28 December 2021

The 10 Best LGBTQ+ Books of 2021

If the last year and a half has given us anything, it's a flood of breathtaking books. From insights into AIDS activism in the US to a queer guide to London, we've selected 10 of the best LGBTQ+ books of 2021.

Sarah Schulman – Let the Record Show: A Political History of ACT UP, New York, 1987 – 1993

Schulman’s 700+ page book is an exploration into ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), a group that between 1987 and 1993 worked tirelessly to improve the lives of those affected by AIDS through research, medical help and lobbying. Through interviews with members of the organisation, the book sheds light on the vital work of activists at the time, but also for the activists that work today in order to change society, destigmatize issues and make the world a better place. 

Pick up a copy of Let the Record Show here.

Alim Kheraj – Queer London 

Queer London is an insightful guide to LGBTQ+ hotspots in the capital from both the past and the present, delving into every corner of London’s illustrious queer culture. The book has something for everyone: saunas, sex shops, clubs, and book stores – all noteable places that offer sanctuaries, havens and safe spaces for the community. Queer London is a reminder of the importance of these places, especially at a time where access to venues is limited, as is the opportunity for the community to thrive in the places many call home.

Pick up a copy of Queer London here.

Robert Jones Jr – The Prophets

This debut novel is a hard-hitting, breathtaking story of love between two enslaved men working on the Halifax Plantation they call Empty. The barn where the animals they care for are kept becomes a sanctuary for them both, a place where their love doesn’t have to be hidden. However, the dangerous nature of their emotions is threatened by watchful eyes and untrustworthy characters.

Pick up a copy of The Prophets here.

Alex Dmitrov – Love and Other Poems 

The anthology is an exploration of queer love, death, fate and time that takes place over the course of 12 months in New York. The poems fuse humour with despair and honest worries concerning the future. It often speaks to the reader directly, much like reading a text message or a phone call, asking questions and assuring that “nothing bad will happen / as long as you’re here.” 

Pick up a copy of Love and Other Poems here.

Jen Silverman – We Play Ourselves

The dark yet humorous book looks into the sudden downfall of a queer poet who becomes obsessed with another writer. Silverman plays with ideas of art, ambition and determination, whilst allowing the reader to empathise with our heroine and, if anything, start to love a character who keeps making us question our affinity with them.

Pick up a copy of We Play Ourselves here.

Jeremy Atherton Lin – Gay Bar: Why We Went Out

Lin explores the power, importance and darker underbelly of LGBTQ+ spaces – the venues that many of us associate with the smell of sweat, an atmosphere of hedonism, and long-lasting love (and occasional fear) of inter-community interaction. It’s a love letter to everything that makes up queer nightlife, whilst also shining light on the prejudices that LGBTQ+ people face from other individuals in these spaces. From drag nights in UK coastal towns, to London’s gay pubs where professionals from all walks of life converge, Lin’s documentation of the world is woven with comments on beauty in the eyes of the community, both good and bad.

Pick up a copy of Gay Bar: Why We Went Out here.

Zak Salih – Let’s Get Back to the Party

The book follows the lives of Sebastian and Oscar, who meet again for the first time in ten years. We see a real unhappiness in them both in the wake of the US’ legalisation of gay marriage and at the time of the Pulse Nightclub shootings in Florida in 2016. Let’s Get Back to the Party is a powerful and candid exploration of isolation, ostracization and rejection, wrapped up in the ever warming and grounding comforts of blossoming friendship and acceptance.

Pick up a copy of Let’s Get Back to the Party here.

Elon Green – Last Call: A True Story of Love, Lust, and Murder in Queer New York

Green’s book is an insightful and necessary look into a series of murders of gay men in the New Jersey region, following a discovery of body parts left in bin bags. The atrocities did not whip up the same horror and fear that most serial killings do, due to the fact that police attention and media coverage did not do enough to warn those at risk of the danger that was taking the lives of LGBTQ+ people, meaning the killer was not caught for a decade. The book explores the killings, but it also delves deep into why the killer was able to keep taking people’s lives for such a long time.

Pick up a copy of Last Call: A True Story of Love, Lust, and Murder in Queer New York here.

Randa Jarrar – Love is an Ex-Country 

This beautiful memoir of self-celebration, empowerment and acceptance is an exploration of finding joy in a world that aims to hurt individuals. As a Muslim, queer and fat woman, Jarrar’s story is one of rebelling against societal and familial expectations and, through the candour of memory, shows how autonomy can be won whilst battling against prejudices and hatred.

Pick up a copy of Love is an Ex-Country here.

Brontez Purnell – 100 Boyfriends

Purnell’s writing re-defines form, structure and voice, layering in snappy, punchy lines and paragraphs that pull you in from the start. Each chapter focuses on one acquaintance, each with their own flare and intrigue. Throughout, there’s a macabre sense of pain and gentle emptiness, but it’s levelled out in a strange way through the detailed sexual interactions and glorious prose.

Pick up a copy of 100 Boyfriends here.

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