2021 really said yes to books with:
time traveling wlw,
murderous sapphics + dorian gray
bi women dating soft boys,
fake dating desi lesbians,
great gatsby retellings with queer asian girls,
f/f slavic enemies to lovers,
gay women + peter pan retellings,
grumpy/sunshine + lesbians of color,
bisexual con artists & trauma recovery,
queer tsoa inspired fantsay set in china
(plus some more I found in the reblogs!)
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LGBT Books Coming 2021!
Here are some exciting and promising YA or New Adult books coming in 2021, all with LGBTQ+ characters and themes. There are so many more, but there aren’t covers yet or I’m waiting to include them in a follow-up post!
1. May the Best Man Win by Z.R. Ellor (May 2021) - A trans boy enters a throw-down battle for the title of Homecoming King with the boy he dumped last summer.
2. Meet Cute Diary by Emery Lee (May 2021) - A trans boy’s first love challenges the ideas of perfect relationships he writes about in his popular blog.
3. Jay’s Gay Agenda by Jason June (June 2021) - After moving from his rural town to a big city, Jay makes a list of all the romantic things he will finally be able to do.
4. In Deeper Waters by F.T. Lukens (April 2021) - A young prince must rely on a mysterious stranger to save him when he is kidnapped.
5. One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston (June 2021) - A 23-year-old realizes her subway crush is displaced from 1970's Brooklyn, and she must do everything in her power to help her and try not to fall in love.
6. Perfect on Paper by Sophie Gonzales (March 2021) - A bisexual girl who gives anonymous love advice to her classmates is hired by the hot guy to help him get his ex back.
7. The Girl from the Sea by Molly Ostertag (June 2021) - In this graphic novel, a girl can’t wait to escape the island where she lives. She has many secrets, as does the mysterious girl who saves her from drowning.
8. Thanks a Lot, Universe by Chad Lucas (May 2021) - A friendship forms between the popular boy and the boy prone to anxiety attacks.
9. Bruised by Tanya Boteju (March 2021) - A teen girl navigates first love, identity, and grief when she immerses herself in the colorful, brutal, beautiful world of roller derby.
10. As Far as You’ll Take Me by Phil Stamper (February 2021) - Marty is excited to be in London, exploring his sexuality, and finding the people he will call home.
11. Infinity Reaper by Adam Silvera (March 2021) - The sequel to Infinity Son, Emil and Brighton try to navigate the ongoing war.
12. When Tara Met Farah by Tara Pammi (January 2021) - Tara makes a deal with Farah to help her pass the math course in exchange for welcoming Farah into the local Bollywood Drama & Dance Society.
13. Between Perfect and Real by Ray Stoeve (April 2021) - A trans boy wants everyone to see who he truly is and thinks playing a role on stage will help.
14. The Ghosts We Keep by Mason Deaver (June 2021) - After their older brother passes, Liam begins spending time with their brother’s best friend.
15. Flash Fire by T.J. Klune (July 2021) - In this sequel to The Extraordinaries, Nick just wants to finish his self-insert bakery AU fanfic but can’t because new superheroes and villains keep showing up in his city.
16. Gearbreakers by Zoe Hana Mikuta (June 2021) - Two girls on opposite sides of a war discover they're fighting for a common purpose and falling for each other.
17. Yesterday is History by Kosoko Jackson (February 2021) - After a liver transplant gives him the ability to time travel, a boy jumps back and forth between 1969 and the present, falling for another boy in the past along the way.
18. Zara Hossein is Here by Sabina Khan (April 2021) - Zara's family has waited years for their visa process to be finalized so that they can officially become US citizens. But it only takes one moment for that dream to come crashing down around them.
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Happy asexual week! Here are some ace book recs by ceceewing_ on instagram 💜🖤
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Adult SSF Books with Prominent Queer Characters
An Accident of Stars
The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet
The Fifth Season
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queer books that didn’t disappoint me the way everything else has. please enjoy.
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2020 YA Reads By Authors of Color
10 Things I Hate About Pinky by Sandhya Menon - The follow-up to When Dimple Met Rishi and There’s Something about Sweetie, Pinky and Samir pretend to date—with disastrous and hilarious results.
145th Street: Short Stories by Walter Dean Myers - A salty, wrenchingly honest collection of stories set on one block of 145th Street.
A Map to the Sun by Sloane Leong - A coming-of age-story about a struggling girls' basketball team of a fictional neighborhood in the LA area.
A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow - About the strength of black sisterhood set in Portland, OR, best friends Tavi and Effie discover their true supernatural identity when Effie starts being haunted by demons from her past, and Tavia accidentally lets out her magical siren voice during a police stop.
A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown - Inspired by West African folklore in which a grieving crown princess, Karina, and a desperate refugee, Malik, find themselves on a collision course to murder each other, despite their growing attraction.
All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson - Journalist and LGBTQ+ activist George shows readers how they can fight for themselves or be allies in the struggle for equity and equality.
A Breath Too Late by Rocky Callen - After 17-year-old Ellie dies by suicide, she looks back on the events of her life that led up to the moment, directly addressing the characters in her world—including her mother and the boy she loved—both animate and inanimate, interweaving past and present.
All The Days Past, All the Days To Come by Mildred B. Taylor - The saga of the Logan family--made famous in the Newbery Medal-winning Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry--concludes in a long-awaited and deeply fulfilling story.
All The Things We Never Knew by Liara Tamani - After locking eyes on a Texas high school basketball court, black teens Carli and Rex discover how first love, heartbreak, betrayal, and family can shape you—for better or for worse.
Almost American Girl by Robin Ha - A Korean-born, non-English-speaking girl, abruptly transplanted from Seoul to Alabama, struggles with extreme culture shock and isolation, until she discovers her passion for comic arts.
And the Stars Were Burning Brightly by Danielle Jawando - A story of suicide, mental health, bullying, grief and growing up around social media, after 15-year-old Nathan discovers the horrifying truth about his brother’s suicide.
Anna K: A Love Story by Jenny Lee - A modern reimagining of Anna Karenina, set between Manhattan & Greenwich, CT, where a Korean American “It Girl” is caught between her picture-perfect, family-approved boyfriend and the guy who just might be her one true love, along her high-flying cast of friends.
The Archer at Dawn (The Tiger at Midnight #2) by Swati Teerdhala - Set in an Indian & Hindu-inspired world, long-held secrets will force Kunal and Esha to reconsider their loyalties—to their country and to each other.
b, Book and Me by Sagwa Kim - A poignant coming of age story about two Korean high school girls, who equally despair over and desire adulthood.
Banned Book Club by Hyun Sook Kim, Hyun Ju Ko & Ryan Estrada - Set against the backdrop of political oppression, bookish college student Hyun Sook finds her political views slowly challenged after she joins the Banned Book Club and befriends a group of student activists.
Before The Dawn (RWBY #2) by E.C. Myers - Unsure of whom they can trust, Teams CFVY and SSSN must contend with new teammates and uneasy rivalries, all while The Crown continues to plot their next move.
Black Girl Unlimited by Echo Brown - Echo Brown is a wizard from the East Side, who transfers to the rich school on the West Side, and an insightful teacher becomes a pivotal mentor. But a black veil of depression soon threatens to undo everything she’s worked for.
The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta - A boy comes to terms with his identity as a mixed-race gay teen - then at university he finds his wings as a drag artist.
The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed - A coming-of-age debut exploring race, class, and violence through the eyes of wealthy black teen Ashley, whose family gets caught in the vortex of the 1992 Rodney King Riots.
Blazewrath Games by Amparo Ortiz - 17-year-old Lana Torres, who after rescuing a prized dragon, is awarded a spot on her native Puerto Rico's Blazewrath World Cup team. But the return of the Sire, an ancient dragon, soon threatens to compromise this year's tournament.
The Blossom and the Firefly by Sherri L. Smith - Set in Japan during eight days in 1945, two teens, former student Hana and violin virtuoso-turned-kamikaze-pilot Taro, find their lives intertwined in the midst of war.
Breath Like Water by Anna Jarzab - When swimmer Susannah Ramos finds her sports dreams put in jeopardy, she struggles to keep her career afloat, before two important people enter her life: a new coach with a revolutionary training strategy, and a charming fellow swimmer named Harry Matthews.
Broken Wish: The Mirror by Julie C. Dao - As 16-year-old Elva taps into her powers for the first time, she discovers a magical mirror and its owner—none other than the Witch of the North Woods herself. As Elva learns more about her burgeoning magic, the lines between hero and villain start to blur.
Brown Girl Ghosted by Mintie Das - When the queen bee of the school ends up dead following a leaked sex tape, Violet Choudry’s spirit world friends decide it’s the perfect time for Violet to accept the legacy of spiritual fighters from whom she’s descended. Her mission? Find the killer. Or else she’s next.
Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas - Latinx trans teen Yadriel, hoping to release his cousin's spirit and prove himself as a brujo, accidentally summons the wrong ghost and resident bad boy Julian Diaz, falling in love with him.
Check Please!: Sticks & Scones by Ngozi Ukazu - Bitty and Jack must navigate their new, secret, long-distance relationship, and decide how to reveal their relationship to friends and teammates. And on top of that, Bitty's time at Samwell is quickly coming to an end.
Cinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron - 16-year-old Sophia would much rather marry Erin, her childhood best friend, than parade in front of suitors. At the ball, Sophia flees, hiding in Cinderella’s mausoleum. There, she meets Constance, the last known descendant of Cinderella and her step sisters. Together they vow to bring down the king once and for all.
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo - Separated by distance and Papi’s secrets, sisters Caminos and Yahaira Rios, are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered.
The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant - In 1828, Paris, talented cat burglar Eponine Thénardier goes head-to-head with the nobility as well as the leaders of Paris's criminal underground, during her quest to save her sister Cosette’s life, which will take her from the city's dark underbelly to the glittering court of Louis XVII, following the dangerous days after a failed French Revolution.
Come On In edited by Adi Alsaid - this powerful anthology explores the joys, heartbreaks and triumphs of immigration, with stories by bestselling and beloved YA authors who are themselves immigrants and the children of immigrants.
Cloak of Night (Circle of Shadows #2) by Evelyn Skye - After the devastating Ceremony of Two Hundred Hearts, Sora, Daemon, Fairy, and Broomstick are truly alone in the fight to save their kingdom. Empress Aki is missing, and everyone else who could help them is a prisoner to the Dragon Prince’s mind control. In Sora’s quest to stop Prince Gin, she must also unravel the secrets of ryuu magic before it is too late for nearly everyone she loves.
A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow by Laura Taylor Namey - For Lila Reyes, a summer in England was never part of the plan. But tea shop clerk Orion Maxwell is determined to help Lila out of her funk, and appoints himself as her personal tour guide. From Winchester’s drama-filled music scene to the sweeping English countryside, it isn’t long before Lila is not only charmed by Orion, but England itself. Soon a new future is beginning to form in Lila’s mind—one that would mean leaving everything she ever planned behind.
The Damned (The Beautiful #2) by Renée Ahdieh - Sébastien Saint Germain is now cursed and forever changed. The price of loving Celine Rousseau was costly. But as Bastien and Celine begin to uncover the danger around them, they learn their love could tear them apart.
Darius the Great Deserves Better by Adib Khorram - Darius Kellner suddenly has it all: a boyfriend, an internship, a spot on the soccer team. It’s everything he’s ever wanted–but what if he deserves better?
Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore - Summer, 1518. A strange sickness sweeps through Strasbourg: women dance in the streets, some until they fall down dead. As rumors of witchcraft spread, suspicion turns toward Lavinia and her family. Five centuries later, a pair of red shoes seal to Rosella Oliva’s feet, making her dance uncontrollably. They draw her toward a boy who knows the dancing fever’s history better than anyone: Emil.
Date Me, Bryson Keller by Kevin van Whye - Everyone knows about the dare: Each week, Bryson Keller must date someone new--the first person to ask him out on Monday morning. Few think Bryson can do it. He may be the king of Fairvale Academy, but he's never really dated before. Until a boy, Kai Sheridan, asks him out, and everything changes.
Daughters of Jubilation by Kara Lee Corthron - In Jim Crow South, black teen Evalene Deschamps finds her place among a family of women gifted with magical abilities, known as jubilation - a gift passed down from generations of black women since the time of slavery.
Dear Justyce (Dear Martin #2) by Nic Stone - Incarcerated teen Quan writes letters to Justyce about his experiences in the American prison system.
Deathless Divide (Dread Nation #2) by Justina Ireland - After the fall of Summerland, Jane McKeene hoped her life would get simpler. But nothing is easy when you're a girl trained in putting down the restless dead, and a devastating loss on the road to Nicodermus has Jane questioning everything she thought she knew about surviving in 1880's America.
Diamond City by Francesca Flores - Young assassin Aina Solís unravels a conspiracy after a job gone wrong, which could rewrite her city Koshima’s history and—if it isn’t stopped—sink her country into a catastrophic war.
Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From by Jennifer De Leon - First-generation American Latinx student Liliana Cruz does what it takes to fit in at her new nearly all-white school. But when family secrets spill out and racism at school ramps up, she must decide what she believes in and take a stand.
Don’t Read the Comments by Eric Smith - After a chance online meeting, gamers Divya and Aaron decides to team up – but soon find themselves the targets of a group of internet trolls who begin launching a real-world doxxing campaign. But Divya isn’t going down without a fight.
Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang - In his latest graphic novel, Yang turns the spotlight on his life, his family, and the high school where he teaches.
Each of Us a Desert by Mark Oshiro - Xochital is destined to wander the desert alone. Her one desire: to share her heart with a kindred spirit. One night, Xo's wish is granted—in the form of Emilia, the cold and beautiful daughter of the town's murderous mayor. But when the two set out on a magical journey across the desert, they find their hearts could be a match... if only they can survive the nightmare-like terrors that arise when the sun goes down.
Early Departures by Justin A. Reynolds - Jamal’s best friend Q is brought back to life after a freak accident . . . but they only have a short time together before he will die again. How can Jamal fix his friendship without the truth?
Everybody Looking by Candice Iloh - Told in-verse, Ada, the daughter of an immigrant Nigerian father and an African American mother, struggles to find a place for herself in America and in her own family.
The Ever Cruel Kingdom (The Never Tilting World #2) by Rin Chupeco - To break the cycle of sacrifice, twins Haidee and Odessa need answers that lie beyond the seven gates of the underworld, within the Cruel Kingdom itself. The shadows of the underworld may hunger to tear them apart, but these two sisters are determined to heal their world—together.
Every Reason We Shouldn’t by Sara Fujimura - 15-year-old, biracial figure skater Olivia Kennedy’s Olympic dreams have ended. She's bitter, but enjoying life as a regular teen... until Jonah Choi starts training at her family's struggling rink. But will this rivalry bring her closer to Jonah, or drive them apart?
Felix After After by Kacen Callender - Black trans teen Felix Love begins a journey of questioning and self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself.
Fight Like A Girl by Sheena Kamal - Trisha's trying to break the chain, channeling her violent impulses into Muay Thai. Until the night her father wanders out drunk in front of the car Trisha is driving, practicing on her learner's permit, her mother in the passenger seat. Her father is killed, but Trisha doesn't know exactly what happened that night, and afraid it's going to happen again.
The First 7 (The Last 8 #2) by Laura Pohl - The thrilling conclusion to The Last 8 duology that follows the Last Teenagers on Earth, led by Clover Martinez, as they head home to a now-hostile planet.
Forest of Souls (Shamanborn #1) by Lori M. Lee - Sirscha Ashwyn, while training to become the queen's next royal spy, discovers she's a rare and powerful lightwender and is summoned to the realm of the Spider King, where her newly awakened abilities are needed to cull the bloodthirsty Dead Wood.
Found by Joseph Bruchac - A teenage survival expert finds all his skills tested as he's pursued through the Canadian wilderness after witnessing a murder.
Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust - As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Princess Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time.
Gotham High by Melissa de la Cruz - Before they became Batman, Catwoman, and The Joker, Bruce, Selina, and Jack were high schoolers who would do whatever it took--to satisfy their own motives.
Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson - Enchanted Jones, an aspiring singer, is spotted by legendary R&B artist Korey Fields at an audition. And suddenly her dream of being a professional singer takes flight. But her dream soon turns into a nightmare. But now Korey is dead. And all signs point to Enchanted.
Harley in the Sky by Akemi Dawn Bowman - Aspiring trapeze artist Harley Milano leaves home, betrays her family and joins a rival circus. But Harley must soon come to terms with the truth of her family and her past—and reckon with the sacrifices she made and the people she hurt in order to follow her dreams.
Heiress Apparently by Diana Ma - Chinese-American actress Gemma Huang living in L.A. lands her dream role set to film in Beijing, in an update of M. Butterfly, and discovers that she's descended from Chinese nobility.
The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar - When a school competition invites students to create their own businesses, Flávia and Nishat choose to do henna. Amidst sabotage and school stress, their lives get more tangled—but Nishat can’t quite get rid of her crush on Flávia.
Here The Whole Time by Vitor Martins - Felipe and Caio must spend fifteen days living with each other over school break.
Hunted by the Sky by Tanaz Bhathena - Set in a world inspired by medieval India, the story tells of a girl, Gul, with a star-shaped birthmark who is prophesied to be the downfall of a tyrant king, the warrior women who come to her aid, and the boy she falls in love with.
If You Only Knew by Prerna Pickett - A boy recently released from jail, Corey, and the daughter of a prosecutor, Tessa, fall for each other against the odds.
I’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee - Bisexual Korean-American Skye Shin competes on a reality TV show to become the first plus-sized k-pop star, while falling in love with her competitor Henry Cho, also a world-famous celebrity.
Imagine Me (Shatter Me #6) by Tahereh Mafi - With old enemies looming, Juliette Ferrar’s destiny may not be her own.The day of reckoning for the Reestablishment is coming. But she may not get to choose what side to fight for.
Incendiary by Zoraida Cordova - As Renata Convida grows more deeply embedded in the politics of the royal court, she uncovers a secret in her past that could change the entire fate of the kingdom--and end a costly war.
Infinity Son by Adam Silvera - In the Bronx, two brothers, Emil and Brighton, get caught up in a magical war generations in the making.
The Iron Will of Genie Lo (Epic Crush of Genie Lo #2) by F.C. Yee - Along with a few other contenders for the throne, heaven-appointed guardian Genie and her friends embark on a Heavenly quest to an in-between world.
Jake in the Box by Ryan Douglass - To protect himself from possession, 16-year-old black teen Jake Livingston will have to master his power over both dead world and reality and discover his own reason to live.
K-Pop Confidential by Stephan Lee - Korean-American teen Candace Park travels to Seoul in hopes of debuting in a girl group at the same k-pop company behind the most popular boy band on the planet.
The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu - Born with a gift for music, Nannerl Mozart has just one wish--to be remembered forever. One day, a mysterious stranger from a magical land appears with an irresistible offer. He has the power to make her wish come true--but his help may cost her everything.
Legendborn by Tracy Deonn - In this King Arthur retelling, black teen Bree Matthews infiltrates a secret society of powerful magic wielders to find out the truth behind her mother's untimely death.
Lobizona by Romina Garber - As Manuela Azul uncovers her own story and traces her real heritage all the way back to a cursed city in Argentina, she learns it's not just her U.S. residency that's illegal. . . .it's her entire existence.
Love on the Main Stage by S.A. Domingo - 16-year-old songwriter Nova is having the best summer of her life. Helping out with her parents' food truck, she gets to attend not one, but five different music festivals! Things get even better when she meets cute American boy, Sam, an aspiring musician like her. Nova never expects to see Sam again. But to her surprise they keep meeting up at music festivals . . .and she begins to hope for more than a summer fling.
A Love Hate Thing by Whitney D. Grandison - When Tyson Trice and Nandy Smith find themselves stuck living together under one roof, the house may not be big enough for their hate…or their love.
Loveboat, Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen - 18-year-old Everett Wong is shipped off to Taiwan by her strict parents to study Mandarin for the summer. She finds, though, that the program is actually an infamous teen meet-market nicknamed Loveboat. Free for the first time, Ever sets out to break all her parents’ uber-strict rules—but how far can she go before she breaks her own heart?
Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know by Samira Ahmed - The lives of two young women, Khayyam and Leila, fight to write their own stories and escape the pressure of familial burdens and cultural expectations in worlds too long defined by men. Echoing across centuries, Leila and Khayyam’s lives intertwine, and as one woman’s long-forgotten life is uncovered, another’s is transformed.
The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen - An intergenerational story of a mother and son struggling to relate to each other—the mother an immigrant to America who wants to make a home for her family in an unfamiliar country; the son Tiế trying to figure out the best way to come out to his parents. Through telling each other fairy tales, they're able to find common ground.
Malice by Pintip Dunn - In a race against the clock, Malice finds herself falling for the boy in school, meant to wipe out two-thirds of the population with a virus.
The Meet-Cute Project by Rhiannon Richardson - A rom-com about a girl, Mia, who prefers watching romances, until she's challenged by her friends to create real-life meet cutes to find a date for her older sister Sam’s wedding.
The Mermaid, The Witch, and The Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall - A desperate orphan turned pirate, Flora, and a rebellious imperial daughter, Lady Evelyn Hasegawa, find a connection on the high seas abroad the Dove, in a world divided by colonialism and threaded with magic.
Miss Meteor by Tehlor Kay Mejia & Anna-Marie McLemore - Two friends, Lita Perez or Chicky Quintanilla, one made of stardust and one fighting to save her family's diner, take on their small town's 50th annual pageant in the hopes that they can change their town's destiny, and their own.
More Than Just A Pretty Face by Syed M. Masood - Danyal Jilani recruits the brilliant, totally-uninterested-in-him Bisma to help with the competition, but the more time Danyal spends with her, the more he realizes that happiness may be staring him right in his pretty face.
My Summer of Love and Misfortune by Lindsay Wong - Chinese-American Iris Wang who takes a trip to China to reconnect with her roots after being dumped by her boyfriend and rejected from every college she applied to. What she doesn’t expect is to meet a handsome Mandarin-language tutor named Frank and to be swept up in the ridiculous, opulent world of Beijing’s rich elite.
Never Look Back by Lilliam Rivera - An Afro-Latinx retelling of Orpheus and Eurydice set in the Bronx. Pheus is a bachata-singing dreamer who falls in love with Eury, a girl who lost everything in Hurricane Maria and is haunted by the trauma—and by an evil spirit.
The New David Espinoza by Fred Aceves - David Espinoza is tired of being messed with. As David falls into the dark side of the bodybuilding world, pursuing his ideal body at all costs, he’ll have to grapple with the fact that it could actually cost him everything
The Night Dragon (Shadow of the Fox #3) by Julie Kagawa - As darkness rises and chaos reigns, fierce kitsune shapeshifter Yumeko and her shadowy protector Kage Tatsumi, will face down the greatest evil of all.
Not So Pure and Simple by Lamar Giles - Del’s had a crush on Kiera Westing since kindergarten. And now, during their junior year, she’s finally available. So when Kiera volunteers for an opportunity at their church, Del’s right behind her. But he soon realizes he’s inadvertently signed up for a Purity Pledge.
Now That I’ve Found You by Kristina Forest - Evie, granddaughter of film icon Evelyn Conaway, flees to New York after a disastrous viral video seemingly tanks her young career. When her grandma vanishes, Evie reluctantly teams up with live-in helper and burgeoning superstar musician Milo to find her.
Oculta (A Forgery of Magic #2) by Maya Motayne - After joining forces to save Castallan from an ancient magical evil, Alfie and Finn reunite once again to preserve Castallan’s hopes for peace with Englass. But will they be able to stop sinister foes before a new war threatens their kingdom?
Of Curses and Kisses by Sandhya Menon - A Beauty and the Beast re-telling set at a prestigious boarding school for modern royals, about an Indian princess, Jaya Rao, who must con her worst enemy, misanthropic British aristocrat, Grey Emerson, into falling in love with her in order to restore honor to her family.
On This Unworthy Scaffold by Heidi Heilig - The stunning conclusion of the Shadow Players trilogy, following shadow player Jetta.
The Only Back Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert - Follows the complex friendship between the only two black girls, Alberta and Edie, in their California Central Coast beach town as they discover a collection of hidden journals that uncover shocking family secrets.
Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzalez - Ollie meets his dream guy, Will Tavares, over summer break in this queer take on Grease.
Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by Octavia Butler - In 2024, Lauren Olamina, a preacher’s daughter living in LA, is protected from danger by the walls of her gated community. However, in a night of fire and death, what begins as a fight for survival soon leads to something much more: a startling vision of human destiny . . . and the birth of a new faith.
Parachutes by Kelly Yang - two immigrant girls, Claire Wang and Dani de la Cruz, on a collision course - one plucked from her privileged life in Shanghai and the other, a scholarship student determined to earn her way into an Ivy League school - grapple with life-altering experiences they wish they could erase.
The Perfect Escape by Suzanne Park - Korean-American teen, Nate “Jae Woo” Kim meets his dream girl, Kate Anderson, at the zombie-themed escape room where they both work, and team up for a survivalist competition with a huge cash prize, finding love along the way.
A Phoenix First Must Burn: 16 Stories of Black Girl Magic, Resistance, and Hope edited by Patrice Caldwell - Filled with stories of love and betrayal, strength and resistance, this collection contains an array of complex and true-to-life characters in which you cannot help but see yourself reflected. Witches and scientists, sisters and lovers, priestesses and rebels.
Punching the Air by Yusef Salaam & Ibi Zoboi - An in-verse novel about 16-year-old Amal Shahid, an artist and poet, as he is convicted of a crime he didn't commit and sent to prison where he turns to the refuge of his art.
The Queen’s Assassin by Melissa de la Cruz - When a surprise attack brings Shadow and Cal together, they're forced to team up as assassin and apprentice to hunt down a new sinister threat to the Kingdom of Renovia.
Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko - In a West African-inspired empire, Tarisai is raised by The Lady and sent to kill the Crown Prince once she gains his trust. Tarisai won’t stand by and become someone’s pawn—but is she strong enough to choose a different path for herself?
Rebel Sisters (War Girls #2) by Tochi Onyebuchi - Though they are working toward common goals of helping those who suffered, Ify and Uzo are worlds apart. But when a mysterious virus breaks out among the children in the Space Colonies, their paths collide.
Rebelwing by Andrea Tang - At a prestigious prep school, scholastic student Prudence Wu, who smuggles censored media in a futuristic North America divided by culture wars and becomes an unlikely revolutionary, after being imprinted by Rebelwing, a sentient cybernetic dragon.
Rent a Boyfriend by Gloria Chao - College student Chloe Wang hires a fake boyfriend, the artistic Drew Chan, to appease her traditional Taiwanese parents, but when she falls for the guy behind the role who is not parent-worthy, her carefully curated life begins to unravel.
Running by Natalia Sylvester - When 15-year-old Cuban American Mariana Ruiz’s father runs for president, Mari starts to see him with new eyes. A novel about waking up and standing up, and what happens when you stop seeing your dad as your herowhile the whole country is watching.
Salty, Bitter, Sweet by Mayra Cuevas - 17-year-old Isabelle Fields from Chicago whose family life has fallen apart after the death of her abuela and the divorce of her parents, turns to a kitchen apprenticeship in Lyon, France as the only means to bring order back into her life, where she makes peace with her family and finds love in an irresistible Spaniard and his albino French bulldog,
Sanctuary by Abby Sher & Paola Mendoza - In a near future dystopian America set 2030, 16-year-old Vail and her brother must escape a xenophobic government to find sanctuary in California.
Saving Savannah by Tonya Bolden - In the early 1990s, Savannah is the daughter of an upper-class African American family in Washington D.C. But she soon meets a working-class girl named Nell who introduces her to the suffragette and socialist movements, inspiring her to fight for change.
Scammed (Vale Hall #2) by Kristen Simmons - Brynn is living a life she never dreamed possible: She lives in a mansion, getting a top-rate education at Vale Hall. She has friends and an almost-boyfriend. Anything she wants, she can have.The only catch? To stay in this life, she has to help the director of Vale Hall take down the bad guys of Sikawa City by collecting secrets and running cons.
Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim - In the city-state of Moray, Amaya, orphaned by a powerful merchant's greed and condemned to seven years aboard a debtor's ship, returns to seek revenge only to encounter the merchant's son in this gender-swapped retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo.
The Serpent’s Curse (The Last Magician #3) by Lisa Maxwell - The last book in The Last Magician trilogy.
Set Fire to the Gods by Sara Raasch & Kristen Simmons - Set in a Greco-Roman inspired world, which follows the daughter of a murdered champion, Ash, seeking vengeance against the god of fire, and an underprivileged stonemason, Madoc, fighting to reclaim his standing under the god of earth as they are swept into an ancient war between gods and mortals
Seven Deadly Shadows by Courtney Alameda & Valynne Maetani - Set in contemporary Japan, Shinto temple priestess Kira Fujikawa, must seek the aid of seven ruthless shinigami, in order to protect Kyoto from an ancient evil.
The Shadow Misson (The Athena Protocol #2) by Shamim Sharif - The follow-up sequel to The Athena Protocol.
The Shadow of Kyoshi (Kyoshi #2) by F.C. Yee - Kyoshi’s place as the true Avatar has finally been cemented. With her mentors gone, Kyoshi voyages across the Four Nations, struggling to keep the peace. But while her reputation grows, a mysterious threat emerges from the Spirit World. To stop it, Kyoshi, Rangi, and their reluctant allies must join forces.
Shadow of the Batgirl by Sarah Kuhn - Cassandra Cain, teenage assassin, isn't exactly Batgirl material. But when Batgirl goes missing from Gotham, can Cassandra defy her destiny and take on a heroic mantle of her very own?
Shadowshaper Legacy (Shadowshaper #3) by Daniel Jose Older -
Sierra Santiago and the shadowshapers have been split apart, but a war is brewing among the houses. As old fates tangle with new powers, Sierra will have to harness the Deck of Worlds and confront her family's past if she has any hope of saving the future and everyone she loves.
Shine by Jessica Jung - Korean American teen Rachel Kim, is thrust into the competitive, technicolor world of k-pop, but complications arise when she falls for k-pop star and golden boy Jason Lee.
Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland - A Mexican-American teenage girl discovers profound connections between immigration, folklore, and alien life, when a spacecraft crashes in front of her car…and it’s carrying her long-lost mom, who’s very much alive.
The Silence of Bones by June Hur - In 1880s Korea, 16-year-old Seol, indentured to the police bureau, takes a murder investigation of a noblewoman into her own hands, delving into a restless city swirling with intrigue and secrets.
The Silvered Serpents (The Gilded Wolves #2) by Roshani Chokshi - Séverin and his team members might have successfully thwarted the Fallen House, but at a terrible cost. Desperate to make amends, Séverin pursues a dangerous lead to find a long lost artifact rumored to grant its possessor the power of God. Their hunt lures them far from Paris, and into icy heart of Russia.
A Sky Beyond the Storm (An Ember in the Ashes #2) by Sabaa Tahir - Laia of Serra is now allied with the Blood Shrike, Helen Aquilla. Determined to stop the approaching apocalypse, she throws herself into the destruction of the Nightbringer. In the process, she awakens an ancient power that could lead her to victory--or to an unimaginable doom.
Smash It! by Francina Simone - In this Othello retelling with a comedic twist, featuring themes of sexuality and sisterhood, Olivia “Liv” James decides to set aside her self doubts and go for her dreams and winds up with a part in her school musical and the interest of her two best friends,
So This Is Love by Elizabeth Lim - What if Cinderella never tried on the glass slipper? Unable to prove that she's the missing princess, and unable to bear life under Lady Tremaine any longer, Cinderella attempts a fresh start, looking for work at the palace as a seamstress. Faced with questions of love and loyalty to the kingdom, Cinderella must find a way to stop the villains of past and present.
Spell Starter (Caster #2) by Elsie Chapman - Yes, Aza Wu now has magic back, but now she’s in the employ of the gang leader, St. Willow. Who soon decides that having Aza as a fighter is much more lucrative than as a fixer.
Stamped: Racism, Antiracis, and You by Jason Reynolds & Ibram X. Kendi - A timely and empowering exploration of racism--and antiracism--in America.
Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar - Inspired by Hindu mythology, half-mortal, half-star Sheetal enters a celestial competition to save her human father's life.
Stolen Justice by Lawrence Goldstone - A thrilling and incisive examination of the post-Reconstruction era struggle for and suppression of African American voting rights in the United States.
Storm the Earth (Shatter the Sky #2) by Rebecca Kim Wells - Maren and her girlfriend Kaia set out to rescue Sev in Zafed, and free the dragons from the corrupt emperor.
The Summer of Everything by Julian Winters - Comic book geek Welsey Hudson excels at two things: slacking off at his job and pining after his best friend Nico Alvarez. But when his dream job at a used bookstore is threatened with a coffee shop franchise that wants to buy it; Wesley comes face-to-face with the thing he's been avoiding most—adulthood.
The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling by Wai Chim - Anna Chiu has her hands full looking after her brother and sister and helping out at her dad’s restaurant, while her mum stays in bed. But when Mum’s condition worsens, the Chius to question everything they understand about themselves and each other.
Super Fake Love Song by David Yoon - When Sunny Dae—self-proclaimed total nerd—meets Cirrus Soh, he can’t believe how cool and confident she is. So when Cirrus mistakes Sunny’s older brother Gray’s bedroom for Sunny’s own, he sort of, kind of, accidentally winds up telling her he’s the front man of a rock band. Before he knows it, Sunny is knee-deep in the lie.
Sword in the Stars (Once & Future #2) by Amy Rose Capetta & Cori McCarthy - To save the future, Ari Helix and her Rainbow knights pull off a heist...thousands of years in the past.
These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong - In 1920s Shanghai, starcrossed heirs to rival gangs, Juliette Cai and Roma Montagov, must work together to face a monster that hunts the city streets before the outbreak of the Chinese Civil War.
A Thief Among the Trees by Sabaa Tahir - This prequel graphic novel follows three young military recruits: Elias, Helene, and Tavi, during their brutal training as soldiers for the Martial Empire.
This Is All Your Fault by Aminah Mae Safi - Set on the first day of summer, in which three teens—a bookstagrammer, an aspiring poet, and a girl living through her Britney moment—set out to save their dying local bookstore.
This Is My America by Kim Johnson - Every week, 17-year-old Tracy Beaumont writes letters to Innocence X, asking the organization to help her father, an innocent Black man on death row. Then Tracy’s older brother, Jamal, goes from being a bright, promising track star to a “thug” on the run, accused of killing a white girl. Determined to save her brother, Tracy investigates what really happened between Jamal and Angela down at the Pike.
This Is My Brain In Love by I.W. Gregorio - Jocelyn Wu and her unlikely new employee, Will Domenici, must bring the Wu’s family restaurant, A-Plus Chinese Garden into the 21st century. What starts off as a rocky partnership soon grows into something more. But family prejudices and the uncertain future of A-Plus soon threatens to keep Will and Jocelyn apart.
Tigers, Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry - Loosely inspired by the story of King Lear and his daughters, set in San Antonio, Texas, following the Torres sisters, struggling to escape their tyrannical father's claustrophobic world while dealing with the loss of their eldest sister, whose troubling death continues to haunt—perhaps even literally—the loved ones left behind.
Turtle Under Ice by Juleal del Rosario - A novel-in-verse which follows the relationship of two sisters after one of them goes missing during a snowstorm.
Unravel the Dusk (The Blood of Stars #2) by Elizabeth Lim - With a war brewing, master tailor Maia Tamarin will stop at nothing to find her love Edan, protect her family, and bring lasting peace to her country.
Vicious Spirits (Gumiho #2) by Kat Cho - With the support of Somin and Junu, Miyoung and Jihoon might just have a shot at normalcy. But Miyoung is getting sicker by the day and her friends don't know how to save her. With few options remaining, Junu has an idea but it might require the ultimate sacrifice and, let's be honest, Junu isn't known for his "generosity."
The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert - In an all-in-one-day love story, first-time voters, Marva Sheridan and Duke Crenshaw, meet at their polling place and overcome obstacle after obstacle in order to cast ballots in a critical election.
Wayward Witch (Brooklyn Brujas #3) by Zoraida Cordova - Rose Mortiz begins to discover the scope of her powers, the troubling truth about her father’s past, and the sacrifices he made to save her sisters. But if Rose wants to return home so she can repair her broken family, she must figure out how to heal the land of Adas, a fairy realm hidden in the Caribbean Sea, first.
We Are Not Free by Traci Chee - A novel-in-stories that offers a collective account of a tight-knit group of young Nisei, second-generation Japanese-American citizens, whose lives are irrevocably changed by the U.S. mass incarcerations of World War II.
We Are Not From Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez - A ripped-from-the-headlines novel of desperation, escape, and survival across the U.S.-Mexico border focused on three teens, Pulga, Chico, and Pequeña.
We Are Totally Normal by Rahul Kanakia - One night after a party, Dave and Nandan hook up, which was not part of the plan—especially because Nandan has never been into guys. Still, Dave’s cool, and Nandan’s willing to give it a shot. But while Dave takes to their new relationship with ease, Nandan’s completely out of his depth. But is breaking up with the only person who’s ever really gotten him worth feeling “normal” again?
We Didn’t Ask for This by Adi Alsaid - Central International School’s annual lock-in is legendary — and for six students, this year’s lock-in is the answer to their dreams. But then a group of students, led by Marisa Cuevas, stage an eco-protest. While some students rally to the cause, others are devastated. And Marisa must now decide just how far she’ll go to attain her goals.
We Free the Stars (Sands of Arawiya #2) by Hafsah Faizal - When Zafria, the Hunter, and Nasir, the Prince of Death both embark on a quest to uncover a lost magic artifact, they encounter an ancient evil long thought destroyed - and discover that the prize they seek may be even more dangerous this time.
We Unleash the Merciless Storm (We Set the Dark on Fire #2) by Tehlor Kay Mejia - La Voz operative Carmen Santos is forced to choose between the girl she loves, Dani, and the success of the rebellion she’s devoted her life to.
When We Were Infinite by Kelly Lo Gilbert - All Beth wants is for her tight-knit circle of friends—Grace Nakamura, Brandon Lin, Sunny Chen and Jason Tsou—to stay together. Then Beth witnesses a private act of violence in Jason’s home, and the whole group is shaken. And Beth must decide how far she’s willing to go for him—and how much of herself she’s willing to give up.
When You Were Everything by Ashley Woodfolk - The story of how two best friends, Cleo and Layla, fall apart, told in alternating "Before" and "After" chapters. And despite budding new friendships with other classmates, Cleo’s turbulent past with Layla soon comes back to haunt them both.
Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles - Showgirl Kallia, haunted by a dark past, must compete in a magician's competition in order to secure her ambition and freedom from the handsome, enigmatic keeper of the club, Jack, even as mysterious accidents seem to plague her every move, while crossing paths with another talented magician, Demarco.
Where We Go From Here by Lucas Rocha - In Brazil, three gay teens, Ian, Victor, and Henrique, find their lives intertwined in the face of HIV.
Wicked As You Wish by Rin Chupeco - A girl descended from Filipina mythological heroine Maria Makiling, finds herself caught up in a war between two fairy tale kingdoms, where the fate of Avalon is at stake.
Windborn by Mary Fan - With magicians hot on their trail, air nymph Kiri and magician’s apprentice Darien embark on a treacherous journey through dangerous lands to freedom.
Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibanez - Set in a Bolivian-inspired kingdom, magically gifted weaver and decoy Ximena plays the role of double agent to restore her queen to a troubled throne.
Yes No Maybe So by Aisha Saeed & Becky Albertalli - Two teens. Jamie Goldberg and Maya Rehman, fall in love while canvassing for a local election, discovering the power of activism as they navigate cross-cultural relationships.
You Brought Me the Ocean by Alex Sanchez - Jake Hyde doesn’t swim––not since his father drowned. There’s nothing “safe” about Jake’s future—not when he’s attracted to Kenny Liu, swim team captain. But Jake is full of secrets, including the strange blue markings on his skin that glow when in contact with water. What power will he find when he searches for his identity?
You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson - In her small, prom-obsessed Midwestern hometown, self-declared band geek and black teen Liz Lighty enters the Prom Queen race with a college scholarship on the line—only to fall for the competition, new girl Mack.
Zara Hossain Is Here by Sabina Khan - 17-year-old Pakistani immigrant, Zara Hossain, has been leading a fairly typical life in Corpus Christi, Texas. She has to lay low, trying not to jeopardize their family's dependent visa status while they await their green card approval. But after facing a racist hate crime, Zara must choose between fighting to stay in the only place she's ever called home or losing the life she loves and everyone in it.
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Happy Pride! Enjoy this book rec list of fiction books with LGBTQ+ and Black representation, written by Black authors! Goodreads and Bookshop.org links and text version of the list below the cut.
Some of these books involve some pretty heavy content, be careful to check content warnings!
ETA: I’ve also compiled a list of ✨ sci-fi/fantasy ✨ books with black & lgbt+ rep by Black authors! You can find it here
You Should See Me in a Crown - Leah Johnson
While running for Prom Queen for the scholarship that comes with the title, Liz Lighty starts to fall for her competition.
Felix Ever After - Kacen Callender
Own voices novel about a Black, Queer, and Trans teen who deals with transphobia, fights back, and falls in love.
The Only Black Girls in Town - Brandy Colbert
Middle-grade novel about Alberta and Edie, two girls who discover a box of old journals in Edie’s attic and learn about the past.
The Black Flamingo - Dean Atta
“A boy comes to terms with his identity as a mixed-race gay teen - then at university he finds his wings as a drag artist, The Black Flamingo.”
Cinderella is Dead - Kalynn Bayron
In a post-Cinderella world, young women are brought to balls to be selected as wives or never be heard from again. Sophia is expected to attend but is in love with Erin, her childhood best friend. Sophia finds friends along her way and they work to overthrow their oppressors.
Meet Cute Club - Jack Harbon
Romance novel enthusiast Jordan starts a book club that’s joined by a (handsome) coworker Jordan hates and maybe learns to love.
Full Disclosure - Camryn Garrett
“The uplifting story of an HIV-positive teen, falling in love and learning to live her truth.”
Jake in the Box - Ryan Douglass
A supernatural horror story about Jake, a boy who can see the dead.
goodreads (This one isn’t on Bookshop or indiebound, I’d recommend requesting it at your library or local indie bookstore!)
I found some of these from Roseanne A. Brown’s twitter thread here: https://twitter.com/rosiesrambles/status/1267462532589125632
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MASSIVE list of book recs
death of a salesman, arthur miller
a streetcar named desire, tennessee williams
a raisin in the sun, lorraine hansberry
a midsummer night’s dream, shakespeare
king lear, shakespeare
the glass menagerie, tennessee williams
pygmalion, george bernard shaw
the tempest, shakespeare,
much ado about nothing, shakespeare
as you like it, shakespeare
the taming of the shrew, shakespeare
the merry wives of windsor, shakespeare
the merchant of venice, shakespeare
oedipus rex, sophocles
an ideal husband, oscar wilde
who’s afraid of virginia wolf, edward albee
our town, thornton wilder
waiting for godot, samuel beckett
the ranger’s apprentice, john flanagan
harry potter series, j.k. rowling
inkheart by cornelia funke
throne of glass, sarah j. maas
the chronicles of narnia, c.s. louis
the lord of the rings, j.r.r. tolkien
the hobbit, j.r.r. tolkien
percy jackson and the olympions, rick riordan
eragon by christopher paolini
the bartimaeus trilogy, jonathan stroud
howl’s moving castle, dianna wynne jones
the wonderful wizard of oz, lyman frank baum
the books of bayern, shannon hale
ella enchanted, gail carson levine
the princess bride, william goldman
the raven cycle, maggie stiefvater
the sisters grimm, michael buckley
the spiderwick chronicles, tony diterlizzi and holly black
the alchemist, paulo coelho
forgive my fins, tera lynn childs
alice in wonderland, lewis carroll
the faerie path, allan jones frewin
the school for good and evil, soman chainani
the grimm legacy, polly shulman
the sweetest spell, suzanne selfors
the tales of the frog princess, e.d. baker
the wide-awake princess, e.d. baker
once a witch, carolyn maccullough
the silver bowl series, diane stanley
the emily windsnap series, liz kessler
fairest, gail carson levine
the fairy realm series, emily rodda
the water mirror, kai meyer
the two princesses of bamarre, gail carson levine
the seven habits of highly effective people, stephen covey
the seven habits of highly effective teens, sean covey
mencken’s chrestomathy, h.l. mencken
yes please, amy poehler
is everyone hanging out without me? (and other concerns), mindy kaling
audrey hepburn: an elegant spirit, sean hepburn ferrer
how to be lovely: the audrey hepburn way of life, melissa hellstern
how to win friends and influence people, dale carnegie
how to win friends and influence people for teen girls, donna dale carnegie
#girlboss by sophia amuroso
14,000 things to be happy about, barbara ann kipfer
choose to matter, julie foudy
the little book of skin care: korean beauty secrets for healthy, glowing skin, charlotte cho
where stylists shop: the fashion insider’s ultimate guide, booth moore
the girls’ book of glamour: a guide to being a goddess, jeffrie sally
the girls’ book: how to be the best at everything, juliana foster
the girls’ book of excellence: even more ways to be the best at everything, sally norton
the life-changing magic of not giving a f*ck: how to stop spending time you don't have with people you don't like doing things you don't want to do (a no f*cks given guide), sarah knight
bossypants, tina fey
we should all be feminists by chimamanda ngozi adichie
behind the scenes: or, thirty years a slave, and four years in the white house, elizabeth keckley
the pillow book, sei shōnagon
eat pretty: nutrition for beauty, inside and out, jolene hart
eat pretty every day: 365 daily inspirations for nourishing beauty, inside and out, jolene hart
narrative of the life of frederick douglass, frederick douglass
narrative of sojourner truth, sojourner truth
12 years a slave, solomon northup
night, elie wiesel
the flowers of evil, charles baudelaire
a season in hell, arthur rimbaud
she walks in beauty, lord byron
shakespeare’s sonnets, shakespeare
we real cool, gwendolyn brooks
poems of emily dickinson
poems of robert frost
leaves of grass, walt whitman
the raven, edgar allen poe
poems of edgar allen poe
milk and honey by rupi kaur
the sun and her flowers, rupi kaur
the princess saves herself in this one, amanda lovelace
romeo and juliet, shakespeare
emma, jane austen
ever, gail carson levine
pride and prejudice, jane austen
eleanor and park, rainbow rowell
sense and sensibility, jane austen
jane eyre, charlotte brontë
landline, rainbow rowell
madame bovary, gustave flaubert
to all the boys i’ve loved before, jenny han
love in the time of cholera, gabriel garcía márquez
the sun is also a star, nicola yoon
fangirl, rainbow rowell
great expectations, charles dickens
aristotle and dante discover the secrets of the universe, benjamin alire sáenz
when the moon was ours, anna-marie mclemore
the goldfinch, donna tartt
looking for alaska, john green
we were liars, e. lockhart
the wrath and the dawn, renée ahdieh
little women, louisa may alcott
palace of spies, sarah zettel
the clique series, lisi harrison
the finishing school series, gail carriger
eyes like stars, lisa mantchev
the ever after high series, shannon hale
along for the ride, sarah dessen
girl online, zoe sugg
keeping the castle, patrice kindl
stargirl, jerry spinelli
stir it up, ramin ganeshram
prom and prejudice, elizabeth eulberg
the summer i saved the world...in 65 days, michele weber hurwitz
pink and green series by lisa greenwald
six of crows, leigh bardugo
the catcher in the rye, j.d. salinger
the house on mango street, sandra cisneros
turtles all the way down, john green
under the lights, dahlia adler
geekerella, ashley poston
simon vs. the homo sapiens agenda, becky albertalli
it’s not like it’s a secret, misa sugiura
the idiot, elif batuman
the outsiders, s.e. hinton
everything leads to you, nina lacour
a wrinkle in time, madeleine l’engle
dumplin’, julie murphy
the great gatsby, f. scott fitzgerald
the scarlet letter, nathaniel hawthorne
a tale of two cities, charles dickens
the song of achilles, madeline miller
the last of the mohicans, james fenimore cooper
the constant princess, philippa gregory
the count of monte cristo, alexandre dumas
les misérables, victor hugo
war and peace, leo tolstoy
a mad, wicked folly, sharon biggs waller
manor of secrets, katherine longshore
to kill a mockingbird, harper lee
uncle tom’s cabin, harriet beecher stowe
atonement ian mcewan
the unbearable lightness of being, milan kundera
things fall apart, chinua achebe
ophelia, lisa m. klein
the god of small things, arundhati roy
frankenstein, mary shelley
dracula, bram stoker
the picture of dorian gray, oscar wilde
wuthering heights, emily brontë
catch-22, joseph heller
don quixote, miguel de cervantes
animal farm, george orwell
the importance of being earnest, oscar wilde
the city of ember, jeanne duprau
1984, george orwell
the handmaid’s tale, margaret atwood
brave new world, aldous huxley
the lunar chronicles, marissa meyer
the time machine, h.g. wells
the fourteenth goldfish, jennifer l. holm
fahrenheit 451, ray bradbury
twenty thousand leagues under the sea, jules verne
the extraordinary voyages series, jules verne
beowulf, author unknow
the odyssey, homer
the iliad, homer
the bhagavad gita, vyasa
the mahabharata, vyasa
inferno, dante alighieri
the bell jar, sylvia plath
the secret history, donna tartt
swann’s way, marcel proust
the art of war, sun tzu
the awakening, kate chopin
moby dick, herman melville
anna karenina, leo tolstoy
the canterbury tales, geoffrey chaucer
the crucible, arthur miller
one flew over the cuckoo’s nest, ken kesey
the antichrist, friedrich nietzsche
sew zoey, nancy taylor and chloe zhang
the candymakers, wendy mass
my sister the vampire series, sienna mercer
eight hundred grapes, laura dave
their eyes were watching god, zora neale hurston
the adventures of huckleberry finn, mark twain
the adventures of tom sawyer, mark twain
a christmas carol, charles dickens
the old man and the sea, ernest hemingway
to the lighthouse, virginia woolf
utopia, thomas more
a spy in the house of love, anaïs nin
crime and punishment, fyodor dostoyevsky
the assistants, camille perri
a room of one’s own, virginia woolf
the joy luck club, amy tan
sputnik sweetheart, haruki murakami
the namesake, jhumpa lahiri
a thousand splendid suns, khaled hosseini
crazy rich asians, kevin kwan
save the date, morgan matson
neuromancer, william gibson
thanks for reading! i hope this helped some of you out. hugs, mel ✨✨✨
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a disclaimer for the following post: i wrote this at a time when i was incredibly insecure. i felt incompetent in many areas of my life, and you can see that reflected in the books i chose to include in my list. although i did not lie (i really did enjoy all of the books on the list), these are not books that i think everyone should read. most of them did not change my life; they were good literature, and nothing more. i have grown up a little bit since making the list, and i recognize now how immature it was to make this list of books everyone “should” read, in an attempt to sound educated and feel intelligent. i’m not going to delete the list, because it does have some really good books on it, but life is too short to read books out of a sense of obligation. so either read these because you want to, or read something else instead :)
20 books everyone needs to read at least once because people will reference them in front of you your entire life:
“the faerie queene,” by edmund spenser. this poem is both an epic and an allegory, written in (mostly) iambic pentameter. it is divided up into six books (plus a little bit of a seventh) which you should read, if for no other reason than the fact that there’s supposedly an exclusive book club at harvard university for the select few people who have finished all six sections
“romeo and juliet,” and “othello,” both by shakespeare. these plays both involve two lovers who die because of communication issues. and they’re both super important to read because there are so many references to them, both in other pieces of classic lit., and in modern culture
“the picture of dorian gray,” by oscar wilde. if you can’t tell, this is my favorite book ever. if you can get past the purple prose, it’s one of the most ‘dark academia’ books ever. it’s got references to other famous pieces of literature (which i’ll include on the list), lots of gay shit, a dramatic young adult who loves shakespeare, and ofc, murder
“the brothers karamazov,” by fyodor dostoevsky. actually started reading this one to impress a boy; i think that perhaps he and i have different concepts of what is considered impressive, but the book has turned out amazing, so i’m happy. it has lots of wonderful philosophical and theological discussions. the one thing you may not like is that Dostoevsky constantly goes off on little tangents (like Herodotus). it simultaneously fascinates me and makes me want to smack him with a stick
“the prince,” by niccolo machiavelli. this isn’t classic literature so much as it is political science, but honestly, so many people talk about ‘machiavellianism’ without ever having read the original Machiavellian treatise, and it would be so much better to just read the book and then be able to cite machiavelli himself at your next political-philosophy discussion.
“the canterbury tales,” by geoffrey chaucer. these are classics. they’re filled to the brim with medieval language and sexual innuendo, but that’s part of what makes them so wonderful. if that’s not enough of a selling point, ‘the tale of the deathly hallows’ from “harry potter” is super similar to ‘the pardoner’s tale’ from this book.
“the divine comedy,” by dante alighieri. includes a crap ton of great history references and some super sick burns directed towards the corrupt people of dante’s time.
“meditations,” by marcus aurelius. the original metaphysical journal. probably the epitome of ‘light academia’ if i’ve ever read one
“the great gatsby,” by f. scott fitzgerald. jay gatsby is low-key super relatable...and so is nick, the third wheel...and so is daisy, who feels like women are forced by society to be ‘beautiful little fools’
“the iliad” and “the odyssey,” by homer. i will never ever be able to read ‘the iliad’ again without sobbing hysterically. :’((
“frankenstein,” by mary shelley. not only is this a great book in terms of philosophical potential, but there are so many great things to debate about in it. and, it’s written by a woman :)
“oedipus rex,” by sophocles. my favorite book in 9th grade, though god knows why my mother let me read it then
“metamorphoses,” by ovid. a collection of my all-time favorite myths, which every single person needs to read because it explains how the ancient romans believed the world operated, from the way the sun rises, to the reason we hear echoes.
“the aeneid,” by virgil. suggested by @catilinas :) the final addition to the holy iliad/odyssey/aeneid trinity, written hundreds of years after the last part, by a different author, and in latin instead of the original greek. chronologically ocurrs at about the same time as the odyssey, although from the trojan perspective.
“1984” (suggested by @alexickotowaffle) and “animal farm,” both by george orwell. i’m sticking them together because although the plots are completely different, they both remind me of today’s culture in rather unfortunate ways. but they’re very well written, and i do adore orwell’s style :)
“don quixote,” by miguel de cervantes. an absolutely hysterical book; i kept laughing out loud the entire time i was reading it. it satirizes getting wrapped up in the world of books, to which i’m sure we can all relate.
“hamlet,” by william shakespeare. finally crossed this off of my “to read” list and i absolutely loved it. hamratio (is that the ship name for hamlet x horatio?) is wonderful, the whole play is excellent, and i would highly recommend it
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hey so i made a massive database of 900 (and counting) sapphic books, sortable by age, genre and rep! take a look if u feel so inclined (and maybe retweet my tweet?). there’s a submissions page if u catch any i’ve missed (or any incorrect info on them), but pls do check i’ve not just sorted it in a way you don’t expect!
edit, 24th may: i took the site off w*x because it’s an israeli site, so the new address will be @sapphicreadsdb on here, though there may be some delay in it being functional again
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okay you know what, while I’m complaining about things on the internet: the way people generally handle book recs on this site is.....bad.
Do you KNOW how many posts ostensibly serving as “rec lists” I’ve seen that are basically just....representation checklists? “Here’s a list of books with LGBT protagonists!” “Here’s a list of books by Black authors!”
[id: “Ah, great! What is it.” gif.]
You gonna tell me what any of these twenty books are, like, about?
The format is a) annoying b) unhelpful and c) doing an active disservice to books you’re clearly trying to get other people to read, but rather more importantly...
d) Reducing the entire concept of literally any book not by white authors about cishet white protagonists down to “basically interchangeable, right?” is not nearly as progressive as you seem to think it is. And yes, many of the book recs are a little more specific--”Here’s a list of fantasy books by Black authors!” “Here’s a list of sci-fi books with trans characters!” but you are all still badly missing the point of a RECOMMENDATION post.
I am ALL FOR making big long lists of great, diverse book recs! But for god’s sake--y’all have GOT to start actually reccing the BOOK instead of the only information provided being “Has a lesbian protagonist!!!” That is not a book rec. It’s just not. It doesn’t tell me ANYTHING I need to know! The very, very best book rec posts I’ve ever seen deign to include things like major trigger warnings, and even that I’ve only seen like, twice.
Please, for the love of god, if you’re making a book rec list, actually rec the BOOKS and not just whatever #representation they have. That means, at the VERY LEAST, including the:
What the book is like, about.
If at all possible, the narrative style.
Please note that by “genre” I don’t just mean “But Jo, I did include the genre! I said this was a list of fantasy novels!” That’s nice.
Lord of the Rings is fantasy. So is Percy Jackson. What genre is the fucking book.
Genre: Is it high fantasy? Portal fantasy? Modern mythology? Is it military sci-fi? Is it hard sci-fi, heavy on technical details? Within the sci-fi or fantasy genre--is it a coming-of-age story? Is it a mystery? Is it a political thriller? A gunslinging adventure? A survival story? A magic-academy setting?
Seriously, Are You Planning To Tell Me What The Book You’re Ostensibly Recommending To Me Is, Like, About? I’m not asking for spoilers. Lord of the Rings is about a young man named Frodo Baggins, the gently-raised nephew and heir of a respected gentleman farmer in the quiet fantasy-British-countryside. When his uncle mysteriously announces that he’s leaving and then disappears at his own birthday party, events are set in motion that leave the rather naive young Frodo in possession of a powerful, deadly artifact--and the Dark Lord who created it has already sent his most powerful servants to reclaim it.
Boom. Done. Tell me SOMETHING that actually helps me decide whether this is something that I might want to look more into. Are the characters thirty or thirteen? Are they members of ruling houses, or farmers, or space smugglers, or pirates, or Navy officers, or what?
The TONE OF THE BOOK dear CHRIST. I have seen, on actual book rec lists, incredibly hard-hitting, grim, brutal novels presented next to generally-lighthearted, PG modern fantasy. And that’s great! Different things appeal to different people, and tone and genre and content do not dictate one another. But like, tone-wise--is this Star Trek: TOS, or Battlestar Galactica? Is this Return of the Jedi, or Revenge of the Sith? Is this mystery a noir novel, or a Scooby Doo episode?
I need to know that to know whether I’m interested! If I go in looking for a serious, high-concept, flowery medieval fantasy and you give me Discworld, I’m going to come away unsatisfied even if I would otherwise love Discworld.
Narrative Style: If there’s something interesting about the way the story is told, and you’re trying to pique the interest of a crowd of strangers...maybe like, mention that! Share an excerpt of a particularly representative line, preferably from early in the book!
I saw Gideon the Ninth on SO MANY rec posts and was never interested in the slightest...because it was never presented as more than “Lesbian necromancers in space! What more could you want?!” Well, some fucking information about anything else in the book, for one. My partner got it and started quoting me non-spoiler segments, and the writing style was so DELIGHTFUL, and Gideon’s narration and perspective so much fun, that I devoured the entire book in like three hours.
If you want people to read the books you recommend, you have to tell us things about them.
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dark academia literary works: a masterlist
I replied to this post on Reddit today, trying to compile all the dark academia books I could think of, and then thought that maybe all of you here might find it useful too, so here you go. It is a very, very broad list, a mix of classic and contemporary literature, and there is no set criteria besides having a dark vibe (this includes murder and crime but could just be the way it’s written as well) and portraying an academic setting, most of the time from the student’s point of view. I haven’t read all of these myself and so I can’t judge on quality, but hopefully this will inspire people to add on to it in the comments.
Here you go!
The Lessons by Naomi Alderman
Truly, Devious by Maureen Johnson
The Secret History, Donna Tartt
If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio
Maurice by E. M. Forster
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Possession by A.S. Byatt
The Truants by Kate Weinberg
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
Vicious by V. E. Schwab
The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater (tangentially related)
A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Likeness by Tana French
The Rachel Papers by Martin Amis
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo (coming out tomorrow!)
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman
Oleanna by David Mamet
Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl
The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
Other classics that are not Dark Academia in content, but which I would include in a list of the DA canon:
The Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer
Shakespeare's plays (Macbeth, Hamlet are good ones to start with)
A Separate Peace, John Knowles
The Bacchae, Euripides
Greek tragedies (a good one to start with is Antigone, very popular and staged many a time)
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
Beat generation literature
Jane Austen’s books (light academia, anyone?)
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my copy of wuthering heights arrived and the previous owner left some notes behind
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Book Recommendations - Masterpost
» Fairy Tales
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books recs for pride month
- the raven cycle (quartet) (mlm)
- all for the game (trilogy) (mlm)
- six of crows (duology) (mlm)
- I'll give you the sun (mlm)
- the miseducation of cameron post (wlw)
- ace of shades (first in a series) (mlm, nb)
- the witch sea (wlw)
- simon vs. the homo sapien agenda + leah on the offbeat (mlm, wlw)
- everything leads to you (wlw)
- the darkest part of the forest (mlm)
- wonders of the invisible world (mlm)
- the gentleman's guide to vice and virtue (mlm, ace/aro)
- radio silence (mlm, demi/ace, maybe more?)
- at the edge of the universe (mlm)
- love in the time of global warming (duology) (wlw, trans)
- the song of achilles (mlm)
- carry on (mlm)
- All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens Throughout the Ages (short story collection) (everything)
*biased towards mlm mostly because the market is oversaturated with mlm novels, currently working on focusing specifically on other types but most of what I've read so far has been underwhelming
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“You have bewitched me, body and soul.”
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen.
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Adult SFF edition
The Lies of Locke Lamora: heist fantasy following a band of misfits! It has morally gray characters, fun banter but heartwrenching moments and a pretty complex plot. It’s a classic to say “if you liked Six of Crows and want to try adult SFF try this” and it’s probably true.
Kushiel’s Dart: a political fantasy tome loosely inspired by Europe in the Renaissance. Pretty heavy on romance and erotica (with BDSM elements) as it follows a courtesan navigating the political scene. It has an amazing female villain.
A Darker Shade of Magic: probably the easiest way to approach adult fantasy. It has multiple Londons and a pretty unique magic system and concept, plus a crossdressing thief, knives and great banter.
The Poppy War: grimdark fantasy (TW: abuse, self harm, rape, drug abuse), inspired by Chinese history. It’s adult, but follows younger MCs and the unique blend of different historical periods/inspirations makes it extremely interesting. The characters are extremely fucked up in the best possible way, plus the use of shamanism is awesome.
The Sword of Kaigen: if you liked The Poppy War you could like this one. The Sword of Kaigen is an Asian-inspired militaristic fantasy, with elemental magic, a badass housewife dealing with her past and hiding a sword in her kitchen’s floor. It has interesting and nuanced family dynamics and a great reflection on propaganda and the use of narratives.
The Priory of the Orange Tree: high fantasy, featuring dragons, a F/F romance and pretty complex world building. The author reuses typical fantasy tropes and roles in a fresh way. Very readable in spite of its length.
Empire of Sand: inspired by Mughal India, this one focuses on culture and religion and has great slow burn romance (TW: abuse, slavery). It’s pretty slow paced, but the payoff is great. Also a good "YA crossover”.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms: first book in a companion novel trilogy, following a young woman who finds herself at the center of a vicious political struggle, as she’s suddenly become the heir to the throne.
Black Sun: first book in a new series by Rebecca Roanhorse, inspired by pre-Columbian societies and cultures. It mainly focuses on religious and political conflicts. TW for abuse, mild body horror and suicide (not very graphic). Nice inclusion of lgbt rep across the whole cast + one of the main characters is blind. Great world building!
The Night Circus: perfect transition from YA to Adult for a reader, The Night Circus is a gorgeous historical fantasy romance. The author’s writing is amazing, the descriptions and the subtlety of the main characters’ relationship are to die for.
The City of Brass: political/historical fantasy tome featuring Middle Eastern mythology. It follows younger MCs (honestly another series that could be a good way to approach adult SFF) and has great character growth throughout the series. The first book has some more trope-y elements, but the payoff is worth it.
The Golem and The Djinni: historical fantasy (if you loved The Night Circus you could like this one), following two mythical creatures as they navigate New York in 1899. Slow burn romance, rich descriptions, fascinating combination of Jewish and Syrian folklore.
Gods of Jade and Shadow: a fantasy bildungsroman set in Mexico during the Jazz age. Another great way to approach adult SFF as it follows a young girl on a life changing adventure. It features Mayan mythology and a god slowly becoming human.
The Ghost Bride: set in Malaya in 1893, it follows the daughter of a ruined man as she receives the proposal to become a ghost bride. Lovely setting, rich in culture and extremely atmospheric.
The Bear and The Nightingale: a coming of age story inspired by Russian folklore. Another great way to start reading adult SFF: it’s very atmospheric and fairy tale-like. Also frost demons are better than men.
Queen of the Conquered: first book in a fantasy duology(?) set in an alternate version of the Caribbean at the time of Scandinavian colonisation. It follows Sigourney, a biracial woman (her mother was a slave, freed by her father) and the only islander who is allowed to own and use kraft and therefore has a position of privilege, which she constantly abuses, while telling herself she’s doing it for the islanders’ benefit. The book is hard to read, because the MC is no hero and her POV can be quite challenging to get through, but if you’re up for it I’d totally recommend this. (TW: slavery, abuse, death).
The Lions of Al-Rassan: this one has minimal fantasy elements, much like other Kay books, as it reads more like an alternate history. Using Moorish Spain as a template, it deals with the conflict between Jews, Muslims and Christians. Much like Under Heaven and most of his historical fantasy it shows common people being swept up in dramatic events.
The Divine Cities trilogy: starting with City of Stairs, it follows a female diplomat and spymaster(!!). The whole trilogy features an interesting discussion about godhood, religion, fanatism, politics, without ever being boring or preachy. It has complex and rich world building and a pretty compelling mystery.
Foundryside: heist fantasy following a thief as she’s hired to steal a powerful artifact that may change magical technology as she knows it. Also, slow burn F/F romance.
Jade City: a wuxia inspired, gangster urban fantasy. Great family dynamics, very interesting political and economical subplots.
One for My Enemy: sort of a modern Romeo and Juliet, but set in New York, starring two magical gangster families. The female characters are to die for.
Trail of Lightning: inspired by Native mythology and the idea of subsequent worlds. It has a kickass MC and a good mix of original elements and typical UF tropes. You could like this if you liked the Kate Daniels series.
American Gods: a classic of the genre, pretty much brilliant in how it reuses old mythology in a modern setting.
Spinning Silver: a very loose retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, with a gorgeous atmosphere. It mainly follows female characters from different social and economical backgrounds and reuses the original tale to challenge the antisemitic ideas around the role of the moneylander.
The Queens of Innis Lear: fantasy retelling of King Lear, very atmospheric and gorgeously written. Slow paced, but very satisfying build up, lots of backstabbing and miscommunication. (heads up though, one of the MCs is coded as aroace and I found the rep pretty bad on that. The book does feature casual bisexual rep though, which was great)
Lady Hotspur: genderbent retelling of Henry IV, set in the same world as The Queens of Innis Lear. Lesbian and bisexual rep. Heavy on political subplots, features ambitious women growing into their roles.
Deathless: sort of a retelling of Koschei the Deathless set in the first half of the 20th century. Brilliant reuse of Russian folklore to weave together politics and history. It does have pretty brutal descriptions of war, morally gray characters, unhealthy relationships and overall a lot of mindfuckery.
A Memory Called Empire: space opera inspired by the Mexica and middle period Byzantium. It focuses on topics like colonialism and the power of narratives and language. It has one of the best descriptions of what it’s like to live in between spaces I’ve ever read. Also very interesting political intrigue and has a slow burn F/F romance (and a poly relationship recalled through flashbacks).
Ninefox Gambit: a Korean-inspired space opera with a magic system based on math. It’s honestly quite convoluted and difficult to follow, but it also features some of the best political intrigue I’ve ever read. Plenty of lying, backstabbing and mind games. It also features lesbian and bisexual rep and an aroace side character (TW: mass shooting, sexual assault).
The Light Brigade: militaristic space opera set in a not-so-defined future in which corporations rule Earth and space in general. The book follows a newly enlisted soldier as they go through gruelling training and experience the side effects of being broken down into atoms to travel at the speed of light. It’s a heavy book, featuring raw descriptions of war, and quite difficult to follow (non-linear timelines...) but it’s also an amazing critique of capitalism and political propaganda (TW: death, mass shooting).
Gideon the Ninth: pretty much lesbian necromancers in space. Very loose world building, but a fun mystery full of banter. Can be quite confusing in the beginning, but a relatively easy and fun way to approach science fiction.
The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet: character driven space opera featuring a found family journeying through space. A fun read, that also deals with topics such as sexuality and race. Quite easy to go through, as the world building and plot aren’t particularly complex themselves. Also features a F/F romance.
Science Fiction-Fantasy that I can’t fit anywhere else
Vicious: college roommates put themselves through near-death experiences to obtain super powers, only everything goes wrong. Follows a great band of misfits (and pretty much everyone is morally gray).
Middlegame: a brilliant and complex tapestry of alternate timelines, following telepathically connected twins trying to escape the alchemist that wants to use them to obtain godhood (TW: attempted suicide).
Piranesi: the long awaited return of Susanna Clarke, Piranesi is an odd, mysterious book set in a house with infinite rooms and endless corridors, apparently inhabited by only two people.
Bonus Novella recs: novellas are amazing and don’t sleep on them!
The Empress of Salt and Fortune: an Asian-inspired fantasy novella, it gives a voice to people usually silenced by history. It follows a cleric (non binary rep) as they chronicle the story of the late empress, retold through objects that she used in her life. It focuses on bonds between women and the power that lies in being unnoticed.
The Black God’s Drums: an urban fantasy novella, based on Orisha mythology and set in an alternate, sort of steampunk, New Orleans.
The Haunting of Tram Car 015: alternate steampunk Cairo populated by supernatural entities. It has a compelling mystery, starring a great lead.
This Is How You Lose the Time War: epistolary set during a time-travel war, F/F romance and gorgeous prose.
The Citadel of Weeping Pearls: a novella set in the Xuya universe (a series of novellas/short stories set in a timeline where Asia became dominant, and where the space age has empires of Vietnamese and Chinese inspiration), but can be read as a standalone. It’s a space opera featuring a disappeared citadel and the complex relationship between the empress and her daughter as war threatens her empire.
To Be Taught, If Fortunate: an incredibly heartwarming and yet meaningful novella about research and the meaning of it. It’s the tale of 4 astronauts on a crowdfunded mission to explore space, to observe and report without conquering. It’s written in lovely prose and is very casual in its lgbt rep.
The Deep: very good novella set in an underwater society built by the descendants of African slave women that were tossed overboard. It’s not an easy read at all, as it deals with trauma, both personal and generational ones.
Bonus short story collections recs
A Cathedral of Myth and Bone: 16 short stories featuring myth, legend and faith, that mainly focus on women reclaiming their agency.
The Paper Menageries and Other Stories: features plenty of different fantasy and science fiction subgenres. The Paper Menagerie in particular is an extremely moving tale.
Conservation of Shadows: science fiction-fantasy short stories that focus on topics like colonisation and the role of art and language.
Monstress: series set in an alt 1900s matriarchal Asia, following a teenage girl who survived a war and shares a connection with a monster that’s slowly transforming her. (TW: slavery, death).
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Slavery was no accident. We didn’t trip and fall into black subjugation. Racism wasn’t a bad joke that just never went away. It was all on purpose. Every bit of it was on purpose. Racial injustices, like slavery and our system of mass incarceration, were purposeful inventions, but instead of seeking to understand how we got here, the national narrative remains filled with comforting myths, patchwork timelines, and colonial ideals.
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
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Books That Will Ruin Your Life
(trigger warnings under the cut)
A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara
This book, which is about 800 pages long, is one of the best pieces of literature I have ever read. It follows four friends after they move to New York City and pursue their goals, but most of the story focuses on one of the men: Jude St. Francis, who has a mysterious past that has wrecked him emotionally and physically. But despite the darkness of the subject matter (and it gets DARK) the acts of love and kindness and friendship from the people in Jude's life will bring you to tears. It’s a gorgeous study of trauma, human relationships, and the marriage of joy and pain that inevitably comes with living. I read it two months ago and have thought about it every day since. It’s one of those books you want everyone to read and no one to read. (DEFINITELY check out the trigger warnings for this one.)
The Traitor Baru Cormorant, by Seth Dickinson
This book is a sprawling political fantasy, packed with detail and diversity and some of the best, most complex worldbuilding I've ever seen. Baru grows up under the shadow of imperialism and eventually joins a rebellion to break free of the empire that has begun to take over the world. She's also a lesbian, which is forbidden in the new empire, but against herself is drawn to the enigmatic Duchess Tain Hu. There are devastating twists, loves, and heartbreaks that will break your heart along with Baru's. To say anything else would be a spoiler, but if you like complex, morally ambiguous fantasy, check this one out.
As Meat Loves Salt, by Maria McCan
This book follows a man named Jacob as he slowly falls in love with a fellow soldier during the seventeenth century English Revolution. After the war, they attempt to establish a utopian farming commune and keep their relationship together. This book is a really interesting foray into 17th century England, but it is ultimately a dark, passionate tale of obsession and vindication that will leave you as sick with the actions of the protagonist as he is with himself.
The People in the Trees, by Hanya Yanagihara
This book is written as a memoir of a disgraced scientist, who discovers a hidden tribe in a small Pacific island that he believes holds the key to a longer (and even immortal) life. You almost forget that the events of the book are fiction and not a real memoir--everything described seems meticulously researched and vividly real. As always, Yanagihara’s writing is gorgeous, absorbing, and well-paced. It's a haunting tale of how science, hubris, and greed can lead to someone's personal downfall, as well as colonialism and cultural genocide.
The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
You might have already heard of this one, but I had to put it on the list anyway! After a traumatic accident kills Theo Decker's mother, his life is thrown into turbulence and eventual crime, all stemming from a stolen painting. The story is tense, beautifully written, and will make you root for yet another morally gray narrator. For fans of dark thrillers, art history, homoerotic friendship, and/or coming-of-age stories, this one is for you.
Daytripper, by Fàbio Moon and Gabriel Bà
Although Daytripper is a graphic novel, it deserves a spot on this list. It follows Bràs, a Brazilian writer, and his journey through specific turning points in his life, each represented as a "death." The art is gorgeous and the story flows impeccably, capturing the beautiful mundanities and joys of life. This book will leave you touched, inspired, and deeply affected.
The Vintner's Luck, by Elizabeth Knox
After a vintner saves his life, an angel named Xas visits him every year for a single night. As the vintner grows, so does their relationship, just like a fine vintage. It's difficult to say too much about the plot without spoiling the story, but I can say that this book explores the nuances of human relationships and the love we feel for each other, as well as the hate and fear that can pervade those relationships.
Beloved, by Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison is one of the greatest American novelists and Beloved is my favorite of her works. The book follows Sethe, an ex-slave, and her daughter Denver as they reckon with a ghost from Sethe's past that begins to haunt them more literally than metaphorically. The story is both captivating and difficult to read, but Morrison's writing is gorgeous and the characters come to life on the page. It superbly explores the depth of trauma and motherhood, as well as depicting the horrors of slavery in a way that doesn't feel cartoonish or exploitative.
Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng
Celeste Ng’s work has gotten a lot of hype recently, and for good reason. This book follows a family after the middle child, Lydia, drowns. We see the buildup to Lydia’s death and its brutal aftermath, as relationships are challenged within the family. It’s a brilliant look at familial dysfunction, generational curses, and interracial marriage in 1970s America, and a deeply haunting portrayal of how these issues can tear apart a family.
A Little Life: graphic self harm, suicide/suicidal thoughts, graphic child sexual assault, rape, domestic violence, child physical and emotional abuse, disordered eating, forced prostitution of a minor, discrimination against disabled characters, PTSD, drug abuse/addiction, child death, mental instability, emotional manipulation, gaslighting.
The Traitor Baru Cormorant: homophobia, eugenics, violence.
As Meat Loves Salt: rape, domestic violence, physical violence.
The People in the Trees: child sexual assault, child physical and emotional abuse, suicide, cultural genocide, animal abuse.
The Goldfinch: substance abuse, underage drinking and drug abuse, suicidal behaviors/attempts, age gap relationship, child neglect and abuse, violence, racial slurs, casual racism.
Daytripper: suicide, graphic self-harm, graphic violence.
Beloved: racism, slavery, child death, graphic violence.
Everything I Never Told You: child death, racism, xenophobia.
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For fans of Watership Down and the Warriors series, these are ten recommendations of excellent anthropomorphic animal fantasy (adventure stories in which animals are the protagonists).
More suggestions here.
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