Hey everyone! I hope you're having a FANTASTIC Pride month and being the best gay you can be. So far I've celebrated by attending the Pride parade in Pittsburgh and I'm going to a Drag Brunch & Bingo in a few days. I watched The Handmaiden--I cannot recommend this film enough. HOLY COW was it fantastic. I've also maintained my disaster gay status, in case you were worried I was shirking my responsibilities.
During pride month, we get an influx of book recommendations and hype about upcoming releases that feature queer stories and queer narratives. I'd like to do my part by recommending a handful of backlist books you should definitely pick up! Publishing has weird marketing and they seem to skip over and ignore some of the best books out there. So as an avid reader, it's my job to further the gaygenda by making you aware of these fantastic books and encourage you to buy from a local indie or request and borrow from your local library! So here we go, 20 backlist books featuring queer characters that you're gonna want to absolutely binge!
Standard disclaimer: I've only included books I've actually read. Check out content warnings on author websites or Goodreads as needed. If you're here for the giveaway, thank you for stopping by! The details are at the bottom!
1) Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig (2016) (mlm, thriller/mystery) Roehrig's debut is a fantastic twisty mystery that will have you questioning what you think you know and have you laughing at the witty writing. Flynn is such an earnest protagonist and just when I though I knew what happened, I was SO WRONG. I'm not personally a mystery or thriller reader, but I couldn't put this book down and read it in one day. It made Roehrig an instant buy for me and I have since devoured his other books: White Rabbit (mlm thriller), Death Prefers Blondes (Drag Queen Heist Team), & The Fell of Dark (mlm vampires!)
2) A Great & Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray(2003) (side sapphics) Okay, so the sapphic romance in this book is between two prominent side characters, but I'm including it on my list because this was a book that changed my perspective on what literature could be and who got to be in stories. Bray writes gorgeous lyrical books and there are layers and nuance here. But if you love gothic Victorian vibes, this book is for you! Also, check out her Diviners series--set in 1920s New York City if you want to have trouble sleeping at night!
3)The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta (2019) (Drag Artist) Written in prose, it follows the story of young man as he comes to understand his sexuality in a world that tells him to be quiet and stay hidden. It's such a powerful narrative of standing up for who you are and finding your voice. I laughed, I cried, my heart was happy. This book has so much hope woven through it!
4) Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore (2017) (bisexual, demisexual) If you've read Cashore's blockbuster Graceling books, the only thing this book has in common with those is the absolutely beautiful and immersive writing and worldbuilding. Jane is bit directionless, but she's trying to find her place in the world and just wants to create beautiful umbrellas...but there's also some strange goings-on to be solved at her friends palatial mansion and as soon as you think you've solved it, everything flips on its head. For me, this story had demisexual written between every line. (and, in case you were curious, yes, there are queer characters in every single Graceling book and I highly recommend those too!)
5) Beyond the Black Door by A.M. Strickland (2019) (asexual) So if you've never read an A.M. Strickland book before, I need you to take a serious moment and re-evaluate what exactly you're doing with your life. Because damn is their writing fantastic! Kamai has the ability to walk in people's thoughts, but she also has a black door in her mind she's not supposed to open..so of course she does! One of my favorite parts of this book was the candid talk about asexuality and it has this amazing illustration in that I would really like to get as a tattoo one day because it's soooooo cool. Once you've devoured this masterpiece, check out In the Ravenous Dark, which basically subverts the whole 'kill your gays' trope in the most spectacular way possible.
6) Ace of Shades Trilogy by Amanda Foody (2018) (everything!) *TAKES DEEP BREATH* Omg, this trilogy y'all. THIS. TRILOGY. I picked it up at the urging of a friend as a possible comp for a WIP and it swept me away. Enne and Levi are just absolute disaster queers and I cannot get enough of them. Not to mention the writing is fantastic and the worldbuilding is top notch. I'm definitely using it as a comp and hope my story can be considered this awesome one day. #GOALS My absolute favorite characters become more prominent in books II & III and to avoid spoilers I won't name them, but SWOOOOOOOON.
7)The Deep & Dark Blue by Nikki Smith (2020) (trans) In this brilliant graphic novel, Hawke & Greyson are fleeing from a political coup. In the midst of all this, they learn how to be their truest selves. This is a heartwarming middle grade graphic novel that would make a great gift for the young reader in your life!
8)The Stars & the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus (2019) (sapphic) This is another must read--the amount of AMAZINGNESS in this book still blows me away. The dual perspectives of Audre and Mabel weave together as their worlds collide in one of the most beautiful and heartbreaking romances I've ever read. The ending destroyed me. I will never understand why this book doesn't get more hype because it's basically perfect.
9) TimeKeeper Trilogy by Tara Sim (2026) (mlm) This enchanting trilogy has the softest, sweetest boys you can imagine, amazing clock magic, and gorgeous writing. Danny and Colton's romance is one of the most satisfying I've ever read. I'm also a huge fan of Daphne and while she's not queer (on page at least!), she is AMAZING. All of Sim's books feature queer characters, so be sure to check out the Scavenge the Stars duology and her latest adult fantasy debut, City of Dusk.
10) The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake (2019) (sapphic) This brilliant coming of age novel is part mystery, part redemption, and 100% heartwarming. Even in it's darker moments, this novel delivers. You're going to love Violet as she tries to understand not only herself, but her family's legacy (and causes so many problems along the way!).
11) The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow (2020) (bisexual, demisexual) This one's for you sci-fi queers! Two years after alien invaders have conquered earth, it's up to one girl and her unlikely accomplice to save the world. This novel is compelling, fast paced, and I loved Ellie's thoughts surrounding her queer identity. Dow's second book, The Kindred, is on my TBR and I can't wait to devour it!
12) American Hippo by Sarah Gailey (2018) (everything!) This delightful book is everything you expect from a Gailey book. (Have you read The Echo Wife??? Please do yourself a favor and read it!). What if the west was overrun with hippos? And there was a riverboat out in hippo-infested waters? And it was incredibly queer? You'll laugh and cry at this fantastic book! Plus, I mean, everyone rides hippos, how cool is that?
13) Winterspell by Claire Legrand (2014) (bisexual) You might have read Legrand's more recent books (Sawkill Girls is fantastic!) but this was the book that started it all! This lush fantasy is a dark fairy tale that will have you swooning as you unravel the truth about Clara Stole in this Nutcracker retelling.
14) Pet by Akwaeke Emezi (2019) (trans, poly) This novel y'all. This novel. In Jam's world, there are no more monsters...or are there? I'm desperate for this book to become a staple of US classrooms. This is a book that should be studied and discussed and it's just such a perfect look at what, and who, really is monstrous. It's middle grade, so it's absolutely teachable across a broad spectrum of age ranges!
15) Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore (2018) (trans, gender non-conforming) in this reimagined fairy tale, two sisters have to learn how they're different and how they're the same if they hope to outlive the curse they know is coming for us. McLemore's books should be a staple of your reading library--they're atmospheric and lyrical and heart-wrenchingly beautiful. McLemore is an auto-buy author for me and I can't wait to read their upcoming queer Great Gatsby retelling!
16) In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan (2017) (bisexual) If you're a fan of The Chronicles of Narnia, but you want it to be queer, have a protagonist you're not always sure you like, and be 150% subversive, this book is for you. It takes so many fairytale tropes and turns them on their heads and you have Eliot, the human boy transported to a magical land at war who is NOT the hero you expect him to be. He's such a disaster and he's perfect. Srsly, don't pass this one up!
17) Dreadnought by April Daniels (2017) (Trans) What if you witnessed a superhereo's death and inherited their superpowers?? That's exactly what happens to Danny in this amazing novel where trans kids get to be heros and save the day. This is such a great story of being your truest self even when your friends and family let you down--you can rise above and be the hero! I want this to be a movie or a TV show or something. I would watch the heck out of this.
18) The Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen (2015) (gender non-conforming) This was pitched to me as gay Lonesome Dove, and Lonesome Dove is near and dear to my heart. Nettie Lonesome must go on a quest to figure out why she can suddenly see monsters that will lead her to understanding the truth of how she came to be and who she's meant to be. Look, GAY WESTERN WITH MONSTERS. It's fantastic.
19) Of Fire & Stars by Audrey Coulthurst (2016) (sapphic) This was another book that totally flipped my understanding of what a book could be and who was allowed to be the hero--it was first intensely sapphic book I'd ever read. You have a princess betrothed to a prince, but she really wants to marry the stable master--a captivating and no-nonsense young lady. This premise is everything you could want in life. Plus! As a bonus, this has very, very accurate horse scenes in it. Perhaps one of the BEST books I've ever read that includes horses.
20) Authors! Okay, I just have so many books and I tried to not just go to my normal go-tos, because I push them on the world all the time, so I figured I would just remind you to check out books by these authors as they are amazing and queer and some of my absolute favorites: Alexandra Overy, Rosiee Thor, Erica Waters, Leah Johnson, Carly Heath, Kate Brauning, L.L. Mckinney, Ashley Shuttleworth, & Ash Van Otterloo!!
That's plenty of books to keep you busy! Feel free to drop a comment with your favorite backlist book or author recommendation, I'm always looking to add to my TBR!
One lucky winner will win the ENTIRE stack of books pictured here! That's right, you'll be getting a copy of: These Feathered Flames, Fire Becomes Her, Tarnished are the Stars, A Marvelous Light, & The City of Dusk! Because I'm shipping these via media mail, the winner must have a US shipping address. Each one of these is super queer and an absolutely fabulous reads! How do you enter? Easy, follow the steps below:
Tweet about this blog & share the link on Twitter (If you're looking for text to include in your tweet, here ya go: "Check out 20 backlist books you should read for Pride month!")
Follow me on Instagram! (I'm @KatjaBookDragon)
Comment on THIS TWITTER POST with your Pride month book recommendation! (This is the thread I'll be using to choose a winner from!)
I know, it seems disjointed, but, full transparency, I'm trying to increase traffic with both my blog and my instagram...so I'm bribing y'all with some fantastic books! And twitter is the easiest place for me to pull a winner from on July 2nd. Thank you for your help!!
Happy Reading and thank you for letting me share some of my favorite books with y'all!