One of the biggest reasons many of us read books is to escape to different worlds and lives other than our own, and it can be really grounding to read about characters that are similar to us in those situations. It’s always easier to learn about something new when there’s a piece of it you can really relate to.
Growing up, something always felt slightly off about the heroines I was reading about in stories. I related to them somewhat, but not nearly as much as some of my friends and classmates. I brushed it off at the time, but the older I got, the more I realized: I was missing out on queer characters in my stories.
I didn’t come out until my late 20s, after I was already married to a man. As a bisexual woman in a straight-passing relationship, I knew I had a ton to learn about the LGBTQ+ community and how to find my place in it. So where did I turn first? Books!
In the past decade, queer representation has bloomed in the publishing industry and there are hundreds upon hundreds of stories to choose from. There’s still room to grow and diversify, but of the stories available to us now, here are some of my picks for the best queer audiobooks, both fiction and nonfiction.
- Best Queer Audiobooks – Fiction
- Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
- Love & Other Disasters by Anita Kelly
- Delilah Green Doesn’t Care by Ashley Herring Blake
- The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta
- Under the Rainbow by Celia Laskey
- Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner
- Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
- Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters
- Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
- Stay Gold by Tobly McSmith
- Best Queer Audiobooks – Nonfiction
- This Much is True by Miriam Margolyes
- A Queer History of the United States by Michael Bronski
- The Book of Pride by Mason Funk
- High School by Tegan and Sara Quin
- The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
- Space Between by Nico Tortorella
- Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout by Laura Jane Grace
- Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity by Julia Serano
- Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing by Lauren Hough
- How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones
Best Queer Audiobooks – Fiction
Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Narrated by Frazer Douglas, 11 hours 15 minutes
Who doesn’t love a Greek retelling? Song of Achilles revolves around—you guessed it—Achilles and his love for Patroclus. Historically, the relationship between these two has been described as a “deep bond” or a “loving friendship,” but many scholars and readers alike have interpreted their relationship as a romantic one. Miller’s novel centers around their growing relationship and a heroic journey to save Helen of Sparta.
Love & Other Disasters by Anita Kelly
Narrated by Lindsey Dorcus, 10 hours 38 minutes
If you’re looking for nonbinary representation in your audiobooks, this novel is a great place to start. London Parker (they/them) is a nonbinary contestant on a popular cooking show; on set, they run into Dahlia Woodson, a clumsy, recently divorced chef with her eye on the prize. I’ve seen this novel described as a hug in book form in many reviews, and I can’t think of a more apt description. There’s cooking drama, there’s steamy romance, and there’s heartwarming growth and self-acceptance.
Delilah Green Doesn’t Care by Ashley Herring Blake
Narrated by Kristen DiMercurio, 11 hours 41 minutes
The first book in Blake’s Bright Falls trilogy, Delilah Green Doesn’t Care is one of my personal favorites—and one of the first queer audiobooks I listened to. Delilah Green and her stepsister, Astrid Parker, are the definition of estranged, and they’re polar opposites. But when Astrid’s best friend Claire meets Delilah, sparks fly, and plenty of queer chaos ensues. This novel has great bi representation, and Delilah is easy to fall in love with. Kristen DiMercurio’s voice talent matches the characters’ personalities perfectly.
(I also highly recommend Astrid Parker Doesn’t Fail, the second book in the series. The third book is set to publish in October 2023!)
The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta
Narrated by the author, 3 hours 40 minutes
Featured in Audible’s Top 100 LGBTQIA+ Listens of All Time, The Black Flamingo is a short but powerful YA novel following Michael, a mixed-race gay teenage boy who navigates the complicated emotions of feeling… not quite “enough.” When he goes to college, he finds the Drag Society and feels drawn toward his drag artist persona, The Black Flamingo. Written (and spoken) in beautiful verse, Dean Atta’s novel is equal parts queer celebration and a powerful coming-of-age story. Young adult novels have some of the best queer stories in the industry, and The Black Flamingo is no exception.
Under the Rainbow by Celia Laskey
Narrated by a full cast, 7 hours 41 minutes
Under the Rainbow is Celia Laskey’s debut novel, and it’s a really good one. Set in the fictional town of Big Burr, Kansas—dubbed the most homophobic town in the US—a group of queer volunteers move in to try and change the minds of the town’s residents. Laskey’s writing consists of a series of vignettes from different volunteers, with a thread of community and togetherness weaved through all. The audiobook is narrated by a talented full cast, which really helps create that feeling of community and diverse voices.
Listen on Audible
Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner
Narrated by Jorjeana Marie, Xe Sands, 9 hours 7 minutes
If you’re looking for a queer slow-burn romance, Wilsner’s Something to Talk About is just the thing for you. Jo and Emma are a celebrity and assistant pair, and the paparazzi incorrectly assume they’re dating based on one interaction on the red carpet. Instead of publicly stating that it’s only a rumor, the pair decide to ignore the gossip, which only fuels the fire… both in Hollywood and in their hearts. Jorjeana Marie and Xe Sands do a lovely job narrating this “will they, won’t they” debut romance.
Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
Narrated by Logan Rozos, 8 hours 24 minutes
Yet another incredible YA recommendation! Callender’s novel is a Stonewall Honor Book and a Time Magazine Best YA Book of All Time; Callender is a trans-Lambda Literary award-winning author, so you could say they know their stuff when it comes to queer literature. Throughout the story, Felix Love deals with transphobia, deadnaming, catfishing, and marginalization, all while questioning who he really is and how he feels about himself. It’s a wonderful story of owning and loving who you are, and Logan Rozos brings the story to the next level with his narration.
Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters
Narrated by Renata Friedman, 12 hours 31 minutes
I had the pleasure of reading this novel with my book club at the time, and as a cisgender woman, I really enjoyed reading a transgender perspective. My book club had polarizing views—some loved it like I did, while others hated it. It’s a compelling, sometimes challenging, and uncomfortable read, and those who want comfort in their stories should perhaps stray away from this one. But for those that want to learn more about the queer and trans experience through the lens of three interconnected characters with messy lives, I’d recommend Peters’ debut novel in a heartbeat.
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
Narrated by Christopher Myers, 5 hours 33 minutes
Magical realism meets YA-appropriate depth and violence in Emezi’s Pet. The main character, Jam, is a young transgender girl who comes across Pet, a creature who comes to life from a painting. In this fictional world, everyone is told monsters no longer exist, but Pet’s specialty and imperative are to hunt monsters. The main question of the story is, “How do you save the world from monsters if no one will admit they exist?” Emezi’s writing provides incredible parallels between the fictional world in the story and the real world around us—what’s real and what’s imaginary, what to do when everyone around you is in denial, and how to find the truth in the world and within yourself.
Stay Gold by Tobly McSmith
Narrated by Theo Germaine, Phoebe Strole, 9 hours 19 minutes
Stay gold, Pony Boy! This YA novel, named after that glorious The Outsiders reference, is all about Pony, a trans boy flying under the radar at a new high school in Texas. Pony came out at his last high school, but received a lot of unwanted and invasive attention when he did—so settling into this new life is vital for him. But then he meets Georgia, a cis girl who similarly wanted to stay under the radar for her final year of high school… until she meets Pony. Stay Gold is a beautiful story that provides an authentic window into the lives of trans men and women living in small towns with close-minded attitudes.
Best Queer Audiobooks – Nonfiction
This Much is True by Miriam Margolyes
Narrated by the author, 15 hours 7 minutes
I’m a big fan of British television, and actress Miriam Margolyes is in many timeless classics and favorites of mine: Blackadder, Call the Midwife, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, and of course, as Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter films. Her memoir, This Much is True, is a humorous exploration of her life and adventures with people like Vanessa Redgrave, Leo di Caprio, and even Queen Elisabeth. Miriam came out in 1966 when being queer was illegal—and her unapologetic love for herself and for women is incredible and inspiring to read about.
A Queer History of the United States by Michael Bronski
Narrated by Vikas Adam, 10 hours 29 minutes
Shout out to the history buffs: A Queer History of the United States is an all inclusive nonfiction book that covers all of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender history from pre-1942 to the present. Covering such a long timeline is a huge feat, and while there are some generalizations and subjective elements, this is a solid history for those looking to learn more about LGBTQIA+ rights and experiences. It’s the perfect book to hand to that relative who says being gay is a “phase” or “just a trend.” Vikas Adam does a great job narrating this dense material; if you’re really looking to learn all of the references, though, I would recommend having a hard copy and reading along as you listen to catch all of the details.
The Book of Pride by Mason Funk
Narrated by the author, Robin Miles, Eileen Stevens, Kevin R. Free, Charles Constant, and Rick Adamson, 10 hours 25 minutes
If you’re interested in queer history but looking for something a little less dense than A Queer History of the United States, I recommend picking up Mason Funk’s The Book of Pride. It covers 75 of the leaders and activists fighting for the queer movement from the 1960s to present day. Real interview transcripts are part of this choice, read by the cast of narrators—and if you pick up a hard copy, there are photographs to enjoy, as well.
High School by Tegan and Sara Quin
Narrated by the authors, 9 hours 25 minutes
If you listen to indie pop or rock, you’ve probably heard of twin sisters Tegan and Sara. They’ve openly identified as queer since 1998 when they burst onto the scene, and this joint memoir chronicles their formative youth and teenage years—complete with school troubles, their parents’ divorce, and coming to terms with their sexuality. The audiobook comes with bonus interviews and even some recordings of Tegan and Sara’s very first songs, released for the first time with this memoir. High School is a real treat to listen to.
The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
Narrated by the author, 4 hours 48 minutes
The Argonauts is short, but it really packs an emotional punch. A National Book Critics Circle Award Winner in 2015, this memoir is a piece of “autotheory,” a category Nelson created and claimed on her own. Although it reads more like literary criticism, there’s a lot for queer readers of any background to take from Nelson’s writing. It’s a love letter to her gender fluid partner, Harry Dodge, and how queer families can grow and thrive.
Space Between by Nico Tortorella
Narrated by the author, 8 hours 15 minutes
This memoir was recommended to me by a good friend of mine. Nico Tortorella is a nonbinary actor, most known for their work in Younger. I’ve never seen any of their work, but after reading their memoir, I think I know what my next binge watch is! Nico provides a uniquely spiritual lens to the queer experience and actively promotes self-acceptance and self love through every minute of the audiobook. It feels a little all over the place, but good conversations with friends always are.
Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout by Laura Jane Grace
Narrated by the author, 6 hours 49 minutes
Have you heard of the band Against Me! at all? They’re a popular punk rock band, and led by none other than Laura Jane Grace—known as Tom Gabel when the band was formed. In 2012, Laura came out as trans and made it publicly known that she will continue to live life as a woman. But before this, Against Me! faced a lot of public scrutiny for their lyrics and overall attitudes. They dealt with legal issues and even a group of people who called the band “sellouts” and actively tried to upend the band’s shows and career. Tranny covers these events and reflects on how Laura put her sexuality and expression in her songs and the margins of her journals. If you love music memoirs and offbeat stories, Laura’s story will resonate with you.
Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity by Julia Serano
Narrated by the author, 11 hours 36 minutes
Julia Serano is a trans woman, spoken word performer, and activist. Her book, Whipping Girl, definitely falls under the gender studies category, and it’s academic in nature. It’s still accessible to the average reader, and the audiobook Serano narrates is easy to understand and follow. This feminist reading is essential for anyone looking to learn more about queer studies, queer activism, and the act of debunking common queer myths. Serano celebrates the trans experience, and her background in biology only lends more credibility to her writing.
Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing by Lauren Hough
Narrated by the author and Cate Blanchett, 9 hours 10 minutes
Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing is a series of essays, each tackling a different time in Lauren Hough’s life—and there have been a lot of distinct moments. She’s gone from a childhood in the infamously abusive cult The Children of God, to a period of homelessness, to work in the U.S. Air Force, and finally to work as a writer. Hough is a lesbian, and her essays discuss her grappling with her identity through each chapter of her life and learning to reclaim her past. The audiobook trades narration between Cate Blanchett and Hough herself, and it’s a fascinating listen.
How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones
Narrated by the author, 5 hours 34 minutes
Saeed Jones is best known as a poet, but his memoir and narration is something worth celebrating. Jones writes about growing up as a black gay man in the South and how that shaped his relationships and growth as he faced adulthood. I can’t express how much I enjoyed Jones’ writing and narration better than this line from the publisher:
“An award-winning poet, Jones has developed a style that’s as beautiful as it is powerful—a voice that’s by turns a river, a blues, and a nightscape set ablaze. How We Fight for Our Lives is a one-of-a-kind memoir and an audiobook that cements Saeed Jones as an essential writer for our time.”
Have any personal favorite queer audiobooks? Let us know in the comments!