20 happy queer books to read

20 MUST-READ HAPPY QUEER BOOKS FOR PRIDE

Laura Sackton Jun 10, 2020

In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan book cover
juliet takes a breath gabby rivera book cover
tipping the velvet by sarah waters
Real Queer America
Save Yourself cover
Mooncakes cover image
tea dragon society cover image
On A Sunbeam by Tillie Walden cover image

Do you need a little queer joy in your reading life this Pride month? Maybe you want to read a fun sci-fi space adventure where no one dies. Maybe you’re craving a YA novel sans homophobia. Maybe you’re looking for that elusive queer memoir that’s uplifting and celebratory, that focuses on queer joy rather than queer suffering. Whatever styles and genres you enjoy most, you deserve to kick back with some happy queer books.

Everybody has their own ideas about what counts as a feel-good read or a comfort book. Your definition of happy queer books might be different from mine. The books on this list are a mix of fluff and fun. They’re all on the lighter side. They are not devoid of conflict entirely, but they’re not rife with it. They celebrate queerness. There’s little to no queer suffering. Nobody dies.

Here are twenty of my favorite happy queer books for your reading pleasure. What better way to celebrate Pride than with some books that are full of it?

YA FICTION

ONCE & FUTURE BY CORI MCCARTHY & AMY ROSE CAPETTA

If you weren’t just thinking, “what I really need right now is a queer AF King Arthur retelling in space”…well, why not? This book is a joy. A group of queer teenagers, including Merlin and the current reincarnation of King Arthur, take on the evil corporation that controls the universe. It’s got F/F and M/M romances, asexual and nonbinary characters, nonstop action, and creative world building. Plus it’s hilarious and full of queer joy.CHECK YOUR SHELF NEWSLETTERSign up to receive Check Your Shelf, the Librarian’s One-Stop Shop For News, Book Lists, And More.By signing up you agree to our terms of use

IN OTHER LANDS BY SARAH REES BRENNAN

This is one of my go-to recommendations for queer joy. It’s a hilarious, feminist, and subversive portal fantasy starring a prickly but lovable bisexual protagonist and his two besties. There are elves, mermaids, harpies, and battles, plus teenage angst, romance, and friendship. If you’re looking for a book that will make you laugh out loud A TON, look no further.

WHAT IF IT’S US BY ADAM SILVERA & BECKY ALBERTALLI

This adorable romcom kicks off when two boys meet by chance at the Post Office, fail to exchange any info, and then have A Time trying to find each other again. It’s funny and light but also super real—there’s a lot of teen awkwardness and bumbling as they try to figure out how to, you know, fall in love. There’s also have an utterly enchanting supporting cast of family and friends supporting them that is just a balm for my queer heart.

JULIET TAKES A BREATH BY GABBY RIVERA

Juliet is a 19-year-old Puerto Rican lesbian from the Bronx who heads out to Portland, Oregon, for a summer internship with her feminist idol…who turns out to be far from perfect. This book tackles a lot of big issues—it’s a scathing satire of white feminism and delves into racism and exclusion in the queer community—but it is also generous and exuberant and full of heart. Juliet is such a wonderful character to spend time with. It’s serious, but also hilarious, and it ends up filling you up with hope and inspiration.

YOU KNOW ME WELL BY NINA LACOUR & DAVID LEVITHAN

There are a lot of wonderful queer romances out there, but sometimes you just want a book about queer friendship. This is it. Mark and Kate, each dealing with the pitfalls of love, meet in the midst of San Francisco Pride, and their friendship soon becomes central to their lives. This funny, warm, heartfelt novel is an absolute celebration of queer relationships of all kinds.

ADULT FICTION

THE HOUSE IN THE CERULEAN SEA BY T.J. KLUNE

Do you need a queer hug in the form of a book? Here you go. Linus is a 40-year old social worker for the Department In Charge of Magical Youth. When he’s sent to investigate a remote orphanage full of six unusual (and possibly highly dangerous) children, he does not find what he expected to. It’s an utterly enchanting story about queer family, finding home, and loving yourself. It’s also hilarious, and the children characters are unforgettable.

LIQUOR BY BILLY MARTIN

This is the first book in a series about two chefs in New Orleans, Ricky and G-man. Best friends and lovers since they were 16, they’re tired of working long hours as restaurant cooks for little pay, and decide to open their own restaurant, one where every dish will have some kind of alcohol. If you enjoy books about established couples, this one is a gem; their dynamic is so cozy and gentle. And if you like food, even better, as good cooking as at the heart of this book. There’s even a fun mystery thrown in.

SING FOR THE COMING OF THE LONGEST NIGHT BY KATHERINE FABIAN & IONA DATT SHARMA

This is another book that feels like a big queer hug to me. Set in a magical London, it’s the story of two people who don’t like each other much but are forced to work together when their mutual boyfriend, a magician, disappears. They team up to find him and end up realizing they have more in common than the man they love. There’s diverse queer representation, intriguing magic, and a happy ending. Plus it’s a novella; I inhaled this one in a sitting.

TIPPING THE VELVET BY SARAH WATERS

Set in Victorian London, this book is like the best queer historical soap opera. Waters puts you through the wringer, but it’s worth it, because the ending is just so unequiocovcalby, absolutely happy. Nan King is an oyster girl from Whistable who falls in love with a music hall performer and follows her to London. She falls into a world she didn’t know existed, where she finds friendship, heartbreak, loneliness, love, and family.

ASCENSION BY JACQUELINE KOYANAGI

Alana is a down-on-her luck sky surgeon who stows away on a cargo ship in the hopes the crew will hire her once they find her. But the crew is nothing like she imagined, and she finds herself immediately drawn into their tight-knit circle. Alana finds herself falling for the ship’s captain, which is complicated by the fact that something that wants her dead seems to be chasing them. Space adventure, queer romance, found family: this one has got all the elements of a happy queer book.

NONFICTION

REAL QUEER AMERICA BY SAMANTHA ALLEN

A lot of people mistakenly assume that all queer people live in cities, or that life for queer people in conservative states is automatically horrific. Trans reporter Samantha Allen sets out to fight back against that oversimplification in this joyful and inspiring road trip book. She travels through various conservative states, visiting with queer and trans people in places like Salt Lake City, small-town Texas, East Tennessee, and Indiana. The stories she tells, as well as her own story of coming out as a trans woman and falling in love, are bursting with queer joy.

BLOOD, MARRIAGE, WINE & GLITTER BY S. BEAR BERGMAN

Finding joyous queer nonfiction can be a challenge. This is a joyous queer book. It’s a beautiful collection of essays about queer family, intimacy, and parenting, about all the ways that Bergman’s experience of family has been shaped by his trans and queer identities. He delves into some messy, complex subjects, but the thread that binds this book together is joy. It’s open and tender and hopeful and optimistic. It’s written expressly for queer and trans people; there is no explaining or justifying, and it is an absolute balm. It’s an explosion of queer joy and celebration in book form.

SAVE YOURSELF BY CAMERON ESPOSITO

Though Esposito does delve into some heavy subject matter in this memoir (sexual assault, familial/religious homophobia, disordered eating), she’s so funny and warm that the book doesn’t feel heavy. Her humor is delightful, her tone friendly and conversational, and she’s got so much compassion, especially for her younger self. The overall feeling at the end of the book is one of hope and optimism.

WOW, NO THANK YOU BY SAMANTHA IRBY

This is another laugh-out-loud book that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Samatha Irby is a comedic queen; these essays are all hilarious, even the ones that are also serious. She writes about everything from being a Black, queer woman in small-town Michigan to her time writing for a TV show in Hollywood. It’s all absurd and delightful and smart and super down-to-earth and it will make you laugh-cry for sure.

KARAMO BY KARAMO BROWN

Even if you’re not a fan of Queer Eye, you’ll most likely find something to love in this warm, engaging memoir. Brown outlines his life and his journey to where he is today. It’s definitely got its hard moments—he writes about addiction and abuse, the racism and colorism he’s faced as a gay Black man, his complicated path to fatherhood. But the book’s subtitle, My Story of Embracing Purpose, Healing, and Hope, says it all. Ultimately, this is a joyful, uplifting book about living your best life as your true self, full of kindness, wisdom, and friendly advice.

GRAPHIC NOVELS & GRAPHIC MEMOIRS

CHECK, PLEASE! BY NGOZI UKAZU

I’m not sure a book can get any happier or queerer than this one. Eric Bittle is a gay, pie-baking hockey player at a small college. This graphic novel is the story of his life as he navigates love, friendship, hockey, and coming into itself. There’s an adorable romance. There is so much pie! The characters are all kind and lovely to each other and have each other’s backs and there’s no homophobia or toxic masculinity, especially not on the hockey team. It’s a basically a big gay hug in the form of a book.

MOONCAKES BY SUZANNE WALKER & WENDY XU

This is a beautiful, heartwarming story about a queer teenager witch, Nova, who lives with her grandmothers and helps run their magical bookshop. When her childhood crush comes back to town after a long absence, they team up to fight a demon. I was basically smiling through every page of this book. It’s cozy and magical and full of queer family and it’s got just the right blend of romance and adventure.

THE TEA DRAGON SOCIETY BY KATIE O’NEILL

This is my number one go-to book for when I need some comfort. It’s short enough that you can read it in 20 minutes. The art is so beautiful and soothing; just looking at it makes me smile and breathe a little easier. But the story is lovely, too. Greta is a blacksmith’s apprentice who finds a lost tea dragon in the market, which leads her to the coziest most perfect tea shop ever and the couple who runs it. She learns all about the art of caring for tea dragons, and makes some new friends along the way.

ON A SUNBEAM BY TILLIE WALDEN

If you’re looking for a beautiful graphic novel that affirms and celebrates queer friendship, this one is glorious. Mia joins up with ship that travels through space restoring broken and abandoned buildings. She’s on a search for her lost love, but along the way, she finds a queer family. The art is stunning and the story is overflowing with queer love in many diverse forms.

THE ONE HUNDRED NIGHTS OF HERO BY ISABEL GREENBERG

Inspired by One Thousand and One Nights, this gorgeous, intricate graphic novel tells the story of two women in love: Cherry and her maid Hero. Cherry’s horrible husband has promised her to his equally awful friend if he can seduce her—so the two women tell him stories to distract him. The premise is dark, but the execution is stunning. The stories the two women weave are funny, strange, feminist, inspiring. And at the heart of the book is a beautiful queer love story that will stay with you for a long time.


Looking for more happy queer books? Check out this list of joyful queer books with happy endings and this list of LGBTQ+ books with happy endings. And if you’re looking for pure fluff, you’ll want to check out this list of cotton candy queer books. I promise there is almost no overlap, so you’ll have loads of happy queer books to choose from!

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