Looking to make your 2020 reading list more colorful? Look no further than this list of Rioters’ most anticipated LGBTQ books of 2020. From nonfiction to fantasy, BDSM dystopias to star-crossed prom queens, you’ll find a great sampling of queer books here. The New Year is looking brighter and more full of rainbows already!
Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey (February 4, Tor.com Publishing)
I’ve been obsessed with Sarah Gailey’s writing ever since I first read their incredible American Hippo duology, and everything about this book from the premise—a dystopian future southwest with librarian spies, bandits, and queers fighting back against fascists—to the cover has me convinced it’s going to be one of my favorites of 2020.
Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust (May 12, Flatiron Books)
As soon as I saw that the author of Girls Made of Snow and Glass had a new book coming out, I knew I had to get my hands on it. And this fairytale inspired by Persian folklore and various fairytales did not disappoint. Princess and monster theme, all jumbled up? Check. Girl power? Check. Complicated family dynamics? Check. Girl falling for a magical being? Check and check. It’s one of those books you can hardly put down and definitely don’t forget.
Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby (March 31, Vintage)
Samantha Irby is one of my favorite writers of all time. Her essay collections always make me laugh until I cry, and some of the more emotional moments make me cry until I laugh. In her last collection, she included some of the most hilarious and heartwarming stories about meeting her wife. I’m beyond excited to read her newest book and hear more about their marriage. I’m sure all of my friends are excited too, because I will finally stop begging them to read Meaty and We Are Never Meeting in Real Life and start recommending something new. But really, joke’s on them. Now I’ll constantly pester them about all three.
Check Please! Volume Two: Sticks and Scones by Ngozi Ukazu (April 7, First Second)
I don’t think I’ve been more excited for a sequel before than I am for the second volume of Check Please! If you love wholesome relationships (both platonic and romantic), sports dramas, and pie-baking protagonists, I highly recommend you look into this one. The first volume followed hockey player Eric “Bitty” Bittle during his freshman and sophomore years. Sticks and Scones will go through his final two years of college as he navigates his relationship with the captain of the hockey team and makes the most of his remaining seasons.
The Prettiest Star by Carter Sickels (April 14, Hub City Press)
Being from Appalachian Ohio, I rarely see novels set in my home region, but Carter Sickels, the author of The Evening Hour and the recipient of the 2013 Lambda Literary Emerging Writers Award, set his next novel, The Prettiest Star, a couple counties from where I grew up! Beginning in the spring of 1986, The Prettiest Star follows 24-year-old Brian, a young gay man living with AIDS. After losing his boyfriend and countless friends to the disease, Brian returns to his childhood home to say goodbye to his family. Intricately crafted and beautifully written, The Prettiest Star is a must for your 2020 TBR.
Storytelling in Queer Applachia: Imagining and Writing the Unskeakable Other edited by Hillery Glasby, Sherrie Gradin, and Rachael Ryerson (July 1, West Virginia University Press)
I’m here for all things queer and Appalachian, so when West Virginia University Press announced that they are publishing a collection of essays focusing on the intersection of LGBTQ+ and Appalachian studies, it immediately jumped to the top of my 2020 watchlist. Like it says in the publisher’s blurb, Storytelling in Queer Appalachia: Imagining and Writing the Unspeakable Other “explores sexual identities in rural places, community and individual meaning-making among the Appalachian diaspora, the storytelling infrastructure of queer Appalachia, and the role of the metronormative in discourses of difference.” The only bad thing about this book is having to wait until July! If you’re looking for another collection to tide you over until then, you can check out West Virginia University Press’s anthology LGBTQ Fiction and Poetry from Appalachia edited by Jeff Mann and Julia Watts.
Docile by K.M. Szpara (March 3, Tor.com Publishing)
In this capitalist dystopia, Elisha signs on to be a Docile, a servant to the upper class, in order to save his family from debtor’s prison. He ends up in contract with Alex, the heir to the empire of Dociline—a drug that makes people servile. Szpara shows us BDSM as it is when twisted into an abusive relationship—and then he fixes it, showing us what real BDSM can look like in an equal and consensual dynamic. Szpara takes the system of capitalism and drives his point home: when you have no opportunities, when the system is built against you, there is no real free will. Alex and Elisha have a fascinating dynamic and both have incredible development arcs. Szpara leaves no rock unturned in his queer critique of capitalism, and after 480 pages, I still wanted more.
—Leah Rachel von Essen
Real Life by Brandon Taylor (February 18, Riverhead Books)
I’ll admit that I started following Brandon Taylor on Twitter almost purely for his entertaining streams of commentary on two of my favorite subjects: Patricia Highsmith’s Carol and queer French cinema. Eventually, I started keeping up with his writing at Lit Hub and his fiction (I highly recommend “Anne of Cleves,” which was published in Guernica), and at this point, I would read pretty much anything he wrote. I’m intrigued by Real Life being a campus novel that focuses on the interpersonal forces surrounding race, trauma, and queerness, and can’t wait to pick it up come February.
You Should See Me In A Crown by Leah Johnson (June 2, Scholastic Press)
I have never been as excited to read a debut as I am for You Should See Me In a Crown. It’s a queer romcom featuring a black protagonist—unfortunately rare to find! Liz Lightly is determined to get out of her town and into an elite university to become a doctor. But when her financial aid falls through she decides to run for prom queen, as her school offers a scholarship for prom king and queen. It’s the last thing she wants to do, and the only thing helping her through the competition is the new girl in school, Mack. Problem is, Mack is also running for prom queen.
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