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10 queer books to read this Pride Month, as recommended by the FJ community

WORDS BY ELLA TAVERNER

Add these to your reading list.

There’s something heartfelt and personal about a book recommendation. Although a small gesture, it has a unique intimacy that can extend across relationships of all kinds. Whether it be from a close friend or an old colleague, it provides a level of insight into the minds of those around us, and helps us understand what it is that captures their imagination.

Working at a magazine, you can imagine these sorts of recommendations are part and parcel of our day-to-day activity. From historical memoirs to crime thrillers, the FJ team are never lacking in the book department (library?).


For more content like this, browse through our Life section.


This year, as Pride Month rolled around, I wanted to make a concerted effort to read more books from the LGBTQ community, in regards to both queer themes and characters, as well as the authors who penned them.

Initially, favourites from the likes of Audre Lorde and Oscar Wilde sprung to mind, but I knew these only scratched the surface. With this in mind, I asked friends, contributors and readers of FJ for their favourite queer pageturners.

Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan

Recommended by: Joss Peter, writer

Ava is 22, Irish and uncompromising. She moves to Hong Kong using her ‘abortion fund’ (a savings account that she has charmingly nicknamed). Enter stage left: Julian and Edith, both of whom she begins unconventional relationships with (is there anything more homo than being unsure if you’re hanging out with someone or if you’re on a date????).

Navigating a new city and new feelings, Exciting Times, Dolan’s debut, is a masterclass in biting witticisms and is pitted with gut punches (I’ve literally been thinking about this line for years: “Julian assessed whether women made jokes, decided we did, and laughed.”) It’ll make you smirk and give you a bout of secondhand crush tummy, the kind where you feel awful and achy when you’re not with them, and even worse when you are. J’obsessed.

Get it here.

Me by Elton John

Recommended by: Jonti Ridley, writer and model

There are some tales that need to come straight from the bitch’s mouth, and Elton John’s life is one of those stories. Me by Elton John is the first official autobiography from the queer trailblazer, who is both a messy queen and a sober icon. John’s discography stretches across 31 studio albums, five live albums, nine soundtracks and 22 compilation titles – with the first album released in 1969, Elton’s career has seen it all.

The book charts his experience growing up queer in a dysfunctionally religious family in the English countryside during the ’50s, hustling through the free love era of the ’60s, to living through the first AIDs epidemic of the ’90s and divorcing his cis-het wife (yes, wife).

He eventually found love with his now-husband, David Furnish, in the 2000s and got to raise the family he’d originally resigned himself to never ‘deserving’. I’m not going to spoil anything else for those unfamiliar with the Elton John story, but it’s a book that belongs on your bookshelf, whether you’re a queer history buff or a muso doing their rainbow research.

Get it here.

Heartstopper by Alice Oseman

Recommended by: Cait Emma Burke, Fashion Journal’s Digital Editor

 

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Like every second person on Netflix, I recently devoured Heartstopper, an endearingly sweet, wholesome show that deals with complex issues of sexuality and identity. While not technically a book, the coming-of-age romantic comedy was adapted from an equally as sweet graphic novel by Alice Oseman.

Described by The Guardian as “possibly the loveliest show on TV” (and the book has been described in similar terms), it centres around teenagers Charlie and Nick and how they navigate their growing feelings for each other (and the accompanying judgement and homophobia that comes with this). Watch the show and then read the book – it’s honestly the most heartwarming tale.

Get it here.

All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson

Recommended by: Kurtis Hughes, producer and writer

There is something compelling about a journalist’s candour, and George M Johnson’s memoir is a masterclass in the power this can hold. Espousing his life in full detail, the reader is drawn into a story that explores the intersections of race and queerness, masculinity and femininity, and the complexities of a sexual coming of age.

Growing up as a gay Black man, Johnson highlights the way these two identities, which historically have lacked harmony, can inform a wave of experiences and emotions that fall outside the common narrative we’ve come to be accustomed to in the public space. All Boys Aren’t Blue, in both title and story, challenges the binary that often comes with minority stories. As he writes, it’s clear Johnson is developing a guide for individuals who find that the world wasn’t built for them, and that queerness falls outside the White eye.

Get it here.

Other People’s Clothes by Calla Henkel

Recommended by: Alice Johnson, regulatory compliance coordinator

Exploring my sexuality in my early twenties felt like a drunk fever dream at times. This book reads a lot like how I would feel after approx. 23 glasses of goon and orange juice, finding myself in a sheer sequinned top at 3am on Smith Street holding hands with a stranger, getting a kebab, on my way back to their university dorm room.

Other People’s Clothes is deliciously set in the early 2010s in Berlin and narrated by a New York Art student detailing her time spent abroad (partying more than studying, naturally). Henkel explores the dichotomy of female friendship vs lust, love and desire in a way I have only been able to explore previously after half a bottle of orange wine (growth). Mix in an unreliable narrator with a ton of 2010s pop culture references, an exploration of sexual identity, and a murder (ooh!) and you have one bloody good book.

Get it here.

Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman

Recommended by: Ruby Staley, writer and content creator

 

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Although problematic in its romanticisation of a questionable age-gap relationship, the sexual tension and slow build relationship that takes centre stage in Call Me By Your Name is unforgettable. The story follows young Elio and travelling scholar Oliver in the throws of a massive crush that eventually results in them growing attached to one another throughout the summer.

I love it for its portrayal of unconditional love, a love that doesn’t eventuate but is still the most memorable kind. I’m also an incredibly huge fan of the relaxed Italian countryside setting – it’s my European summer dream.

Get it here.

Yes Daddy by Jonathan Parkes Ramage

Recommended by: Ben Freeman, writer and digital creator

As a writer who holds the brave, noble truth of not reading that much, it takes a lot to have a book maintain my attention in the same way a deranged Ssense scroll does. However, Yes Daddy by Jonathan Parkes Ramage held me, wrapped me up, and spat me out onto the driveway of a Hamptons mansion, where most of this dark novel takes place.

It’s an incredibly disturbing, soapy tale that explores the currency of hotness in the cis-gay-male community, the cost of brushing with fame, and the effects of trauma, both short and long term on queer men. Despite my depressing synopsis, the book is a lot of fun; so indulgent you could eat it with a spoon. I love/hate sadistic gay villains, write more of them!

Get it here.

Enigma Variations by André Aciman

Recommended by: Kurtis Hughes, producer and writer

Temptation and loss are the human experiences that are often present in Aciman’s work, however, Enigma Variations’ storyline is a little more complex. Episodic in nature, the work jumps in time and tense to explore varying erotic fixations of the leading character Paul, who is the books main anchor.

Devoid of any explicit mention of the protagonist’s sexuality, this characterisation is refreshing; desire is the driver, and categorisation is redundant (kudos to living beyond labels!). Both romantic and familial love are set as markers for Paul’s life, with the evolving cast of lovers charting a new depth of Paul’s own sense of self.

I feel compelled to reveal that this novel isn’t a ‘happy’ book in the literal sense. Filled with tough pleasures, the novel is emblematic of real life, albeit with a dash of escapism. There’s no safety net, and the stakes are high, but as someone who is boldly pragmatic, it still sings a (shockingly) hopeful tune.

Get it here.

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo

Recommended by: Giulia Brugliera, Fashion Journal’s Managing Editor

 

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I loved this book because the queerness was just ‘there’, not a centrepiece or focal point of the story. I hadn’t expected it and ultimately found it put my own heteronormative bias right before my eyes. Girl, Woman, Other is one of those books, though, expertly challenging the characters and narratives commonly found in fiction writing. It’s one reason why the novel was so widely talked about upon its release.

It follows 11 women and one non-binary lead, all of who live in Britain with a vast array of desires, challenges and experiences. A little like Love Actually, the women’s stories are all interconnected, which allows for a lot of clever and nuanced juxtaposition. It’s the kind of read that’s perfect for a book club (which is how I came across it in the first place) and should give you plenty of pause and reason for reflection.

Get it here.

Tales of  the City by Armistead Maupin

Recommended by: Kate Streader, writer

I recently read the first book in Armistead Maupin’s LGBTQIA+ series, Tales of the City, and it’s been on my mind ever since. Published in the mid-’70s, the novel follows a naive and somewhat prudish young woman who moves to San Francisco where people and life are much freer.

The novel is broken up into very short chapters that flit between different characters’ perspectives, giving little glimpses of each of their lives. It’s a really beautiful exploration of friendship, love, life, and keeping an open mind.

Get it here.

To discover more queer book recommendations, head here.

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