1. Reckoning, Magda Szubanski
Much-loved Australian comedian and actor Magda Szubanski lays bare her remarkable family history in the beautifully written, powerful and at times harrowing Reckoning. Intertwining her fraught experiences with mental ill health and her long journey towards reconciling with her sexual identity, it also reveals, in staggering detail, the consequences of her father’s brutal wartime experiences and Szubanski’s belief in the theory of intergenerational trauma. One of the finest memoirs of the year, through all of the dark places, Reckoning never loses sight of her remarkable wit.
2. Kings Rising, C.S. Pacat
The thrilling conclusion to Melbourne-based author C.S. Pacat’s best-selling Captive Prince trilogy, Kings Rising, is a riveting page-turner with vicious battles, double crossings and steamy sex scenes. With a queer twist on the fantasy setting and political intrigue of Game of Thrones, it sees King Damianos of Akielos, held in chains for so long, forced into an uneasy alliance with one-time slaver, Prince Laurent of Vere, as they both stare down Laurent’s duplicitous uncle and war rumbles into gear. Lovers or haters, allies or traitors? Pacat keeps you guessing.
3. What Belongs to You, Garth Greenwell
Not all sexual contact comes from a place of love, but the furtive thrill of sex in beats sometimes leaves a strange mark on a heart too. That’s the case in Garth Greenwell’s discombobulating debut novel What Belongs to You, an erotically charged and haunting piece of fiction that draws on his own experiences. Recounting the culture clash between an American teacher living a solitary life in the Bulgarian capital Sofi and Mitko, a flighty young hustler, the emotional fallout cuts like a serrated knife.
4. The Argonauts, Maggie Nelson
Released in the States last year, Text Publishing brought Nelson’s magical memoir The Argonauts to Australia this April. Part poetry, part philosophy, it’s all heart as Nelson reveals the everyday intimate details of her relationship with gender fluid artist Harry Dodge and the birth of their daughter. Folding queer history and the path of rainbow families into a joyous celebration of language and intellectual thought, it’s the perfect antidote to Trump.
5. Guappa, Saleem Hadad
Haddad’s energetic debut novel Guappa is set in the immediate aftermath of a failed uprising in an unnamed Arab country. Rasa’s secret boyfriend is about to be married when his grandmother catches them in bed together. Then his best friend Maj, a drag queen, goes missing. Faced with the possibility of losing it all, Rasa begins a daylong search that finds him carving his own identity in the face of familial shame and a conflicted professional relationship with western journalists. Intriguing.
6. The Crime Writer, Jill Dawson
Blurring the lines between fact and fiction, Dawson’s novel The Crime Writer sees the celebrated American author behind Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr Ripley retreating from her fervent fans in a country cottage in England. Maintaining a clandestine affair with a married woman in London, when a nosy journalist tracks her down something dreadful happens, Dawson has a lot of fun suggesting Highsmith’s literary knack for murder and deception might not have been restricted to the page.
7. Sergio Y, Alexandre Vidal Porto
Brazilian author Porto’s translated novel Sergio Y takes an outsider’s view of a young transgender woman’s journey when her one-time therapist in São Paulo, Armando, traces her footsteps in New York. The older man, his eyes opened, undergoes something of a revelation about what it means to be happy and true to oneself, with a tender aching at the book’s heart.
8. The Cosmopolitans, Sarah Schulman
Relocated from mid-19th century Paris to Greenwich Village in mid-20th century New York, author and social activist Schulman’s The Cosmopolitans updates Balzac’s La Cousine Bette, tackling ageism and racism. Bette, feeling betrayed by her family, forges a new bond in next-door neighbour Earl who, as a black man, is regularly confronted by prejudice in his acting career. The arrival of Bette’s cousin Hortense disturbs their newfound happiness and sparks a bitter feud in what is a deliciously complex novel.
9. You Know Me So Well, Nina LaCour and David Levithan
Set over the course of San Francisco’s Pride Week, best-selling queer YA authors LaCour and Levithan team up on You Know Me So Well, taking alternate chapters as Mark, a sensitive, sports-loving jock mooning after best friend and geek Ryan falls in with Kate, a young artist scared of pursuing both her career and Violet, the girl of her dreams.
10. Trumpet, Jackie Kay
The current Scots Makar - the national poet of Scotland - Kay’s delicate debut novel Trumpet is a stirring, jazz-infused story of deeply felt love and grief. It’s also a fascinating examination of gender identity as a jazz musician’s biological sex is revealed by a newspaper following his death. First published in 1998, it received a Picador Classic re-release this year with a soaring introduction by the also excellent How To Be Both author Ali Smith.