains linked gay short stories and vignettes that are horny, messy, foul, delicious, deviant, depraved, and downright immersive when it comes to humor, character, and relationship dynamics. “Gayhem” is definitely the first “word” that comes to mind when I think of it.


Dykette by Jenny Fran Davis

Dykette by Jenny Fran Davis

Drew Burnett Gregory brilliantly articulates the merits and missteps of this novel about a group of messy queers absconding to a cabin for a winter vacation that gets progressively more chaotic. Regardless of those missteps though, it’s easy to place the high femme camp antics of Dykette in conversation with Bottoms.


Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters

Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters

This novel is often discussed in terms of how compelling, richly layered, and emotionally complex it is, but it’s also just very fucking funny. The humor is sharp and often surprising. It isn’t afraid to go super macabre either.


Skye Falling by Mia McKenzie

Skye Falling by Mia McKenzie

When a 12-year-old girl tracks down protagonist Skye and says she’s one of Skye’s “eggs” — a product of an egg donation Skye did while broke in her twenties — things get even more uncomfortable when Skye realizes a woman she hit on is the girl’s aunt. GAYHEM, INDEED. This Lambda Literary winner is hilarious and a quick read.

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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Orlando. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 808 articles for us.

13 Comments

  1. so. much. queer. chaos.

    all this could be different – sarah thankam matthews
    really good actually – monica heisey
    exciting times – naoise dolan
    real life – brandon taylor (gay male but similar vibes)
    felix ever after – kacen callender

    also, i know that you don’t usually mention your brilliant partner in these lists, kayla, but queer floridian chaos is kristen arnett’s brand and she absolutely belongs here as well.

  2. I love so many of these, and am especially excited to see Skye Falling make the list! I feel like it doesn’t get enough discussion in queer book talk. Dykette and Exalted are personal favs, and Big Swiss is a delight.

    For other similar recs:

    all-night pharmacy by ruth madievsky
    alice sadie celine by sarah blakley-cartwright
    come and get it by kiley reid
    the humble lover by edmund white
    family dinner by bryan washington

  3. I love that these novels exist and can’t wait to find into reading them! You can’t have a list of Bad Queers without including this book:
    Bad Gays: A Homosexual History
    Book by Ben Miller and Huw Lemmey

    It’s actual bad queers in sometimes all it’s messy glory. The podcast is hilarious, poingnant and delightful too.

  4. I read Hex and I have to say…I hated it :(

    The entire time I was waiting for any of the characters to have a redeeming or interesting quality, or the book to at least have a redeemingly good sex scene. It was one of those ebook reads where when I got to the end I was surprised because I kept waiting for it to get somewhere and then all the sudden the book was over and nothing interesting had ever happened. Oh well.

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