Read a F*cking Book, Lesbo: This Summer’s Newest Bestest Books

There are so many good-looking books coming out now and in the next few months that I can’t even think of a “coming out” pun to make about them. Here are some of the most interesting-looking books related to queer people released from March to May and beyond, in any genre your hearts desire (as long as they’re the ones below):


If you want fiction:

If You Follow Me: A Novel (P.S.), by Melena Watrous
(Harper Perennial)

If You Follow Me: A Novel is Watrous’ debut novel. Marina, a character who hopefully never had to see the L Word, moves to rural Japan with her girlfriend to teach English for a year. While she’s there, she deals with culture shock, facing her father’s death, facing the fact that her father’s death set her up with her girlfriend, and refrigerator disposal. It’s already won the Michener-Copernicus Award, and is highly recommended by Heather Aimee O’Neill from AfterEllen.


The Wide Road, by Carla Harryman & Lyn Hejinian

The Wide Road mixes poetry and fiction to answer the eternal question: what woul d have happened if Thelma and Louise hadn’t driven off a cliff? Seriously, this looks like a cross between speculative literature and fanfiction and it seems like the authors had a great time writing it (even if it took 20 years) and you might have a great time reading it.


Sing You Home: A Novel, by Jodi Picoult
(Atria Books)

Sing You Home is about what happens when you divorce your husband, fall in love with a woman, try to have a child with that woman, and get sued by your alcoholic evangelical ex-husband for custody of the embryos you were going to use to have your child. It also comes with a CD of folk songs, which Picoult wrote with Ellen Wilber, reflecting main character Zoe Baxter’s feelings. I strongly suspect that this will be the sort of book your mom/ older maternal-esque parental unit casually mentions they’ve read at dinner one day, but that sounds like a bad thing, so let’s go with this: Jodi Picoult is a good writer, and not a white male literary darling besides, and maybe you should read her work.


Gingerbread Girl, by Colleen Coover & Paul Tobin
(Top Shelf)

Guess what kids, graphic novels are fiction too! This one is about Annah, a cutie bisexual girl with a mysterious lost sister. Or a disappeared mad scientist father. Or trauma from a horrific divorce during her childhood. Or all of them? It’s confusing. Let Annah’s date, along with virtually every other person in the city, try to convince you of their version of the story while you follow this crazy girl around the city. Also, the pictures are pretty! There’s a talking pigeon!


If you love young adult lit or want to impress someone who does:

Huntress, by Malinda Lo
(Little, Brown)

Malinda Lo’s first novel, Ash, was a lesbian retelling of Cinderella which is both well-written and compelling. Huntress is set in the same world as Ash, but centuries earlier, and incorporates elements of the I Ching. Like Ash, it avoids stereotyping gay characters and falling into the traditional plotlines of gay YA (ie, not just a coming out narrative), which probably has a lot to do with the fact that Lo used to write for AfterEllen. It’s really refreshing to read a story about the intricacies of a gay relationship in a world where the primary conflict isn’t just being gay, the end. On her website, Lo writes:

“I knew that I wanted certain things in the story: A girl having an adventure. A romance with sexual tension. A world on the verge of dying (I’m a big fan of dystopians). Powerful, creepy fairies. Weapons. And I wanted it to be a hero’s quest. As I noted in my writing journal back in October 2008 when I was figuring out what would happen, “The point of the quest is to bring order and harmony back to the mortal world.” Putting all those things together, the book that came out was Huntress.”

You can also read excerpts from the first three chapters here.


If you were completely seduced by Pure Poetry Week:

15 Ways to Stay Alive, by Daphne Gottleib
(Manic D Press)

15 Ways to Stay Alive is a collection of poems on heartbreak, postpunk politics, and dreams. With modern cut-up collages. While some of them talk about tragedy, death, and absurdity, all of them have a personal perspective on talking about the intersection of life and contemporary culture. Here is an excerpt, from “I Have Always Confused Desire with Apocalypse”:

We met over a small
earthquake. Now, my knees

shake whenever
you come around

and I’ve noticed your hand
has a slight tremor.


Spark Before Dark, by Laura Hershey
(Finishing Line Press)

Spark Before Dark is a posthumous anthology of poems about “life and language through sharply focused multiple lenses of disability, feminism, and queerness.” Hershley was a 2010 Lambda Fellow in Poetry so this will probably be excellent. So far, it’s only available from pre-order.


If you want more memoir:

Sempre Susan: A Memoir of Susan Sontag, by Signid Nunez

Sempre Susan is written by Sigrid Nunez, a novelist who met Susan, met her son, and moved in with both of them. “Nunez gives a sharp sense of the charged, polarizing atmosphere that enveloped Sontag whenever she published a book, gave a lecture, or simply walked into a room. […] Sempre Susan is a startlingly truthful portrait of this outsized personality, who made being an intellectual a glamorous occupation.”

Kiss & Tell, by Marinaomi
(Harper Perennial)

Kiss & Tell is an illustrated “romantic resume” slash graphic novel memoir, chronologically exploring the author’s early sexual experience, romance, and tragedy. Each chapter deals with a different relationship, including a sweet first love, her exes, and her conservative parents, and while each remains separate from the others, the disconnect makes them feel more true to life.


Transparent, by Don Lemon
(Farrah Gray Foundation)

Emmy-winning CNN anchor Don Lemon digs beneath the surface for the true story — on himself. Lemon came out as gay while doing press for this book, which he dedicates to Tyler Clementi. Lemon talks about his childhood and the painful family secrets he stores, colorism and racism and the ambition that brought him to the top. He also takes the reader behind-the-scenes of some of the most compelling news stories he covered, such as September 11th, Barack Obama’s election, Micheal Jackson’s death and the DC Snipers.


If you want to be smarter:

Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States, by Joey Mogul, Andrea Ritchie and Kay Whitlock
( Beacon Press)

Queer (In)justice is an accessible look at queer experiences as suspects, defendants, prisoners, and survivors of crime: “The authors unpack queer criminal archetypes — like “gleeful gay killers,” “lethal lesbians,” “disease spreaders,” and “deceptive gender benders” — to illustrate the punishment of queer expression, regardless of whether a crime was ever committed. Tracing stories from the streets to the bench to behind prison bars, the authors prove that the policing of sex and gender both bolsters and reinforces racial and gender inequalities.”

Just One of the Guys?: Transgender Men and the Persistence of Gender Inequality, by Kristen Schilt
(University of Chicago Press)

There are conscious and unconscious gender biases everywhere, and even in places lucky enough to have excellent equality legislation, bias exists in the workplace. Just One of the Guys? talks about pressure to be “just one of the guys” or to work as women or be marganialized for being openly transgender, and shows that appearance-based discrimination is everywhere. It’s also been nominated for a Lambda Literary Award.

Play, Creativity, and Social Movements: If I Can’t Dance, It’s Not My Revolution, by Benjamin Shepard

This is a hard-core sociology book on playful protest and change that argues “despite the contention that such activities are counterproductive, movements continue to put the right to party on the table as a part of a larger process of social change, as humor and pleasure disrupt monotony, while disarming systems of power.” Plus references to boas. If you understand that sentence this book is probably relevant to your interests.

What books are you waiting to read this spring/summer?

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Ryan Yates

Ryan Yates was the NSFW Editor (2013–2018) and Literary Editor for, with bylines in Nylon, Refinery29, The Toast, Bitch, The Daily Beast, Jezebel, and elsewhere. They live in Los Angeles and also on twitter and instagram.

Ryan has written 1142 articles for us.


  1. Can’t wait to talk to my local comic book store guy about the graphic novels, he has a queer sister but his store is woefully short on queer products. Sweet!

  2. I just added almost all of these to my Amazon wishlist… which is serving as my summer reading list. :D

  3. quick correction–you’ve conflated 2 books. michael bronski is the author of a book called A Queer History of the United States. Queer Injustice is a different book authored by Joey Mogul, Andrea Ritchie, Kay Whitlock.

  4. Yay! This will totally fit the Summer of Culture. Also, I read”if you follow me”and I liked it. Doooo it.

      • its my first summer off so whilst i prepare for college in the fall, i will also be reading ALL the books, and watching ALL the movies and maybe tv. Summer of Pop Culture? eh, i just be immersing my self in something other than cat videos…

  5. Gay graphic novels?! You are speaking my language.
    But this totally sucks as the only indie bookstore where I live that stocks and is willing to order in graphic novels/LGBT literature without a serious amount of judgement just closed down.

    • someone may have mentioned this already/this is probably old news, but if you like graphic novels and you like gay, you should check out alison bechdel’s “fun home” !

  6. I read the first [insert embarrassingly large number here] pages of “Sing You Home” while sitting on the floor of a local bookstore because I’m too cheap to actually buy things. It was good though!
    p.s. everyone should read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and/or Everything is Illuminated. Not that they’re particularly queer, but they are particularly amazing, so.

  7. When I first started reading sing you home, I had no idea there was going to be a lesbian couple in it. However, it was an amazing read, and a book that I recommend to everyone–perfect for the beach. Also-might be a great way to start a convo with your mother, Jodi Picoult is an amazing author! READ IT!

  8. Cant wait to read this Malinda Lo book. I actually really liked Ash. It shocked me.

    My personal list includes some new comics that I’m getting and I’ve gotta get Ron Paul’s new book (he’s sassy) and some others. More comics than books though most likely.

  9. I’m so excited that I’m working in a library this summer- it will make picking up/reading all of these books super easy. I’m especially excited for “Spark Before Dark” and “Queer (In)Justice.” Great list!

  10. I’d heard mixed reviews of Huntress, but I think I might sample the first chapter. I’m also intrigued by 15 Ways to Stay Alive – and whoa, since when can I read poetry on my kindle?

  11. I loved Huntress, almost more than Ash.
    I’ll be adding these books to my Kindle now, thanks.

  12. NOOOOO. If only this was posted yesterday! Today my school’s library made me do a survey on what book/authors they should buy. I’m gonna send them like a link to this anyway. They are actually making a push for LGBTQ books. This is wonderful, even if like 24hrs later than perfect.

  13. I loved Huntress so much I am on my third read and I don’t usually reread anything. I’m gutted her next book isn’t a sequel!

    But Lo did publish a short story set after Huntress that’s free to read here:

    Warning! The short story is so bitter sweet it’s unreal.

    I’m anxiously awaiting the weekend when I get my hands on Mockingjay. Oh Katniss and her “I never wanted to marry or have kids because of the Games”. You closeted homo you. (I will believe this no matter what happens in book 3.)

  14. Ok the fact that you called Shepard’s “Play, Creativity, and Social Movements: If I Can’t Dance, It’s Not My Revolution” a hard-core sociology book makes me feel cool — as if studying social movements is a bad ass occupation. We academic types need constant reinforcement.

    In a related note: holy effing shit that book is 125 bucks ’cause it’s an academic book. Sadly, my library does not have it. HOWEVER, he has published an article that is clearly a first swipe as the book. So, if anyone is really into it and wants the PDF of the academic article just shoot me a PM.

    Otherwise, all these books look lovely and if I weren’t reading like 1000 book’s like Shepard’s I would love to read all these.

  15. Oh god. You guys are not helping my book addiction.

    SO many new paperthings to acquire!!

  16. Okay.

    Let me just throw this out there. I’m in a wonderful relationship with a woman who loves me so much that it frankly surprises me. I am also going to teach English in Japan over the summer, no phone, limited internet. So it’s already been a worry. But then, BUT THEN:

    I read “If You Follow Me” because you lovely ladies recced it earlier this year, and I cried like a freaking baby. Sobbed. Literally broke down all over the place. It is a fantastic book, a really great read, and if you know anything about Japanese culture, it’s hilarious in it’s honesty.

    However, due to my current life situation, it was the worst timing for me to read it ever. I’m sure when I come home from my stay and read it again I’ll be able to do it with out having a panic attack. Hell, maybe my BB will read it this time with me– goodness knows I freaked her out when I called her at 2am saying “OH GOD I DON’T WANT TO GOOOOO.”

  17. I need all of these books! I need them right now! But I should probably wait until after we’re moved, so that’s one less box of books we’ll have to haul around.

    Right now, I’m also reading Catherynne Valente’s “The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairy Land in a Ship of Her Own Making” and Dianne Sylvan’s “The Body Sacred.” Not lesbian per se, but fucking awesome most definitely.

  18. “If you love Young Adult Lit or want to impress someone who does” aka how to seduce teenagers?

  19. Hi…not really a comment, more of a suggestion. Or maybe a couple of them. Eon, and Eona, both by Allison Goodman. Classified as young adult, I picked up the original for one of my kids, (Eon, Dragoneye Reborn), I thought he’s like it but he never even picked it up. I on the other hand cannot pass by a book without opening it. And when I did it was like being shot out of a literary cannon. She gives you the first chapter or so to get comfortable with her world, (not syfi, more fantasy…dragons…hello) Once you are comfortable in her world, no holds barred. I could barely breathe through the rest of the book. The sequel is the same… I spent over 10 months waiting for the sequel, I ordered it weeks before it was due to come out and I was not dissapointed. The sequel was as good as the original.
    If you want to get carried away, and in my opinion that is the job of an author, to carry the reader away, to take them out of their lives and into somewhere else, Allison Goodman is beyond good. She won’t just introduce you to a new world, she will slap you in the face with it. And then like it or not, you’re wrapped.

  20. “If You Follow Me” comes to an important conclusion. All lesbians really need a man. Not just one but both of the women (and the girlfriend is barely in the book) realize they need a man. This is the kind of crap I was hoping had died away in literature years ago. Guess not.

    Completely staggered to see both AfterEllen and Autostraddle recommend a book that says a woman being with a woman is a joke and it is important all women be with men.

    • I had the same frustration with this book. I dove right into it with gusto because I’m planning to teach English in Japan someday soon, but was really miffed to see both of the women going after men. Yes, bisexuality exists, but if I wanted to read about women falling for men I’d read, I don’t know, any other book in the world.

  21. ohh, the poetry suggestions sound fantastic.

    next up in my pile are two that I am excited about reading:
    -The Famished Road by Ben Okri
    -The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

  22. I read “If You Follow Me” awhile back and loved it. It’s not thebestbookever but definitely a good read. I didn’t get the feeling that both of them “needed a man” like someone mentioned above but to each their own.

    I’m currently on a YA kick (just kidding–I’m always on a YA kick) reading my way through all of Sarah Dessen right now.

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