Really Good Books About Lesbians

I spent a few summers working at a womyn’s bookstore playing the same Joni Mitchell album on loop, and much of my childhood at my lesbian aunt’s house, surrounded by rigorously progressive Canadian children’s books about good touch/bad touch, so, for a basically straight woman who just…loves lesbians and their books, I feel adequately informed to recommend these super-awesome Sapphic reads. Enjoy! Support your local completely economically unsound womyn’s bookstore.

The Case of the Not-So-Nice Nurse, Mabel Maney — Maney has written several pitch-perfect, horrifically funny, intermittently erotic homages to the classic Nancy Drew novels of yesteryear. You just…you can’t imagine how good these are. They are SO GOOD. She also has a “Hardly Boys” series, obviously.

Tipping the Velvet, Sarah Waters — HOT DAMN, ladies. I have to imagine that most of our Actually Gay Readers have already devoured the greatest work of historical fiction about 19th century musical hall queer intrigue, so this is mostly to alert the rest of you.

Fall On Your Knees, Ann-Marie MacDonald — This book is completely ridiculous and overblown and full of unnecessary Southern Ontario Gothic hoo-hah, but it is also unputdownable and a total delight. You have to wade through a lot of multigenerational drama before people finally start eating each other out, but it’s worth it.

Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith, Andrew Wilson — It would be nice if more of the great lesbians of the last few centuries were upbeat, sunny people, free of inner turmoil about their sexuality, but I’m willing to settle for artistic genius instead.

The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For, Alison Bechdel — Perfect in every way. And, of course, we all love Fun Home.

The Well of Loneliness, Radclyffe Hall — This one takes a lot of heat for being self-hating and depressing and lugubrious, but, you know, that’s the same thing people say about Of Human Bondage, and they’re both still mandatory 20th century reads. Also, my aunt’s lover named her black lab “Radclyffe Hall,” which is the dog-lesbian version of naming your cats “Vita” and “Virginia.”

Orlando, Virginia Woolf — SPEAKING OF, this is the book that Human Virginia wrote for Human Vita, and it’s wonderful. Not to mention that it helped inspire…

Anything by Jeanette Winterson — I haven’t read her new memoir yet, but can forcefully vouch for Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Sexing the Cherry, The Passion, and Written on the Body.

Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America, Lillian Faderman — Completely fascinating in every way.

Rubyfruit Jungle, Rita Mae Brown — Brown has gone slightly off the reservation in recent years, and now just writes these adorable little mysteries about fox-hunting and cats, which is what we should all do in our later years. I keep meaning to do “Rubyfruit” for Classic Trash.

Bastard Out of Carolina, Dorothy Allison — Okay, this is less ABOUT lesbians, and more BY a lesbian, and I’m hesitant to even include it, because although it is a phenomenal work of contemporary literature, it also makes you want to kill yourself. But it’s my damn list, and I’ll do what I want.

Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice, Janet Malcolm — Obviously there are great books by and about the other two most common names for cats owned by lesbians, but Malcolm does a tremendous job here.

The Sewing Circle: Hollywood’s Greatest Secret, Axel Madsen — It’s no AHP, and it’s extremely thinly sourced, but if you found The Celluloid Closet to be too much of a sausage fest, this is the old Hollywood gossip book for you.

Lesbian Pulp Fiction: The Sexually Intrepid World of Lesbian Paperback Novels 1950–1965, Katherine V. Forrest — This is the perfect book to leave on your coffee table for guests, provided you have high-quality guests. Or you could just go to the source with…

Odd Girl Out or Beebo Brinker, Ann Bannon — Not that we believe in a harsh butch-femme dichotomy anymore! But these are funnnn.

We have tons of gaps here (where’s Zami? where’s Stone Butch Blues?) so this is your chance to help. Tell us about your favourite books about and by lesbians! Especially if you are yourself A Queer Chick.

Previous reading lists include books about baseball and the first two installments of books to spend your allowance on.