27 Must Have Queer Summer Reads

Beach season is upon us, so get your reading list in order. Also be sure to check out the books everyone must read in their 20s.

1. We The Animals By Justin Torres

The first novel by Torres, this story takes you right into the middle of a chaotic family and the bond between three brothers.

ID: 1213005

2. The Velvet Rage By Alan Downs

A look at the feeling of shame many gay men internalize, coined as “velvet rage,” as they grow up in a straight world.

ID: 1211737

3. Tiger, Tiger by Galaxy Craze

Need a good cry? This one is for you.

ID: 1211765

4. The Swimming Pool Library by Alan Hollinghurst

In 1983 London, a young privileged man saves the life of an elderly aristocrat having a heart-attack in a public lavatory. Hooked already, right?

ID: 1213004

5. The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

The author was only 23 at the novel’s publication, but it has been considered her finest work. The story follows deaf-mute John Singer, who becomes the confidant for various characters in a Georgia mill during the 1930s.

ID: 1213749

6. If You Follow Me By Malena Watrous

A woman follows her girlfriend to another country, and has a minor freak out about it in the process.

ID: 1213408

7. Spoon Fed By Kim Severson

For all the foodies out there, this one was written by the out food critic for The New York Times.

ID: 1213785

8. The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith

The author was inspired by a mysterious woman she happened across in a shop. Due to the unconventional characters that defied stereotypes about homosexuality, the book was popular among lesbians in the 1950s and is now considered a classic.

ID: 1211741

9. So Many Ways To Sleep Badly By Matilda Berstein Sycamore

Sex, drugs, and trying to find hope in San Francisco.

ID: 1213439

10. Girl In Need Of A Tourniquet By Merri Lisa Johnson

An honest and compelling memoir of how a borderline personality disorder affected the author’s relationships, and caused her to be a “psycho girlfriend.”

ID: 1213812

11. The Mysteries Of Pittsburgh By Michael Chabon

A delightful coming of age story set in the summer time.

ID: 1211773

12. Fun Home By Alison Bechdel

In this graphic novel, Alison grows up in a funeral home that her family calls the “fun home.” Alison discovers in college, after coming out as a lesbian, that her father is also gay.

ID: 1213751

13. Forgetting Elena By Edmund White

A comedy of manners set on a privileged island community.

ID: 1213790

14. Barrel Fever By David Sedaris

A collection of stories and essays that will keep your attention all the way through.

ID: 1213721

15. A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend By Emily Horner

Two awkward teens fall in love while working on a musical together. You know, that old cliche.

ID: 1213401

16. Eminent Outlaws By Christopher Bram

Nominated for an award for best gay nonfiction, and a completely captivating read.

ID: 1213421

17. Chelsea Girls By Eileen Myles

An ill-fated affair with an almost famous junkie.

ID: 1213731

18. Confessions Of A Fairy’s Daughter By Alison Wearing

When the author was 12, her father came out as gay. Nearly unheard of in 1970s small-town Canada.

ID: 1213834

19. Two Serious Ladies By Jane Bowles

This book has become a cult classic for a reason. A story about two very opposite woman attempting to break out of the norm in the 1940s.

ID: 1213428

20. Funeral Rites By Jean Genet

A darker read and a brutal portrayal of World War II.

ID: 1213717

21. People In Trouble By Sarah Schulman

An artist and AIDS activist in New York City gets involved in a tricky love triangle involving her husband and girlfriend.

ID: 1213734

22. At Swim, Two Boys By Jamie O’Neill

A love story set right before the Easter uprising of 1916 in Ireland.

ID: 1213738

23. The Year Of Ice By Brian Malloy

A gay high school senior copes with his father’s irresponsibility in this touching novel set in Minneapolis in the late ’70s.

ID: 1213742

24. Strangers In Paradise By Terry Moore

Like author Alison Bechdel, Terry Moore has made some amazing queer comics. Who says that comics can’t be a summer read?

ID: 1213725

25. Many Waters By Madeleine L’Engle

Fantastic time and space travel, what more do you need?

ID: 1213820

26. The Song Of Achilles By Madeline Miller

Just another story about an unwanted boy living in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles.

ID: 1213817

27. I Am Not Myself These Days By Josh Kilmer-Purcell

A hilarious story of a New Yorker’s dual life as an advertiser by day, drag queen by night. Kilmer-Purcell has been described as a writer who, “straddles the divide between absurdity and normalcy, and stitches them together with surprising humor.”

ID: 1213783

What will you be reading this summer?

ID: 1213842

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Sarah Karlan is the Deputy LGBT Editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Sarah Karlan at
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