We may earn a commission through product links on this page. But we only recommend stuff we love.

65 of the Best Queer Books of 2023

a mix CD that reads END OF YEAR LISTS: BEST QUEER BOOKS with hearts and the year 2023
See All 2023 End of Year Lists

Welcome to the best queer books of 2023! I am so excited to share with you all the excellent queer and trans literature that came out in 2023! Particularly impressive categories this year include memoir/biography, horror — queer and trans horror writers are appropriately giving us their all these days — and comics. There is more than one book on this list that I’ve declared an instant queer classic and I stand behind my assessments! There are, as always, many excellent books that did not make this list. Let’s dive into the ones that did.


Comics/Graphic Novels and Memoirs

Mimosa by Archie Bongiovanni

Mimosa is the true heir to Alison Bechdel’s iconic Dykes to Watch Out For. This messy and oh-so-true-to-life story about a group of thirtysomething queer friends who are slowly growing apart is hilarious, sad, and one of the most authentic portrayals of queer friendship and queer parenthood out there. It’s an absolute must-read for anyone who loves messy queers, is a queer person in their thirties, or anyone who appreciates outstanding characterization. Check out more of Bongiovanni’s work including the comic Grease Bats, right here on Autostraddle.

A Guest in the House by Emily Carroll

With art equal parts extremely creepy and extremely gorgeous, Emily Carroll’s latest disarming horror tale is set in an idyllic lakeside town. Abby, a woman married to an older man whose first wife *apparently* died of cancer, begins to wonder if something more sinister actually happened. Carroll expertly draws out the suspense and mystery as Abby starts to see and interact with a ghost. Is the ghost Abby fighting, perhaps, homosexuality itself? The ending will leave you both terrified and puzzled.

The Girl That Can’t Get A Girlfriend by Mieri Hiranishi

The Girl That Can’t Get A Girlfriend is the Butch4Butch autobiographical manga of your dreams. In A. Tony Jerome’s review, they praise the manga for naming “the things you’re ashamed you did when you were trying to be loved” and for showing that “what you’ve been led to believe is proof of you being unlovable is the start of you learning that’s not true.” The book manages to tell the well worn story of first crush, first relationship, and first breakup in a fresh and unique way. It’s vulnerable, very funny, and surprisingly optimistic.

Boys Weekend by Mattie Lubchansky

Never has a graphic novel so effectively straddled the lines between satire and horror than in this compelling final girl narrative that features trans feminine protagonist Sammie. Lubchansky ups the ante of terror expertly: At first, Sammie is dealing with constant microaggressions and navigating being asked to be a “best man”. Then, they discover a cult is slowly murdering and dismembering guests at the hotel where they’re staying. The book’s art and words perfectly balance the campy over-the-top futuristic Las Vegas-like setting with resonant emotional depth.

Roaming by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

The epic team of cousins Tamaki and Tamaki have done it again with this lushly drawn — literally and figuratively — coming of gayge graphic novel about the delicate period between adolescence and adulthood. The black, white, lavender, and peach color palette of Jillian’s art pairs perfectly with the story of an old friendship undergoing growing pains. The dynamics of an added unexpected charismatic third party to this NYC reunion spring break trip are expertly captured in Mariko’s authentic dialogue. Roaming is an immersive, compelling read showing both Tamakis at the top of their game.


Fantasy

The Battle Drum by Saara El-Arifi

The Battle Drum is an utterly compelling queer high fantasy with African and Arabian roots, a feat even more impressive when you consider it’s the second in a series. Its three complicated women protagonists leap off the page as El-Arifi challenges them in their roles as leader, traveler, and detective. The book’s criticisms of colonialism are as fierce and passionate as its characters.

The Faithless by C.L. Clark

Sequel to the acclaimed political fantasy The Unbroken, The Faithless follows soldier Touraine and princess Luca as they reckon with tentative victory as imperial forces are retreating from the colonized Qazal. Clark smartly explores the messy and complicated process of undoing an empire and the complexities of reestablishing authentic leadership. The lead characters — and their relationship with each other— are just as fascinating and nuanced as the political intrigue.

The Daughters of Izdihar by Hadeer Elsbai

In Heather Hogan’s glowing review for Hadeer Elsbai’s debut novel, she calls it “fantastical feminist queer rage.” “Not only full of awesome water-bending, fire-bending, earth-bending action,” she declares, “it’s a feminist dynamic [she’s] never seen before.” This slow-burn story is focused on two women — Nehal, a spoiled aristocrat and Giorgina, a poor bookseller — who connect through their shared feminist activism and magical abilities. With incredibly dynamic characters and a nail-biting cliff-hanger ending, we are lucky to know the sequel The Weavers of Alamaxa is due out in 2024.

He Who Drowned the World by Shelley Parker-Chan

Sequel to She Who Became the Sun, He Who Drowned the World is an impressive sophomore feat for Parker-Chan, whose intricate plotting and rich world-building are unparalleled. This novel set in the world of the imperial Chinese court is an epic political fantasy whose scenes of action and emotion are equally breath-taking. It’s also a book whose characters are the definition of complex. Despite the fact that He Who Drowned the World will hurt your soul, you’ll thank it.

A Day of Fallen Night by Samantha Shannon

Heather Hogan declares that A Day of Fallen Night is “the most satisfying queer and trans fantasy book [she’s] ever read.” Technically a prequel to The Priory of the Orange Tree, but readable as a standalone, the book is set in a “universe that’s bursting with complex, fully realized queer and trans characters.” Also: dragons. Centered on the lives of four women at different life stages, the story manages to be hopeful at the same time as it investigates issues like climate change, sexism, and an impending pandemic.


Historical fiction

Lucky Red by Claudia Cravens

Lucky Red is a brilliant queer feminist reimagining of the western genre — complete with an ingenious narrative twist and stellar prose. Set in Dodge City in 1877, the story takes the setting of a brothel from its usual place as backdrop in the genre to its deserved place in center stage, filling the novel with nuanced and fascinating sex worker characters. Watching the protagonist Bridget evolve from a disillusioned 16-year-old orphan to a powerful woman with a thirst for vengeance is wonderful to witness.

Infamous by Lex Croucher

2023 was the year Lex Croucher got themselves crowned as today’s queer Jane Austen, particularly as their books were released in quick succession in North America after earlier UK publication dates. Any of Croucher’s books could have been included on this list, but Infamous is a masterpiece of endless quick wit, with just the right amounts of romance, hijinks, self-discovery, and heart to round out the story. It is the sapphic Regency coming-of-age book queers deserve. Read my glowing review of Infamous!

Learned by Heart by Emma Donoghue

Learned by Heart is a delightfully quiet, slow-burn tale set in 1805 York told through the eyes of Eliza Raine, a biracial Indian and British 14-year-old student at a school for young ladies. It’s unexpected and brilliant that Donoghue opts to tell the story from the perspective of Eliza, as her eventual love interest is the now iconic queer historical figure Anne Lister. Donoghue’s prose is sumptuous, and her pace deliciously languid as she explores Eliza’s experiences as an outsider and her burgeoning relationship with fellow misfit Lister.

Menewood by Nicola Griffith

In the decade since it was published, Nicola Griffith’s Hild has become the standard for excellent historical storytelling. Hild’s highly anticipated 2023 sequel, Menewood manages to somehow surpass its beloved predecessor with its rich seventh century British setting, epic scope, and the sheer beauty of Griffith’s language. Griffith simultaneously achieves meticulous historical accuracy while infusing the book’s bisexual lead character with as much warmth, strength, and complexity as if she were living today.

Our Hideous Progeny by C.E. McGill

McGill’s beautifully crafted story set in the mid-Victorian period is a sequel of sorts to Mary Shelley’s iconic Frankenstein. It features an angry queer woman scientist stifled by her husband and society’s patriarchal notions about women’s intelligence. McGill’s characters — including a villain well worth hating — are wonderfully drawn, as are her explorations of the protagonist’s grief following her newborn’s death. Our Hideous Progeny is a worthy successor to Shelley’s ground-breaking science fiction masterpiece.


Horror

Organ Meats by K-Ming Chang

In K-Ming Chang’s trademark poetic prose, she tells the story of two women’s friendship as it manifests in their connection to a pack of wild dogs with whom they can communicate. But the novel doesn’t stop at portraying the beauty of intimacy; it also leans into its horrors as the protagonists are separated and one of their bodies begins to rot. Filled as much with entrails and body horror as with love and devotion, it’s impossible not to enjoy the disorienting experience of Organ Meats, just as Chang hopes we will. Check out Sa’iyda Shabazz’s interview with the author, where Chang discusses “feeling at home in the monstrous” and KKU’s review of the book.

A Haunting on the Hill by Elizabeth Hand

Despite the truly enormous expectations on its shoulders, Elizabeth Hand’s A Haunting on the Hill manages to live up to them. This novel is the first authorized return to Shirley Jackson’s 1959 queer horror classic, The Haunting of Hill House. In the present day, struggling playwright Holly rents Hill House in order to workshop and rehearse her play; it’s a plan that, of course, goes horribly wrong. Hand deftly balances a timeless foreboding and eerie tone that permeates the whole novel with a distinctly contemporary story of longing, isolation, and ambition.

Natural Beauty by Ling Ling Huang

Natural Beauty is a satirical horror that brilliantly skewers the beauty and wellness industries, specifically their participation in white supremacy and anti-fatness. Told from the perspective of a queer prodigy pianist who quits music and begins working at a bizarre high-end wellness store, the novel is an ideal blend of body horror and surrealism. As Ling Ling Huang peels back the superficially beautiful layers of the store, the creepy and then truly menacing truth slowly appears. Huang’s hypnotic prose is the perfect amount of rough around the edges.

The Salt Grows Heavy by Cassandra Khaw

The Salt Grows Heavy is a strange, strange gory novella. This dark fairy tale features a land-faring, teeth-baring mermaid whose daughters have eaten the kingdom of the human man who forced her into marriage. Accompanying her on a journey is a nonbinary “plague doctor” who is more Frankenstein’s monster than human. Khaw proves themselves a master of body horror, producing prose that is fittingly equally gorgeous and disgusting. This is an exceptional retelling of The Little Mermaid that revels in darkness yet also spotlights the power of queer love.

Brainwyrms by Alison Rumfitt

2023 is the year that British author Alison Rumfitt stormed North American audiences with what she calls her “deeply personal, transgressive horror.” Brainwyrms, her second title released this year, is as fearless in its insistence on telling the truth about trans life today as it is terrifying in its investigation of TERFism and transphobia. Beginning with a transphobic bombing that leads to the protagonist’s intense relationship with a charismatic but suspicious woman, this story is set in near-future Britain where transphobes are literally hosts to a parasitic brain virus. The result is smart, grotesque, and horrifying.


Literary/Contemporary Fiction

The Rage Letters by Valérie Bah and Translated by Kama La Mackerel

Mostly set in Montreal, this collection of scintillating short stories is a deeply impressive exploration of the intertwined lives of a group of Black queer and trans friends. Troubling yet full of possibility, the stories investigate the strange contradictions in the characters’ lives, such as when two new lovers have fantastic sex…in the literal shadow of wax sculptures depicting their exes. Bah’s background as a photographer is on full display in their writing. The prose plays with mood and saturation, with a noticeable tweaking of reality and the French language the book is originally written in, brilliantly conveyed in Kama La Mackerel’s translation.

Your Driver Is Waiting by Priya Guns

This novel about a queer South Asian rideshare driver scraping by in a Toronto-esque city is very funny, deliciously tense, and full of complex characters. As Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya’s review on Autostraddle declares, Your Driver Is Waiting is “[n]uanced in its character development and bold in its plotting, posses[ing] a scintillating alchemy. It’s an uppercut to the chin of a novel and an instantly memorable debut.” At the same time as readers will race through the page-turning thrills to find out what happens next, they’ll also slow down to savor Priya Guns’s remarkable prose. And what a perfectly open-ended yet conclusive ending!

Any Other City by Hazel Jane Plante

In Abeni’s review of Hazel Jane Plante’s latest novel, she calls it a “sexy, ambitious” book that “explores transition and transformation.” Structurally inventive — it is divided into Side A and Side B as if it’s a mixed tape — the book is alternately sad and hot, as it explores the life of fictional trans musician Tracy St. Cyr at two key periods. Any Other City is not only a soaring celebration of trans femmes but of the beautiful and necessary art and music they make.

Chlorine by Jade Song

Chlorine would be equally at home in the horror section of this list, but it’s also an extremely compelling work of coming-of-age literary fiction. Told retroactively from the protagonist Ren’s adult perspective, the story is an astute investigation of the complexities of immigration, bisexuality, and mermaid mythology, as well as a searing critique of patriarchal control of women’s bodies. The book oozes with evocative water images, from the chlorinated pools Ren spends her teenage days in to her dreams of dark and mysterious deep sea creatures.

The Fake by Zoe Whittall

Only Zoe Whittall could write a novel about being the victim of a scammer that is equally sad, funny, and sexy. The novel’s unknowable center is Cammie, whom Shelby meets in a support group she’s joined after the death of her wife. When Shelby meets Gibson, a recently divorced guy who has been dating Cammie, the two realize that Cammie has been telling them vastly different versions of her life. In, KKU’s review, she calls the book “fast-paced, grief-steeped, [and] delectable” with “significant tension, suspense, and an unsolvable mystery at [its] core.”


Memoir/Biography

Miss Major Speaks by Miss Major Griffin-Gracy and Toshio Meronek

Part memoir and part trans manifesto, Miss Major Speaks reads like being privy to an intimate conversation with a living icon of Black, queer, trans, and sex worker liberation. It’s the conversational format of the book — Miss Major being interviewed by her friend Toshio Meronek — that lends the book its intimacy, as well as its consistent allure. It’s engaging, compelling, candid, and an absolute must-read. All queer and trans readers owe it to themselves and queer history to soak up Miss Major’s advice, life story, and to be reminded that she “didn’t get to 80 years old being sweet and gentle. [She’s] no flower. Fuck that. [She’s] a cactus – get over it.”

Hijab Butch Blues by Lamya H

Hijab Butch Blues is quite simply a new classic of queer literature, just like its allusive title implies. Lamya H’s smart and compassionately written memoir is structured thematically by prophets of Islam, intertwining their personal history and journeys with interpretations of the prophets’ stories. Every chapter is incredibly moving and unfailingly surprising in the ways in which it connects Quran passages with Lamya’s life. In Stef Rubino’s review on Autostraddle, they note that “Lamya’s ability to bring seemingly disparate elements together to paint such a vivid picture of what it’s like to have to make the choices they’ve made in the ways they’ve made them is absolutely stunning in its execution.”

Pageboy by Elliot Page

One of the most anticipated books on trans life possibly ever, Elliot Page’s memoir is a coming-of-age story that follows his ascent as an actor and the wild ride thereafter. Stef Rubino writes in their review that the nonlinear structure of the memoir is an “undoing the fracturing of his life caused by external pressures and internal self-punishment.” The memoir’s sometimes deliberate elusiveness establishes the book as the one Page wanted to write: “a story of growing up, of becoming, of transforming and surviving, but one of choosing to live and to fight for that life, even when the costs are higher than anyone could possibly imagine.”

Lesbian Love Story by Amelia Possanza

Amelia Possanza’s debut hybrid memoir reaches back into the archives to tell us stories about lesbians in the past, in order to inform her own present. Through the histories she shares, Possanza explores her own experiences with coming out, gender and gender expression, and finding and maintaining relationships. The effect, Stef Rubino writes, is “reflective, … where we see how Possanza’s own life experiences connect to the lives of the people in the book while also making us contemplate the ways we’re connected, as well.” It’s a crucial tool not only for self-reflection, but for today’s organizing.

The Risk It Takes to Bloom: On Life and Liberation by Raquel Willis

Journalist and Black trans activist Raquel Willis’s memoir is an iconic chronicle of her fascinating life so far, both the political and the personal. Willis is equally at home conversationally sharing details of her sparkling social life and history in the drag community as she is writing serious, somber reflections on the challenges of activism and transphobic violence. Her sociopolitical analysis of how the larger structures of racism and transphobia have affected her is as compelling as her vulnerability and honesty in the telling of her story.


Mystery/Thriller

The Gulf by Rachel Cochran

This absorbing historical literary thriller is set in the 1970s in a small Texas town to which a closeted woman in her late 20s, Lou, has returned. Rachel Cochran elegantly balances the murder mystery — Lou’s surrogate mom and elderly neighbor Miss Kate is suddenly killed — with a nuanced depiction of Lou’s struggles to reconnect with Kate’s estranged daughter, who was Lou’s first love. The Gulf is a captivating slow-burn of a story, with delicately drawn-out character exploration.

Remain Silent by Robyn Gigl

Number three in Robyn Gigl’s legal thriller series about a bi trans woman attorney is another winner. In the latest installment, Gigl really challenges her protagonist Erin by putting her on the other side of the interrogation table when she is the last person to see one of her clients alive. The plotting in this one is extra tricky and sinister, but the characters remain utterly down-to-earth and achingly real. For a rollicking good page-turning read with excellent, well-drawn trans characters, you can’t do better than Remain Silent.

A Calculated Risk by Cari Hunter

Cari Hunter’s latest Northern England-set mystery is a reintroduction to the character of Detective Jo Shaw, and boy is it a reintroduction: the novel begins with an adrenaline rush, with Jo rushing out to respond to a brutal stabbing, risking her career to save the woman’s life. The book slows down for a while, during which Hunter provides a fascinating exploration of Jo’s former relationship with a trauma surgeon who left her 15 years ago. But the case picks back up with exhilarating speed at the end to a shocking but satisfying conclusion. Here’s to more books in this intended new series!

Leverage by E.J. Noyes

Book two in the Halcyon Division series, Leverage begins with an odd mystery: its intelligence analyst protagonist, Lexie, has been strangely set free after exposing a senior government official’s involvement with the Russians. While the pace slows down for a spell as Noyes lures Lexie into a false sense of security — and allows for some fun for her who is officially dating her sort-of- girlfriend from book one — the ending comes in with a highly unexpected bang, leaving readers dying for the next installment.

The Bell in the Fog by Lev A.C. Rosen

The second book in Rosen’s historical mystery series starring gay ex-cop-turned-P.I. Andy Mills is somehow even more compelling than its excellent predecessor, Lavender House. With an entertaining, diverse cast of characters rooted in the 1950s San Francisco’s queer community and a smart interrogation of Andy’s background as a police officer, the engaging plot — a seemingly simple case of blackmail turned very complex — is the cherry on top. Rosen also excels at integrating fascinating queer history seamlessly into the story. Run, don’t walk, to this mystery!


Nonfiction

This powerful anthology centers BIPOC and queer perspectives with the aim of undoing the overtaking of a movement started by a Black woman, Tarana Burke, with an image almost exclusively white and heterosexual. In their Autostraddle review, Nico emphasizes that Unsafe Words is “challenging in the best ways” and that sometimes its essays, “like haunting short stories, asked more questions than they answered.” The book’s commitments to a queer abolitionist framework and community building are as empowering as its insistence on asking hard questions and not shying away from nuance or complexity.

Moby Dyke by Krista Burton

As Stef Rubino points out in their review of Moby Dyke , the conversation on disappearing lesbian bars in the U.S. is not new. Krista Burton, however, manages to make this book a fresh take on an old conversation by “decid[ing] that to really understand why there are so few lesbian bars around now, she should visit 20 of the bars that remain open to try to understand why so many of them have closed.” The result is a refreshingly optimistic and page-turning work of nonfiction that “give[s] us more reasons to keep believing in the power of collectivity and community and getting together with your queer siblings and partners at your local spot at the end of a tough ass day.” Cheers to that!

On Community by Casey Plett

Community! Is there a thornier topic in queer and trans life? Readers are in the best of hands with Casey Plett’s book-length essay about community: as a word, as a concept, as a symbol, and as a lived experience. Plett deftly discusses the intricacies of community’s benefits and flaws, from her own experiences as a member of many disparate communities: the Mennonite religious and ethnic group, her fellow trans folks, the writing and publishing world, roommates, neighborhoods, Canadian and American national identities, and more. It’s an endlessly engaging and moving read that will make you, perhaps surprisingly, optimistic about the idea of community after all.

Thin Skin by Jenn Shapland

There’s not much more you could ask of a book than for it to “make you believe another life is possible”; but this is exactly what Stef Rubino says Jenn Shapland’s new work of nonfiction will do. Thin Skin is a collection of essays whose topics range from chronic illness and racial capitalism to the possibilities of a childfree queer life. The book is a “masterful, incisive, and intellectually moving piece of work,” both in its commitment to engaging in incredibly difficult conversations and to, as Stef puts it, “make the revolution irresistible.” Read an exclusive excerpt from Thin Skin on Autostraddle!

Falling Back in Love with Being Human by Kai Cheng Thom

In this incredibly moving collection of love letters to lost souls, Kai Cheng Thom faces the challenges mounting against her “belief that every human being, no matter how hateful or horrible, is intrinsically sacred.” Her effort to get back to the place of love she alludes to in the title results in a breathtaking book of formally diverse pieces — letters, prayers, spells, poems — that channel her grief and rage. It’s impossible not to be inspired by her simultaneous generosity and fierceness, as well as the sheer beauty of her words. This is another book on this list that has already achieved queer classic status.


Poetry

Negative Money by Lillian-Yvonne Bertram

Lillian-Yvonne Bertram’s lyrical and dense poetry collection Negative Money touches on themes of Blackness, gender identity, the body, money, AI, and more, all while playfully experimenting with form. A series of visual poetry called “World Map” is an unexpected and gorgeous collaboration with graphic designer Yaya Chanawichote; other pieces are crafted in Jericho Brown’s newly created form “duplexes; and still others creatively use alphabetical arrangement. Pick up this book and “[s]hake the rattles of our jazz.”

Freedom House by KB Brookins

KB Brookins’s debut full-length poetry collection is a knockout that asks so many important questions: how to be Black, queer, and trans in a world that refuses these identities? How to build a future and engage in Afrofuturism in the face of climate change? What are the connections between poetry and freedom? Using a clever and unique form that structures the book in four parts named after rooms in a house, Freedom House is not only a discussion of big issues, but a manifestation itself of the free space it calls for for Black, queer, and trans people. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Brookins’s humor, delightfully sprinkled throughout.

Explodingly Yours by Chen Chen

This chapbook from acclaimed poet Chen Chen features, as A. Tony Jerome writes in their round-up of new queer poetry books, “one of the gayest covers I’ve ever witnessed and we should share in that joyous celebration together.” Lucky for us the poems live up to the cover. They are full of Chen’s trademark humor, playfulness, and joy, tinged sometimes with a melancholy or sadness that aches at the same time as Chen’s words soothe. The book is a testament to the beauty in the world despite everything; but as Chen puts it:“The world is beautiful is always / an exaggeration. But it’s the heart’s favorite sentence. / Favorite demand.”

My Dear Comrades by Sunu P. Chandy

Speaking from Sunu P. Chandy’s myriad experiences as a queer woman, civil rights attorney, mother, partner, and daughter of South Asian immigrants, her poetry in this collection offer a kind of community, a solace in not being alone despite feelings of isolation or loneliness. There is a stalwart optimism to the poems that insists on the beauty of beginning anew and on the human capacity to rebuild. Chandy experiments with diary-like prose in many of the longer poems, infusing them with a deep sense of self-reflection.

Muster Points by Lucas Crawford

Written while quarantined at an arts center in the early days of the Covid pandemic and going through a breakup, Lucas Crawford’s latest collection of poems refuses to look away from the messy realities of queer pleasure and desire, health, depression, and trans masculinities. Searching for his own “muster points,” in the wake of disaster and its underwhelming and insufficient language, Crawford looks inward as well as to community. Despite serious content about upheaval and isolation, though, Crawford isn’t afraid to be silly or playful, as perhaps best embodied in one poem titled “A Better Poem About Peanut Butter.” This approach makes for a wonderfully balanced collection.


Romance

Fly with Me by Andie Burke

Heather Hogan’s “favorite sapphic romance of the year,” Fly with Me, is a delightful tale full of beloved romance tropes: unusual meet cute on a plane! Last minute gay road trip! Fake relationship to save their careers! But it’s also, in Heather’s words, “about love that blossoms in a shower of tears.” Both leads are dealing with grief after losing a family member, and the nurse character, Olive, is dealing with the aftermath of working through the pandemic during its early days. Burke manages to center a nuanced look at grief while also maintaining the book’s sexiness and humor.

An Island Princess Starts a Scandal by Adriana Herrera

Set in 1889 in Paris, this wonderful sapphic Latina romance is a love story between an artist and a duchess. The two women’s swoony, steamy romance is perfectly balanced by fascinating historical context and secondary characters and side plots, including the joys of found family, queer history, the labor movement, and more! Each lead character has a complex backstory and a moving personal journey. Plus, Adriana Herrera’s sex scenes will have you fanning yourself with one of those old-fashioned 19th century fans.

Grand Slam Romance by Ollie Hicks and Emma Oosterhous

The tagline for this utterly delightful graphic novel is that it is “equal parts romance, softball, and drama”; this is true, but it doesn’t quite get at how magical — literally and figuratively — this queer softball romance is. Deliciously campy and very horny, this messy story of three women, one of whom is maybe starting to date the ex of her ex / rival who is also a full-fledged “magical girl,” is so. much. fun. The art style is appropriately whimsical, and the jokes and puns are terrifically vulgar. Read this book to fill the League of Their Own hole in your heart.

Sorry, Bro by Taleen Voskuni

In Christina Tucker’s review on Autostraddle of Sorry, Bro, she calls the novel an “unexpected delight” that is “light and charming,” ideal for the escape via bisexual romance we all need once in a while. The book’s humor and charisma are matched by Taleen Voskuni’s “gorgeous … simple, unaffected” prose that elevates protagonist Nareh’s everyday experiences to the extraordinary. Voskuni’s focus on the importance of Nareh’s Armenian culture is a welcome addition to traditionally published queer women’s fiction, as is her choice to feature a “closed door” romance with sex scenes off the page. There is truly no other romance out there like Sorry, Bro!

The Fixer by Lee Winter

Christina Tucker declares The Fixer to be “[s]low burn lesbian romance at its finest,” in her review of the book; it’s such a slow burn that the story continues over into a sequel, Chaos Agent also reviewed by Christina. Now that is a bold choice, only one that renowned lesbian romance author, Lee Winter, who specializes in the “ice queen,” could pull off. The Fixer’s two polar opposite leads — one a perpetual do-gooder activist and the other a CEO of a shady company — are expertly drawn, the subplot is stellar, and the chemistry is simmering.


Science Fiction

The Scourge Between Stars by Ness Brown

Anyone who likes their queer science fiction blended with horror will love this suspenseful story set aboard a generation spaceship. Ness Brown sets a scene that’s already terrible enough — the ship’s inhabitants are retreating back to Earth after a failed attempt to save humanity from extinction — but things go from bad to worse when the crew members start gruesomely dying. Brown excels at creating a terrifying, suffocating atmosphere with characters you can root for and an excellent enemies-to-friends B plot.

I Keep My Exoskeletons to Myself by Mac Crane

Yashwina’s Autostraddle review of Mac Crane’s debut calls it an immediate “hall-of-famer.” The book is indeed an instant classic, a dystopian science fiction story that manages to stand out in a sea of other dystopian novels, particularly in its “insistence upon character” and its ferocious, unflinching world building. Yash particularly praises Crane for their ability to depict the complex interiorities of “the kid” character. Crane manages to convey the complex joys of queer parenthood amidst a scathing indictment of bigotry and discrimination in a surveillance state, while alluding to the possibilities of abolition. Gen Greer interviewed Crane about the book and upcoming projects for Autostraddle.

These Burning Stars by Bethany Jacobs

These Burning Stars is a superb work of space opera science fiction by any measure, but the fact that it’s a debut makes it that much more impressive. Bethany Jacobs’ action scenes jump off the page, the world building is creative and immersive, and the twists are wild and unpredictable. And then there are the engaging women characters! The book’s careful investigations of themes like politics, genocide, revenge, and empire are also riveting.

The Deep Sky by Yume Kitasei

The Deep Sky is a science fiction thriller with a unique twist on the mission to save humanity: all of the crew of a spaceship are cis women and trans/nonbinary people assigned female at birth, as their end goal is to populate a new planet. Fertility, miscarriage, and pregnancy are themes rarely found in science fiction, let alone explored with care, but Yume Kitasei succeeds here. The novel also includes a thoughtful investigation of queer relationships, racism, and mixed-race identities, while featuring a rich mystery and big questions about the meaning of life and what it might look like beyond Earth.

The Mimicking of Known Successes by Malka Older

The Mimicking of Known Successes is a soothing, cozy science fiction mystery that exceeds the expectations of its various genre affiliations — romance in addition to cozy mystery and science fiction — while also succeeding as an engaging Sherlock Holmes retelling. The protagonist and sidekick/co-investigator are Watson and Holmes, but they’re also college ex-girlfriends unexpectedly working together to solve a mystery amidst human settlements on the planet Jupiter. Malka Older excels at creating an appropriately hopeful yet somber tone, as well as balancing action and adventure with subtle character work, all within the space of a novella. Read my full review on Autostraddle!


Young Adult Contemporary/Historical/Romance

Forget Me Not by Alyson Derrick

Sa’iyda Shabazz writes in her Autostraddle review of Forget Me Not that the novel is, above all, a great second chance romance. This is not the usual unfolding of the trope though: Stevie, who has had a secret relationship with her girlfriend of two years, Nora, has had a terrible fall which has erased the last two years of her memory. She doesn’t remember being in love at all; Nora is left with plans to run away with a girlfriend who doesn’t know who she is. Expertly alternating between the two girls’ perspective, Alyson Derrick uses the device of memory loss — often relegated to outlandish soap opera plots — with delicacy and emotional heft. It’s a delightful love story that made Sa’iyda “believe fate is real.”

Friday I’m in Love by Camryn Garrett

For sheer celebratory queer energy, there is nothing like Camryn Garrett’s Friday I’m in Love, a YA novel in which Mahalia, a bi Black teen, decides to throw herself a coming out party despite big financial constraints. The novel excels at capturing “the heady experience of a teenager falling for someone,” Sa’iyda Shabazz points out in her Autostraddle review. Queer love! Queer parties! A queer Black character impossible not to love! Garrett, however, effectively adds some emotional weight in her integration of themes of poverty and class, as well as addressing religious homophobia. It’s the perfect balance for a contemporary YA.

The Luis Ortega Survival Club by Sonora Reyes

The Luis Ortega Survival Club is a fiercely feminist revenge story about a queer autistic Latina teen who finds friendship, support, and new romance when she is offered membership to a group of girls at her school who have all been sexually assaulted by the same guy. The protagonist Ariana is a lovely fully rounded character whose selective mutism is portrayed thoughtfully. Sonora Reyes deals just as carefully with the complex issues of consent and rape culture, while shining a light on the power of community and peer survivor support. This is a powerful novel full of appropriate rage, but also hope and healing.

6 Times We Almost Kissed by Tess Sharpe

I am going to go ahead and quote myself here from my review of 6 Times We Almost Kissed by saying this novel is “a searing look at grief, parental illness and death, rural medical access, trauma, and mental health. At the same time, it manages to be a swoony romance that will have you cheering for these two queer teen girls.” Tess Sharpe is at the top of her game in her latest book, combining her trademark rich characterization with expert pacing, fun nods to fanfic, and an emotionally resonant, page-turning plot. This is a book packed with compassion and nuance, as well as a nail-biting, slow burn romantic plot.

If Tomorrow Doesn’t Come by Jen St. Jude

For a book whose present day story is unfolding during the last nine days before an asteroid hits and destroys Earth, If Tomorrow Doesn’t Come is a surprisingly hopeful story. This tone, achieved by the protagonist’s journey realizing “she can live on her own terms” is especially meaningful for a character struggling with depression and suicidal ideation, as Sa’iyda Shabazz points out in her review for Autostraddle. It’s a heartbreaking book, perhaps all the more so because of how engaging and authentic its characters are; but it’s also a comforting read that will put your heart back together.


Young Adult Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror

To Shape a Dragon’s Breath by Moniquill Blackgoose

In this superb alternate-history fantasy, a 15-year-old bi girl is sent to a magical school to learn how to train dragons. But it’s a colonizer-run academy whose methods Anequs soon finds herself chafing against. This YA novel is for anyone looking for a truly new take on dragons, a passionate heroine to root for, and a Indigenous lens on common YA Western-rooted fantasy tropes like the chosen one, magical schools, dragons, and more. (Moniquill Blackgoose is an enrolled member of the Seaconke Wampanoag Tribe). To Shape a Dragon’s Breath is as fun as it is smart and thoughtful.

Godly Heathens by H.E. Edgmon

Centered on a nonbinary Seminole teen named Gem, H.E. Edgmon’s latest contemporary YA fantasy is a wonderfully strange and dark tale about reincarnated teen gods at war. Gem’s journey discovering they are a god whose past deeds have earned them a lot of enemies is the villain story you didn’t know you needed. Three cheers for morally gray hybrid god-teenagers who love fiercely and deal with their pain and trauma in understandably weird ways! Godly Heathens is a series starter that will have all its readers wild for the next installment.

The Haunting of Adrian Yates by Markus Harwood-Jones

In this unique and engaging paranormal novel about the complexities of love and relationships, a queer trans teen guy struggles with his best friend and (ghost) boyfriend not getting along. Markus Harwood-Jones cleverly uses the narrative possibilities of the ghost story to explore issues of consent, toxic relationships, possessiveness, and boundaries. They allow their richly developed teen characters to breathe, make mistakes, and be messy. It’s a gift for queer and trans teens — and any ghost boy/girl/theyfriends they may or may not have.

I Feed Her to the Beast and the Beast Is Me by Jamison Shea

Jamison Shea’s debut slow-burn horror novel has a premise so fresh it stands shoulders above other YA speculative fiction: Laure is a queer Black teen ballet dancer determined to succeed despite the systemic racism she’s facing. She is so ambitious that she descends to the Catacombs of Paris and arranges a sinister deal with a throbbing river of blood. The book is even more than a gripping villain origin story, though; it’s an exceptional rumination on institutional exclusion and discrimination and the pitfalls of loving an industry that returns your devotion with hate.

The Spirit Bares Its Teeth by Andrew Joseph White

Set in 1880s London, this hybrid horror-fantasy-historical novel is a truly harrowing piece of fiction that does not hold back when it comes to portraying a period in time where horrific medical experimentation took place. Andrew Joseph White is incandescent in his melding of three genres, the viciousness of the body horror, and the novel’s commitment to shedding light on historical evils and their present-day connections. The book’s trans and autistic teen protagonist, Silas, is as real and memorable as someone you met yesterday, and his eventual triumph — and t4t love! — in an uphill battle against the oppressive norms of the Victorian era are a joy to witness.


What were your favorite reads from 2023? Please share in the comments!

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!

Casey

Known in some internet circles as Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian, Casey Stepaniuk is a writer, librarian, and new parent. She writes for Book Riot and Autostraddle about queer and/or bookish stuff. Ask her about cats, bisexuality, libraries, queer books, drinking tea, and her baby. Her website is Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian. Find her on Twitter, Litsy, Storygraph Goodreads and Instagram.

Casey has written 122 articles for us.

25 Comments

  1. not a bad title here! off the top of my head, i’d add a few –

    nonfiction – katie barnes, fair play: how sports shape the gender debates
    sabrina imbler – how far the light reaches: a memoir in ten sea creatures
    alicia roth weigel – inverse cowgirl

    fiction – bronwyn fiser, the adult
    k. patrick – mrs. s
    aurora mattia – the fifth wound

    romance – ashley herring blake, iris kelly doesn’t date

  2. Here are some of my favorite books of 2023, I mostly read contemporary romance since I’m a sucker.

    Young Adult Romance

    Imogen, Obviously by Becky Albertalli

    Margo Zimmerman Gets the Girl by Brianna R. Shrum & Sara Waxelbaum

    Cleat Cute by Meryl Wilsner

    Adult Romance

    Iris Kelly Doesn’t Date by Ashley Herring Blake (Bright Falls Series, Book 3)

    Under the Stars with You by Jaime Clevenger

    Along The Mystic River by Lise Gold

    Meeting Millie by Clare Ashton

    Dance with Me by Georgia Beers

  3. I definitely want to 6 Times We Almost Kissed, Fly with Me and Pageboy next year.

    A few of my favourites this year:
    – The Fiancee Farce by Alexandria Bellelfleur
    – Imogen, Obviously by Becky Albertalli
    – Something Like Possible by Miel Moreland
    – Iris Kelly Doesn’t Date by Ashley Herring Blake

  4. I’d add These Thin Lines and Magdalene Nox by Milena McKay, Meeting Millie by Clare Ashton, In the Roses of Pieria by Anna Burke, Consecrated Ground by Virginia Black, A Long Time Dead by Samara Breger, The Flight Risk by Macon Leigh, and Stars Collide by Rachel Lacey.

  5. Here are my faves that I read this year (fiction):

    Blair Braverman – Small Game
    Julia Armfield – Our Wives Under the Sea
    Chuck Tingle – Camp Damascus
    Martha Wells – Artificial Condition

  6. Mrs S by K Patrick! So good! Possibly the best book I’ve read all year

    Also:

    Rosewater by Liv Little
    The Human Origins of Beatrice Porter and Other Essential Ghosts by Soraya Palmer

    Can’t wait for all of these to come out in paperback so that I can talk even moar people into reading them.

  7. Yaay, thanks as always, Casey! I was just thinking about how much I missed the seasonal roundups, and I’m so happy to see this list (and more community recs)! BRB, I’m gonna go reserve like half of these books from the library.

  8. I read 6 on this list! Favorite was Hijab Butch Blues – so incredibly good.

    Other favorites that came out this year.

    Fantasy:

    Consort of Fire (Bound to Fire and Steel, #1) by Kit Rocha – high fantasy queer poly romance (m/f/f)

    The Fall That Saved Us by Tamara Jerée – urban fantasy, sapphic romance between an ex-demon hunter and the succubus sent to seduce and destroy her.

    The Sea Goblins series by Juniper Butterworth – goblin mode cozy fantasy Sapphic romance novellas. Weird and queer in the best possible ways

    If Found, Return to Hell by Em X. Liu – queer fantasy about an intern at a horrible big corporate wizarding firm. Again, weird in the best possible way. This is my only rec that’s not a romance

    Contemporary romance:

    Chef’s Choice (Chef’s Kiss, #2)by T.J. Alexander – T4T m/f contemporary romance

Contribute to the conversation...

Yay! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated by the guidelines laid out in our comment policy. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation and thanks for stopping by!