Last Saturday, just before starting work, I was in the work canteen with my manager and another coworker. Somehow, the two of them got to talking on the topic of gay people. The sheer amount of prejudice and assumptions made about gay people was overwhelming – especially considering it was barely past 9AM.
Suffice to say, I did not join in on this conversation, nor did I mention I’m not exactly straight myself. I did, however, hear such gems as:
- “I hate it when gay boys are so over-the-top gay, you know what I mean?”
- “one of my friends, he’s not a homophobe! He just doesn’t really want anything to do with gay people”
- “this one guy I know, who’s just straight, like normal.”
Aside from feeling like an undercover spy, I also couldn’t help but think “straights are wild, man”.
And then I thought, I might myself share some of my favourite LGBTQ+ books with you lovely folk here! After all, reading expands the mind, and tends to make people generally less shitty.
Now, about the books I picked: yes, I know almost all of them are YA. Sue me. I did make sure these are all books where the MAIN character is gay, and it’s explicit. No “is he or is he not gay”, no, these people know what they’re about, son. There’s romance in all of these books, there’s barely any dramatic coming-out stories, and some of them even have happy endings! A rarity among LGBT books, I know. I won’t spoil which books, don’t worry.
One more thing I have to admit: I’m 100% aware that these are all about gay/lesbian characters. There’s no bisexual or trans or otherwise-queer characters, which is entirely my own fault for not having read those yet. (Aside from Beauty Queens, which I did not like). If you have any recommendations for me, do let me know!
So here are some books I would like my coworkers/boss to read, despite knowing fully well that they never actually will:
The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller
I’ve talked about this book countless times before, so I’ll keep it short: this is Ancient Greece, this is a modernised Homer, this is a YA where Achilles and Patroclus are not “best friends” like my translation of the Iliad says, but they are very much in love. From the perspective of Patroclus, and starting from when they’re both still young children, it follows their lives as they grow up, become friends, become lovers, and become soldiers along the way. Make sure you bring tissues along the way, and make sure you have time to really take in the beautiful, poetic writing.
(Read my full review of The Song of Achilles here.)
More Than This, by Patrick Ness
I’m going to start this recommendation off with a lot of trigger warnings including but not limited to: suicide, mental illness, dystopia, Matrix-esque scenes. But if you’re looking for a book that deals with depression, that gives you a way of working with it and understanding it a bit more, then this one’s for you. Just know it literally starts with someone committing suicide, and the book can get pretty intense. Just saying. Again, bring tissues. You’ll need them about halfway through the book, at least.
(Read my full review of More Than This here.)
Maurice, by E.M. Forster
An Edwardian-era gay novel about two men falling in love at university? Sign me right up. Of course, this novel brings its share of drama, but it’s also absolutely beautiful and definitely worth reading. I was personally surprised by how easy to read this book is. I also don’t remember needing tissues, which is a bonus. And if the book’s too long for your liking: there’s a movie! With Hugh Grant ! And Rupert Graves!
Everything Leads to You, by Nina Lacour
If you’re looking for something really cute, this is your book. It has romance, it has mystery, it has some (very light) real-life issues, it has subplots about movie making. It’s YA so you’re reading about high school graduates. And just, trust me. It’s cute, it’s fluffy, it’ll make your heart flutter, and! You can read it in a single day if you want. No need for tissues, but do bring a cup of tea and some sweets.
Lies We Tell Ourselves, by Robin Talley
Ah, yes, the book I tend to refer to as “that double whammy”. This YA book deals with both race and sexuality. Set in 1950’s or so Virginia, when black people are first being allowed into the local white high school, there’s not-so-casual racism, there’s a black girl falling in love with a white girl, there’s problems around every corner. Again, no need to bring tissues, but do bring an interest in historical issues and be prepared to keep your nose stuck in the book as you can’t put it down.
(Read my full review of Lies We Tell Ourselves here.)