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

75 of the Best Queer Books of 2021

https://www.autostraddle.com/tag/2021-end-of-year-list/

Welcome to the best queer books of 2021! It’s always a joy to put together this list and marvel at the amazing LGBTQ+ work that writers and artists are putting out. This year was particularly great for nonfiction, so I’ve expanded that category from the usual five to eight books. The literary / contemporary fiction section is similarly eight instead of five books; there is consistently so much good stuff to choose from there that I can’t bear to narrow it down to five. 2021 was also a great year for queer horror, so you might notice this year it’s its own category instead of being combined with fantasy. Now, onto the books!


Comics / Graphic Novels and Memoirs

The Secret to Superhuman Strength by Alison Bechdel

Bechdel’s graphic memoir is, superficially, about fitness and exercise. But more profoundly it’s a meditation on the interwovenness of the body and mind, the search to escape the prison of your own ego, and the profound power of nature. The art is classic Bechdel: precise, detailed, realist, and full of movement. Check out this Autostraddle interview with Bechdel about the book.

Shadow Life by Hiromi Goto and Ann Xu

Queer BIPOC elder representation shines in this graphic novel about Kumiko, a bisexual Japanese Canadian woman in her 70s who finds death has come too early for her. She intends to fight it. Xu’s art is exact and generous as it takes care to depict an elderly woman with dignity and to create an affectionate portrayal of East Vancouver.

Stone Fruit by Lee Lai

This alternately joyful and heartbreaking graphic novel in gorgeous blue-shaded watercolor tackles themes of family and vulnerability. Bron and Ray are a couple who enjoy their role as the weird queer aunties to Ray’s 6-year-old niece. At the same time as their intimate connection falters, both Ray and Bron reach out to their sisters, attempting to mend those relationships.

Red Rock Candy Baby by Shira Spector

Formally innovative in a way that is reminiscent of Emil Ferris’s My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, Spector’s unique graphic memoir covers an eventful ten years of her life. During that time, she struggled to get pregnant, her father was diagnosed and passed away from cancer, and family and partner relationships changed. The story begins in stark black ink; Spector slowly introduces color until it explodes into a full, bright palette.

Squad by Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Lisa Sterle

A dark feminist horror comic with a sapphic romance subplot and vintage horror aesthetics, Squad is a clever blend of The Craft and Buffy with a werewolf focus. Becca is the new girl at a posh school and is amazed when the popular clique recruits her. Surprise: They’re a werewolf pack.


Fantasy

The Unbroken by C.L. Clark

This dark, gripping military fantasy novel is concerned with colonization and racism, based on France’s occupation of North Africa. A soldier and a princess — both complex, fallible characters in their own right — each grapple with the emotional and practical horrors of empire, as well as with each other.

In the Watchful City by S. Qiouyi Lu

This novella is a beautifully layered and fragmented tale about surveillance, stories, belonging, and what makes a life worth living. It follows Amina, an extrasensory human, and how aer life changes after a chance encounter with a mysterious visitor to the city ae is tasked with watching.

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

A queer reimagining of the story of the Ming dynasty founding emperor, Parker-Chan’s novel bursts with lyricism and heart. Zhu Chongba is a young boy given the fate of greatness. But it is he who perishes in a bandit attack, leaving his sister — fated to nothingness despite her intelligence and capability — behind.

The Bone Shard Emperor by Andrea Stewart

The second installment of the Drowning Empire epic fantasy series, The Bone Shard Emperor follows Lin as she assumes the throne amidst less than ideal circumstances. A unique magic system, alternating perspectives, and an action-packed last quarter make for a satisfying novel that avoids the middle book syndrome so many fantasy trilogies fall into.

The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri

An epic fantasy rooted in India’s mythologies and history, this smartly written and fiercely imagined novel tells the story of an imprisoned princess and a maidservant with forbidden magic. They become unlikely allies in the quest to save the empire from the princess’s traitorous brother.


Horror

Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw

A deliciously creepy and disorienting tale, Khaw’s haunted house story set in Japan centers a group of old friends from Malaysia with a history of ghost hunting. They have rented a Heian-era mansion; legend has it that an abandoned bride was buried in the house’s walls and a girl has been sacrificed every year since then to keep her company.

Queen of Teeth by Hailey Piper

Body horror competes with the terrors of big pharma in this invigorating futuristic horror story about a lesbian named Yaya who discovers she has a vagina dentata. She assumes it is a side effect of an experimental medication her mother took when she was pregnant, but when a pharmaceutical company comes after her she realizes it might be a new experiment altogether.

Flowers for the Sea by Zin E. Rocklyn

Rocklyn’s gothic horror fantasy debut is deeply immersive and deeply weird, with lyrical writing that belies the foulness of the content. Iraxi is a survivor and refugee on an arc fleeing a flooded kingdom; she is also pregnant and might be about to give birth to a monster.

Tell Me I’m Worthless by Alison Rumfitt

Rumfitt’s terrifying gothic haunted house tale succeeds in bringing to life the terrors of fascism while also illuminating British trans life. The story centers on three friends who are forced to return to a haunted house they spent a horrifying night in three years ago.

Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon

Themes of monstrosity, anti-Black racism, memory, and the co-opting of activism dominate this exceptional story about Vern, a character who escapes to the forest from an oppressive cult. There she gives birth to twins, but continues to be haunted and hunted by her past as she undergoes a strange metamorphosis.


Historical Fiction

The Heiress: The Revelations of Anne De Bourgh by Molly Greeley

Taking a minor character from Pride and Prejudice, Greeley’s compassionate novel portrays Anne De Bourgh as a woman manipulated into taking laudanum and gaslit into believing she is ill and incapable. Her life changes when she flees the grips of her family’s control, establishes a new life in London, and discovers lesbian love!

Matrix by Lauren Groff

Set in medieval England, Matrix tells the enthralling story of Marie, who arrives as a new nun at an abbey with the mission of leading it back to prosperity. Themes of collective sisterhood, queer sexuality in a gender-segregated environment, religious visions, female power, and feminist leadership all feature in this unique and lively tale.

Margaret and the Mystery of the Missing Body by Megan Milks

This novel is a wildly weird masterpiece that would be at home in half of the categories on this list. It’s here in the historical fiction category because it is deeply 90s: a reimagining of tween girl series like the Babysitters Club, a brutally honest novel about a queer and trans coming of age and disordered eating, a choose your own adventure/video game style surreal journey through the body, and an intellectual adult reflection on all of this.

Summer Fun by Jeanne Thornton

A contemporary directionless trans woman writes fan letters to the lead/songwriter of a fictional 60s band a la The Beach Boys. The musician’s life turns out to intersect with hers in unforeseen ways, including their shared trans identity. Thornton brilliantly employs the epistolary form to bring the reader into the world of the LA 60s pop music scene while insightfully establishing the contrasts and similarities between the two women’s lives.

The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo

Although this dreamlike Great Gatsby retelling includes a magical aspect, the focus is on the experience of being a queer adopted Vietnamese immigrant socialite in the American jazz age. Daisy’s friend and occasional narrator Jordan from the original novel is the focus here as Vo creates a fascinating character study of her and her precarious place in 1920s rich white American society.

Literary / Contemporary Fiction

The Wrong End of the Telescope by Rabih Alameddine

With keen observation and lush characterization, Alameddine weaves a story about conflict and refugees centering an Arab American trans lesbian doctor named Mina. Mina goes to Lesbos to help at the Syrian refugee camp, but she finds herself suffocated by the helplessness she feels in the face of the crisis. The novel is both a celebration and a tragedy.

With Teeth by Kristen Arnett

Peering beneath the skin of an attempt to have a perfect queer family, Arnett’s latest novel looks at a number of messy entities: lesbian motherhood, a challenging kid, and a troubled marriage. The protagonist Sammie, her wife Monika, and their son Samson are rich and fully realized. The result is a candid, darkly funny, brash, and simultaneously warm and tense novel. Read the interview with Kristen Arnett on Autostraddle by Drew Gregory.

Milk Fed by Melissa Broder

Full of dark humor, food, and religion, Broder’s tale is about a deeply unhappy woman who has replaced Judaism with calorie counting. Then she meets Miriam, a zaftig young Orthodox Jewish woman who works at a frozen yogurt shop and wants to feed her. Kate Gorton reviews the book in full on Autostraddle.

Skye Falling by Mia McKenzie

Skye is a queer Black woman nearing forty who loves her no-strings-attached life. But it turns out she can’t do without relationships once she returns to her hometown of Philadelphia and meets a kid who tells Skye she is one of the eggs Skye donated in her twenties. With a keen sense of place and community, McKenzie creates a moving story of midlife transformation.

We Are Watching Eliza Bright by A.E. Osworth

An incisive response to GamerGate, Osworth’s debut novel makes use of a clever first person plural narrative point of view as it investigates internet trolling, sexism in video game culture, voyeurism, fandom, and “sixterhood.” The excellently paced action takes place in both real life — aka meatspace — and in a massive multiplayer online role playing game made by the studio that Eliza works for. On Autostraddle, check out this author interview as well as a full review by Kate Gorton.

Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters

As Drew Gregory’s review on Autostraddle declares, Peters’ debut novel “is for trans women—the rest of you are lucky to read it.” The story is about three women — two trans and one cis — who are entangled in a kind of love triangle involving a breakup, a detransition, and an accidental pregnancy. It is as emotionally true as it is intellectually stunning.

A Dream of a Woman by Casey Plett

Plett’s trademark skills at authentic characterization, evocative setting, and insight into the lives of trans women are on full display in this superb collection of short stories. The stories crackle with quiet complexity as they cover topics like a woman returning to her Mennonite roots while visiting a lover and another leaving the Portland’s queer utopia to transition in New York’s anonymity.

Blue Skinned Gods by SJ Sindu

SJ Sindu’s sophomore novel is epic in terms of scale, theme, and prose. Moving from Tamil Nadu to New York City and spanning a decade, this story explores faith; ethnic, gender, and sexual identity; and global interconnectivity through the life of Kalki. Kalki is a person born with blue skin and believed to be the reincarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu; but just as he is supposed to come into his power, he begins to question it.


Memoir / Biography

The Natural Mother of the Child by Krys Malcom Belc

The topics of conceiving, pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding are explored from the perspective of a trans masculine nonbinary parent in this perceptive memoir in lyric essays. Using documents such as birth certificates and childhood photographs, Belc investigates how these experiences clarified his gender and opened up new ideas of parenthood and family.

Broken Horses by Brandi Carlile

Acclaimed lesbian musician Brandi Carlile tells the story of her life so far, including growing up in a financially poor but musically rich family, tension between her queer sexuality and Christian faith, 15 years of touring, six albums, and raising two kids with her wife. The memoir is poignant, engaging, and inspiring.

Dear Senthuran by Akwaeke Emezi

Subtitled “a Black Spirit Memoir,” this fierce, tender book is written in Emezi’s trademark eloquent and insightful prose. Through letters to Emezi’s friends, lovers, and family, they explore their creative journey to writerhood; their gender and body; mental health; hunger for success; spiritual, emotional, and romantic relationships; and more.

A History of Scars by Laura Lee

Lee delves into her legacy of trauma as the queer kid of Korean immigrant parents, as well as topics as diverse as mountain climbing, sexuality, cooking, writing, Alzheimers, and being a student. Her writing is vivid, raw, and intimate.

The One You Want to Marry by Sophie Santos

In her refreshingly honest voice, comedian Sophie Santos traces the winding path through many different identities: tomboy, emo theater kid, pageant queen, sorority sister, and, finally “calm” lesbian. In her review for Autostraddle, Analyssa calls the memoir “quite funny [as] Santos rips through stories that are awkward, painfully relatable or even deeply embarrassing.”


Middle Grade

Almost Flying by Jake Maia Arlow

The delight and chaos of an amusement park make a fitting setting for this heartwarming story about a middle grader named Dalia who ends up on a trip with her soon-to-be stepsister Alexa, Alexa’s secret girlfriend, and Dalia’s new friend Rani. Keeping Alexa’s secret makes Dalia realize she might have the same one herself: she has a crush on Rani.

Hazel Bly and the Deep Blue Sea by Ashley Herring Blake

Blake has an excellent track record with compassionate and complex queer middle grade books and her latest novel is no different. After one of Hazel’s moms dies in an accident, she is left with anxiety and a mama who hasn’t settled anywhere for more than a few months. An unexpectedly long stop in a small town known for a legendary mermaid changes everything.

The Deepest Breath by Meg Grehan

This Irish novel-in-verse about 11-year-old bookish Stevie was published in North America this year and what a gift. It’s a quiet, thoughtful character study of a girl learning that she likes girls (through books and a helpful librarian!) and sharing her revelations with her mom.

A Touch of Ruckus by Ash Van Otterloo

This ghost hunting story set in the forest features a queer girl, Tennessee, and her nonbinary crush/friend, Fox. Secret keeping, rural queer experiences, mental health, and the pressure to stifle yourself to keep the peace are all explored with compassion and insight.

Artie and the Wolf Moon by Olivia Stephens

When eighth grader Artie discovers she comes from a long line of werewolves, she is thrilled to join a new community, where she finds a new friend and crush. But she also learns some scary news: vampires are the real threat in the woods! Stephens’ paranormal graphic novel is full of unique lore and world-building as well as warm themes of family, community, and human-animal relationships.


Mystery / Thriller

Dead Dead Girls by Nekesa Afia

The first book in a new historical series called Harlem Renaissance Mysteries features a fascinating Black sapphic character with a traumatic past. In Louise Lloyd’s first case (reluctantly taken), she investigates the murders of several local Black women.

Journey to Cash by Ashley Bartlett

Cash’s past as a drug dealer and police informant comes back to haunt her just as she’s moving on in the last installment of Bartlett’s authentically queer millennial crime series. Diving as always into morally grey waters, this book hinges on Cash’s ex-girlfriend returning from her disappearance with news that Cash’s ex-business partner wants to kill them both.

The Final Child by Fran Dorricott

In this chilling psychological thriller, a woman who escaped a serial killer kidnapping as a kid is reminded that the past is not far behind her when a journalist wants to interview her about the experience. It’s a welcome addition of sapphic characters and lesbian romance subplot to a genre sorely lacking in both.

Warn Me When It’s Time by Cheryl A. Head

The sixth book in the Charlie Mack Motown Mystery series, this exciting novel with compelling Black lesbian representation follows private investigator Mack and her team as they attempt to track down a hate group. They are hired by the children of an imam who was killed in a recent arson at his mosque. As the Mack team investigates, they discover the group’s roots go much deeper than they thought.

Unbreakable by Cari Hunter

This engaging well-paced mystery follows two parallel storylines that eventually intersect with a bang. In one, a doctor is held at gunpoint and forced to treat the serious injuries of her abductor. In the other, detective sergeant Safia Faris is on a murder case that turns out to be much less straight forward than it seemed at first.


Nonfiction

What Fresh Hell Is This? by Heather Corinna

This hilarious and informative guide to “perimenopause, menopause, and other indignities” is chock full of what you need to know, with an explicit emphasis on including those whose experiences are often left out of reproductive health discussions. There are also illustrations by Archie Bongiovanni! Kaelyn reviews the book on Autostraddle, calling it “fun and refreshing.”

We Are the Babysitters Club edited by Marisa Crawford and Megan Milks

The artistic and prose work in this anthology is as engaging formally as it is in content: graphic pieces and comics mix with essays on topics like fashion, disability, race, and friendship. The legacy of The Babysitters Club is critiqued as well as celebrated. Check out the Autostraddle roundtable on the book!

The Transgender Issue by Shon Faye

Bolding taking on the rise of trans misogyny specifically and transphobia generally in the U.K., British trans feminist Shon Faye focuses her work on how the actual material oppression that trans people face is being ignored. Her socialist feminist arguments are as convincing as they are refreshing.

Girlhood by Melissa Febos

This enthralling and revelatory blend of memoir, reporting, and critique examines the stifling narratives of girl- and womanhood that women grow up with. Febos also sets out to replace the harmful values with ones that prioritize women’s health, happiness, and freedom. Read a full review by Luna Adler on Autostraddle.

Crip Kinship by Shayda Kafai

Sins Invalid, a queer disability justice performance project, is the subject of this empowering and revolutionary book. The history of the organization’s art and activism is explored and expanded on as Kafai shares the wisdom and lessons disabled, queer, and trans people of color have for collective survival. She also looks at what disability justice is capable of.

On Freedom by Maggie Nelson

The concept of freedom, as Nelson notes, can be alternately enlivening and nihilistic as it continues to dominate the four areas she investigates: art, sex, drugs, and climate. Moving between analyzing pop culture and critical theory to discussing her own lived experience, Nelson asks many thought-provoking questions that defy easy answers.

Our Work Is Everywhere by Syan Rose

This genre-bending anthology about queer and trans resistance packs a big punch for a short book. It moves between interviews, essays, conversations, and more, all accompanied by Rose’s intricate, expansive illustrations. Containing both rage and celebration, the book explores topics such as Black femme mental health, sex worker activism, and queer fat performance art.

The Care We Dream of edited by Zena Sharman

This unique anthology collects essays by Sharman on topics such as queering health and kinship as well as fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and interviews with health care workers and researchers on the LGBTQ+ healthcare they dream of. As the subtitle declares, the feast of content is truly “liberatory and transformative.”


Poetry

Villainy by Andrea Abi-Karam

Punk in content and form, Abi-Karam’s second poetry collection is a vision and a call to action for a thriving queer abolitionist future. Desire and rage, protest and sex, coexist as the poems embody how to be “an accomplice to radical action.”

The Good Arabs by Eli Tareq El Bechelany-Lynch

Investigating how we might love under the circumstances of social injustice, sorrow, and disaster, this collection of verse and prose poems is thoughtful and lyrical. El Bechelany-Lynch looks at bodies and identities — Arab, trans, queer — as well as places and times: humid Montreal summer’s, Lebanon during the 2015 garbage crisis, and the aftermath of the Beirut explosion.

The Renunciations by Donika Kelly

Kelly’s heartbreaking and affecting collection is concerned with trauma, survival, and resilience, particularly in response to childhood sexual abuse. The poems have incredible movement and innovative formal play, such as using parentheses to convey what cannot be expressed.

Dreaming of You by Melissa Lozada-Oliva

Wildly weird and magical, Lozada-Oliva’s novel-in-verse is about a young Latinx poet, Melissa, who resurrects Tejano pop star Selena. The resurrection leads her on a journey through a spirit world populated by her own shadow self, karaoke, and a dead celebrity prom. Featuring themes of fandom, grief, queer identity, and loneliness.

Magnified by Minnie Bruce Pratt

Love, loss, grief, and communism in her life with Leslie Feinberg dominate this collection as Pratt lingers on the tiniest of details. As the title implies, these details of both nature and caretaking for an ill loved one are enhanced to breathtaking and heartbreaking effect. Check out this Autostraddle interview with Pratt about the book.


Romance

For the Love of April French by Penny Aimes

This sweet, feel-good BDSM debut romance by and about a trans woman is a very welcome addition to LGBTQ+ romance. April is a wonderfully crafted character: a nurturing type of mommi with a side of nerdiness, intelligence, and relatable insecurity. Her love interest, Dennis, is equally nerdy, as well as matching her mommi with cute dad vibes.

Night Tide by Anna Burke

An affecting enemies-to-lovers story that tackles privilege and chronic illness, Night Tide features two women who went to veterinary school together. They’ve tended to push each other’s buttons, sometimes bringing out the worst in each other. When circumstances find them working at the same vet clinic together, the result is an emotionally vivid and intimate love story.

How to Find a Princess by Alyssa Cole

This Anastasia retelling is a delightful fairy tale story of queer Black love between a long lost princess and the private investigator tasked with tracking her down. With steamy sex scenes, delicious slow burn chemistry, and exciting travel adventures (featuring fun tropes like there’s only one bed!), How to Find a Princess is a big winner.

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

McQuiston’s swoony rom com is full of optimism, humor, queer found family, dirty NYC sensory details, and lusty queer love. Also: a clever time travel twist that presents, shall we say, unique obstacles for the couple’s happily ever after. Read Heather’s glowing review for Autostraddle.

Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers

A delicious mix of romance and late 20s coming of age tale, Rogers’ debut follows Grace, an over-achieving grad student who gets impulsively married in Vegas to a woman she just met. The result of this uncharacteristic move is a tender, authentically messy story about the benefits of letting go of a strictly controlled life.


Science Fiction

A Natural History of Transition by Callum Angus

In this extraordinary collection of short stories, Angus takes the often trod thematic path of trans characters and transition and presents them in a completely new, surprising, and thought-provoking way. The stories blend keen observations on future life with fabulist, magical elements as well as details of the natural world.

Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki

Aoki’s joyful science fiction fantasy features donuts, queer alien love, curses, and bargains for the soul. Infused with musicality, the novel tells the story of trans runaway Katrina, an extraordinary violin player, and Shizuka, who needs to make a violin prodigy like Katrina sell her soul.

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

The first book in Chambers’ new Monk and Robot series displays her trademark optimism, warmth, unique world-building and rich characterization. An agender traveling tea monk meets a robot, who asks an age old question: “What do people need?”

Future Feeling by Joss Lake

Future advanced technology and witchcraft come together in this wickedly funny, inventive, and eloquent satire about two trans guys, their mutual resentment, and the other trans guy who gets stuck in the crossfire. Themes include trans kinship, magic, social media, human connection, and jealousy.

A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine

The sequel to 2019’s A Memory Called Empire, this show-stopping space opera absolutely lives up to the intricate world-building, bubbling action, and intimate characterization its predecessor exemplified. In this installment, Mahit and Three Seagrass face off against an unknown alien enemy, a last resort diplomatic envoy. Read this excerpt on Autostraddle!


Young Adult Contemporary / Historical

Love is for Losers by Wibke Brueggemann

This sex-positive novel in diary format is a true romantic comedy: biting, sharp humor and a swoony slow burn queer romance. At first 15-year-old Phoebe is convinced falling in love is for the birds. But while volunteering at a thrift store, Phoebe meets Emma, who might just disprove all her theories.

Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating by Adiba Jaigirdar

Two very different Bengali queer teen girls, popular Hani and academic overachiever Ishu, fall in love in this delightful take on the fake dating trope. Hani’s friends don’t believe she’s bisexual if she’s only dated guys and Ishu needs a boost in popularity to meet her goal of becoming head girl — the situation is perfect for a fauxmance. Too bad they’re catching feelings!

Rise to the Sun by Leah Johnson

There is a remarkable depth and fierce honesty to Johnson’s characters in this summertime tale of queer Black love set at a music festival. Olivia and Toni’s stories investigate loss, grief, isolation, and the healing power of music. Read Carmen’s interview with Johnson, where she declares “Leah Johnson is the Toni Morrison of queer YA.” You can also read an excerpt of Rise to the Sun right here on Autostraddle!

Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo

Lo’s colorful, captivating historical YA is set in 1950s San Francisco Chinatown. Two teen girls, Lily and Kathleen, risk everything for their love, at the same time as the so-called Red Scare threatens Chinese Americans like Lily and her family. Now a National Book Award winner!

The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe

This novel is both a page-turning thriller and a deeply moving account of going through and healing from trauma. Nora is the daughter of a con artist who, along with her new girlfriend and ex/BFF, is held hostage at a bank during a robbery. In order to survive, Nora might have to brush off her old skills.


Young Adult Science Fiction / Fantasy / Horror

Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

Ace of Spades is YA’s answer to the new popularity of dark academia, with queer (bisexual girl and gay boy) Black characters to boot! Àbíké-Íyímídé deftly examines the interweaving of class, queerness, and Black identity in this heart-racing horror mystery thriller where two Black students at a predominantly white private school are targeted by an anonymous texter revealing their secrets to the world.

To Break a Covenant by Alison Ames

A chilling queer feminist horror thriller, To Break a Covenant is set in a wonderfully realized creepy town called Moon Basin, which is known for being haunted after a mine explosion killed 16 people. Residents of the town are experiencing spooky, peculiar phenomena like night terrors and hearing strange voices. Four teen girls decide to take matters into their own hands, descending into the mine to learn the truth.

This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron

Bayron’s sophomore novel is a contemporary fantasy deeply influenced by Greek mythology, a fascination with plants, and a dedication to complex queer Black representation. Briseis is a young woman with a strange and dangerous power that allows her to make any plant blossom instantly with her touch. When she and her moms leave Brooklyn to spend the summer at a dilapidated rural estate, she discovers the true depth of her power.

The Heartbreak Bakery by A.R. Capetta

Syd is an agender teen baker who gets into a big ol’ mess after baking a batch of magical brownies after being dumped. It turns out everyone who eats them breaks up, including the owners of the queer bakery where Syd works. Can Syd fix it before it’s too late? This cozy magical realist story is a delightful love letter to queer love and community.

A Snake Falls to Earth by Darcie Little Badger

Themes of magic, family, asexuality, and traditional storytelling dominate in Lipan Apache author Darcie Little Badger’s delightful and uplifting second YA novel. A Lipan girl named Nina collides with Oli who is from the land of spirits and monsters. But some people will do anything to keep them apart. This is a wholesome, elegantly written read guaranteed to warm your heart!


Let’s talk books in the comments! What were the best queer books of 2021 according to you? Have you read any of the ones featured on this list? Did I leave off any of your favourites? Any queer reads coming out in 2022 you’re looking forward to? Please share!


Before you go! It takes funding to keep this publication by and for queer women and trans people of all genders running every day. And A+ members keep the majority of our site free for everyone. Still, 99.9% of our readers are not members. A+ membership starts at just $4/month. If you're able to, will you join A+ and keep Autostraddle here and working for everyone?

Join A+

Casey

Known in some internet circles as Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian, Casey Stepaniuk is a writer and librarian who holds an MA in English literature. She writes regularly for Book Riot and Inside Vancouver about LGBTQ2IA+ and/or bookish topics as well as a monthly column about queer books at Autostraddle called Ask Your Friendly Neighborhood Lesbrarian. Topics and activities dear to her heart include cats, bisexuality, libraries, queer (Canadian) literature, running, and drinking tea. She runs the website Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian, where you can find reviews of queer Canadian books, archives of Ask Your Friendly Neighbourhood Lesbrarian, and some other queer, bookish stuff. Find her on Twitter, Goodreads, Facebook, and Tumblr.

Casey has written 79 articles for us.

40 Comments

  1. This is such an exciting time for LGBTQ+ books! I read mostly genre fiction (romance, SF, fantasy, some YA) and it’s so exciting to me to be able to read so many genuinely good queer genre fiction books now. So different from the grim and/or pulpy and/or exploitive genre fiction that I tried when I first came out in the 90s.

    Thank you for this list Casey! The Jasmine Throne might be my favorite book of 2021.

  2. ah i love all the lesbrarian posts but especially end-of-year round ups because i get the delight in seeing that an interesting title is already on my to-read shelf

    more queer reads i loved this year:
    She Drives Me Crazy by Kelly Quindlen: Basketball player Scottie Zajac teams up with her nemesis, Irene Abraham, for a mutually beneficial fake relationship. Scottie gets to make her horrible ex jealous and get some secondhand popularity for her team, Irene gets to keep cheerleading and come out in a convenient way. Then! they get Feelings!

    Not My Problem by Ciara Smyth: Aideen is more concerned with trying to hold her mom’s life together than with any school things, but when she finds her nemesis Meabh in a full overachiever meltdown, she offers to help. What starts as a simple assist spirals into an accidental altruism racket and Aideen finds herself neck-deep in hijinks, cahoots, and a delightful crush.

    It Goes Like This by Miel Moreland: A few years ago, Moonlight Overthrow was the most unstoppable girl band in the world. Now, its four members are in the four winds. When tragedy strikes their hometown, the band members reunite for a benefit concert and are forced to deal with the reasons they broke up. Features: queer romance, nonbinary character, and big Girl Power vibes.

    I also want to echo the recs for literally half of this list, but especially The Girls I’ve Been, One Last Stop, Honey Girl, and Last Night at the Telegraph Club!

  3. I read:
    The Jasmine Throne: a little slow but very fun. It did the ‘we are in love/lust and also are politically opposed’ thing better.
    The Unbroken: it felt like a really sloppy debut and I cannot believe the main character fucked over her own people so many times and they accepted her back each time. I couldn’t suspend my disbelief that much lol.
    She Who Became the Sun: boring. it was fine, just boring.
    The Bone Shard Emperor: I read the first book but skipped this one because I read that the lesbians had even less page time.
    Nothing but Blackened Teeth: honestly……… this felt like bullet points of a story I would have liked better.
    Milk Fed: this book was fucking amazing. It was so raunchy, so sad, so frustrated.
    Detransition, Baby: Mostly good but I had issues with race in this book, also the Herzog aside was a little much lol. But I think it’s more important as a foundational text if that makes sense.
    How to Find a Princess: very beach read fun.
    A Desolation Called Peace: This was so much better than the first book, which I did like. But Desolation felt so much more complex.
    Last Night at the Telegraph Club: probably my favorite book besides Milk Fed.

    Not on this list:
    A Lesson in Vengeance: wild, very openly dark academia bait, the couple is so antagonistic and [spoilers]. I loved it.
    The Daring Life and Dangerous Times of Eve Adams: Amateur historian but a great biography of Eve Adams and how she was fucked over by the US government/NYC, and more importantly republishes her book Lesbian Love which was amazing to read.
    Bone House by K-Ming Chang: a short zine that’s a queer horror retelling of Wuthering Heights.

    Other LGBT:
    The Darkness Outside Us by Eliot Schrefer: So, I picked this up because one of my favorite queer artists (Sarah Maxwell) did the cover and it looked gay. It ended up being the best scifi I read this year. I recommend going in without reading too much about it.

  4. i just finished Last Night at the Telegraph Club! Sooo good what have we done to deserve malinda lo, i don’t know.

    THANK YOU FOR THIS LIST! Casey nearly everything i read i read because of you, and my life is so much better for it!

  5. I read One Last Stop and Honey Girl and loved both. Other queer books I enjoyed this year:
    – Cool for the Summer by Dahlia Adler
    – Satisfaction Guaranteed by Karelia Stetz-Waters
    – Faith Greater Heights by Julie Murphy
    – Hang the Moon by Alexandria Bellefleur (m/f romance with a bisexual woman)
    – Pumpkin by Julie Murphy (the main character is a gay boy but his twin sister is a lesbian and there many queer supporting characters and the author is a queer woman)
    – The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun (m/m romance with lots queer woman as secondary characters by a queer woman author)

  6. My favorites not on this list:

    Literary/Contemporary. Fiction:
    -Everyone In This Room Will Someday Be Dead – An atheist lesbian with severe depression and anxiety accidentally gets a job at a Catholic Church.
    -We Play Ourselves – A bisexual playwright flees a scandal involving her professional rival.

    Middle-grade:
    -The Fabulous Zed Watson – Fun roadtrip mystery with a nonbinary main character.
    -How to Become a Planet – A girl tries to manage her depression and anxiety with the help of her single mom and her nonbinary crush.
    -Middletown – A sapphic/possibly nonbinary main character and her sister deal with their mom’s alcoholism.

    YA contemporary:
    -Fresh by Margot Wood – A bisexual girl with ADHD flails through her freshman year at Emerson College and falls in love with a girl.

  7. As someone who reads way too many sapphic romances, here are some of my favorites from 2021 that weren’t mentioned (and these were all fantastic):
    – ‘Finding Jessica Lambert’ by Clare Ashton
    – ‘When I’m With You’ by Monica McCallan
    – ‘Your Hand Found Mine’ by Adrianne Marsh
    – ‘the Delicate Things We Make’ by Milena McKay
    – ‘Read Between the Lines’ by Rachel Lacey

  8. I’m surprised and disappointed that The Darkness Outside Us by Eliot Schrefer is not on this list. It is, hands down, my favorite book of the year, and I read over 100 books a year. I also liked In Deeper Waters by F.T. Lukens. The first book leaves you thinking for days afterwards, and the second is about finding yourself and holding on to who you love regardless of who or what is against you.

  9. Girls of Fate and Fury should be on this list! The third instalment of Girls of Paper and Fire is an epic and beautiful finale to the sapphic fantasy trilogy.

    Also, give Trans by Helen Joyce and Material Girls by Kathleen Stock a read. Very important non fiction books for this era.

  10. I was very disappointed by Honey Girl. It was just so boring. I nearly didn’t finish. I almost stopped at 60% but I kept listening because maybe I thought it get better. It didn’t.

    The words and sentences are simplistic making for a boring read/listen. I listened to the audiobook at 1.5 speed (I normally listen at 1).

    The main character’s father is a caricature of a stern military officer. He’s honestly ridiculous. His daughter, his wife, and absolutely everyone calls him “Colonel” although he’s been out of the military for years. And he’s emotionally abusive to the main character, but none of her many, longtime found family told her she needed to ditch his abusive ass. I don’t get it at all.

    It was just very boring. It wasn’t much of a romance (that’s ok, no ridiculous romcom misunderstandings) but the resolution to the main character’s problem ie her depression was pretty obvious from the get go.

    I don’t understand why the book getting so much love. It’s just not a good book.

  11. Great list! I loved several of these, and others have been on my TBR list, now that list is even longer. Others that I loved this year:
    In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machada (audiobook)
    First Sister by Linden Lewis
    Western Alienation Merit Badge by Nancy Jo Cullen (audiobook)
    Last Place you Look by Kristen Lepionka (and the whole Roxane Weary series)
    She Drives Me Crazy by Kelly Quindlen
    Black Water Sister by Zen Cho
    the 100 Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin
    Black Boy Out Of time by Hari Ziyad (audiobook)
    The Firebrand and the First Lady: Portrait of a Friendship: Pauli Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the Struggle for Social Justice by Patricia Bell-Scott
    Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with me by Mariko Tamaki
    Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe
    The Deep by Solomon Rivers (audiobook)

  12. I’ll have to work my way through some of these, since of the books listed, I’ve only read one of the poetry collections (The Good Arabs). I did just take The Wrong End of the Telescope out of the library yesterday, but that’s still a paltry two out of however many!

  13. Between the article and the comments I’ve added a dozen books to my to read list, so thanks for that. From the list Midnight at the Telegraph club was probably my favorite followed by Detransition, Baby and Honey Girl. Currently reading One Last Stop and loving it. Highly recommend listening to the audiobook of Broken Horses by Brandi Carlile for the music and to hear her read her story in her own words. Also a couple memoirs that didn’t make the list but Yours Cruelly, Elvira: Memoirs of the Mistress of the Dark was another fun listen, for those that missed the memo Cassandra Peterson aka Elvira has been with her female partner for like 20 years and All In: An Autobiography by Billie Jean King. Finally, it came out late 2020 not this year, but Plain Bad Heroines by Emily Danforth was probably my favorite book I’ve read all year.

  14. I have to give a shout out to a debut YA novel, The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould (a team player herself!), featuring enemies-to-lovers, awkward teen sapphic romance, ghost hunting, and a town with a dark secret!

  15. Casey! Thank you so much for putting this list together every year! It’s always so wonderful to see what awesome new queer books are out there, and it gets me excited for all of the reading I have in store for the next year. I look forward to it each December.

    Also, while it isn’t super important, it was giving my brain a niggle so I just wanted to mention that there are 76 books on the list, not 75 like the headline says.

  16. My debut book also came out this year! If you are or were ever a sad lesbian teen, and if you like gay longing and YA fantasy, you might like Queen of All! I could give an actual blurb, but those are the main points.

    Some other small-press queer books that might have flown under the radar: The Papercutter by Cindy Rizzo and a Curse of Roses by Diana Pinguicha (which might technically have come out last year, I think, but probably missed the cutoff for end-of-year lists like this one). Both YA speculative, because that’s most of what I read.

    From this list I strongly second Jasmine Throne, Sorrowland (Rivers Solomon is a GENIUS), Honey Girl, and Detransition, Baby.

    Sometimes I get really emotional thinking about how when I was twelve and started writing Queen of All, there was literally not a single queer book in my school library or local bookstore, and now there are literally hundreds coming out every year. It’s a beautiful thing.

  17. I am in love with Olivia Waite’s historical bodice-rippers! Hellion’s Waltz was pure delight. I loved the whole series and learning about beekeeping, printmaking, embroidery, and astronomy alongside the more steamy scenes.

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!