Queer books 2020: six titles that made my year

Best queer books 2020 - Handsome by Holly Lorka CREDIT Minka Guides

According to Goodreads, I read 37 books in 2020 – and it’s probably fair to guess that most of them were by LGBTQ+ authors. So if you’re looking for some literary delights to sink your teeth into this winter, then here are six of my favourite titles from this (rather weird) year. In addition to my favourite queer books 2020, you should also check out the young adult titles for LGBTQ+ teens that I loved this year too! I promise you don’t need to be from Gen Z to enjoy them. Plus, my Queerantine reading list, packed with some incredible books I read during 2019.

📌 Looking for more fabulous ideas? See my previous book reviews.

All Men Want to Know by Nina Bouraoui

Best queer books 2020 All-Men-Want-to-Know-by-Nina-Bouraoui-review-CREDIT-Minka-Guides

In Paris, Nina lives alone. She is eighteen years old. It’s the 1980s. Four nights a week she walks across Paris to a legendary women-only nightclub, the Katmandou. She sits alone at the bar, afraid of her own desires, of her sudden and intoxicating freedom. There she meets the glamorous, deeply troubled Ely, her volatile friends Lizz and Laurence, and the beautiful Julia, with whom she falls desperately in love. And, most importantly, she starts to write. 

A gorgeous memoir about a dual-heritage lesbian growing up between Algeria and France in the 1980s.

As a queer woman (2022 UPDATE: I no longer identify as a woman but as genderqueer), I was fascinated to read the descriptions of lesbian clubs in Paris during this time. Bouraoui captures all the sexual tension, partner drama and awkwardness of the scene in such a detailed way that I felt like I was right there, hovering on the edge of the dancefloor with her.

These scenes were interwoven with her childhood in post-colonial Algeria, as the country moved slowly but brutally towards civil war. As a child, Bouraoui perceives the effects of life as a woman in this country through her mother – a French woman who moved to the country with her Algerian husband. We watch her this woman slowly become unable to withstand the street harassment and attacks that she is subjected to.

A fascinating and beautifully told story, that transports you through the various eras of Bouraoui’s youth. I highly recommend this book.

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UK: Bookshop.org | Foyles | Waterstones

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Handsome by Holly Lorka

Best queer books 2020 - Handsome by Holly Lorka CREDIT Minka Guides

As a horny little kid, Holly Lorka had no idea why God had put her in the wrong body and made her want to kiss girls. She had questions: Was she a monster? Would she ever be able to grow sideburns? And most importantly, where was her penis?

The problem was, it was the 1970s, so there were no answers yet.

When it comes to the best queer books 2020, Handsome wins my vote.

Some stories take a while to get into. This one had me hooked from the opening dedication (to both Lorka’s father and George Michael). By about page 16, I was screaming with a mixture of laughter and shock.

Told in a series of very entertaining essays, Lorka’s memoir explores their lifelong journey through… everything: gender, partners, family, careers. You know, the usual stuff. But the thing is, Lorka can really write. I would happily read about them going cushion shopping, that’s how much delight they manage to infuse the page with. I honestly don’t want to give a single second of it away, so I’ll simply say this: read it.

I get the impression they are cheeky as all hell (and probably a bit of nightmare to date at times) but there is so much heart in this book that you can’t help but love them. I’m really looking forward to re-reading this book at some point in the future and getting to enjoy it all over again.

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AU: Dymocks

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Gears for Queers by Abigail Melton and Lilith Cooper

Best queer books 2020  Gears for Queers by Abigail Melton and Lilith Cooper CREDIT Minka Guides

Keen to see some of Europe, queer couple Lilith and Abigail get on their old bikes and start pedalling. Along flat fens and up Swiss Alps, they will meet new friends and exorcise old demons as they push their bodies – and their relationship – to the limit.

I’m a keen cyclist but I mainly use it as a way of commuting around London. However, lockdown has meant that I’ve been going off on all kinds of two-wheeled adventures recently and left me feeling like this could be a fun way to travel. So this book landing in my lap during quarantine could not have been better timed. It had me Googling EuroVelo cycling routes and dreaming up future adventures. 

What I loved most about this book is how authentic it is. Abi and Lili originally published their story through a series of zines as they cycled around Europe together. Each chapter alternates between their two perspectives, so you see the journey through each of their eyes, encompassing their individual struggles with mental health and body image plus their combined experience of being a queer couple on the road. Their observations about what it was like to be a woman/non-binary person participating in an activity that is dominated by men really resonated with me. So if you’re queer and into cycling, I cannot recommend this book enough! 

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Female Husbands: A Trans History by Jen Manion

Book recommendations spring 2020 Female Husbands Jen Manion CREDIT Minka Guides

Moving deftly from the colonial era to just before the First World War, Jen Manion uncovers the riveting and very personal stories of ordinary people who lived as men despite tremendous risk, danger, violence, and threat of punishment.

A really wonderful look at people assigned female at birth transing their gender during 1700s-1900s and the varied use of the term ‘female husbands’ as a way of describing those who caught the public’s attention.

This is an academic text so it’s important to note that this book is long, detailed and at times feels like it is repeating the same point again and again. However, I found the entire book fascinating. I was particularly interested to see how as far back as the 1800s, when the women’s movement first started to take shape, many feminists unfortunately had an uneasy relationship with trans identities.

My top book recommendations for anyone interested in both trans and lesbian history.

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Hideaway Inn by Philip William Stover 

Best queer books 2020  Hideaway Inn Philip William Stover review CREDIT Minka Guides

No one in the charming river town of New Hope, Pennsylvania, needs to know that Vince Amato plans on flipping The Hideaway Inn to the highest bidder and returning to his luxury lifestyle in New York City. He needs to make his last remaining investment turn a profit…even if that means temporarily relocating to the quirky small town where he endured growing up. He’s spent years reinventing himself and won’t let his past dictate his future. But on his way to New Hope, Vince gets stuck in the middle of nowhere and his past might be the only thing that can get him to his future. Specifically Tack O’Leary, the gorgeous, easygoing farm boy who broke his heart.

If you’re looking for a good MM romance novel that you can sink your teeth into during our current ‘staycation’, then grab a copy of this new book. I identified with Vince’s journey a lot: New Yorker returning to the small town that he grew up in, carrying a lot of pain from the abuse he received for being gay. He’s done a lot to put it all behind him – perhaps a little too much. Of course, the first person he runs into is Tack, the boy next door who was the object of his teen affection. They had a strong connection but there was never the opportunity to take it further.

I like how well-rounded the characters are for a story like this. Lots of baggage to overcome, hangups about each other that they have to work past, plus broader issues around bullying, toxic masculinity, gender identities and pride. I also have a real soft spot a ‘second chance’ love story, so this book was right up my street. I think Tack was a little too amazing to be believable at times, but maybe that says more about how low my expectations are about people.

Either way, I was delighted when I discovered that this queer book may be the first in a series. Stover weaves a blissfully feel-good story, packed with missed opportunities, throbbing desire and a host of delightful supporting characters. Perfect for an indulgent weekend read this spring.

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Femme Tales by Anne Shade

Best queer books 2020  Femme Tales Anne Shade review CREDIT Minka Guides

Local celebrity chef Chayse Carmichael has achieved a level of success she’d only imagined while learning to cook. But when free-spirited Georgia peach Serena Frasier walks into her restaurant, Chayse realizes that success doesn’t always bring happiness if you don’t have someone special to share it with. Does love at first sight truly exist?

You definitely shouldn’t judge this book by its cover. Honestly, I nearly passed on it because the quality of the cover images looked so stock-ish that I thought it was self-published. Thankfully, the stories inside made me glad I gave it a chance. They’re fun, sexy, butch/femme spins on the classic fairy tales Beauty and The BeastSleeping Beauty and Cinderella

I sped through this queer book because the stories were so juicy and sweet, with contemporary storylines that place these characters in Chicago. Each story is packed with tension and smouldering desire with adorably sweet endings. If you’re looking for some lesbian romance with B/F dynamic, then these stories are a cute contemporary take on the bedtime stories you loved as a kid, featuring stories exclusively about women of colour. 

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AU: Dymocks 

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A lifestyle blog for everyone who questions the norm. From polyamorous relationships and personal growth to being genderqueer, Minka Guides helps you live a fabulous life with intentionality.

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