Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lists Are Hot: 10 LesBian books you should read

I've always been an avid reader of anything and everything fictional, and sometimes non-fictional. From the moment I realised I was into women, I started reading books with lesBian content.

Over the years I have read a lot of rubbish, but luckily also some gems. Here's my selection of 10 lesBian books I think you should read.

10. The price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith

The price of salt by Patricia Highsmith was one of the first books with lesBian content I ever read. As a teenager I was always browsing in the library, hoping to find some queer content that I would then hide between books with very straight content when checking out.

This novel is about a young girl named Therese, who one day in the store she works at sees an older sophisticated women named Carol, who she end up falling madly in love with.

To complicate matters, Therese has a boyfriend and Carol is in the middle of divorcing her husband and fighting for custody of their kids. But amidst it all the friendship between the two women quickly develops into something much more.

9. Schijn, hoop en liefde by Rianne Witte

For this list I was going to stick to books written in the English language, but I felt I had to make an exception for Schijn, hoop en liefde (Pretence, hope and love) by Dutch author Rianne Witte.

This novel tells the story of a closeted lesbian living in Holland’s Bible belt. It’s a fun and intriguing novel about coming out, religion, but especially about learning to stand up for yourself and living the life you want to.

The novel tells the story of Linda, a naive and insecure 20-year-old girl who lives with her parents, in a little village in the Veluwe (heart of the Dutch Bible belt). All her life she has been a good girl, and has done exactly what her parents expected of her.

She's always known she is into girls, but this is something she has always tried to suppress. Being accepted and fitting in are things that are very important to her. That is why she has made trying to be insignificant and compliant into an art form.

When her friend Kayleigh encourages Linda to respond to a personal ad, little does she know that this one date is going to change her life forever. No longer being able to hide who she is, Linda is going to have to find a way to stand up for herself and start living her own life the way she wants to.

8. The Red Tree by Caitlin R. Kiernan

I've enjoyed the dark and mysterious writings of Caitlin R. Kiernan ever since I picked up a copy of Silk at a book fare. Her latest novel The Red Tree is even better than Silk, which is really saying something as that novel has always been my favourite.

The red tree tells the story of Sarah, who has just ended her relationship and is now living alone in an old house in rural Rhode Island. One day she discovers a manuscript inside the walls of the house, written by the former tenant – and also a parapsychologist - who seemed to have been obsessed with the old oak tree outside.

Once she starts investigating, Sarah discovers more and more things about the old oak tree that will risk her health as well as her sanity.

7. Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larrson

As I've already mentioned plenty of times, I am a big fan of Stieg Larrson's  Millennium Trilogy (both the novels as well as the movies). For those of you unfamiliar with the content of these great novels, the story revolves around Mikael Blomkvist, a financial journalist at magazine Millennium who gets hired to investigate and write about a family mystery.

He calls in the help of research and computer expert Lisbeth Salander and soon the two of them get caught up in all kinds of drama and violence.

Lisbeth Salander is a bisexual genius (two separate things, although I'm sure she's great at being bi too) and also a little strange and an outsider. Besides (or maybe because of) her anti-social tendencies, you cannot help but love her. Even if you don't care for Salander's character, these books are some of the best crime novels around.

6. Ash by Malinda Lo

Long before Malinda Lo published her debut novel Ash, I already loved her writing. The former managing editor of After Ellen could always have me reading all of her articles and columns. So I was really excited when I found out she was going to be a fulltime novelist.

Ash is a lesbian retelling of the fairytale Cinderella, in which Cinderella doesn't find Prince Charming, but Princess Charming.  It tells the story of Ash, whose life revolves around the fairytales she reads and her daydreams of the fairies coming to take her away from her awful life.

That is, until she meets Kaisa, who's a huntress and teaches her how to hunt as well. Ash must then decide if the real world is better than the one of her fantasies.

5. Annie on my mind by Nancy Garden

On those trips to the library I told you about, one of my other great finds was Annie on my mind by Nancy Garden. Even to this day it's still one of my favourite lesBian books. Annie on my mind is about two high school girls who fall madly in love with each other.

Annie and Liza meet one day at a museum and hit it off right away. Their close friendship quickly develops into a full blown intense romantic relationship. It's all so cute and recognizable, but unfortunately it's not just a light, romantic read.

Just as the girls are being happy and are enjoying being in love, the school finds out about their relationship and they want to expel them. Will their love be able to conquer all those annoying homophobes or will they give into the pressure? You'll have to read this book yourself to find out.

4. Tipping the velvet by Sarah Waters

Years ago I was flipping the channels one night, when I stumbled upon the BBC's adaptation of Sarah Waters' novel Tipping the Velvet.

I remember how much I loved the story and I couldn't believe they could just broadcast something like that without my knowledge. Since then I have read all of Waters' books, most of which I loved. My favourite, however, still remains Tipping the Velvet.

Tipping the Velvet is a historical novel about the life of Nan King, who starts out as a shy naive Oyster girl, then turns to the stage where she finds her first love Kitty, who betrays her and she ends up selling herself as a rent boy on the streets of London. Luckily, things start looking up again when she finds herself falling for someone worthy of her affection.

3. Alix & Valerie by Ingrid Diaz

This list isn't complete without one of my nicest discoveries of 2009: Alix & Valerie by Ingrid Diaz. It's a wonderful novel about falling in love, and being a big dork. It's fast paced and funny and has enough drama, intrigue and complications to keep it interesting.

The novel tells the story of Alix Morris, a 20-year-old student with an obsession for Aerosmith, black clothing, and her straight best friend. For the last seven years, Alix has been in love with her best friend, who is about to get married.

Then she meets Valerie Skye, an outgoing, intriguing, and wisecracking girl, who turns her world upside down. The crush Alix has nurtured for her straight friend for all those years, doesn’t compare to the feelings that Valerie bring out in her. Little does Alix know, that Valerie has a secret past and is not quite who she seems. 

2. Stay by Nicola Griffith

I'm a big fan of all of Nicola Griffith's work, but I especially love her novels about hot and dangerous queer PI Aud Torvingen. The second novel in the series, Stay, made the most impact on me. Stay picks up a few months after the story in the Blue Place (the first novel in the series) ended.

We find Aud living as a recluse in a trailer in the middle of nowhere, where she is busy restoring a cabin and trying to deal with the grief of losing a loved one. No longer the tough and bordering-on-psychopath-woman she once was, Aud is having a hard time coming to terms with the events that took place and she isn’t exactly sure how to go on with her life.

She is not ready to face the real world, but when an old friend asks her to find his crazy fiancée for him, she cannot refuse him. She is forced to leave her quiet trailer in the countryside behind and enter back into society that is called big city life.

When she does, lots of adventure and intrigue follows, but what this novel is really about is dealing with the grief of losing someone you love.

Stay is more than just your average thriller. It is beautifully written, and by that I mean that the story comes totally alive and the character of Aud Torvingen feels more real than ever. Perhaps this is because of all the heartache she is going through or just because she is such a recognisable character.

1. Pages for you by Sylvia Brownrigg

The one lesbian novel that has had the most impact on me (besides Annie on my mind) is definitely Pages for you by Sylvia Brownrigg. It's a beautiful heartbreaking story of first love. About love at first sight, that first time you kiss a girl, the first time you have sex wit her, and ultimately about the first betrayal and the first time you have your heart broken.

Written after the fact, in diary form, it gives such a detailed and vivid description of a first lesbian relationship, it is at times almost painful to read.

Pages for you tells the story of 17-year old Flannery, a freshman in college, who falls madly in love with a graduate student named Anne. Anne teaches Flannery all about life and love, and Flannery is eager to learn everything Anne has to teach her.

As you can probably guess, things eventually start to fall apart. The naive little college freshman finds out the hard way that Anne is not as wonderful and perfect as she thought she was, and that first love never lasts forever.

This book touches upon all those emotions involved in first love so well. Especially when it comes to the intensity and the naivety. You cannot believe what you are feeling and experiencing, and you want it to last forever. You think the other person is feeling exactly the same way, but they don’t. Or they do, but somehow it just cannot last. And nothing hurts like the ending of your first lesbian relationship.

This post was first published on eurout.


Kelly said...

Your blog has been nominated in the Best Lesbian Personal Blog category for a Lezzy Award. The Lezzy Awards are an all lesbian blog award hosted by The Lesbian Lifestyle Blog. For more information on the awards and the steps that you should take to make it to the voting round please visit

nicola said...

Oooh, thanks for that. FYI, as Val McDermid says, over on Facebook, "Without Aud, it's hard to see how there could have been a Lisbeth Salander."

Natazzz said...

Kelly: Thanks for letting me know. It's always great to see that people are enjoying what I write about. Thanks also to whoever it was that nominated me.

Nicola: Well, Val McDermid is probably right about that.