To celebrate the end of 2023, we've put together a list of the LGBTQIA+ books we adored reading this year, both indie and traditional. We also asked our friends for their input, so you can find dozens of new and exciting recs from your favourite authors and readers alike!
When Love Barges In, Kiss of Death and First Comes Marriage by Bryony Rosehurst
Anything from Bryony is a top queer read of all time. Her books are the definition of queer joy, and even though there's a guaranteed subplot that will wreck you, your heart will be mended by the softest moments and happy endings.
A Pirate's Life for Tea by Rebecca Thorne
The second book in Rebecca's Tomes and Tea cosy fantasy series delivers even more cosiness and queerness. If you're looking for books to warm you up during cold months, these ones are it.
Bitterthorn by Kat Dunn
Bitterthorn is breathtaking gothic sapphic Beauty and the Beast retelling filled with magical writing that will leave you thirsting for more.
A Dowry of Blood by S.T. Gibson
This one has to be on the top of my all time favourite books. A Dowry of Blood is a work of art that I had to read in one sitting because the words refused to let go of me.
The Invisible Life of Addie La Rue by V.E. Schwab
This book made me remember why I wanted to be a writer. Schwab's hold on words reignited my love of literature after a busy and difficult year. Featuring bi/pan characters, Addie La Rue's story is a magical tale of immortality and humanity that weaves us seamlessly between the past and present.
Fire at her Fingertips and How to Fell a Foe by Rebecca Crunden
Crunden is one of my favourite authors, not just because she is talented beyond belief, but also because I don't have to put aside a huge amount of time to read her wonderful books. Both of the aforementioned stories are short and can be read in one sitting of around thirty to fifty minutes. Fire at her Fingertips is unique in that this magical, forest-centred story sprinkled with sapphics is told in second person. The narrator literally crawls into your brain and heals your loneliness as the character finds her own place in the world.
Blushing Muse by Stella Donato
Stella Donato immersed me in a world of romance, passion, fear, and self-reflection with their beautiful words. Many of these poems convey the intensity of love versus the fear of being queer in a world that’s still filled with judgement and prejudice. I was taken aback by the sheer heart-warming, stomach-twisting, all-encompassing emotion in each line, each stanza, and Donato is a poet I continue to admire with each new project.
Homebound and A Thorn Among Roses by Hayley Anderton
I will never stop recommending Hayley Anderton and her gorgeous books. Homebound is a deeply personal contemporary YA following a sapphic protagonist with agoraphobia. Post-lockdown, this story of feeling trapped will surely resonate with anyone — but particularly did with me as a disabled and often Homebound reader. A Thorn Among Roses is a swift change of pace. This dark sapphic Beauty and the Beast retelling will leave you spellbound in every sense of the word.
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Some books deserve the hype, and this one certainly does. This MM retelling is written by an author who doesn't just know words, but also mythology, and the mingling of fiction and studies comes together beautifully in this epic MM romance between Achilles and Patroclus. I still quote this book to Ivy regularly.
Problematic by Lou Willingham
This is a short collection of poetry centred around trans issues, displaying the anger and perseverance in a heartbreakingly beautiful and breathtakingly articulate way. My heart wept and sang for my trans friends while reading this.
Love Bites by Ry Herman
A sapphic vampire! Need I say more? No, but I will. Ry Herman's charming and witty writing style is not unlike Casey McQuiston's, but along with a wonderfully told sapphic romance, this book also offers us an invite into the paranormal. I'm sincerely looking forward to the sequel!
The Flourishing by Merlina Garance
I have shouted loudly about how much I adored this book. The Flourishing offers everything one could need in a sapphic romance: a hot, chaotic book girlfriend, a dash of trauma and hurt/comfort, and a well-paced police procedural to keep the stakes high. I already want to reread this book, and will be devouring all of Merlina's work in the coming months.
The Santa Pageant by Lillian Barry
This book was a perfect way to end the year! Festive and cheery but also very tethered to the real human experience, especially with neurodivergent brains, The Santa Pageant will brighten the duller winter days. This one has laugh-out-loud and ugly-cry moments, with the protagonists getting tangled in, as the title suggests, all things Santa. Tove is one of the first non-binary love interests I've read, and Effie is a bubbly ADHD lesbian with more to offer than she knows. This book is, to put it simply, a warm hug.
We also asked our friends in the S&S Discord server to give us their favourite reads of the year. If you don't trust us, take a look at these author- and reader-recommended novels!
The Flourishing author, Merlina Garance, opted for Jasyn and the Astronauts: Under the Ice Skies by Gwenhyver, The Santa Pageant by Lillian Barry, and Handmade With Love by Rachel Bowdler.
Issy Waldrom, author of Best Friends' Promise, chose Without Words by Cameron Darrow, The Creatures of Darkness series by Britney Jackson, and Stars Collide by Rachael Lacey.
Hayley Anderton, author of the Apocalypse series, loved Fire at her Fingertips by Rebecca Crunden, First Comes Marriage by Bryony Rosehurst, and The Ashes of Winter by RP Dunwater.
L.B. Shimaira, author of My Lord, adored The Day We Ate Grandad by C.M. Rosen, Open Wound by Shane Blackheart, and Undergrounder by J.E. Glass.
Scars of Fire author Raina Nightingale enjoyed The Wings of Ashtaroth by Steve Hugh Westenra and The Crane Moon Cycle by J.C. Snow.
Insta reader @nikkibutliterary chose Rhapsody in Flames by Ryann Fletcher, Jasyn and the Astronauts: The Sea of Stars by Gwenhyver, and The Blood-Born Dragon by JC Rycroft.
Beloved reader and avid Merlina Garance fan, Helios, unsurprisingly chose Mending Bones and The Flourishing, and also The Santa Pageant by Lillian Barry.
Upcoming author Nico Vincenty loved The Faithless by CL Clark.
Jantien, AKA @NerdontheRocks, opted for festive favourites Make You Mine This Christmas by Lizzie Huxley-Jones and Honeymoon For One by yours truly.
Let us know your top reads of 2023, and if you like our content, please consider leaving us a small Ko-fi donation so that we can keep creating!