The Best LGBTQIA+ Listens by Queer Authors

We scoured the big and beautiful LGBTQIA+ canon to present some of our favorite queer-focused listens of all time.

Truly great literature can foster a sense of belonging and the feeling of truly being seen. However, listeners on the hunt for the best LGBTQIA+ books out there know that finding stories about gay characters isn’t always easy. So, we’ve put together a series of lists detailing some of the best LGBTQIA+ listens available, from lesbian literature to bisexual and trans stories.

Here are some of the best audiobooks penned by queer authors, from classic to contemporary across all genres and age brackets. These selections are all focused on gay characters, written by gay authors. Let's dive in!

Giovanni's Room

By literary great James Baldwin, Giovanni's Room is a classic LGBTQIA+ novel. David is a young American man living in Paris whose girlfriend has just left for Spain, where she plans to contemplate whether or not she wants to marry him. Meanwhile, David takes up an affair with an Italian man named Giovanni—forcing him to reckon with his attraction to both sexes and his personal history while navigating his own desires and his family’s expectations. This listen features a sensitive performance by narrator Dan Butler.

The House in the Cerulean Sea

Linus Baker works as a case manager in the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He takes his job seriously, and he’s a strict rule follower. But when he receives an assignment to determine whether or not six magical (and dangerous!) children are likely to bring about the end of the world as we know it, he finds rules and order going out the window. Linus travels to the orphanage where the children live, cared for by Arthur Parnassus. Arthur would do anything to protect these kids and their secrets—and when the two meet, those secrets come to light. This is a delightful listen about magic and found family, a theme many LGBTQIA+ listeners can relate to, and it’s narrated by Daniel Henning.

How We Fight for Our Lives

In this moving memoir, award-winning poet Saeed Jones tells of his childhood in the South and his coming of age as a gay Black man. Full of vignettes from his life, this memoir covers everything from his contentious relationship with his mother to his travels across the country. At its heart, Jones’s personal story is about the lengths we go to discover who we really are and then fight to be ourselves. Jones narrates his memoir, which is only appropriate—it’s powerful to hear his words in his own voice.

Red, White & Royal Blue

If you want a purely escapist listen, try this irresistible story about what happens when the son of the American president falls for the Prince of Wales! Alex Claremont-Diaz is young, good-looking, and charming, making him perfect tabloid fodder when his mom is elected president. But when a disagreement with Henry, the Prince of Wales is leaked to the public, it’s not good for the White House’s image. To save US and UK relations, Alex is sent to make up with Henry, with the press in attendance, of course. While their friendship is staged at first, it soon becomes very real, and what’s more, Alex begins to fall for Henry, for better or worse. Narrated by Ramon de Ocampo, this must-hear romance was Audible’s pick as the Best Romance of 2019.

The Women's House of Detention

Now regarded as something of a Queer Mecca, Greenwich Village was once the epicenter of arrests for tens of thousands of women and transmasculine people. Overwhelmingly charged with crimes related to being poor, outcast, and failing to conform to gender norms, prisoners were held at the "House of D," a fixture of the New York City neighborhood from 1929 to 1974. From historian Hugh Ryan, who also penned When Brooklyn Was Queer, this work sheds light on the pivotal role of this brutal women's prison in the gay rights movement and the monumental Stonewall riots.

Sweet Tea

In this eye-opening oral history, E. Patrick Johnson explores what it means to be gay, Black, and Southern. He collects more than 60 authentic stories of gay Black men from and/or living in the South, focusing on various aspects of their lives to illuminate the challenges they face, the bonds they’ve created, and how they navigate the world around them. Examining stereotypes often associated with gay culture and Southern society, Sweet Tea also reveals how these men live, find connection and community, and celebrate their identities. At 26 hours long, it’s no light listen, but it is an essential one, narrated by Johnson himself.

Hot White Heist

This hilarious Audible Original comedy podcast pairs Sex and the City icon Cynthia Nixon with SNL’s Bowen Yang, with Emmy Award-winning actress Jane Lynch, with renowned drag queen and actor Bianca Del Rio, with actress Mj Rodriguez (of Pose fame)… Should we go on? This action-packed comedy follows the iconic all-queer cast as they embark on a mission for some pretty high-caliber fluid: sperm—namely, Barack Obama’s. Oh, and there’s Mark Zuckerberg’s and Stephen Hawking’s, among other notables. You see, the US government hid some of the strongest sperm in the world in case of a global catastrophe. And now it’s about time for a sperm bank heist.

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel

In novelist Alexander Chee’s first collection of essays, he explores the forces in his life that have shaped him and his identity—as a Korean-American, as a gay man, as a writer, and as a teacher. These wide-ranging essays tackle events and stories that are deeply personal to him, from his father’s death to writing his first novel, to larger events that shape our world, such as the AIDs crisis and the 2016 presidential election. This is a smart and thought-provoking collection, narrated by Daniel K. Isaac.

Vagabonds!

Set in Nigeria, this contemporary novel follows a group of vibrant characters who live outside of mainstream culture—mainly in the queer underground of Lagos. These men, women, and non-binary characters "live in the cracks" of a society where same-sex love is illegal and can be punished by violence. As the richly transporting Vagabonds! confronts the brutal realities of Nigeria's homophobic legislation, the themes of joy and pride in the face of oppression shine through.

Tipping the Velvet

By award-winning lesbian author Sarah Waters, Tipping the Velvet is a romance novel centered around adventure and self-discovery. With Victorian England as its backdrop, the story explores important themes, ranging from gender roles to societal pressures to identity, through the lens of two queer cabaret dancers who are falling in love. Unlike many 20th-century romance writers—her novel was first published in 1998—Waters does not shy away from Sapphic love scenes. Her prose won her Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction in 2000 and the Betty Trask Award in 1999. This iconic story of lesbian love and desire is a queer literary classic that is not to be missed.

Bath Haus

In best-selling author PJ Vernon’s sophomore thriller, glamorous couple Oliver and Nathan seem to have it all, from a loving relationship to an impeccably restored Washington, DC townhouse. But when Oliver has an illicit encounter at a discreet gay bathhouse, he ends up the victim of a brutal attack and barely escapes with his life. In the traumatic aftermath, he’ll do anything to keep Nathan from finding out his secret—but as the danger moves closer to home, so do the lies. Cunningly crafted, sexy, and scary, this pitch-perfect thriller ratchets up the suspense with a dual POV voiced by narrators Michael Crouch and Daniel Henning.

Ten Steps to Nanette

"There is nothing stronger than a broken woman who has rebuilt herself," award-winning comedian Hanna Gadsby proclaimed in her show Nannette, a scorching critique of the way society views marginalized communities. In this harrowing and hilarious memoir, which she naturally narrates herself, Gadsby traces her growth as a queer person, from growing up in small-town Tasmania where homosexuality was illegal until 1997 to finding her voice as a stand-up comic known for her self-deprecating, autobiographical humor to finally rejecting cheap laughs and misogyny for truth-telling.

They Both Die at the End

While its title sounds grim, definitely check out Adam Silvera’s speculative novel about chance discoveries, making each day count, and finding love where you least expect it. Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio have each just received some bad news: They’re going to die sometime today. Although it’s a surprise, they waste no time in trying to make their last day count, and end up connecting on an app meant to unite people who want a friend on their last day on Earth. What follows is a memorable, life-changing day of connection and living life to its fullest, with a fantastic cast including Michael Crouch, Robbie Daymond, and Bahni Turpin.

Detransition, Baby

In author Torrey Peters's groundbreaking debut novel, a trans woman named Reese receives a curious proposal from her ex, Ames: help raise a baby he's fathered with his new partner, a cis woman named Katrina. Ames, who was born male but lived as a woman named Amy for years before detransitioning, speculates that Reese's involvement can help him come to terms with the fraught prospect of fatherhood. Longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction–the first book by a trans women to be nominated in the prize's 25-year history–Detransition, Baby is a engaging, compulsive, and time-hopping journey through questions of identity that resists cliché and easy answers, its quippy style enhanced by narrator Renata Friedman's knowing delivery.

Less

In this romantic comedy, a best seller and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, author Arthur Less is on the verge of turning 50 when he gets a truly awful piece of mail: a wedding invitation from his ex-boyfriend. Unwilling to say no outright, Arthur pretends that he’s too busy attend, and then goes on to accept a series of dubious literary invites from all over the world as a valid excuse to run away from his past. Traveling from Paris to Berlin to Morocco to India, Arthur turns 50 while away from home and discovers love, second chances, and finally faces up to what he’s most afraid of. Less is narrated by Robert Petkoff.

Real Life

Wallace is Black, queer, and Southern. He’s pursuing a biochem degree at a Midwestern university, but he’s careful not to show too much of himself to his colleagues and friends, and that distance becomes most notable over the course of a single weekend. A series of confrontations has Wallace questioning everything—and exposes some of the undercurrents of hostility and tension among his friend group. Real Life is a powerful and critically acclaimed novel about loneliness and navigating an unfamiliar (and oftentimes hostile) environment, narrated by beloved performer Kevin R. Free.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Aristotle is an angry teen with a lot of questions and a brother in prison. Dante is unlike anyone he’s ever known. When the two meet one summer at a swimming pool, they strike up a friendship that allows them to help each other through their awkward, painful teen years. But their relationship goes deeper than friendship, and it might mean something much more—if they can find the courage to face their feelings and live their truth. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe has won multiple awards, including a Printz Honor, the Stonewall Book Award, a Lambda Literary Award, and the Pure Belpre Award. This tender novel is narrated by the inimitable Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Giovanni's Room

By literary great James Baldwin, Giovanni's Room is a classic LGBTQIA+ novel. David is a young American man living in Paris whose girlfriend has just left for Spain, where she plans to contemplate whether or not she wants to marry him. Meanwhile, David takes up an affair with an Italian man named Giovanni—forcing him to reckon with his attraction to both sexes and his personal history while navigating his own desires and his family’s expectations. This listen features a sensitive performance by narrator Dan Butler.

The House in the Cerulean Sea

Linus Baker works as a case manager in the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He takes his job seriously, and he’s a strict rule follower. But when he receives an assignment to determine whether or not six magical (and dangerous!) children are likely to bring about the end of the world as we know it, he finds rules and order going out the window. Linus travels to the orphanage where the children live, cared for by Arthur Parnassus. Arthur would do anything to protect these kids and their secrets—and when the two meet, those secrets come to light. This is a delightful listen about magic and found family, a theme many LGBTQIA+ listeners can relate to, and it’s narrated by Daniel Henning.

How We Fight for Our Lives

In this moving memoir, award-winning poet Saeed Jones tells of his childhood in the South and his coming of age as a gay Black man. Full of vignettes from his life, this memoir covers everything from his contentious relationship with his mother to his travels across the country. At its heart, Jones’s personal story is about the lengths we go to discover who we really are and then fight to be ourselves. Jones narrates his memoir, which is only appropriate—it’s powerful to hear his words in his own voice.

Red, White & Royal Blue

If you want a purely escapist listen, try this irresistible story about what happens when the son of the American president falls for the Prince of Wales! Alex Claremont-Diaz is young, good-looking, and charming, making him perfect tabloid fodder when his mom is elected president. But when a disagreement with Henry, the Prince of Wales is leaked to the public, it’s not good for the White House’s image. To save US and UK relations, Alex is sent to make up with Henry, with the press in attendance, of course. While their friendship is staged at first, it soon becomes very real, and what’s more, Alex begins to fall for Henry, for better or worse. Narrated by Ramon de Ocampo, this must-hear romance was Audible’s pick as the Best Romance of 2019.

The Women's House of Detention

Now regarded as something of a Queer Mecca, Greenwich Village was once the epicenter of arrests for tens of thousands of women and transmasculine people. Overwhelmingly charged with crimes related to being poor, outcast, and failing to conform to gender norms, prisoners were held at the "House of D," a fixture of the New York City neighborhood from 1929 to 1974. From historian Hugh Ryan, who also penned When Brooklyn Was Queer, this work sheds light on the pivotal role of this brutal women's prison in the gay rights movement and the monumental Stonewall riots.

Sweet Tea

In this eye-opening oral history, E. Patrick Johnson explores what it means to be gay, Black, and Southern. He collects more than 60 authentic stories of gay Black men from and/or living in the South, focusing on various aspects of their lives to illuminate the challenges they face, the bonds they’ve created, and how they navigate the world around them. Examining stereotypes often associated with gay culture and Southern society, Sweet Tea also reveals how these men live, find connection and community, and celebrate their identities. At 26 hours long, it’s no light listen, but it is an essential one, narrated by Johnson himself.

Hot White Heist

This hilarious Audible Original comedy podcast pairs Sex and the City icon Cynthia Nixon with SNL’s Bowen Yang, with Emmy Award-winning actress Jane Lynch, with renowned drag queen and actor Bianca Del Rio, with actress Mj Rodriguez (of Pose fame)… Should we go on? This action-packed comedy follows the iconic all-queer cast as they embark on a mission for some pretty high-caliber fluid: sperm—namely, Barack Obama’s. Oh, and there’s Mark Zuckerberg’s and Stephen Hawking’s, among other notables. You see, the US government hid some of the strongest sperm in the world in case of a global catastrophe. And now it’s about time for a sperm bank heist.

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel

In novelist Alexander Chee’s first collection of essays, he explores the forces in his life that have shaped him and his identity—as a Korean-American, as a gay man, as a writer, and as a teacher. These wide-ranging essays tackle events and stories that are deeply personal to him, from his father’s death to writing his first novel, to larger events that shape our world, such as the AIDs crisis and the 2016 presidential election. This is a smart and thought-provoking collection, narrated by Daniel K. Isaac.

Vagabonds!

Set in Nigeria, this contemporary novel follows a group of vibrant characters who live outside of mainstream culture—mainly in the queer underground of Lagos. These men, women, and non-binary characters "live in the cracks" of a society where same-sex love is illegal and can be punished by violence. As the richly transporting Vagabonds! confronts the brutal realities of Nigeria's homophobic legislation, the themes of joy and pride in the face of oppression shine through.

Tipping the Velvet

By award-winning lesbian author Sarah Waters, Tipping the Velvet is a romance novel centered around adventure and self-discovery. With Victorian England as its backdrop, the story explores important themes, ranging from gender roles to societal pressures to identity, through the lens of two queer cabaret dancers who are falling in love. Unlike many 20th-century romance writers—her novel was first published in 1998—Waters does not shy away from Sapphic love scenes. Her prose won her Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction in 2000 and the Betty Trask Award in 1999. This iconic story of lesbian love and desire is a queer literary classic that is not to be missed.

Bath Haus

In best-selling author PJ Vernon’s sophomore thriller, glamorous couple Oliver and Nathan seem to have it all, from a loving relationship to an impeccably restored Washington, DC townhouse. But when Oliver has an illicit encounter at a discreet gay bathhouse, he ends up the victim of a brutal attack and barely escapes with his life. In the traumatic aftermath, he’ll do anything to keep Nathan from finding out his secret—but as the danger moves closer to home, so do the lies. Cunningly crafted, sexy, and scary, this pitch-perfect thriller ratchets up the suspense with a dual POV voiced by narrators Michael Crouch and Daniel Henning.

Ten Steps to Nanette

"There is nothing stronger than a broken woman who has rebuilt herself," award-winning comedian Hanna Gadsby proclaimed in her show Nannette, a scorching critique of the way society views marginalized communities. In this harrowing and hilarious memoir, which she naturally narrates herself, Gadsby traces her growth as a queer person, from growing up in small-town Tasmania where homosexuality was illegal until 1997 to finding her voice as a stand-up comic known for her self-deprecating, autobiographical humor to finally rejecting cheap laughs and misogyny for truth-telling.

They Both Die at the End

While its title sounds grim, definitely check out Adam Silvera’s speculative novel about chance discoveries, making each day count, and finding love where you least expect it. Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio have each just received some bad news: They’re going to die sometime today. Although it’s a surprise, they waste no time in trying to make their last day count, and end up connecting on an app meant to unite people who want a friend on their last day on Earth. What follows is a memorable, life-changing day of connection and living life to its fullest, with a fantastic cast including Michael Crouch, Robbie Daymond, and Bahni Turpin.

Detransition, Baby

In author Torrey Peters's groundbreaking debut novel, a trans woman named Reese receives a curious proposal from her ex, Ames: help raise a baby he's fathered with his new partner, a cis woman named Katrina. Ames, who was born male but lived as a woman named Amy for years before detransitioning, speculates that Reese's involvement can help him come to terms with the fraught prospect of fatherhood. Longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction–the first book by a trans women to be nominated in the prize's 25-year history–Detransition, Baby is a engaging, compulsive, and time-hopping journey through questions of identity that resists cliché and easy answers, its quippy style enhanced by narrator Renata Friedman's knowing delivery.

Less

In this romantic comedy, a best seller and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, author Arthur Less is on the verge of turning 50 when he gets a truly awful piece of mail: a wedding invitation from his ex-boyfriend. Unwilling to say no outright, Arthur pretends that he’s too busy attend, and then goes on to accept a series of dubious literary invites from all over the world as a valid excuse to run away from his past. Traveling from Paris to Berlin to Morocco to India, Arthur turns 50 while away from home and discovers love, second chances, and finally faces up to what he’s most afraid of. Less is narrated by Robert Petkoff.

Real Life

Wallace is Black, queer, and Southern. He’s pursuing a biochem degree at a Midwestern university, but he’s careful not to show too much of himself to his colleagues and friends, and that distance becomes most notable over the course of a single weekend. A series of confrontations has Wallace questioning everything—and exposes some of the undercurrents of hostility and tension among his friend group. Real Life is a powerful and critically acclaimed novel about loneliness and navigating an unfamiliar (and oftentimes hostile) environment, narrated by beloved performer Kevin R. Free.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Aristotle is an angry teen with a lot of questions and a brother in prison. Dante is unlike anyone he’s ever known. When the two meet one summer at a swimming pool, they strike up a friendship that allows them to help each other through their awkward, painful teen years. But their relationship goes deeper than friendship, and it might mean something much more—if they can find the courage to face their feelings and live their truth. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe has won multiple awards, including a Printz Honor, the Stonewall Book Award, a Lambda Literary Award, and the Pure Belpre Award. This tender novel is narrated by the inimitable Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Tirzah Price is a writer and contributing editor at Book Riot.

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