11 must-read sapphic books to put on your summer reading list

The best sapphic books of summer 2023

It’s officially summer-holiday season, and if you’re looking for the perfect sapphic read to transport you far away, you’re bound to find something you love on this list.

This year has already given us some standout LGBQ+ novels for queer women. From Adiba Jaigirdar’s heart-warming YA novel The Dos and Donuts of Love and Samantha Shannon’s rich fantasy epic A Day of Fallen Night, to Eva Baltasar’s critically acclaimed exploration of lesbian motherhood in Boulder, there’s been no shortage of brilliant literature.

But, if you’ve already sped through all those, you’ve come to the right place to find something new to capture your imagination. Whether you want to be swept up in a heart-stopping romance or immerse yourself in lyrical queer poetry, these books will make you fall in love with reading all over again.

The Adult, by Bronwyn Fischer

The Adult by Bronwyn Fischer.
A student embarks on a relationship with a college professor in The Adult. (Penguin Random House Canada)

Bronwyn Fischer’s debut novel will reel you in hook, line and sinker with its deft exploration of identity, love, insecurity, desire and deceit. This captivating page-turner follows fresh-faced 18-year-old University of Toronto student Natalie, whose notion of adulthood is upended when she embarks on a secret love affair with college professor Nora.

The Adult by Bronwyn (Penguin Random House) is available to buy now.

Wild Things, by Laura Kay

Wild Things by Laura Kay.
Unrequited love features in Wild Things. (Quercus Publishing)

If you’re looking for a lighter read, you can’t go wrong with Laura Kay’s beautiful tale of sapphic love. When El Evans decides to throw in her big-city life and move into a charming home in the English countryside with her best friend Ray, things couldn’t seem more idyllic. There’s just one catch: she’s hopelessly in unrequited love with said best friend…

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Wild Things by Laura Kay (Quercus Publishing) is available to buy now.

Girls Like Girls, by Hayley Kiyoko

Girls Like Girls by Hayley Kiyoko
Girls Like Girls is based on the author’s music video. (Penguin Random House Children’s UK)

Pop star Hayley Kiyoko changed the lives of queer women everywhere with her viral 2015 lesbian hit “Girls Like Girls”. Eight years on, she has delivered once again. In her new novel, based on the music video, we discover the coming-of-age love story between 17-year-old Coley and Sonya, set in middle-of-nowhere Oregon. Can they risk it all for true love?

Girls Like Girls by Hayley Kiyoko (Penguin Random House) is available to buy now.

Lesbian Love Story, by Amelia Possanza

Lesbian Love Story by Amelia Possanza.
Amelia Possanza looks at the history of lesbianism. (Penguin)

If non-fiction is more your thing, then Lesbian Love Story is one for your reading list. Described as a “genre-defying history of sapphic romance”, Possanza uncovers the rich history of lesbianism and the stories that have shaped queer women and how they experience love.

Lesbian Love Story by Amela Possanza (Penguin) is available to buy now.

The Secret Summer Promise, by Keah Brown

The Secret Summer Promise by Keah Brown.
Skinny-dipping and Lizzo concerts abound in The Secret Summer Promise. (Levine Querido)

As Andrea attempts to have the best summer of her life (think skinny-dipping and Lizzo concerts), there’s just one thing in her way: her all-consuming crush on her best friend. But what lengths will she go to so that she can finally move on? Read Keah Brown’s new book to find out.

The Secret Summer Promise by Keah Brown (Levine Querido) is available to buy now.

Mrs S, by K Patrick

Mrs S by K Patrick
Dark and moody going-on at boarding school in Mrs S. (HarperCollins Publishers)

If you prefer to delve into the dark and moody on an unbearably hot summer day, this is the perfect pick. Set in a boarding school in the depths of a smouldering heatwave, the newly hired Australian matron soon finds belonging in the arms of the headmaster’s wife, Mrs S.

Mrs S by K Patrick (HarperCollins Publishers) is available to buy now.

A Shadow Crown, by Melissa Blair

A Shadow Crown by Melissa Blair.
High fantasy in A Shadow Crown. (Union Square & Co)

No summer reading experience is complete without high fantasy, and BookTok sensation Melissa Blair’s latest will definitely transport you far away. In the second novel in The Halfling Saga series, we pick up with Keera – the king’s most-feared and trusted spy and assassin. But when she teams up with brooding Fae, Riven, they soon embark on a plot to kill a tyrant.

A Shadow Crown by Melissa Blair (Union Square & Co) is available to buy now.

What a Desi Girl Wants, by Sabina Khan

What a Desi Girl Wants by Sabina Khan.
A dreaded wedding brings a welcome surprise in What a Desi Girl Wants. (Scholastic)

Sabina Khan is the queen of messy sapphic YA novels, and her latest offering only confirms it. When Mehar reluctantly returns to the US to attend her almost-estranged father’s wedding, she is not expecting to have a good time. But that changes when she meets her grandmother’s assistant Sufiya, and sparks begin to fly.

What a Desi Girl Wants by Sabina Khan (Scholastic) is available to buy now.

Bright Fear, by Mary Jean Chan

Bright Fear by Mary Jean Chan.
Bright Fear is full of amazing poetry. (Faber)

If you’re looking for wistful words to accompany you on your summer walks, then you need to get your hands on Mary Jean Chan’s poetry collection. Born in Hong Kong, Chan’s prose takes readers on an eye-opening journey through queer identity, multi-lingualism and post-colonial legacy.

Bright Fear by Mary Jean Chan (Faber) is available to pre-order now.

Everyone’s Thinking It, by Aleema Omotoni

Everyone's Thinking It by Aleema Omotoni.
Deep secrets are revealed in Everyone’s Thinking It. (Scholastic)

Despite being cousins, introverted photographer Iyanu and popular queen bee Kitan couldn’t be more different. But as Nigerian women attending a mainly white, English boarding school, both struggle to find belonging.

But things get worse when Kitan’s deepest secrets become the centre of school-wide gossip and the blame is laid at Iyanu’s feet. Needless to say, chaos ensues.

Everyone’s Thinking It by Aleema Omotoni (Scholastic) is available to pre-order now.

Learned by Heart, by Emma Donoghue

Learned by Heart by Emma Donoghue.
Learned by Heart promises classroom love. (Pan MacMillan)

This is the only book you need to bid adieu to summer and welcome the beginning of autumn. A particular delight for history buffs, the novel is set in 1805 and follows half-Indian, half-British girl Eliza who falls dangerously in love with her strange and curious new classmate, Lister.

Learned by Heart by Emma Donoghue is available to pre-order now.

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