GLBT Literature: Recommended GLBT Books

WWW - Whitman, Wilde & Woolf triangle graphic Here are some exceptional works about Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender (GLBT) experience — past, present, and even future. Most are written by GLBT authors. Books range from classic to current, and are divided into seven categories. To keep the length manageable, authors are usually limited to one title. All available public domain works (Shakespeare, Whitman, Wilde, many more) link to free, unabridged copies. For biographical and historical information, see the glbtq encyclopedia. New! Thanks to Prof. Josiah Blackmore (University of Toronto) for recommending two medieval Arabic works: Ahmad al-Tifashi's Delight of Hearts and Shayk Nafzawi's Missing Flowers.

These GLBT authors' books are already at the core of Western culture. The same is also true for the works of GLBT visual artists, GLBT composers, GLBT filmmakers, and more. We revere their public contributions, but their sexual orientation — a fundamental part of who they are — often has been obscured, which is why a GLBT focus is worth considering.

BookContemporary Literature

Allison, Dorothy

Bastard Out of Carolina

Young woman survives a brutal childhood; 1992

Alther, Lisa

Kinflicks

Coming out in tumultuous 1950s/60s; 1976

Barker, Pat

Regeneration

World War I through historical and fictional characters; author continues trilogy with Eye in the Door and Ghost Road; 1992

Bartlett, Neil

Ready to Catch Him Should He Fall

Passionate, experimental novel about gay and straight families; 1990

Bolaño, Robert

By Night in Chile

Last night of a gay priest who secretly instructed the dictator Pinochet; 2000

Bram, Christopher

Father of Frankenstein

Fiction about the last days of great filmmaker James Whale; 1995

Brown, Rita Mae

Rubyfruit Jungle

Spunky lesbian comes out with a bang; 1973

Burgess, Anthony

Earthly Powers

Relationship of gay novelist and Pope; 1980

Cameron, Peter

The Weekend

Three people remember their dead friend; 1994

Chabon, Michael

Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

Two brilliant cousins create a comic book superhero, in this epic Pulitzer Prize-winning novel; 2000

Chatwin, Bruce

On the Black Hill

80 years in lives of Welsh twin brothers; 1982

Cooper, Dennis

Closer

Obsessions about an enigmatic man; 1989

Cunningham, Michael

The Hours

Experiences of three women, including Virginia Woolf, spanning the 20th c.; 1998

Dykewomon, Elana

Riverfinger Women

Woman triumphs over prostitution and abuse; 1974

Ellis, Bret Easton

Less Than Zero

How a group of nihilistic Generation X college students spend their Christmas vacation; 1985

Feinberg, Leslie

Stone Butch Blues

Lesbian passes as man in 1960s NY; 1993

Ferro, Robert

The Family of Max Desir

Man tries to unite his gay and straight lives; 1983

Flagg, Fannie

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

Two women become partners, in love and business, running a small Alabama cafe; 1987

Forrest, Katherine

Curious Wine

Best-selling lesbian love story; 1983

Fox, John

Boys on the Rock

Tender, funny gay coming of age novel; 1984

Glass, Julia

Three Junes

Loves and losses in a Scottish family during three fateful summers; 2002

Grimsley, Jim

Dream Boy

Boy survives incest through a friend's love; 1995

Grumbach, Doris

The Ladies

Based on historical 18th c. lesbian couple in Wales; 1984

Harris, Bertha

Lover

Experimental work "from the libido"; 1976

Holleran, Andrew

Dancer from the Dance

Life in '70s NYC fast lane; 1978

Hollinghurst, Alan

The Swimming-Pool Library

Interracial affair in pre-AIDS London; 1988

Kenan, Randall

Let the Dead Bury Their Dead

Stories about the diverse people living in a small North Carolina town; 1992

Leavitt, David

Lost Language of Cranes

Father and son, both gay, come to terms; 1986

Lurie, Alison

The Last Resort

"Perfect housewife" explores lesbian life; 1998

Maupin, Armistead

Tales of the City Series

Six funny, moving novels centering on San Francisco's freewheeling 28 Barbary Lane; 1978-91

McCauley, Stephen

The Object of My Affection

Gay man and straight woman share a Brooklyn apartment – and their lives; 1987

Monette, Paul

Halfway Home

Dying drag performance artist finds love; 1991

Nadas, Peter

Book of Memories

Magnum opus about postwar Hungary; 1985

O'Neill, Jamie

At Swim, Two Boys

Two young men seek political and romantic freedom during Dublin's tumultuous 1916 Easter Uprising; 2001

Plante, David

Francoeur Trilogy

Boy grows up in a Franco-American home: Family, Country, & Woods; 1978-82

Puig, Manuel

Kiss of the Spider Woman

Apolitical gay man and straight revolutionary share Argentine prison cell; 1976

Purdy, James

In a Shallow Grave

Passionate, lyrical tale of a disfigured war veteran returned home; 1975

Renault, Mary

The Persian Boy

Alexander the Great and his lover; 1972

Russell, Paul

The Coming Storm

Four interwoven perspectives on a student/teacher affair at a private boys' school; 1999

Sadownick, Douglas

Sacred Lips of the Bronx

Moves between a young man's first love in the 1970s Bronx and relationships in 1991 L.A.; 1994

Schulman, Sarah

Rat Bohemia

Cast-off lesbians and a gay man form a family; 1995

Selvadurai, Shyam

Funny Boy

Growing up gay in Sri Lanka; 1996

Shockley, Ann Allen

Loving Her

Landmark novel of interracial lesbian relationship; 1974

Spanbauer, Tom

The Man Who Fell in Love With the Moon

Taming of Wild West, as told by a gay shaman; 1992

Swift, Edward

Splendora

Man returns to hometown as Miss Jessie; 1978

Tóibín, Colm

The Story of the Night

Gay man comes of age during Argentina's violent struggle towards democracy in the 1980s; 1993

Truong, Monique

The Book of Salt

Fictional memoir of Vietnamese cook to Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas; 2003

Walker, Alice

The Color Purple

Abused woman finds self-acceptance through love with a blues singer; 1982

Warren, Patricia Nell

The Front Runner

Track coach and star runner fall in love; 1974

Waters, Sarah

Tipping the Velvet

Young lesbian seeks a "life of sensation" in 1890s England; 1999

White, Edmund

A Boy's Own Story

A self-corrupting gay youth in the 1950s; 1982

Winterson, Jeanette

Oranges are Not the Only Fruit

Lesbian teen grows up in British fundamentalist family; 1985

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BookPre-Stonewall Literature

Ameng of Wu

The Cut Sleeve

2,500 years of Chinese gay stories; 1910

Baldwin, James

Go Tell It on the Mountain

A black Pentecostal teenager discovers the truth about himself and his family; 1953

Baldwin, James

Giovanni's Room

Tragedy of a gay man who cannot love; 1956

Balzac, Honoré

Vautrin (Jacques Collin) Series

First major gay character – master criminal Vautrin (Jacques Collin) – appears in 5 books of Balzac's monumental series The Human Comedy [following links are to FREE online copies] Lost Illusions I: A Distinguished Provincial at Paris & Lost Illusions II: Eve and David, Scenes from a Courtesan's Life, Father Goriot, & The Deputy of Arcis ; 1833-47 — Balzac also wrote a play entitled Vautrin (1840)

Balzac, Honoré

The Girl with the Golden Eyes
[free online]

Tragic story of a lesbian relationship; 1835

Bannon, Ann

Beebo Brinker

Four landmark "pulp" lesbian novels; 1957-62

Barnes, Djuna

Nightwood

Woman seeks a love "not yet in history;" 1936

Behn, Aphra

Oronooko
[free online]

Influential early novel based on an enslaved African prince whom Behn actually knew in Surinam; 1688

Bowen, Elizabeth

Death of the Heart

Lyrical, complex novel about a British teenage girl's troubled coming of age; 1938

Bowles, Jane Auer

Two Serious Ladies

Two friends seek happiness in very different ways; 1943

Bowles, Paul

The Sheltering Sky

Love triangle among Americans in North Africa; 1949

Brophy, Brigid

In Transit

Experimental look at gender; 1969

Burroughs, William S

Naked Lunch

Surreal, paranoiac Beat Generation classic; 1959

Butler, Samuel

The Way of All Flesh
[free online]

Autobiographical novel about coming of age in Victorian England; 1902

Caminha, Adolfo

O Bom-Crioulo

Brazilian novel of interracial love affair between a sailor and cabin boy; 1895

Capote, Truman

Other Voices, Other Rooms

Growing up "different" in the (Gothic) South; 1948

Cather, Willa

My Ántonia
[free online]

Courageous immigrant in Nebraska; 1918

Cather, Willa

Death Comes for the Archbishop

40 years in the lives of two missionary priests in 19th c. American Southwest; 1927

Cheever, John

Wapshot Chronicle

A family and a town both falling apart; 1957

Colette

Claudine

Adventures of a young French lesbian; 1900

Compton-Burnett, I.

More Women than Men

Goings-on at a private all-girl school; 1933

Döblin, Alfred Berlin Alexanderplatz Experimental epic novel, and a landmark of German literature, about a 1920s ex-con trying to lead a decent life, and his relationships with a tender-hearted call girl and a charismatic criminal; 1929 — my essay on the novel and Fassbinder's film version

Douglas, Norman

South Wind

Island paradise, philosophical debates; 1917

Flaubert, Gustave

Sentimental Education

Ultimate novel of romantic frustration; 1869

Forster, E.M.

Howards End
[free online]

Intertwined fates of two unforgettable English families; 1910

Forster, E.M.

Maurice

Young man challenges social, and personal, prejudice to find love; 1913

"Frederics, Diana"

Diana: A Strange Autobiography

Real author still unknown in this novel about a lesbian searching for fulfillment; 1939

Fuller, Henry Blake

Bertram Cope's Year

Eligible bachelor pursued by both sexes; 1919

Genet, Jean

Our Lady of the Flowers

Hallucinatory masterpiece about crime and sainthood; 1942

Genet, Jean

The Thief's Journal

Picaresque autobiographical novel; 1949

Gide, André

The Counterfeiters

Intriguing infidelities in two families; 1926

Goytisolo, Juan

Marks of Identity

Life in aftermath of Spanish Civil War; 1966

Hall, Radclyffe

The Well of Loneliness

Lesbian couple struggles for acceptance; 1928

Hartley, L.P.

The Go-Between

A young boy passes love letters between an aristocratic woman and a farmer, with unexpected consequences; 1953

Highsmith, Patricia

The Price of Salt

Young woman and a married mother fall in love; 1952

Himes, Chester

Yesterday Will Make You Cry

Life and love in 1930s Southern prison (unexpurgated ed.; orig. pub. as Cast the First Stone); 1955

Huysmans, Joris-Karl

Against the Grain
[free online]

French Decadent classic, inspired Wilde; 1884

Isherwood, Christopher

Berlin Stories

Autobiographical tales of a gay Briton in pre-WW II Germany; 1939

Isherwood, Christopher

A Single Man

Masterpiece about one day in the life of a gay Brtish professor in L.A.; 1964

James, Henry

The Bostonians
[free online]

Suffragists face many difficult choices; 1886

Jewett, Sarah Orne

Country of the Pointed Firs
[free online]

Subtle stories about a young woman's summer at a coastal Maine town; 1896

Kerouac, Jack

The Subterraneans

"Cleaned up" version of the author's affair with Gore Vidal; 1958

Kipling, Rudyard

Kim
[free online]

In India, orphaned son of an Irish soldier grows up on the mean streets of Lahore, then turns to spying for the Raj; 1901

Kuzmin, Mikhail

Wings

Astonishing Russian coming out novel; 1906!

Lagerlöf, Selma The Story of Gösta Berling (aka Gösta Berling's Saga) A dashing young cavalier's adventures, both realistic and supernatural, in 1820s Sweden; 1891 — first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature

Larsen, Nella

Passing

Black women confront racism and passion; 1929

Lawrence, D.H.

Women in Love
[free online]

Complex, ambivalent gay content; 1920

Lezama Lima, Jose

Paradiso

Cuban mix of memoir, fiction, poetry; 1966

Mann, Klaus

Pathetic Symphony

On Tchaikovsky, by Thomas Mann's son; 1935

Mann, Thomas

Tonio Kröger

Latent homosexual artist comes of age; 1903

Mann, Thomas

Death in Venice

Author destroyed by obsession for boy; 1912

Mansfield, Katherine

Stories

Subtle, penetrating fiction from New Zealand author, incl. In a German Pension, 1911; The Garden Party, 1922

Maugham, Somerset

The Moon and Sixpence[free online]

Stockbroker flees to Tahiti to paint; 1919

McCullers, Carson

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

Southern Gothic tale of love and loneliness in a small town; 1940

McCullers, Carson

The Member of the Wedding

Tomboy wants to fit in yet be herself; 1946

Meeker, Ralph

Better Angel

A young man's sexual awakening; 1933

Melville, Herman

Moby Dick
[free online]

Life, and various forms of same-sex love, on a doomed whaling ship; 1851

Melville, Herman

Billy Budd
[free online]

Beautiful sailor and his sadistic nemesis; 1891

Miller, Isabel

Patience and Sarah

Based on historical 19th c. 'married' couple; 1967

Mishima, Yukio

Confessions of a Mask

Sinister coming out novel from Japan; 1949

Montherlant, Henry de The Bachelors Poignant tale of two formerly aristocratic bachelors, an elderly uncle and his nephew, now living in squalor; 1934

Murdoch, Iris

The Bell

Superb comedy/drama about a closeted gay man who founds a utopian lay religious community; 1958

Musil, Robert

Young Törless

Sadism at a German boarding school; 1906

Nabokov, Vladimir

Pale Fire

A novel in the form of revealing footnotes to a poem; 1962

Nafzawi, Shaykh Umar ibn Muhammad Glory of the Perfumed Garden: The Missing Flowers Homoerotic sections of the medieval Arabic book that were suppressed in the famous 1886 translation by Richard Burton; orig. circa 1200, published 1975

Pater, Walter

Marius the Epicurean
[free online – Volume 1
and Volume 2]

Passionate friendships during the era of Emperor Marcus Aurelius; 1885

Proust, Marcel

Remembrance of Things Past

Sprawling, evocative Modernist classic about memory and desire; 1922

Rechy, John

City of Night

Young hustler plies his trade across the entire USA; 1963

Renault, Mary

The Last of the Wine

Relationship of two young Athenians during Peloponnesian War (Renault's first novel set in the ancient world); 1956

Richardson, Dorothy

Pilgrimage
[free online – self-contained section: Pointed Roofs]

First stream of consciousness novel; lesbian author's autobiographical fiction – the full-length section entitled Pointed Roofs is available free online; 1915–1938

Richardson, Henry Handel

The Getting of Wisdom
[free online]

Australian lesbian author’s coming of age tale set at a girl’s boarding school; 1910

Rule, Jane

Desert of the Heart

Groundbreaking novel of a lesbian relationship, set in 1950s Nevada; 1964

Saba, Umberto

Ernesto

Italian bisexual comes of age; 1953

Saikaku, Ihara

Great Mirror of Male Love

Courtly, misogynistic stories from Japan; 1684

Sand, George (Amantine-Aurore-Lucile Dupin)

Lélia

A woman comes to question traditional views on men, love, and religion; 1833

Scott, Sarah

Millenium Hall

"Happily unmarried" women friends; 1762

Somerville, Edith & Violet Martin

The Real Charlotte

Intense relationship of two cousins; often considered the finest 19th c. Irish novel; 1894

Staël, Madame de

Corinne; or Italy

Romantic tragedy of an Italian woman of genius and a noble Englishman; 1807

Stein, Gertrude

Three Lives
[free online]

Powerful novellas about three working class women; 1909

Stein, Gertrude

Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas

Stein writes her own lover's autobiography; 1933

Stevenson, Edward Prime-

Imre

First openly gay American novel (published under pseudonym "Xavier Mayne"); 1906

Taylor, Bayard

Joseph and His Friend
[free online]

Two young men seek happiness together; 1870

Taylor, Valerie

The Girls in 3-B

Representative and fun lesbian pulp novel, about three young working women sharing a Chicago apartment; 1959

al-Tifashi, Ahmad The Delight of Hearts Homoerotic poetry and stories from the Arabic Middle Ages; circa 1250

Vidal, Gore

The City and the Pillar

Gay man desperate to rekindle first love; 1948

Vidal, Gore

Julian

Epic, and witty, recreation of the life of Emperor Julian (331–363 A.D.) who tried to restore Classical civilization to the Roman Empire which was being taken over by Christian zealots (who branded him "Julian the Apostate"); 1964

Vogel, Bruno

Alf

Two German boys in love pre-WW I; 1929

Walpole, Hugh

Herries Chronicles

Series of four best-selling historical novels set in 18th century Britain: Rogue Herries, Judith Paris, The Fortress, and Vanessa (1930)

Waugh, Evelyn

Brideshead Revisited

Two former lovers come to lead very different lives; 1945

Weirauch, Anna

The Scorpion

Landmark German lesbian novel; 1919

Welch, Denton

In Youth is Pleasure

Coming of age tale by paraplegic author; 1945

Wilde, Oscar

Portrait of Mr. W.H.
[free online]

About Shakespeare's young lover – or is it?; 1889

Wilder, Thornton

Heaven's My Destination

Exploits of a "holy fool" traveling salesman; 1935

Wilhelm, Gale

Torchlight in Valhalla

Daughter of a famous painter is torn between her love for a man and a young woman; 1938

Wilson, Angus

Hemlock and After

Gay writer's problems with wife and lover; 1952

Wister, Owen

The Virginian
[free online]

This archetypal novel of the Old West is rich in homoerotic subtext; 1901

Woolf, Virginia

Mrs. Dalloway

Repressed hostess contemplates her life; 1925

Woolf, Virginia

To the Lighthouse

Two days, 10 years apart, in a family's life; 1927

Yourcenar, Marguerite

Memoirs of Hadrian

Great Roman Emperor's quest for truth, and love for a Greek youth; 1951

Yourcenar, Marguerite

The Abyss

Gay pre-Renaissance alchemist Zeno; 1968

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BookFun Stuff!

Comic Novels & Plays (fiction unless otherwise noted)

Aretino, Pietro

The Stablemaster

Play – a gay servant tries to avoid marrying; 1533

Aristophanes

Lysistrata
[free online]

Play – women use a "sex strike" to force their men to end war; 411 BCE

Benson, E.F.

Make Way for Lucia

Collects the seven Lucia & Mapp novels; 1920

Boyd, Blanche McCrary

Terminal Velocity

Southern belle joins '70s lesbian commune, falls in love with fugitive, goes on the lam; 1998

Coward, Noel

Design for Living

Play – sparklingly witty menage a trois; 1933

Dennis, Patrick (pseudonym of Edward Everett Tanner III)

Auntie Mame

Hilarious, crypto-gay original novel; 1955

Firbank, Ronald

The Eccentricities of Cardinal Pirelli

Flamboyant satire about the Church of England; 1926

Finn, William

Falsettos

Musical Play – a married man comes out, and must deal with the many consequences; 1992

Fitzhugh, Louise

Harriet the Spy

Young girl's secret journal, saying exactly what she thinks about everyone, is revealed – yikes!; 1964

Gogol, Nikolai

The Inspector General

Play – corrupt small-town officials tricked by a con man; 1836

Hamburger, Aaron

Faith For Beginners

Funny and moving experiences of a Michigan family on a tour of modern Israel; 2005

Hart, Moss & George S. Kaufman

You Can't Take It With You

Play – a family of lovable eccentrics (Hart was gay/bi); 1937

Jarry, Alfred

King Ubu

Play – about an insane monarch; the work which began Theatre of the Absurd and helped define Surrealism art; 1896

Kramer, Larry

Faggots

Still controversial, and very funny, satire; 1978

Lefcourt, Peter

The Dreyfus Affair

Love affair in major league baseball; 1992

Ludlam, Charles

The Mystery of Irma Vep

Play – hilarious sendup of Victorian melodrama; 1984

Manrique, Jaime

Latin Moon in Manhattan

Wild adventures of gay Colombian immigrant living in NYC; 1992

McCourt, James

Mawrdew Czgowchwz

Title character (pronounced "Mardu Gorgeous"), the opera world's latest diva, fends off fans and rivals galore; 1971

McNally, Terrence

The Ritz

Play – set in a bath house, with mobsters and drag queens; 1974

Merrick, Gordon

The Lord Won't Mind

Classic gay soap opera; 1970

Mordden, Ethan

I've a Feeling We're Not in Kansas Anymore

First in a series of interconnected stories about the foibles of NYC gay life; 1983

Orton, Joe

What the Butler Saw

Play – Outrageous satire on British society; 1967

Petronius

Satyricon
[free online]

Picaresque adventures of two randy young men, by Nero's "Arbiter of Elegance," may be the world's first novel; 66 AD

Purdy, James

Malcolm

Satirical adventures of a young man of "exceptional beauty"; 1959

Ravel, Maurice (composer) & Colette (author)

L'Enfant et les Sortilèges

Opera – a spoiled brat finds the animals and objects he's been abusing come to life; 1925

Rodi, Robert

Closet Case

Just you trying staying in that closet!; 1994

Rolfe, Frederick William

Hadrian the Seventh

Expelled seminarian becomes Pope; 1904

Rudnick, Paul

Jeffrey

Play – Wry, romantic comedy set in the AIDS era; 1994

Schulman, Sarah

Empathy

Comic look at psychoanalysis and lesbian identity; 1992

Sedaris, David

Barrel Fever

Manic, hilarious pitch-black satires; 1994

Shakespeare

As You Like It
[free online]

Play – with gender disguise, romantic entanglements, slapstick, poetry, much more; 1598

Silver, Nicky

Pterodactyls

Play – caustically funny look at a picture-perfect family; 1994

Stein, Eugene

Straitjacket & Tie

Young man's problems with coming out, a really boring job, and extra-terrestrials; 1996

Toole, John Kennedy

A Confederacy of Dunces

Raucous, tragicomic adventures of an ill-fated medievalist from New Orleans; 1966 (pub. posthumously in 1976)

Vidal, Gore

Myra Breckinridge

Mordant view of sex, movies & society; 1968

Wilde, Oscar

Importance of Being Earnest
[free online]

Play – Maybe the funniest comedy ever written, even as it dissects the meaning of identity; 1895

Wilder, Thornton

The Skin of Our Teeth

Play – surreal farce has the same characters appear in wildly different historical periods; 1942

Williamson, L.R. Prairie Springs A young woman and her gay best friend move from Manhattan to a zany little Texas town — very funny and very moving; more at L.R. Williamson's site; 2007

Wilmot, John (Earl of Rochester)

Sodom: The Quintessence of Debauchery

Play – Infamous satire in which a king mandates "buggery" for his subjects; 1675?

Wilson, Doric

Street Theatre
[free online]

Play – comic look at pre-Stonewall gay street life; 1969

top || Contemporary | Pre-Stonewall | Fun Stuff | Genres | Drama | Poetry | Non-Fiction || More Lists

BookGenre Literature

Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror & Suspense/Mystery

(GLBT Genre Literature page includes many more titles)

Andersen, Hans Christian

Fairy Tales
[free online]

Fantasy – gay author of such beloved, and disturbing, stories as "Princess and the Pea," "Little Mermaid," "Ugly Duckling," "Thumbelina," "Emperor's New Clothes," "Red Shoes," and "Little Match Girl;" 1835

Barker, Clive

Imajica

Horror – epic quest with gender-switching assassin; 1991

Barrie, James M.

Peter Pan
[novel - free online]

Fantasy – adventures of a boy who never grows up; 1904

Beckford, William

Vathek
[free online]

Fantasy – a Gothic, Arabian Nights-style adventure; 1786

Bram, Christopher

Hold Tight

Suspense – WW II thriller set in a gay NYC brothel; 1988

Brite, Poppy Z.

Drawing Blood

Horror – two gay boys and many kinds of ghosts; 1993

Burroughs, William S

The Wild Boys

Science Fiction – gay freedom fighters in fascist near future; 1971

Butler, Octavia

Kindred

Science Fiction – modern black woman sent back to antebellum South to save her white, slave-owning ancestor; 1979

Capote, Truman

In Cold Blood

Suspense – "true crime" novel of Midwestern murder; 1966

Carter, Angela

Infernal Desire Machines of Dr. Hoffman

Science Fiction – gay mad scientist alters the laws of space, time, and reality; 1972

Delany, Samuel R.

Triton

Science Fiction – intergalactic quest for the Holy Grail; 1976

Du Maurier, Daphne

Rebecca

Suspense – romantic thriller about the two Mrs. DeWinters, one of whom is dead; 1938

Gomez, Jewelle

Gilda Stories

Horror – African-American lesbian vampire; 1991

Hansen, Joseph

Fadeout

Suspense – first book in series about a gay investigator; 1970

Harris, Thomas

Silence of the Lambs

Suspense – young woman FBI agent needs help of a sociopathic doctor to track a serial killer; 1988

Highsmith, Patricia

Strangers on a Train

Suspense – gay villain plots "crisscrossed" murders; lesbian author also wrote classic Price of Salt; 1949

Jackson, Shirley

The Haunting of Hill House

Horror – psychic investigators, at least one a lesbian, explore the ultimate evil haunted house; 1959

James, Henry

Turn of the Screw
[free online]

Horror – unnerving, multi-layered ghost story; 1898

Kafka, Franz

Metamorphosis

Fantasy – terrifying, metaphorical "coming out" story?; 1915

Kipling, Rudyard

The Jungle Book [free online] & The Second Jungle Book [free online]

Fantastical tales of a boy raised by animals in the forests of India; 1894 & 1895

LeFanu, J.S.

Carmilla
[free online]

Horror – lesbian vampire and her "victim;" 1872

Lewis, M.G.

The Monk
[free online]

Horror – infamous novel defined Gothic horror; 1795

Lovecraft, H.P.

The Shadow Over Innsmouth
[free online]

Horror – this great horror novella can also be read as a weirdly affirmative coming out story; 1931

Maguire, Gregory

Wicked

Fantasy – The Wizard of Oz retold, for adults, from the fascinating perspective of the woman who grows up to become the Wicked Witch of the West; basis for the hit Broadway musical; 1995

McHugh, Maureen

China Mountain Zhang

Science Fiction – SF adventure with gay Chinese protagonist; 1992

Moriarty, Chris

Spin State

Science Fiction – Post-human spy thriller featuring a love story between a bi woman and a transgendered artificial intelligence; 2003

Nava, Michael

The Little Death

Suspense – First in outstanding series about gay Latino attorney; 1986

Rice, Anne

Interview with the Vampire

Horror – begins series with erotic GLB vampires, replete with mystery, romance, & blood; 1976

Russ, Joanna

The Female Man

Science Fiction – A woman exists in four parallel worlds; 1975

Stoker, Bram

Dracula
[free online]

Horror – genre-defining vampire novel; 1897

Warner, Sylvia T.

Lolly Willowes

Fantasy – spinster becomes a feminist witch; 1926

Wilde, Oscar

Picture of Dorian Gray
[free online]

Horror – terrible price of remaining 'fabulous' forever; 1890

Woolf, Virginia

Orlando

Fantasy – s/he lives for centuries, changes genders; 1928

GLBT Genre Literature page includes many more titles.
top || Contemporary | Pre-Stonewall | Fun Stuff | Genres | Drama | Poetry | Non-Fiction || More Lists

PlayDrama

(Comic plays are listed above under Fun Stuff)

Albee, Edward

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Two married couples strip away each other's illusions; 1963

Behn, Aphra

The Rover
[free online]

Adventures of a group of English Cavaliers in Madrid and Naples during the exile of (the future King) Charles II – for 150 years this remained the most often-performed play in the Western world; 1677

Bennett, Alan

The History Boys

Boys at elite British school in the '80s are caught between two very different teachers; 2004

Blitzstein, Marc

The Cradle Will Rock

Opera – political skullduggery in allegorical "Steeltown, USA”; 1936

Bowles, Jane Auer

In the Summer House

Tangled relationship of a mother and daughter; 1953

Brecht, Bertolt

Baal

A man's pursuit of pleasure in all of its forms; 1918

Britten, Benjamin (composer) & Montagu Slater (author)

Peter Grimes

Opera – stunning musical/dramatic masterpiece about an outcast fisherman whose apprentices die mysteriously; 1944

Chambers, Jane

Last Summer at Bluefish Cove

Impact of a woman's terminal cancer on her lifelong friends and lovers; 1980

Cocteau, Jean

The Infernal Machine

Magical retelling of Oedipus and Sphinx; 1932

Crowley, Mart

Boys in the Band

Compendium of gay stereotypes; 1968

Cruz, Nilo

Anna in the Tropics

Magical realist play about family of Cuban cigar makers in 1930 Florida; gay playwright is first Latino to win Pulitzer for Drama; 2002

Durang, Christopher

The Marriage of Bette and Boo

Tragi-comedy about a dysfunctional American family; 1973 (revised 1985)

Edson, Margaret

Wit

Feisty literature professor faces death with the aid of John Donne's poetry; lesbian playwright won Pulitzer Prize; 1998

Euripides

The Bacchae
[free online]

The god Dionysus exacts revenge on a puritanical king who refuses to worship him; 405 BC

Fierstein, Harvey

Torch Song Trilogy

Life of an indomitable drag queen; 1982

Genet, Jean

The Balcony

Surreal, horrific comedy set in a brothel; 1956

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von

Faust
[free online]

Epic verse drama about a man who sells his soul for ultimate knowledge; with a gay Mephistopheles; 1832 (compare Marlowe's Dr. Faustus; 1588)

Greenberg, Richard

Take Me Out

Travails of a gay major league baseball player; 2002

Hansberry, Lorraine

A Raisin in the Sun

Black lesbian playwright's classic about a divided family; 1959

Inge, William

Picnic

Drifter unsettles a complacent Midwest town; 1953

Kelly, George

Craig's Wife

A married woman is obsessed with her possessions; 1925

Kleist, Heinrich von

Penthesilea

Tragedy of Amazons fighting in Trojan War; 1807

Kramer, Larry

The Normal Heart

Fictionalized account of origins of GMHC – by celebrated author/activist who actually did found the group; 1985

Kushner, Tony

Angels in America

Epic two-part comedy/drama/fantasy about 1980s America; Part I: Millennium Approaches (1992) and Part II: Perestroika (1994)

Larson, Jonathan

Rent
[free online]

Musical – NYC "Bohemian" life today; 1995

Laurents, Arthur, Stephen Sondheim & Leonard Bernstein

West Side Story

Musical – update of Romeo and Juliet moved to the mean streets of then-contemporary Manhattan, with one of the greatest scores in theatre history; later a classic film; 1957

Marlowe, Christopher

Edward II
[free online]

English king sacrifices all for his lover; 1594. Adapted by Brecht, 1923; filmed by Jarman, 1991

McNally, Terrence

Love! Valour! Compassion!

Gay friends sort out their lives on three holiday weekends at a country house; 1995

Menotti, Gian-Carlo

The Consul

Opera – parable about refugees confronting a faceless bureaucracy; 1950

Mussorgsky, Modest

Boris Godunov

Opera – musically and dramatically stunning epic about the 16th c. Russian tsar, with libretto and music by Mussorgsky [production photo]; 1862

Patrick, Robert

Untold Decades

Seven one-acts on gay life throughout the 20th c.; 1988 — At this site's Robert Patrick page, the author has graciously sent links to his original photos of "the birthplace of gay theatre" – Manhattan's Caffe Cino, three of his original plays including his favorite, Michelangelo's Models: An Historical Fantasia In Three Acts, as well as an original poem – Thank you, Mr. Patrick!

Stoppard,Tom

The Invention of Love

Gay British poet A.E. Housman (A Shropshire Lad) looks back on his life in this dream-like play; 1997

Van Druten, John

Bell, Book and Candle

Romantic fantasy about a contemporary witch who falls in love with a mortal; 1950

Webster, John

Duchess of Malfi
[free online]

Overwhelming tragic masterpiece; ca. 1611

Wilde, Oscar

Salome
[free online]

Feverish drama of princess's lust for John the Baptist; 1893 (inspired by Flaubert's story "Herodias")

Wilder, Thornton

Our Town

Some of a small New Hampshire town's secrets; 1938

Williams, Emlyn

Night Must Fall
[free online]

About a baby-faced killer, this is one of the most influential thrillers ever written for the stage; 1935

Williams, Tennessee

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Homosexual loves, past and present; 1955

Wilson, Lanford

The Fifth of July

Disabled gay Vietnam vet, lover, & family; 1978

Wright, Doug

I Am My Own Wife

One actor plays many roles in Pulitzer Prize-winning tale of real-life German transvestite who survived both the Nazis and Communists; 2003

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BookPoetry

GLBT poetry extends to the beginnings of civilization, and is found in all world cultures. Below is an overview of mostly Western poets, but other vital traditions include the Arabic, Chinese, and Japanese. The first anthology of same-sex poetry is Ioläus [free online], edited by Edward Carpenter in 1908. You will find an excellent selection of lesbian poets in Chloe Plus Olivia (1994), edited by Lillian Faderman; and for male poets, the Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature (1998), edited by Byrne R.S. Fone.

GilgameshAncient (before 500 BCE)

BABYLONIAN: Gilgamesh (2,000 BCE), oldest surviving work of literature and a moving gay love story. GREEK: Homer (8th c. BCE; Iliad with central bond of Achilles & Patroclus), Sappho (born 612? BCE).

SophoclesClassical (500 BCE – 476 CE)

GREEK: Aeschylus (525 BCE – 456), Sophocles (496? BCE – 406), Euripides (480? BCE – 406) often treated same-sex themes, but those works were later destroyed by barbarians or the church; also Pindar (518 BCE – 438), Theocritus (308? BCE – 240). ROMAN: Catullus (84? BCE – 54), Virgil (70 BCE – 19; "Eclogue II" & Aeneid, Book IX), Horace (65 BCE – 8), Ovid (43 BCE – 17 CE), Martial (40 CE – 104), Juvenal (55 CE – 140).

HildegardMedieval (476 – 1453)

OLD ENGLISH: Beowulf (8th c.; relationship of Hrothgar & Beowulf). GERMAN: Hildegard of Bingen. FRENCH-NORMAN: Epics, including Song of Roland (11th c.), Lancelot-Grail (Galehaut & Lancelot). Lyric poetry from many countries. Passages in Dante (1265 – 1321; Inferno Cantos 11, 14 & 15; Purgatorio Canto 26), Chaucer (1340? – 1400; Canterbury Tales).

ShakespeareRenaissance & Baroque

ITALIAN: Michelangelo (1475 – 1564; Sonnets), Torquato Tasso (1544 – 1595). BRITISH: Edmund Spenser (1552 – 1599), Sir Philip Sidney (1554 – 1586), Christopher Marlowe (1564 – 1593), Shakespeare (1564 – 1616; Sonnets), Richard Barnfield (1574 – 1627), Katherine Philips (1632 – 1664), Aphra Behn (1640? – 1689). FRENCH: Théophile de Viau (1590 – 1626), Denis Sanguin de Saint-Pavin (1595 – 1670). MEXICAN: Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1648 – 1695).

Byron18th & 19th Centuries

GERMAN: Friedrich Hölderlin, Heinrich von Kleist, August von Platen. BRITISH: Lord Byron, Thomas Gray, Edward Lear, Alexander Pope, Christina Rossetti, Anna Seward, Algernon Charles Swinburne, John Adington Symonds, Oscar Wilde. AMERICAN: Emily Dickinson, Bayard Taylor, Walt Whitman (Leaves of Grass, esp. "Calamus" section). FRENCH: Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud (A Season in Hell), Paul Verlaine.

SteinEarly to Mid-20th Century

AMERICAN: Elizabeth Bishop, Countee Cullen, Hart Crane, H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), T.S. Eliot, Langston Hughes, Amy Lowell, Edna Saint Vincent Millay, George Santayana, Gertrude Stein (Tender Buttons). BRITISH: W.H. Auden, Gerard Manley Hopkins, A.E. Housman (A Shropshire Lad), Rudyard Kipling, Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Edith Sitwell, Stephen Spender. CHILEAN: Gabriela Mistral. FRENCH: Jean Cocteau, René Crevel, Jean Genet, Lautréamont, Renée Vivien. GERMAN: Stefan George, Bertolt Brecht. GREEK: Constantine Cavafy, Napoleon Lapathiotis. ITALIAN: Sandro Penna, Pier Paolo Pasolini. PORTUGUESE: Fernando Pessoa. RUSSIAN: Nikolai Klyuev, Sergei Esenin, Mikhail Kusmin, Sophia Parnok, Marina Ivanovna Tsvetaeva. SOUTH AFRICAN: William Plomer. SPANISH: Luis Cernuda, Federico García Lorca.

SteinContemporary

AMERICAN: Paula Gunn Allen, John Ashbery, Olga Broumas, Mark Doty, Robert Duncan, Edward Field, Allen Ginsberg, Judy Grahn, Marilyn Hacker, Essex Hemphill, Richard Howard, Maurice Kenny, Audre Lorde, J.D. McClatchy, James Merrill, Paul Monette, Mary Oliver, Robert Patrick, Adrienne Rich. BRITISH: Carol Ann Duffy, Thom Gunn. JAPANESE: Mutsuo Takahashi. MEXICAN: Nancy Cárdenas.

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BookNon-FIction

Biography, History, Politics, Philosophy, Science & More

(100 Overlooked GLBT Non-Fiction Authors includes books not listed below)

Ackerley, J.R.

My Father & Myself

Examines his family and British society; 1968

Anzaldúa, Gloria

Borderlands = La Frontera

US and Mexican cultures, genders, selves; 1987

Arenas, Reinaldo

Before Night Falls

Memoir of gay life in Cuba before and during Castro regime; 1993

Bacon, Francis

The Essays, Civil and Moral
[free online]

Essays on many topics by the great English philosopher, statesman, jurist, and literary stylist, who also helped originate the scientific method of problem solving; 1625

Bagemihl, Bruce

Biological Exuberance

Same-sex traits in the animal world and natural diversity; 1999

Barthes, Roland

S/Z

Provocative analysis of Balzac's 1830 transgender-themed story Sarrasine [free online]; 1970

Bashô, Matsuo

Narrow Road to the Deep North
[free online]

Beautiful, meditative Japanese travel diary written alternately in prose and poetry; 1694

Boswell, John

Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality

Revelatory study of gay people in Western Europe from late Roman Empire to the 14th c.; 1980

Butler, Judith P.

Gender Trouble

Controversial study argues that gender identity is a fluid variable changing in different contexts; 1990

Caesar, Julius

Commentaries on the Gallic Wars
[free online]

The extraordinary bisexual Roman general – and later dictator – recounts how he conquered Gaul (later called France); 52 BCE

Carpenter, Edward, ed.

Ioläus
[free online]

Superb same-sex anthology, from antiquity to Whitman, by gay rights pioneer; 1908

Cixous, Hélène

The Book of Promethea

Feminist reinterpretation of myth; 1983

Cocteau, Jean

The White Book (Le Livre Blanc)

Unique celebration of being gay; 1928

Cook, Blanche Wiesen

Eleanor Roosevelt

Multi-volume biography of humanitarian, and bi, First Lady; 1993

Crompton, Louis

Byron and Greek Love

Homophobia in 19th c. England; 1985

Doty, Mark

Heaven's Coast

Memoir of his lover's death from AIDS; 1996

Duberman, Martin

Stonewall

Lives of six people who participated; 1993

Duberman, Martin; et al.

Hidden from History

Fascinating essays on GLBTs throughout both world and US history; 1990

Eliot, T.S.

Selected Essays

Eliot's theories about literature are as influential as his poetry; 1951

Ellmann, Richard

Oscar Wilde

Definitive biography, and cultural history; 1988

Faderman, Lillian

Surpassing the Love of Men

Female romantic friendship, and lesbian life, from the Renaissance to the present; 1981

Faderman, Lillian

Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers

Lesbian life in 20th c. America; 1991

Fischer, Erica

Aimee & Jaguar: A Love Story

In 1943 Berlin, a Nazi's wife and a fugitive Jewish woman fall in love; 1998

Foster, Jeanette Howard

Sex Variant Women in Literature

Landmark study of lesbian, bi and trans women in over 300 literary works, from Sappho to the 1950s; 1956

Foucault, Michel

History of Sexuality

On the fluid nature of human desire; 1976

Frank, Anne

Diary of a Young Girl (complete ed.)

Uncensored text includes Anne's same-sex feelings; 1997 (ed. O. Frank & M. Pressler)

Isay, Richard A.

Being Homosexual & Becoming Gay

Two books by insightful gay psychotherapist; 1989

Isherwood, Christopher

Christopher and His Kind: 1929–1939

His memoir of experiences before emigrating to the United States; 1976

Johnston, Jill

Lesbian Nation

Classic about lesbian/feminist identity, written in experimental style; 1973

Katz, Jonathan Ned

Gay American History

400 years of GLBTs in America, revealed through original historical documents; 1976

Koestenbaum, Wayne

The Queen's Throat

Study of opera, homosexuality and "the mystery of desire;" 1993

Lawrence, D.H.

Studies in Classic American Literature
[free online]

Still-provocative exploration of U.S. literary history, from colonial works through canonical 19th c. authors (many of whom were GLB); 1923

Lawrence, T.E.

Seven Pillars of Wisdom

Memoir by "Lawrence of Arabia;" 1926

Leduc, Violette

La Batarde

Passionate, stylistically original autobiography; 1964

Lister, Anne

Journal

19th c. lesbian explores her true self; d. 1840

Lorde, Audre

Zami: A New Spelling of My Name

African-American "biomythography;" 1982

Lovecraft, H.P.

Supernatural Horror in Literature
[free online]

Landmark study of the genre by perhaps the greatest horror author of all time; 1927

Mann, William J.

Behind the Screen

Landmark history of how gay men and lesbians shaped Hollywood between 1910 and 1969; 2001

Marcuse, Herbert

Eros and Civilization

Far-ranging critique of societal repression; 1955

Matthiessen, F.O.

American Renaissance: Art and Expression in the Age of Emerson and Whitman

Exploration of five mid-19th c. U.S. authors (Whitman, Melville, Thoreau – and possibly Hawthorne – were gay/bi), created the field of American Studies; 1941

McCourt, James

Queer Street

Part memoir, part phantasmagoria – imaginative history of gay life 1947–1985 which "channels" T.S. Eliot, James Baldwin, Truman Capote and Gore Vidal; 2003

Mead, Margaret

Coming of Age in Samoa

Landmark study of adolescence and sexual behavior in "primitive" cultures; 1928

Miller, Neil

In Search of Gay America

GLBTs from across the USA, in farmlands, small towns, suburbs, & cities; 1989

Monette, Paul

Becoming a Man

Searing memoir of how the author came out, and finally learned to love; 1992

Mordden, Ethan

Broadway Babies: The People Who Made the American Musical

Toe-tapping introduction to the history of the Broadway musical – Mordden has also written a decade-by-decade history of musicals from the 1920s to today; 1988

Murray, Stephen O. & Will Roscoe

Boy-Wives and Female Husbands: Studies in African Homosexualities [my review]

Groundbreaking collection of anthropological, historical, and sociopolitical studies focused on same-sex relationships in Africa, including woman–woman marriages, alternative gender identities, GLBTs in modern African societies and literature, more; 2001

Nicolson, Nigel

Portrait of a Marriage

Revealing portrayal of the politician author's bisexual mother Vita Sackville West (book includes her Diary), and bisexual father; 1973

Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm

Thus Spake Zarathustra
[free online]

Believed the ideal human could direct passions creatively instead of suppressing them; 1883

Nin, Anaïs

Henry and June

Nin's relationship with author Henry Miller and his wife in 1931/32, culled from uncensored version of her sprawling memoirs; 1986

Packard, Chris

Queer Cowboys [my review]

Illuminating study of same-sex relationships in the nineteenth century American frontier, drawing on literary, non-fiction, and visual sources; 2005

Pater, Walter

The Renaissance
[free online]

Groundbreaking study of art and poetry, also introduced influential "Art for Art's sake" concepts of Aestheticism and Decadence; 1873

Plato

Symposium
[free online]

Socrates & co. drink wine and discuss love; 350 BC (compare Xenophon's Symposium)

Plutarch

Lives of Noble Greeks & Romans
[free online]

Incl. gay leaders Lycurgus, Solon, Agesilaus, Alexander the Great, Pelopidas (Sacred Band of Thebes); 100 AD

Russo, Vito

Celluloid Closet

GLBTs in Hollywood on- and off-screen; 1981

Santayana, George

The Life of Reason

The importance, and pleasure, of enlightened instinct – by the gay Spanish-American philosopher, poet, novelist, and critic; 1905

Sarton, May

Journal of a Solitude

Joy and fear of living alone; 1977

Saslow, James M.

Pictures & Passions

History of homosexuality in the visual arts; 1999

Sedgwick, Eve

Between Men

English Literature and same-sex desire; 1985

Shilts, Randy

Conduct Unbecoming

Epic history of GLBs in the military; 1993

Sontag, Susan

AIDS & Its Metaphors

On cultural mythologies surrounding AIDS; a complement to Illness as Metaphor; 1989

Stoddard, Charles Warren

South-Sea Idyls

Subtly homoerotic adventures in Polynesia; 1873

Strachey, Lytton

Eminent Victorians
[free online]

This first "camp" biography skewers the hypocrisies of Victorian England; 1918

Summers, Claude J., ed.

Gay and Lesbian Literary Heritage

Indispensable! 350 entries on GLBT authors, genres, & national literatures; 1995 — its contents are also available online at glbtq.com

Symonds, John Addington

Memoirs
[free online]

By a pioneer in same-sex rights, this is also the first gay male autobiography; 1893

Thoreau, Henry David

Walden
[free online]

Provocative meditations on nature, society, and personal freedom; 1854

Thucydides

The Peloponnesian War
[free online]

Long, bloody war between Greek city-states of Athens and Sparta (first great work of History); 431 BC

Tripp, C.A.

The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln

Controversial biography explores, and documents, Lincoln's bisexuality; 2004

Vanita, Ruth & Saleem Kidwai

Same-Sex Love in India

Readings spanning 2,000 years from literature and history, representing Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, and modern traditions; 2000

Whitman, Walt

Specimen Days
[free online]

The great poet's visionary autobiography; 1882

Wilde, Oscar

Intentions
[free online]

Major essays, incl. "Critic as Artist;" 1891

Williams, Walter L.

Spirit and the Flesh

Native American same-sex traditions; 1986

Woolf, Virginia

A Room of One's Own

Landmark essay on women, art, and society; 1929

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BookMore "Best GLBT Books" Resources

The single best resource for GLBT literature, and cultural history, is the comprehensive glbtq.com. It includes the complete contents of Claude J. Summers's landmark Gay and Lesbian Literary Heritage, and 2,000 articles, written by scholars for a wide audience, on books, theatre, film, the visual arts, music, history, law, philosophy, the sciences and more.

At the GLBT Literature Resources page, you'll find annotated links to anthologies, which are de facto "best" lists, including Ioläus [free online] (edited by Edward Carpenter in 1908, this is the first collection of same-sex literature), plus all of the "best GLBT books" lists that I've found, including awards and readers' sites. (Among other items, there are both the Publishing Triangle's "100 Best" lists for GLBT Novels and Non-Fiction, along with my supplements of 50 Overlooked GLBT Fiction Authors and 100 Overlooked GLBT Non-Fiction Authors.)

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