Buckle in, guys, this is gonna be a monster of a post! To give you some context for just how giant our list of favourite reads of this year is: we only listed three books each from 2018 & five books each from 2019.
But this time? We had to divide our list into 3 categories: backlist books, books released in 2020 & books to be released in 2021. We also cheated for the last two categories and added a group of books that both of us loved, so we didn’t have to fight over them. Also all the groups are 5 books long, apart from the group of 2021 ARCs which is uhh… 16 books long.
So yes, in total here are 41 books we read this year and loved the most! Enjoy!
Like Water by Rebecca Podos
Rep: bi Latina mc, genderqueer lesbian li
Release date: 17th October 2017
So maybe I’m in love with this book & the wonderfully intense sapphic romance between two flawed, beautiful characters, so what.
Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki & Rosemary Valero-O’Connell
Rep: half-East Asian lesbian mc, lesbian li, poc gay sc, Black gay sc, Black sapphic sc, lesbian sc
TW: homophobia, cheating, unwanted pregnancy, abortion
Release date: 7th May 2019
Using the word lesbian and allowing lesbians to be messy and make mistakes, and learn from those mistakes?? Never thought I would see the day! And the art is also incredibly beautiful and delicate.
Abroad by Liz Jacobs
Rep: Russian Jewish gay mc, Black gay mc, bi mc, Indian lesbian sc, trans mlm sc, mlm sc, lesbian scs
Release date: 27th June 2017
Read it just for Nick (the Russian boy) explaining to a western boy why communism does, in fact, suck balls. Please and thank you. Also for all those kids, I love them. This! is how you do found family, just saying.
On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden
Rep: sapphic mc, Black sapphic li, Black sapphic sc, Latino sapphic sc, nonbinary sc, sapphic scs
Release date: 2nd October 2018
This is just so Wholesome!! Restored my faith in humanity and invented romance! Also okay two points: 1) there is not a single man in the whole story & 2) basically everyone is sapphic. It truly feels like a blessing.
These Rebel Waves by Sara Raasch
Rep: gay mc, bi li, sapphic scs, poc cast
TW: torture, child abuse, death & murder
Release date: 7th August 2018
I think we all expected this, I’ve been raving about this series the whole year. But listen, I came here expecting gay pirates but what I got was a bunch of traumatised kids with PTSD trying to win a war, and whom I must protect at all costs. Also a gay prince. And a world literally devoid of homophobia.
Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert
Rep: Chinese American gay mc, Taiwanese American mlm li
TW: past suicide, past child abduction
Release date: 10th April 2018
This is a book that I’ve been begging Anna to read since I first finished it. It’s a book where the central conflict doesn’t surround the main character being gay, that’s just an incidental part of everything. And it has a wonderful, yearning-filled, friends-to-lovers romance too.
This is What it Feels Like by Rebecca Barrow
Rep: Black lesbian mc
TW: teen pregnancy, past death in a car accident, past alcohol abuse
Release date: 6th November 2018
This is primarily a book about friends reuniting, but it’s also a book where, within the first few chapters, the lesbian character uses the word lesbian about herself. Which is when I knew that I was going to love it.
Watchtower by Elizabeth A. Lynn
Rep: gay mc, lesbian side characters
Release date: 1st February 1979
A bit left-field this one, but there’s nothing that hits like 1970s/1980s gay fantasy hits. And this one does just that. It’s also just a lovely quieter fantasy. There’s no big battles to save the world – it’s more about finding a home.
The Clothesline Swing by Ahmad Danny Ramadan
Rep: Syrian gay mc with seasonal depression, Syrian gay li, Syrian lesbian side character
TWs: homophobic language, homophobic violence, domestic abuse, suicide of side characters, antisemitic violence, rape, torture
Release date: 10th June 2017
This is the kind of book that leaves you feeling just the slightest bit hollow when you’re done. It’s so full of love and emotion in general, you’ll want to go back to the beginning just to experience it a little longer.
After the Wedding by Courtney Milan
Rep: bi mc, lesbian side characters
Release date: 23rd April 2018
Courtney Milan’s romances are filled with kindness. I think that’s what appeals to me most about them. You know, going in, that whatever happens to the characters, she will treat it with the utmost respect and kindness. It’s never just about the romance, it’s about the characters developing to be the best of themselves too.
The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen
Rep: Vietnamese-American gay mc, sapphic characters
TW: cannibalism, off page death, on page death, murder, blood, homophobia
Release date: 13th October
This is a fairy tale, but also a coming of age story, but also a story of immigration. There is so much packed here, and all of it makes total perfect sense, thanks to the beautiful art and the use of colors & character designs. You will cry, but you will so good about it! [full review]
Camp by L. C. ROSEN
Rep: gay Jewish mc, half-Korean gay Jewish li, Middle Eastern gay Jewish sc, demi lesbian sc, Afro-Brazilian-American sapphic sc, Black trans sc, nonbinary sc, gay scs
Release date: 26th May
Camp might seem like a gay rom-com at the first glance, but it’s so much more than that. Yes, it’s absolutely hilarious at times; yes, the romance is a vital part of it; yes, it appears sweet and simply fun. But underneath it’s shimmery-glimmery facade, it’s a story of growth and learning to love yourself, each and every part. [full review]
The Dark Tide by ALICIA JASIŃSKA
Rep: bi mc, poc sapphic mc, sapphic parents
Release date: 4th August
Charlotte wrote this post once about how sapphic romances are never as intense as gay ones, with a well researched explanations as to why that is. But The Dark Tide? It doesn’t care about that post! It gives you girls leaving bruises on each other while kissing, it gives you girls literally walking into fire for one another…
In the Role of Brie Hutchens… by Nicole Melleby
Rep: sapphic (probably lesbian) mc & li
TW: homophobia, unsupportive parent
Release date: 30th June
This isn’t just a gay coming-out story, even though that’s a major plot point. It’s a story of a delicate phase of adolescence, of looking for acceptance & reassurance, of figuring out what kind of person you want to be when you grow up. [full review]
A Curse of Roses by Diana Pinguicha
Rep: mostly Portuguese cast & setting, lesbian mc, lesbian Muslim li, lesbian scs
TW: religion-based self harm, homophobia, internalised homophobia, blood, murder, body horror
Release date: 1st December
Such a beautiful tale of century long curses and people using any means available to them to ensure they experience some happiness in life. It’s a wonderful story of a lesbian learning to accept herself, enriched by magic and roses. Lesbians truly have won with this one! [full review]
The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart
Rep: lesbian mcs, non-white cast
Release date: 8th September
The Bone Shard Daughter is the kind of fantasy you just sink into and, when you finally look up from the page, hours have passed where you’ve been immersed in the world. It’s the kind of fantasy that reveals things piecemeal until you think you have the whole picture, but then you don’t. It is, basically, the best kind of fantasy. [full review]
Hollow Empire by Sam Hawke
Rep: lesbian mc with chronic pain, bi mc with OCD and anxiety, non-white cast
Release date: 26th November
This was one of my most anticipated reads for 2020, so no one should be surprised it’s showing up here. It has some of my favourite characters ever and if the series never gets a third book, I will be holding you all personally responsible. [full review]
Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert
Rep: Black bi mc
Release date: 23rd June
No one does romance like Talia Hibbert does romance. It’s invariably funny, full of the right kind of tension and always leaves you wanting even more. I finished Take a Hint, Dani Brown and immediately wanted to be able to pick up book three. [full review]
The Space between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson
Rep: Black bi mc, Japanese wlw li, nonbinary side characters
TW: past abuse, gore, violence
Release date: 4th August
This book is the best of what science fiction has to offer. Twists and turns, romance, and razor sharp social commentary. Yeah, explosions and action are fun, but this is where sci fi peaks. [full review]
The Scapegracers by Hannah Abigail clarke
Rep: lesbian mc, Black sapphic mc, Chinese American bi mc, wlw li, gay parents
Release date: 15th September
If you haven’t read The Scapegracers yet, I’ll forgive you, but only on the promise that you’ll immediately go and rectify that. It’s full of fierce girls, even fiercer friendships, and getting revenge on dickhead boys. [full review]
Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
Rep: Cuban American gay trans mc, Colombian American gay li with ADHD, lesbian side character, trans side character
Release date: 1st September
It’s almost impossible to believe that you might not have heard of this book (and a real travesty if you haven’t). As Anna’s review says, it’s a book about ghosts, but you’ll rarely have felt more alive than when reading it.
Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
Rep: Black mlm trans demiboy mc, biracial (Black, Bengali) mlm li, biracial (Black Puerto Rican, white) gay side character, lesbian & bi side characters
Release date: 5th May
Kacen Callender writes the kind of books that make you feel loved. You can go into any one of them and just know that you’ll find understanding and acceptance and for none is that clearer than Felix Ever After.
King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender
Rep: Black gay mc, gay side character
Release date: August 4th
This is the best of middle grade lit. As we said above, Kacen Callender’s books are full of love — the kind of love that young LGBT kids most need. King and the Dragonflies is guaranteed to fill you with that love (and also make you cry), so if you’re looking for a book to kick off your 2021 reading with, look no further!
The Lost Future of Pepperharrow by Natasha Pulley
Rep: gay mc with synesthaesia, Japanese gay li
Release date: 18th February
Natasha Pulley is one of our auto-read authors, so when we heard that she was writing a sequel to her debut… let’s just say you have never seen so much caps-lock. The Lost Future of Pepperharrow was truly everything we could have hoped for and more, a book that gently tears your heart to pieces and, even more gently, stitches it back together. [Charlotte’s review]
The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski
Rep: lesbian mc, lesbian li, non-white cast
TW: emotional and physical abuse
Release date: 3rd March
No fantasy novels have quite got the lesbian experience in the way The Midnight Lie has. In that way, it’s a book that will cut you to the core and make you feel so seen. It also has one of the most powerful sapphic ships of 2020 (and if you don’t believe me, go and read it again if necessary. You’ll see). [Charlotte’s review]
One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston
Rep: bi mc with anxiety, Chinese American lesbian li, gay side character, Black sapphic side character, Black gay side character, Puerto Rican American trans side character, Black pan side character
TW: past homophobic violence
Release date: 1st June 2021
Every single page of this book screams sapphics!!. It’s so unapologetic about it, and that’s exactly the kind of energy we need more of. It’s also one of those books that you pick up and it feels like being welcoming home. Anna and Charlotte.
Me, My Dad and the End of the Rainbow by benjamin Dean
Rep: Black gay character, gay side characters, nonbinary side character, lesbian side character
Release date: 4th February 2021
Nothing will make you cry like LGBT kidlit does and this book in particular. It’s a book full of love — for family, for friends, and for the LGBT community. And, when you finish, you will feel healed. Charlotte.
The Kingdoms by Natasha Pulley
Rep: biracial (white, Chinese) gay mc with epilepsy, gay mc
TW: implied conversion therapy & rape, violence, gore
Release date: 25th May 2021
Can’t talk right now, I’m doing sad gay shit (crying while thinking about lighthouses and star-crossed lovers). If you want to know how good book is… well it’s one of those ones that you finish and immediately want to reread (note from Charlotte: I actually did exactly this). Anna and Charlotte.
Darling by K. Ancrum
Rep: Black mc, Russian bi ace li, lesbian side character, bi side character, biracial (Irish & Ojibwe) bi side character, Ojibwe bi side character
TW: violence, guns, blood, off page murder
Release date: 22nd June 2021
You will be extremely stressed the whole time, but that was the point. And frankly, given what type of person Peter Pan was, how could a retelling of his story not be super stressful? But the kids in this book, this absolutely beautiful found family… it’s worth every ounce of stress. Anna.
Perfect on Paper by Sophie Gonzales
Rep: bi mc, trans side character, Vietnamese-American lesbian side character, bi side character, gay side character, pan nonbinary side character
TW: biphobia, internalised biphobia, toxic parents, drugs, alcohol, vomiting
Release date: 9th March 2021
This truly felt like a warm hug. I have not stopped thinking about this book for a second ever since I finished reading. Listen, you will not find better bisexuality rep probably like, ever. And get this: it made me care deeply abt a straight boy. Anna.
Yesterday is History by Kosoko Jackson
Rep: Black gay mc, gay lis
TW: mentions of cancer
Release date: 2nd February 2021
Yesterday is History is a wonderful mix of science fiction and romance, while also balancing themes of loss and grief and everything in between. I read the whole book in a single sitting and never for a moment wanted to put it down. Charlotte.
Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft
Rep: bi mc, wlw side character
TW: gore, murder, implied torture, descriptions of surgical procedures
Release date: 2nd March 2021
Probably the biggest mistake of my entire life was reading this book so far in advance of its release. I read it in July of last year and I’ve been internally screaming about it since then. It’s a gorgeously atmospheric fantasy-mystery-romance and trust me when I say you’re going to love it. Charlotte.
The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri
Rep: Indian-coded lesbian mcs
TW: homophobia, gore, violence, execution by burning, forced drug use
Release date: 8th June 2021
All I really have to say about this is that it’s about women. About women carving out spaces for power in a world that hates them, about women finding love. Just women in general really. And trust me when I say, this is one you don’t want to miss. Charlotte.
She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan
Rep: Chinese nonbinary lesbian mc, Chinese lesbian mc, Mongolian bi mc, Chinese gay mc
Release date: 22nd July 2021
This is the kind of book where it’s a complete understatement to say it wrecked me. This book does not just wreck you. This book pulls out your heart with a pair of tweezers, stomps all over it, sets it on fire and, when it’s done, hands it back to you and says come back for the sequel!! And all you can do is say thank you. Charlotte.
Night Tide by Anna Burke
Rep: lesbian mc with MS, bi mc
TW: internalised ableism
Release date: 26th January 2021
Night Tide is the adult f/f romance of my dreams. It’s got second chance romance, university rivals reunited, and perhaps most importantly of all, sapphic hate sex. The relationship between Ivy and Lillian is so intense you’ll find yourself having to (very momentarily) put the book down, just for a breather. Charlotte.
The Councillor by E. J. Beaton
Rep: bi mc, gay side characters
TW: drug use
Release date: 2nd March 2021
If you’re looking for a twisty-turny political fantasy, then this is the book for you. It’s gloriously slowburning with slight-of-the-hand plot twists in the way of The Queen’s Thief. And it features an mc who likes to dominate her partners and a sort-of-but-not-quite-love interest who is very interested in being dominated. Charlotte.
The Sky Blues by Robbie Couch
Rep: gay mc, gay li
TW: car accident, past death of a parent, homophobia, homophobic slurs, racist slurs, religious intolerance, vomiting
Release date: 6th April 2021
“Many thoughts, head full (of love),” I said immediately after reading, and I stand by that. It’s just this overwhelming feeling of community, the coziness of being loved by others. And the mc who’s gaydar is just… a joke. Anna.
A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine
Rep: lesbian mcs, gay side character
Release date: 2nd March 2021
A Memory Called Empire was possibly my favourite book of 2019, so it’s no surprise that A Desolation Called Peace is also up there. It’s a book that expands the universe that has been created, in entirely the best way. And, of course, features more linguistics (aka my favourite thing). Charlotte.
The Split by Laura Kay
Rep: lesbian mc, bi li, gay side character with depression
Release date: 18th March 2021
This book features messy lesbians and wlw/mlm solidarity, which is to say, it’s the best kind of book. It’s not a romance, but is a book about healing after a relationship breakup and finding yourself outside of a relationship. Charlotte.
The Unbroken by C. L. Clark
Rep: Black bi mc, bi mc with physical disability due to injury, wlw side characters, mlm side character, nonbinary side character
TW: violence, gore, past attempted rape, threats of rape, torture
Release date: 23rd March 2021
If you enjoy political fantasies like The Traitor Baru Cormorant, fantasies that take a look at the people caught in an empire’s maw, then you absolutely won’t want to miss out on this. Plus, those arms! Why wouldn’t you? Charlotte.
The Conductors by Nicole Glover
Historical fantasy is one of the best genres, in my opinion. Sprinkle a mystery into that and you have basically the most perfect book. The Conductors does that so well, it will leave you just wanting so much more of it. Charlotte.
Are any of those books on your top of the year? What other books made your list?