Whether you’ve been working through our recommended reads or Pride Month suggestions, we’ve got another fruitful list of literature for you to get your hands on. 2021 has been a standout year for new releases across all genres and we’d be amiss not to wrap up the best reads into a fun roundup for you all.
Much like our beloved artists and actors, authors too are able to cultivate feelings and emotions through immersive storytelling and character building. It could be a rallying activist cry reflecting on the AIDS crisis or the joyous mystique of Niveus Private Academy that moves you, but as new queer stories continue to emerge, it’s our job to support and uplift them.
So, as our favourite bookstores open up once again, here’s a fresh selection of authors to consider. It was a difficult task but we have managed to whittle down a list of our favourite books to bring you our ultimate top 10 books of the year so far. We have placed our suggestions in random order and have given a special mention to our favourite read of the year at the end of the feature.
Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé
First-time author Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé is a bold new voice in Young Adult literature. Her debut novel, Ace of Spades, is a dark, gritty thriller that delves deep into the world of Black queer sexuality, class, and institutionalised racism. Set in Niveus Private Academy, Ace of Spades is best described as Gossip Girl meets Get Out – it’s witty, slick, and undeniably mysterious. It’s a new novel you won’t want to miss out on.
Gay Bar: Why We Went Out by Jeremy Atherton Lin
Gay Bar: Why We Went Out is a bold and insightful memoir that catalogues the author’s life story in queer venues around the world. Built of seven chapters, each is dedicated to a specific bar and the wonders that happened inside. If you’re looking for an exhaustive history of queer venues, then this isn’t the book for you. But, if you’re wanting to dive headfirst into a personal telling of gay history and experience then Lin does exactly that. In glittery, magnetic prose, readers are offered a tour of various chaotic stories that shaped this author’s life.
Let The Record Show by Sarah Schulman
A deep dive into the realities of America’s AIDS crisis, Schulman charts how events of activism and crisis come together in this ground-breaking tour de force. A compilation of historical research and countless interviews with the AIDS Coalition, Let The Record Show returns to the frontlines of the epidemic. Blending the past and present of the ACT UP archives, Schulman reminds us of the efforts that went into an era dominated by fear and frustration, and how grassroots organisations changed the face of the crisis.
We Can Do Better Than This: 35 voices on the future of LGBTQ+ rights edited by Amelia Abraham
Amelia Abraham returns with her second book to deliver a powerful collection of LGBTQ+ voices to speculate the future of queer liberation. We Can Do Better Than This digs deep and holds nothing back as its contributors debate what changes the LGBTQ+ community hope to see next. Pabllo Vittar pleads for the end of hate murders, Olly Alexander champions inclusive sex education in schools, and Beth Ditto calls for a revolution in representation. This reflective read considers some of the LGBTQ+ community’s biggest ongoing issues (from the treatment of the trans and non-binary community to personal endeavours dealing with shame and safety when it comes to LGBTQ+ sexuality) and delivers hopeful, thoughtful solutions to our community. If you’ve not been convinced already, we’ve put it down as a must-read.
What It Feels Like for a Girl by Paris Lees
A brilliant memoir, this is a book that snaps you back to Lees’ early days in the East Midlands, searching for an escape. After dedicating 8 years to this book, it’s fair to say Lee’s autobiography is worth the wait. Dealing with everything from trans identity, class, sexuality, and bullying, this is a book that equally shocks as it does surprise; it’s a read that will stick with you. What It Feels Like for a Girl deserves a spot on your reading list.
Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers
A fantastic read, Small Pleasures is set in the 1950s and follows the life of Jean, a journalist who lives in suburban London with an irascible mother, leaving little space for her to have her own independence. Jean is suddenly assigned to write a story about Gretchen who claims her daughter was born by parthenogenesis. Fascinated, we watch as the cleverly written characters crossover. What began as a simple assignment for Jean unfolds into something much bigger as lives become intertwined. A compassionate tale of loneliness, romance, and mystery, Small Pleasures is well worth picking up at your local bookstore.
One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston
A romantic comedy, this YA read is delightfully funny and easy-going. 23-year-old August moves to New York City and is captivated by a girl she sees on a train. But what may sound like an overtly saccharine gooey fate love story is a wholesome tale that dips into romance and self-discovery as both women learn more about themselves (and each other) than they ever expected.
First Comes Love by Tom Rasmussen
As queer people, should we really aspire to marriage? For decades, marriage equality was the epicentre of the fight for LGBTQ+ rights. But, as Tom Rasmussen explores in their brilliant new book First Comes Love, we really shouldn’t succumb so easily to an institution that has historically shunned us; one that still isn’t trans and non-binary inclusive to this day. From polyamory to poltergeists, Tom goes on a journey to interrogate the sanctity of marriage, to challenge the heteronormative ideology of what a traditional healthy union should look like, and bring light to what the marriage system really stands for. Packed with sharp wit, warm empathy, insightful discussion, and Tom’s own personal love story, it redefines what Happy Ever After can look like.
Last Call by Elon Green
For fans of true crime and thrillers, the Last Call will be exactly what you’re looking for. For many, the stories of The Last Call Killer are unheard of. The book delves into the terrifying details of how a gruesome killer targeted gay men lurked in the streets of New York City during the 80s and 90s. Elon Green collates a record of events bringing to life these horrific realities of an era past, but one that should be forgotten. Tragically these murders did not receive the attention they deserved as Green does his best to spotlight four victims. At times, the book focused solely too much on the killer, rather than the victims, which is why we consider the Last Call a fascinating supplementary read to understand what happened in New York.
Best Book of 2021 (so far) – Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters
Detransition, Baby has been longlisted for the Women’s Prize for its portrayal of the trans community, and understandably so. A character study of three women – two trans and one cis – whose lives unexpectedly collide, Torey Peters delivers a stunning first novel centred around three unique women (Reese, Ames, Katrina) as they learn to navigate queerness, gender, and parenthood. Detransition, Baby brings these characters to life in a three dimensional way that is almost difficult to shake by the end, and, for that alone, it’s worth reading.