The Library is open
As Reading is fundamental I wanted some LGBTQ+ fiction recommendations for my latest rainbow badges and knew just where to turn, Twitter. It did not disappoint and here I count down the top 15 suggestions. You can find the pins they inspired here and here.
Book descriptions and ratings are taken from Good Reads.
15 The Swimming-Pool Library (1988)
by Alan Hollinghurst
★★★★☆ (7,853 ratings)
The Swimming-Pool Library is an enthralling, darkly erotic novel of homosexuality before the scourge of AIDS; an elegy, possessed of chilling clarity, for ways of life that can no longer be lived with impunity. "Impeccably composed and meticulously particular in its observation of everything" (Harpers & Queen), it focuses on the friendship of two men: William Beckwith, a young gay aristocrat who leads a life of privilege and promiscuity, and the elderly Lord Nantwich, an old Africa hand, searching for someone to write his biography and inherit his traditions.
14 Orlando (1928)
by Virginia Woolf
★★★★☆ (50,086 ratings)
The novel opens as Orlando, a young nobleman in Elizabeth's England, awaits a visit from the Queen and traces his experience with first love as England under James I lies locked in the embrace of the Great Frost. At the midpoint of the novel, Orlando, now an ambassador in Constantinople, awakes to find that he is now a woman, and the novel indulges in farce and irony to consider the roles of women in the 18th and 19th centuries. As the novel ends in 1928, a year consonant with full suffrage for women. Orlando, now a wife and mother, stands poised at the brink of a future that holds new hope and promise for women.
13 Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (1985)
by Jeanette Winterson
★★★★☆ (50,728 ratings)
This is the story of Jeanette, adopted and brought up by her mother as one of God's elect. Zealous and passionate, she seems destined for life as a missionary, but then she falls for one of her converts.
At sixteen, Jeanette decides to leave the church, her home and her family, for the young woman she loves. Innovative, punchy and tender,
Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is a few days ride into the bizarre outposts of religious excess and human obsession.
12 The Normal Heart (1985)
by Larry Kramer
★★★★☆ (2,462 ratings)
The Normal Heart is the explosive drama about our most terrifying and troubling medical crisis today: the AIDS epidemic. It tells the story of very private lives caught up in the heartrendering ordeal of suffering and doom - an ordeal that was largely ignored for reasons of politics and majority morality.
11 Giovanni’s Room (1956)
by James Baldwin
★★★★☆ (46,668 ratings)
In a 1950s Paris swarming with expatriates and characterized by dangerous liaisons and hidden violence, an American finds himself unable to repress his impulses, despite his determination to live the conventional life he envisions for himself. After meeting and proposing to a young woman, he falls into a lengthy affair with an Italian bartender and is confounded and tortured by his sexual identity as he oscillates between the two.
10 Fingersmith (2002)
by Sarah Waters
★★★★☆ (69,760 ratings)
Sue Trinder is an orphan, left as an infant in the care of Mrs. Sucksby, a "baby farmer," who raised her with unusual tenderness. Mrs. Sucksby’s household also hosts a transient family of petty thieves—fingersmiths. One day, an elegant con man carries an enticing proposition for Sue: If she wins a position as the maid to Maud Lilly, and aids his seduction of Maud, then they will all share in a vast inheritance. Sue agrees to the plan. Once in, however, Sue begins to pity her helpless mark and care for Maud Lilly in unexpected ways...
9 The Cutting Room (2002)
by Louise Welsh
★★★★☆ (2,601 ratings)
When Rilke, a dissolute and promiscuous auctioneer, comes across a collection of highly disturbing photographs during a house clearance he feels compelled to unearth more about the deceased owner who coveted them. Driven to discover whether the images represent a real event or a fantasy, Rilke is drawn into a nether world of illicit urges and powerful obsessions.
8 The City and the Pillar (1948)
by Gore Vidal
★★★★☆ (6,608 ratings)
Jim, a handsome, all-American athlete, has always been shy around girls. But when he and his best friend, Bob, partake in "awful kid stuff", the experience forms Jim's ideal of spiritual completion. Defying his parents’ expectations, Jim strikes out on his own, hoping to find Bob and rekindle their amorous friendship. Along the way he struggles with what he feels is his unique bond with Bob and with his persistent attraction to other men. Upon finally encountering Bob years later, the force of his hopes for a life together leads to a devastating climax.
7 The Well of Loneliness (1928)
by Radclyffe Hall
★★★★☆ (11,444 ratings)
Stephen is an ideal child of aristocratic parents—a fencer, a horse rider and a keen scholar. Stephen grows to be a war hero, a bestselling writer and a loyal, protective lover. But Stephen is a woman, and her lovers are women. As her ambitions drive her, and society confines her, Stephen is forced into desperate actions.
6 A Place Called Winter (2015)
by Patrick Gale
★★★★☆ (7,430 ratings)
In the golden 1900s, Harry Cane, a shy, eligible gentleman is drawn into courting and marrying Winnie. When a chance encounter awakens scandalous desires never acknowledged until now, however, Harry is forced to forsake the land and people he loves for a harsh new life as a homesteader on the newly colonized Canadian prairies. There, in a place called Winter, he will come to find a deep love within an alternative family, a love imperilled by war, madness and an evil man of undeniable magnetism.
5 The Night Watch (2006)
by Sarah Waters
★★★★☆ (22,197 ratings)
Moving back through the 1940s, through air raids, blacked out streets, illicit liaisons, sexual adventure, to end with its beginning in 1941, The Night Watch is the work of a truly brilliant and compelling storyteller.
4 The Color Purple (1982)
by Alice Walker
★★★★☆ (470,831 ratings)
Set in the deep American South between the wars, it is the tale of Celie, a young black girl born into poverty and segregation. Raped repeatedly by the man she calls 'father', she has two children taken away from her, is separated from her beloved sister Nettie and is trapped into an ugly marriage. But then she meets the glamorous Shug Avery, singer and magic-maker - a woman who has taken charge of her own destiny. Gradually, Celie discovers the power and joy of her own spirit, freeing her from her past and reuniting her with those she loves.
3 Maurice (1971)
by E.M. Forster
★★★★☆ (24,496 ratings)
Maurice is heartbroken over unrequited love, which opened his heart and mind to his own sexual identity. In order to be true to himself, he goes against the grain of society’s often unspoken rules of class, wealth, and politics.
2 Tales of the City (1978)
by Armistead Maupin
★★★★☆ (34,317 ratings)
San Francisco, 1976. A naïve young secretary, fresh out of Cleveland, tumbles headlong into a brave new world of laundromat Lotharios, pot-growing landladies, cutthroat debutantes, and Jockey Shorts dance contests. The saga that ensues is manic, romantic, tawdry, touching, and outrageous.
Suggested by: @SusannahDarby
1. The Song of Achilles (2011)
by Madeline Miller
★★★★☆ 4.33 (149,718 ratings)
Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. By all rights their paths should never cross, but Achilles takes the shamed prince as his friend, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine their bond blossoms into something deeper - despite the displeasure of Achilles' mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But then word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus journeys with Achilles to Troy, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.