9 Vibrant Queer Reads Perfect for Beach Season

June 29 2022
Share 9 Vibrant Queer Reads Perfect for Beach Season

Pride Month and beach season are here, and to celebrate I have rounded up a comprehensive list of queer books suited for every type of beach reader. Queer literature has only continued to diversify its offerings, and whether you’re a fan of rom-coms, thrillers, memoirs, or literary fiction (or all of the above), there’s a book on this list for you. Grab your sunscreen and your seltzer because it’s time to delve into some queer beach reads!

Chef's Kiss
by TJ Alexander

Pardon the pun, but CHEF’S KISS by TJ Alexander has all the ingredients for a perfect summer rom-com: the grumpy x sunshine trope, a lot of heart, and delectable pastries galore! Perfectionist pastry expert Simone Larkspur has a dream job with The Discerning Chef, a high-powered cookbook publisher based in New York City. When the company decides to pivot to video content creation, Simone finds herself struggling professionally for the first time in her life. Enter Ray Lyton, The Discerning Chef’s obscenely enthusiastic new test kitchen manager and accidental viral YouTube sensation. When The Discerning Chef’s editor in chief forces Simone and Ray to work together, and Ray comes out at work as nonbinary to mixed reactions, Simone finds herself slowly falling for Ray, even as her career is on the line.

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Chef's Kiss
TJ Alexander

A high-strung pastry chef’s professional goals are interrupted by an unexpected career transition and the introduction of her wildly attractive nonbinary kitchen manager in this deliciously fresh and witty queer rom-com.

Simone Larkspur is a perfectionist pastry expert with a dream job at The Discerning Chef, a venerable cookbook publisher in New York City. All she wants to do is create the perfect loaf of sourdough and develop recipes, but when The Discerning Chef decides to bring their brand into the 21st century by pivoting to video, Simone is thrust into the spotlight and finds herself failing at something for the first time in her life.

To make matters worse, Simone has to deal with Ray Lyton, the new test kitchen manager, whose obnoxious cheer and outgoing personality are like oil to Simone’s water. When Ray accidentally becomes a viral YouTube sensation with a series of homebrewing videos, their eccentric editor in chief forces Simone to work alongside the chipper upstart or else risk her beloved job. But the more they work together, the more Simone realizes her heart may be softening like butter for Ray.

Things get even more complicated when Ray comes out at work as nonbinary to mixed reactions—and Simone must choose between the career she fought so hard for and the person who just might take the cake (and her heart).

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Miss Memory Lane
by Colton Haynes

There is something about a queer memoir that makes it the perfect summer read, to my mind. Come summer, I always find myself gravitating toward memoirs; I love being able to catch a glimpse into someone else’s life, and with a celebrity memoir, there’s the added fascination of how a figure rose to stardom, often against incredible odds.

In MISS MEMORY LANE, Teen Wolf and Arrow star Colton Haynes pulls back the curtain on the struggles that came with his rise to fame, from having to hide his sexuality to his battle with addiction. In vivid and candid detail, Haynes recounts his unorthodox childhood growing up in Kansas, his breakout as a teen model with one of the world’s top agencies, and the personal consequences of having to be closeted in Hollywood. Although painfully honest, MISS MEMORY LANE is also hopeful, as Haynes shares his story of recovery and redemption.

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Miss Memory Lane
Colton Haynes

A brutally honest and moving memoir of lust, abuse, addiction, stardom, and redemption from Arrow and Teen Wolf actor Colton Haynes.

Four years ago, Colton Haynes woke up in a hospital. He’d had two seizures, lost the sight in one eye, almost ruptured a kidney, and been put on an involuntary psychiatry hold. Not yet thirty, he knew he had to take stock of his life and make some serious changes if he wanted to see his next birthday.

As he worked towards sobriety, Haynes allowed himself to become vulnerable for the first time in years and with that, discovered profound self-awareness. He had millions of social media followers who constantly told him they loved him. But what would they think if they knew his true story? If they knew where he came from and the things he had done?

Now, Colton bravely pulls back the curtain on his life and career, revealing the incredible highs and devastating lows. From his unorthodox childhood in a small Kansas town, to coming to terms with his sexuality, he keeps nothing back.

By sixteen, he had been signed by the world’s top modeling agency and his face appeared on billboards. But he was still a broke, lonely, confused teenager, surrounded by people telling him he could be a star as long as he never let anyone see his true self. As his career in television took off, the stress of wearing so many masks and trying to please so many different people turned his use of drugs and alcohol into full-blown addiction.

A lyrical and intimate confession, apology, and cautionary tale, Miss Memory Lane is an unforgettable story of dreams deferred and dreams fulfilled; of a family torn apart and rebuilt; and of a man stepping into the light as no one but himself.

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The Dawnhounds
by Sascha Stronach

For fans of queer science fiction/fantasy stories such as GIDEON THE NINTH by Tamsyn Muir and BLACK SUN by Rebecca Roanhorse, make sure you pick up Sascha Stronach’s THE DAWNHOUNDS, the first installment of a brand-new Māori-inspired series. Thief-turned-cop Yat has recently been demoted on the police force for “lifestyle choices” after being discovered at a gay club. She struggles to keep it together, and then things take a turn for the worse when she is murdered by her fellow police officers after finding a dead body on her patrol. However, she is resurrected by an ancient force and finds herself vested with the power to manipulate life force. As the city of Hainak is beset with an evil force, Yat must use her newfound powers in a race to stop a plague from being unleashed upon the city.

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The Dawnhounds
Sascha Stronach

Gideon the Ninth meets Black Sun in this queer, Māori-inspired debut fantasy about a police officer who is murdered, brought back to life with a mysterious new power, and tasked with protecting her city from an insidious evil threatening to destroy it.

The port city of Hainak is alive: its buildings, its fashion, even its weapons. But, after a devastating war and a sweeping biotech revolution, all its inhabitants want is peace, no one more so than Yat Jyn-Hok a reformed-thief-turned-cop who patrols the streets at night.

Yat has recently been demoted on the force due to “lifestyle choices” after being caught at a gay club. She’s barely holding it together, haunted by memories of a lover who vanished and voices that float in and out of her head like radio signals. When she stumbles across a dead body on her patrol, two fellow officers gruesomely murder her and dump her into the harbor. Unfortunately for them, she wakes up.

Resurrected by an ancient power, she finds herself with the new ability to manipulate life force. Quickly falling in with the pirate crew who has found her, she must race against time to stop a plague from being unleashed by the evil that has taken root in Hainak.

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Just by Looking at Him
by Ryan O'Connell

Ever since I’ve read Melissa Broder’s MILK FED, queer dark comedy has become one of my favorite genres. I love when a novel features an absolutely iconic lead character who is messy, hilarious, and just trying to figure life out.

Enter Elliott, star of Ryan O’Connell’s new novel, JUST BY LOOKING AT HIM. On the outside, Elliott appears to have everything together: he’s a successful television writer with a doting boyfriend. However, beneath the surface he is grappling with a worsening alcohol addiction and the inability to stop cheating on his boyfriend, on top of feeling othered because of his cerebral palsy. Incisive and darkly funny, Elliott’s journey toward acceptance and redemption brings plenty of wit and heart.

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Just by Looking at Him
Ryan O'Connell

From the star of Peacock’s Queer as Folk and the Netflix series Special comes a darkly witty and touching novel following a gay TV writer with cerebral palsy as he fights addiction and searches for acceptance in an overwhelmingly ableist world.

Elliott appears to be living the dream as a successful TV writer with a doting boyfriend. But behind his Instagram filter of a life, he’s grappling with an intensifying alcohol addiction, he can’t seem to stop cheating on his boyfriend with various sex workers, and his cerebral palsy is making him feel like gay Shrek.

After falling down a rabbit hole of sex, drinking, and Hollywood backstabbing, Elliott decides to limp his way towards redemption. But facing your demons is easier said than done.

Candid, biting, and refreshingly real, Just by Looking at Him is an incisive commentary on gay life, a heart-centered, laugh-out-loud exploration of self, and a rare insight into life as a person with disabilities.

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Island Time
by Georgia Clark

Georgia Clark, author of IT HAD TO BE YOU, is back with another vibrant ensemble rom-com, and this one screams summer. Set on a remote tropical island off the coast of Queensland, Australia, ISLAND TIME follows the rambunctious Kellys and the buttoned-up Lees, two families that have nothing in common . . . except that their daughters are married. When a volcano erupts on the island during their vacation, the two families find themselves stranded together for six weeks, and soon realize they are more similar than they think.

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Island Time
Georgia Clark

Love is in the salty sea air in this smart and steamy ensemble romantic comedy set in a tropical paradise, from the author of the “sparkly and entertaining” (Oprah Daily) It Had to Be You. This is one island you won’t want to be rescued from.

The Kellys are messy, loud, loving Australians. The Lees are sophisticated, aloof, buttoned-up Americans. They have nothing in common…except for the fact that their daughters are married. When a nearby volcano erupts during their short vacation to a remote tropical island off the coast of Queensland, the two families find themselves stranded together for six weeks.

With only two island employees making up the rest of their party, everyone is forced to question what—or who—they really want. Island Time is a sumptuous summer read that dives deep into queer romance, family secrets, ambition, parenthood, and a bird-chasing bromance. This sexy, sun-soaked paradise of white sandy beaches, crystal-clear waters, and lush rainforest will show you it’s never too late to change your destiny.

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The Boy with a Bird in His Chest
by Emme Lund

While magical books often tend to be slated as fall reads, I find that the summer months have a certain enchantment to them that make them the perfect time to read a magic-infused book. If you’re looking for a queer read with a magical realism twist, THE BOY WITH A BIRD IN HIS CHEST perfectly fits the bill.

Ever since Gail the bird emerged between Owen Tanner’s ribs, his mother hid him away from society, scared that her son would be deemed a terror by medical forums. After a life-altering forest fire, Owen is forced to flee from home and live with his uncle and cousin in Washington. There, he discovers the joy of a found family and begins to share Gail to others for the first time. Heartfelt and whimsical, THE BOY WITH A BIRD IN HIS CHEST is a tender coming-of-age story about learning to love yourself and finding community.

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The Boy with a Bird in His Chest
Emme Lund

“A modern coming-of-age full of love, desperation, heartache, and magic” (Andrew Sean Greer, Pulitzer Prize–winning author) about “the ways in which family, grief, love, queerness, and vulnerability all intersect” (Kristen Arnett, New York Times bestselling author). Perfect for fans of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Thirty Names of Night.

Though Owen Tanner has never met anyone else who has a chatty bird in their chest, medical forums would call him a Terror. From the moment Gail emerged between Owen’s ribs, his mother knew that she had to hide him away from the world. After a decade spent in hiding, Owen takes a brazen trip outdoors in the middle of a forest fire, and his life is upended forever.

Suddenly, Owen is forced to flee the home that had once felt so confining and hide in plain sight with his uncle and cousin in Washington. There, he feels the joy of finding a family among friends; of sharing the bird in his chest and being embraced fully; of falling in love and feeling the devastating heartbreak of rejection before finding a spark of happiness in the most unexpected place; of living his truth regardless of how hard the thieves of joy may try to tear him down. But the threat of the Army of Acronyms is a constant, looming presence, making Owen wonder if he’ll ever find a way out of the cycle of fear.

A heartbreaking yet hopeful novel about the things that make us unique and lovable, The Boy with a Bird in His Chest grapples with the fear, depression, and feelings of isolation that come with believing that we will never be loved, let alone accepted, for who we truly are, and learning to live fully and openly regardless.

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Girls Can Kiss Now
by Jill Gutowitz

For the past two years, I’ve made it a point to read at least one queer essay collection during Pride Month, and I CAN’T DATE JESUS by Michael Arceneaux and HOLA PAPI by John Paul Brammer have been my last two selections. This year, I chose Jill Gutowitz’s GIRLS CAN KISS NOW, and I am happy to report that I am two essays in and hooked. I mean, how could you not be hooked when the book’s first essay is about being investigated by the FBI for tweeting a Game of Thrones meme?

Equal parts insightful and hilarious, Gutowitz utilizes her experiences as a perpetually online lesbian millennial to illuminate the most monumental cultural shift of our time: the mainstreaming of lesbian culture. Through personal anecdotes and thorough dissection of paparazzi photos, Orange Is the New Black, and Britney Spears, Gutowitz highlights where we’ve been and where we’re heading.

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Girls Can Kiss Now
Jill Gutowitz

Named One of the Most Anticipated Books of 2022 by Vogue, BuzzFeed, Bustle, Marie Claire, Harper’s Bazaar, Electric Lit, Thrillist, and Glamour

“Wickedly funny and heartstoppingly vulnerable…every page twinkles with brilliance.” —Refinery29

Perfect for fans of Samantha Irby and Trick Mirror, a funny, whip-smart collection of personal essays exploring the intersection of queerness, relationships, pop culture, the internet, and identity, introducing one of the most undeniably original new voices today.

Jill Gutowitz’s life—for better and worse—has always been on a collision course with pop culture. There’s the time the FBI showed up at her door because of something she tweeted about Game of Thrones. The pop songs that have been the soundtrack to the worst moments of her life. And of course, the pivotal day when Orange Is the New Black hit the airwaves and broke down the door to Jill’s own sexuality. In these honest examinations of identity, desire, and self-worth, Jill explores perhaps the most monumental cultural shift of our lifetimes: the mainstreaming of lesbian culture. Dusting off her own personal traumas and artifacts of her not-so-distant youth she examines how pop culture acts as a fun house mirror reflecting and refracting our values—always teaching, distracting, disappointing, and revealing us.

Girls Can Kiss Now is a fresh and intoxicating blend of personal stories, sharp observations, and laugh-out-loud humor. This timely collection of essays helps us make sense of our collective pop-culture past even as it points the way toward a joyous, uproarious, near—and very queer—future.

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All the White Spaces
by Ally Wilkes

If you prefer your beach reads to be a bit on the chillier side, you need to check out ALL THE WHITE SPACES by Ally Wilkes. Based on Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance expedition, this novel is without a doubt one of the most original thrillers you will pick up, blending horror, history, and explorations of gender identity.

Stowing away on an Antarctic expedition in the wake of World War I, trans man Jonathan Morgan finally has the chance to live as his true self. However, when a disaster strikes the ship, Jonathan and the explorers must take to the land of an unmapped area of Antarctica. Soon, a supernatural force threatens to tear apart the crew, and Jonathan must fight for his survival.

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All the White Spaces
Ally Wilkes

Something deadly and mysterious stalks the members of an isolated polar expedition in this haunting and spellbinding historical horror novel, perfect for fans of Dan Simmons’s The Terror and Alma Katsu’s The Hunger.

In the wake of the First World War, Jonathan Morgan stows away on an Antarctic expedition, determined to find his rightful place in the world of men. Aboard the expeditionary ship of his hero, the world-famous explorer James “Australis” Randall, Jonathan may live as his true self—and true gender—and have the adventures he has always been denied. But not all is smooth sailing: the war casts its long shadow over them all, and grief, guilt, and mistrust skulk among the explorers.

When disaster strikes in Antarctica’s frozen Weddell Sea, the men must take to the land and overwinter somewhere which immediately seems both eerie and wrong; a place not marked on any of their part-drawn maps of the vast white continent. Now completely isolated, Randall’s expedition has no ability to contact the outside world. And no one is coming to rescue them.

In the freezing darkness of the Polar night, where the aurora creeps across the sky, something terrible has been waiting to lure them out into its deadly landscape…

As the harsh Antarctic winter descends, this supernatural force will prey on their deepest desires and deepest fears to pick them off one by one. It is up to Jonathan to overcome his own ghosts before he and the expedition are utterly destroyed.

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She Gets the Girl
by Rachael Lippincott & Alyson Derrick

One of my preferences these days are books that spark joy, and there is no better sensation in my opinion than the pure glee that comes from reading about queer joy. I would have picked this book up for its cover alone, but SHE GETS THE GIRL pulled me in with its opposites-attract rom-com story line. Headstrong Alex Blackwood has no problem getting the girl . . . but she definitely has problems keeping her. Awkward Molly Parker knows she’s in love with the effortlessly cool Cora Myers . . . she just hasn’t talked to her yet. When Alex finds out about Molly’s crush, she volunteers to help Molly get with Cora, and once and for all prove to her ex that she’s not a selfish flirt. However, what will happen when Alex and Molly start to fall for . . . each other?

Not only does SHE GETS THE GIRL sound absolutely delightful, but the story behind the book may be even sweeter. Author duo Rachael Lippincott and Alyson Derrick met in college, fell in love, got married, and wrote the book together! Absolute couple goals.

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She Gets the Girl
Rachael Lippincott & Alyson Derrick

She’s All That meets What If It’s Us in this swoon-worthy hate-to-love YA romantic comedy from #1 New York Times bestselling coauthor of Five Feet Apart Rachael Lippincott and debut writer Alyson Derrick.

Alex Blackwood is a little bit headstrong, with a dash of chaos and a whole lot of flirt. She knows how to get the girl. Keeping her on the other hand…not so much. Molly Parker has everything in her life totally in control, except for her complete awkwardness with just about anyone besides her mom. She knows she’s in love with the impossibly cool Cora Myers. She just…hasn’t actually talked to her yet.

Alex and Molly don’t belong on the same planet, let alone the same college campus. But when Alex, fresh off a bad (but hopefully not permanent) breakup, discovers Molly’s hidden crush as their paths cross the night before classes start, they realize they might have a common interest after all. Because maybe if Alex volunteers to help Molly learn how to get her dream girl to fall for her, she can prove to her ex that she’s not a selfish flirt. That she’s ready for an actual commitment. And while Alex is the last person Molly would ever think she could trust, she can’t deny Alex knows what she’s doing with girls, unlike her.

As the two embark on their five-step plans to get their girls to fall for them, though, they both begin to wonder if maybe they’re the ones falling…for each other.

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Photo credit: iStock / MaleWitch

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