Call Me By Your Name , André Aciman
The bulk of this gorgeous coming-of-age romance is set during a single summer on the Italian Riviera. The arrival of Oliver, a scholar in his mid twenties, as a seasonal guest changes seventeen-year-old Elio’s life. Their relationship leaves an indelible print on Elio’s entire identity: when Elio finds Oliver, he also discovers himself.
The Danish Girl , David Ebershoff
A heartbreaking tale based on the life of Einar Wegener, the first man to have gender reassignment surgery, this novel explores the boundaries of true love. Einar’s identity as a woman, Lile, is accidentally created through his wife, who asks him to model for her painting — by wearing women’s clothing. As Einar’s persona grows, his wife encourages and tries to accept Lile, but can their love withstand the greatest change a human can make?
Tipping the Velvet , Sarah Waters
Girl meets girl in Victorian England when Nan falls for Miss Kitty, a cross-dressing singer. Explore the underground world of 1890s London as Nan follows Kitty and eventually joins her show as a performer. When the novel debuted, The New York Times and The Library Journal called it one of the best books of the year.
Brideshead Revisited , Evelyn Waugh
Evelyn Waugh’s magnum opus features one of the most beautifully subtle relationships in literature — that of Charles Ryder and Lord Sebastian Flyte. Often gracing Best English Language Novel lists, and a yearning romance to boot, this is absolutely required reading.
Giovanni’s Room , James Baldwin
After proposing to his girlfriend, Hella, David, an American, is left to wait alone in Paris. While she’s gone, David falls in love with an Italian man by the name of Giovanni. Set in the 1950s expat scene, the novel is written from David’s point of view the night before Giovanni’s execution.
The Ladies , Doris Grumbach
Set in the 18th century, two women escape the stifling confines of their Irish homes, and elope to Wales, where they try to create their own paradise out of a cottage and a few acres. This sweet, classic love story is about the melding of two minds and the ability to overcome social mores.
La Bâtarde , Violette Leduc
Violette Leduc’s autobiography is a search for identity, through her mother, through her body, and through her relationships — with men and with women. A friend of Maurice Sachs and Simone de Beauvoir, this achingly passionate prose also features lots of fun cameos from the Parisian literary scene.
At Swim, Two Boys , Jamie O’Neill
Written in the stream-of-consciousness style, this novel explores a budding love between two young men in Ireland. Set during the 1916 Easter Rising, a bloody revolt protesting British rule, At Swim, Two Boys is at once a tragic romance and a social commentary. This novel has critics calling O’Neill the successor of James Joyce and Flann O’Brien.
Olivia, Dorothy Strachey
The story of first love at a French boarding school, Olivia is a semi-autobiographical tale of a young girl’s romantic obsession with her headmistress, Mlle. Julie. This infatuation causes conflict between the two headmistresses — and lovers — Mlle. Julie and Mlle. Cara. Dedicated to Virginia Woolf and published through her company, Hogarth Press, this novel is not one to miss.
Orlando: A Biography , Virginia Woolf
Based on Virginia Woolf’s bisexual lover, Vita Sackville-West, Orlando is funnier than you’d expect as the protagonist refuses to die, changes gender, and sleeps with men and women throughout four centuries. Whether seen as an odd love letter, a quirky romp, or a pseudo-biography, this novel is a fun, lighthearted read.