> Queer Books Please: An Informal Guide on Finding More Books to Read (without depending on Amazon or Goodreads)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

An Informal Guide on Finding More Books to Read (without depending on Amazon or Goodreads)

When the news came out that Goodreads was being acquired by Amazon, I understood but didn’t share in a lot of the outrage expressed over the deal. Goodreads is an undeniably useful site. I used it partially as a catalog system, and for new title discovery. But it certainly wasn’t a perfect system for me. I found the recommendation algorithm somewhat useful, but it rarely found me anything obscure or surprising. The list making and tagging system for categorizing books is also useful, but lacked a decent, comprehensive search function that might have allowed some interesting cross-referencing opportunities.

But, if you're worried about other ways to find books to read, I have good news. .Don’t despair! There’s lots of great ways to find stuff to read—and some of them even work OFFLINE. Yes, even if you don’t have access to the INTERNET, you can still find new books to read! I promise. 

Here's some of my favorite ways to track down new titles for my to-read list. 

1. Queer book blogs! 

There are a lot of great resources specifically aimed at queer folks looking for books and other media that reflects our interests.  

The Lesbrary  is a fantastic resource, posting several reviews a week. They cover a wide variety of lesbian fiction, and if you're interested in finding a review for a specific title, there's a really good chance Danika and company have covered it. If you're just browsing looking for something new, it can be a little daunting, but trying using the search box at the bottom or using the tags and I bet you'll find something real quick. Lots of different people have reviewed books on the site, so even if your taste doesn't align with some of the reviews, you can find someone whose reviews will be useful to you. 

If tumblr is more your speed, I really like the content Queer Book Club has been churning out. Lots of YA titles, and very inclusive of a lot of different queer topics. 

Lambda Literary offers pretty comprehensive coverage of what's going on in the QUILTBAG literary community, including plenty of reviews and up to date information about upcoming releases. PLUS their literary awards do tend to pick out some really fantastic titles. 

2.  Mainstream book blogs!

I think one of the most underutilized resources out there for queer readers looking for queer books might actually be regular book blogs that aren't necessarily targeting our interests. Particularly if you're interested in genre fiction, or books that have lesbian/queer characters but aren't ABOUT it so much. SEARCH IS YOUR FRIEND. I found the fantastic book ENTERPRISE OF DEATH by Jesse Bullington by searching for "lesbian" on the Onion AV Club website. 

The Book Smugglers write reviews about YA and science fiction books. Their tastes seem to line up pretty well with my own.

Want to go with a low-tech approach to finding your next read? Try these next three suggestions.


3. Blurbs, acknowledgments, and dedications

Do you have a book nearby? Maybe the last queer book you read, or your favorite? I just picked up THIS WILD SILENCE by Lucy Jane Bledsoe. Haven’t read it yet, it’s on my list. 

You turn the book over, and there’s a blurb. Rebecca Brown, an author, is giving praise to this book, which has a queer character. Also, PS, the name of Brown’s book is ANNIE OAKLEY’S GIRL. Sounds promising, no? A bit of click through on the internet (although you could also replicate this at the library, or a bookstore) reveals that Brown mostly writes surrealist short stories, including a collection called THE TERRIBLE GIRLS which sounds provocative, queer, and possibly worth a look.

Boom. Another book on my list.

This works with acknowledgements too. Look particularly for who gets thanked for reviewing the manuscript--I'm always surprised at how many of these lesbian authors seem to KNOW each other and are all reading each others' manuscripts before they get published! 

 4. Nonfiction citations

I don’t read a lot of literary criticism or nonfiction, although I’d like to if I can find the time or drag myself away from my beloved fiction. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth picking up a book of queer cultural history or something like that. Even if you aren't interesting in actually learning anything, you'll probably be able to pick up a bunch of authors and titles to check out just by scanning the endnotes!

In episode three of the podcast, I talked about THE SAPPHO COMPANION, a book by Margaret Reynolds which cataloged many many titles that made allusions to Sappho. From that one book, I probably wrote down at least 10 titles that I want to look at in the future. Even a heavily blurbed novel with an expansive acknowledgments page probably won’t offer up that much future reading material. 


I know these are few and far between lately, but nothing beats browsing an actual, physical bookstore. You can see the covers, the print. There may be a gay and lesbian section.

The week I started this podcast, I went to one of my local bookstores. They carry used and new books, and still manage to carry quite a bit of inventory—part of the fun, when you’re browsing. I knew I wanted to find some queer books, and was having a little success, when suddenly I saw this cover on display:


Naked lady? SAPPHO? Dude, I was totally all ready planning to do a little segment on Sappho! Nothing beats that sort of discovery. 

I'm an advocate for buying new books whenever you can, but I also recommend that you check out used bookstores and your local library as well. When you check out a book at the library, the librarians are taking note--if an author is popular, they will probably be buying their books for the collection well into the future. 

Used bookstores remain important avenues for finding older books. If you're only reading stuff from the last three years, you're severely limiting the pool of titles that you are selecting from. And that's a shame. Don't limit yourself! The other nice thing about used bookstores--because they tend to carry a lot more inventory than yourself small, local independent store, it's a lot more likely that they'll have a gay and lesbian section. 


  1. Yes, the librarians are (or should be) taking note! And requests!

  2. Yep, librarians are a great resource, we do what we can. I wanted to add a couple of ideas (sorry can't help myself)
    Firstly there are "books & their readers" sites other than goodreads (although I have found their moderated glbtqi YA group helpful). I myself use LibraryThing, and avidly promote my tag list for YA. I buy what I can. I know I also "watch" what gets added to similar interest libraries. Another is shelfari.
    Secondly there are a number of "significant" lgbtqi YA blogs which could be helpful. F Yeah Queer Teen Lit, Rainbow Books (from the Americal Library Association), True Colorz, Greedy Bug Book Reviews, Queer YA. (I have all these on RSS feed so they are easy to monitor - can supply urls if anyone can't find)
    Lastly, the publishers (usually again monitored as RSS feeds or old fashioned email) like Harmony Ink Press, Prizm, Bold Stroke has a YA sub-group listing etc (True Colorz has some good links)
    TMI?, whatever, enjoy your read.

  3. Oops, missed one I'm Here I'm Queer what the hell do I read for for no other readon than the title says it all

  4. Librarians are awesome. And I think some people don't realize that you don't need to go talk to one in person (which can be a little daunting) to use their support.

    Oh, I forgot about publishers, but you're right, going straight to their websites is a great way to find stuff! Thanks for the additional links!

  5. Also owe an apology! have realised that my comments had a mm bias, please dont hold that against me, its the principle that counts. Clearly I am out of (unbiased librarian) practice!

  6. Not a problem! Might actually be helpful for me, I've been thinking about looking into more fiction with a gay male bent, in the spirit of inclusiveness.

  7. A little bit of shameless self promotion for my blog at bisexua-books.tumblr.com We'd love to help you find more bi books too!