Fantasy: “Priory of the Orange Tree” by Samantha Shannon
This vast fantasy is a perfect piece for fans of Game of Thrones. The well-spun web of characters and stories is perfectly suited to the genre, but where Thrones stays within the bounds of fantasy conventions, “Priory of the Orange Tree” plays with contemporary ideology. It’s an inclusive, creative reimagining of the genre we know and love.
Sci-Fi: “This is How You Lose the Time War” by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
Where science fiction often focuses on big stories and plots, this novel is refreshingly personal. It’s got everything you want — warring empires, double agents, time travel — interwoven with a flawlessly executed enemies-to-lovers plot. If the message here (our agents’ names are Red and Blue) is a bit oblique, it’s also beautifully and delightfully delivered.
Contemporary: “Red, White, and Royal Blue” by Casey McQuiston
Set in a contemporary but alternate universe, this romance balances its larger-than-life story and its authentic emotion with ease.
In this alternate world, the charming first son of the United States is made to befriend an uptight prince of England. There’s a character for everyone to relate to here, and loads of political intrigue to boot. The emotions McQuiston captures are stunningly truthful, as perfect a representation of coming to terms with one’s sexuality as they come.
Historical Fiction: “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” by Taylor Jenkins Reid
This glamorous story takes off when a young journalist sits down to interview Evelyn Hugo, a famed Elizabeth Taylor type whose career reached its pinnacle in the 1960s. Hugo’s story winds its way through those titular seven marriages, on the way exploring what it means to be — or play at being — in love.
A story of the choices Hollywood forces upon women and queer people, this one finds a unique way to explore a storied setting.
Mystery: “A Beautiful Crime” by Christopher Bollen
An antique dealer and his new boyfriend hatch a petty plot which quickly lands them in over their heads. Set in the crowded streets of Venice and New York, A Beautiful Crime is thrillingly real in its escalation of events.
In real-time, the consequences of our actions sneak up in ways not even our criminals could have imagined. That these characters are queer is not the point of Bollen’s prose, but he lets their unique experiences arise with natural ease. There are no boring stock villains or all-American blondes to be found and it’s a good thing.
Horror: “Sawkill Girls” by Claire Legrand
The author of the equally rich “Empirium” trilogy can also write a thrilling standalone. The heart of the story is Sawkill Rock, where young girls have been disappearing for decades. Haunting at atmospheric, everything is more than it seems in this tale of three girls and their ties to the mysterious forces around them. Horror is always the most fun when you can’t tell what’s coming and Sawkill Girls is an absolute delight.
Memoir: Becoming a Man: The Story of a Transition by P. Car
Carl’s exploration of his journey into his fullest self, having lived fifty years as a queer woman and activist, teaches us as much about ourselves as it does the author. Carl’s experiences allow the reader to explore their own relationship to gender and its presentation and what it means to manifest as ourselves in the world. It’s even richer for its context — outlining what it’s like to try to realize yourself when the very act is controversial.