Library Services


Books to celebrate LGBTQ+ History Month 2023

27 February 2023

We asked members of the UCL community to recommend books to celebrate LGBTQ+ History Month.

Transgender flag flying atop the UCL portico

The theme of this year’s LGBTQ+ History Month is Behind the Lens. The national organisers want to celebrate LGBTQ+ peoples’ “contribution to cinema and film from behind the lens. Directors, cinematographers, screen writers, producers, animators, costume designers, special effects, make-up artists, lighting directors, musicians, choreographers and beyond”. 

Your recommendations

The Orton diaries by Joe Orton and (edited by) John Lahr

A fascinating (often heart breaking) book about the London/Soho play write - a must read for fans of the theatre/Soho in the 1950-60's/Francis Bacon et al artists at that time, 

Ellen Frost, Library, Culture, Collections and Open Science (LCCOS)

John Waters: Interviews (edited) by James Egan

Terrific series of interviews with the transgressive, outrageous and highly inventive Mr Waters. Even if he'd done nothing else in his extensive and wide-ranging career (an author, photographer and sculptor as well as a film-maker), John Waters would warrant immortal fame, praise and respect for having brought the fabulous Divine onto the world stage!

Christopher Josiffe, LCCOS

Julian by Gore Vidal

Gore Vidal was a celebrated Hollywood screenwriter at an early stage of his career, working on several films including Ben Hur (1959). He later claimed that he had written in hints that the two main characters Ben Hur (Charlton Heston) and Messala (Stephen Boyd) has been lovers which suggests the reason for their love-hate frisson. He wrote several novels, starting with the City and the Pillar published in 1948, which is often called the first post-war gay novel. Julian is his book about the Roman Emperor and is quite readable. It was started shortly after Ben Hur was released.

Simon Bralee, LCCOS


Detransition Baby by Torrey Peters

It is a book you just don't want to put down. The characters are complex and flawed and the exploration of family structures, gender, sexuality, motherhood and power feels raw, blunt and honest. It's one of the best books I read last year.

Miriam Hornsby, LCCOS

Why be happy when you could be normal by Jeanette Winterson

It’s a breathtaking follow up to what has now become a classic, Oranges are not the only fruit. It gives an honest insight into the barrier and fight for her sexuality from different perspectives and in extremely closed surroundings. It’s raw, deeply moving, and beautiful.

Joanna Payne, Slade School of Fine Art

The Love That Dares by Rachel Smith & Barbara Vesey

This book offers a selection of surviving letters between queer lovers and friends, confidants and companions. Among several important figures from the dramatic and performing arts (including Oscar Wilde, Benjamin Britten and Lorraine Hansberry) are beautifully written letters by lesser-known lovers, presenting a romantic and stirring history of queer love through the centuries.

Maurice by E.M. Forster

Written in 1914 but only published in 1971 due to being unpublishable in legal/public views of same-sex love during the author's lifetime. A very rare story which ends happily for the two lovers. The author was inspired by a poet he admired, who was in a relationship with a man from a different class. The two characters in the novel are based on this couple. Very good 1987 film adaptation of this book, starring Hugh Grant.

The Gold Rimmed Spectacles by Giorgio Bassani

A beautifully written and emotionally powerful short novel about a homosexual doctor during the 1930s in Italy. It details the increasing marginalisation of Jewish and Homosexual people under the Fascist regime. UCL holds the original Italian novel. It was also made into a film in 1987.

In At The Deep End by Kate Davies

Winner of the Polari Book Prize 2020, Kate Davies’ debut novel has been described as “fabulously filthy and side-splittingly funny”. Follow the protagonist Julia as she learns that she's been looking for love - and satisfaction - in all the wrong places.

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune

It is a beautiful story about finding love and finding your family. Not all relationships and families look the same and I think it's important that fiction represents that.

Lisa Yiasemides, OVPA

Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart

It's fantastically written and explores such heavy themes like abuse, trauma, sexuality, class, and family relationships, but does so in such a sensitive way. I was so invested in the characters and audibly gasped several times while reading it. I got the book for Christmas and powered through it in a few days. Tender, moving and one of my favourite books ever.

Gerard Jones, EDI

Have you read them all? What are we missing? Join us on Twitter or Instagram and share your own recommendations.

Photo of Steps to Progress exhibit in UCL Main Library
UCL Library Liberating the Collections Group

This activity was organised through the Library Liberating the Collections Group. The purpose of this group is to identify and oversee progress with a strategic set of actions intended to enrich the collections, increasing visibility of, and access to, works by authors who have been marginalised (and thus less heard) because of factors such as race, sexuality, gender and disability. Any titles that we don’t already own we will buy and add to our collections and will be available shortly.

Celebrating LGBTQ+ History Month at UCL 

Find out more about the different events taking place this year at UCL to celebrate LGBTQ+ History Month.